Impossibly beautiful. Those were my first thoughts – and most frequent ones – during my first day in Nice. After an occassionally bumpy flight from New York nonstop, we touched down at 11:32AM. During a quick cab ride from airport to town center, I learn my French language knowledge is closer to conversational than I thought. But enough about me. Nice, la ville est incroyable.
views of Nice’s waterfront area and September sunbathers from the Promenade d’Anglais
To be clear and fair to the readers, this is my first taste of France, so my overall excitement means I am prepared to be amazed and enraptured by everything. But every time I turn another corner, I’m compelled to photograph quelque chose encore un fois. The colors are incredible: some parts of the city are white, not bright but a rich, creamy ivory, the buildings reflecting the sun and providing perfect backdrops for the array of palms and flowers.
a small park in Nice with a beautiful tree filled with purple and yellow bougainvillea
As you approach Place Massena, the explosion of color begins. Sun-faded, golden cowslip yellows fulfill all my Provençal dreams. The rich, red ochre, trimmed with that happy faded yellow and set off with pea-green windows. All of this is situated against a bold swath of blue sky, the range of blues in the Mediterranean, fresh grass and palm tree fronds. From above, Nice appears red even more: the roof tiles combine for a beautiful slope of slow-burning fire, inexorably flowing into the sea.
Biker in blue speeds through Place Massena, a colorful square with chessboard streets
I admit I didn’t look up much to do or see in Nice in advance, and arrived with no concrete plans on how to spend my time (I was more concerned with having a plan for Paris later in the trip). On the one hand, it was a mistake to give such short thought to Nice: this charming city has beauty and atmosphere in spades, and I’m already wishful that I’d had additional foresight to spend a bit more time there. On the other hand, a free itinerary meant the luxury of wandering to areas I may not have uncovered as must-dos in any guidebook, like the Cimetière du Chateau that afforded gorgeous views of the city and a beautiful though somber walk through Niçois history.
A steep stair climb from the Vieille Ville, Cimetière du Chateau is moving in its own right, and also provides a stunning panorama of Nice
The cragglyrocks and lighthouse in the harbor snap me quickly into one of my favorite novels, Dumas’ Le Comte de Monte Cristo, and even without having been there, I can now approximate the sights of Marseille, and recreate for myself the hope and excitement of looking out over the sea, waiting for the return of Dantes and the Pharaon.
Worn, weathered stones along a path to the lighthouse in Nice’s harbor
I am not sure if this is what I imagined Nice to be. I barely imagined it in advance, and it’s so very powerfully real that I am swept away with emotion. I’m in state of pure joy as I wander the streets of la Vieille Ville, and the happiness ranges from manic smiling to calm content. I pause along the Promenade du Paillon and watch the residents stroll by, children and adults playing in the rising mist from the playful fountains in the park.
On a hot, sunny September day, the mist rises from the fountains, creating beautiful reflections
The first day is finished with something truly decadent: Fenocchio gelato, alted caramel butter and a stroll along the waterfront Promenade d’Anglais, followed by a spectacular sunset viewing. For a city with much palpable Italian heritage (it was part of the Duchy of Savoy and had alliances and occasional enmity with rival cities Pisa and Genoa), this feels like a fitting embrace of all things Nicois.
Nice is a photogenic playground, and strikes a fantastic balance between tourist friendly and working city.