A strangely mixed, ambivalent city. There’s plenty of evidence of former glory and middle class wealth, yet there’s a lot of decay and disrepair unbalanced by new development or maintenance. There’s hallmark Riviera stylings and massive, elegant beachfront hotels, yet no beach to speak of nor a central, main attraction to fully focus attention and orientation. Sprawling with traffic, incoherently allocated, yet typically French and solid on the map, gravitating to the sea, surrounded by hills and between the drawing power of Monaco and Cannes. I guess this is what it means to live on the Cote D’Azur, that long stretch of holiday development, mad scooters and suspicious wealth that only lives fully for two months a year.
The grand apartment buildings have palatial names and lofty ceilings, but the half-open shutters are rusting or falling apart. Some streets seem to be in long periods of maintenance-hibernation; one major shopping street was just gravel for petanq players. Brass plates for doctors everywhere: paediatricians, dentist-surgeons, kinesthesiologists. Beggars of all hue, some talented and singing an honest trade. Never a rush to clear out. No mad rush for the status of new cars. Teeming young couples or pregnant types; a healthily diverse gene pool. And a Mediterranean humidity that leaves you slightly glazed, giddy.
But, importantly, from the food angle up, Nice (and by extension France, the Continent) presents simple fare and perfect proportions; all home cooked and unpretentious. I didn’t get to try many of the specialités Nicoise, but I loved the service and the wine with everything, the cheese, the value. The mad varieties of ice cream, the dog with the balloon, the street labourer smoking a pipe, and the simple courtesies no matter how small or trite the purchase or meal.