November 14, 2019
We are on the final leg of the Great France Trip, spending the month of November in Nice, on the Mediterranean coast not too far from Italy.
The weather is mixed. Some days are sunny, with afternoon temperatures in the high sixties. On those days, everyone in Nice comes out to the Promenade des Anglais and walks, bicycles or scooters along the water. Other days are November-ish, chilly and rainy, and on those days the city seems dead quiet.
Nice is really a cluster of small towns. The old town (Vieux Nice) has narrow streets and buildings from the 1600s or thereabouts. It is where the chic restaurants and hip boutiques are located. The port is tiny but shelters an interesting collection of mega-yachts, along with more trendy restaurants.
The new town is here the fancy hotels like the Negresco are situated, along the Promenade and in a few blocks back from the beach, where the tourist restaurants line up.
Up a hill overlooking the water is a neighborhood called Cimiez, which is where Queen Victoria and others built palaces and grand hotels that have now been turned into apartments. Cimiez houses Nice’s museum district, with the Matisse Museum, the Chagall Museum and a small archaeology museum all near the site of some excavated Roman baths and the remains of a small amphitheater.
We have not done much exploring outside Nice yet. Over the weekend we walked to Villefranche-Sur-Mer, which is about three miles west of the port. Villefranche is a much smaller town than Nice, but it has a much bigger harbor, so the cruise ships stop there. A city bus goes from Nice to Menton, Monaco and other destinations for the princely sum of $1.65, so we will undertake more excursions. And, the city has a rent-a-bike system that enables you to pick up a bicycle, ride it around and drop it off at another station. The bikes are a bit clunky but they work well enough.
One interesting sidebar about Nice: It has strong ties to Russia. After the Crimean War, the Czar’s widow spent the winter here, and the Russian aristocracy followed, building grand houses. There is a Russian Cathedral and a Russian cemetery. And supposedly Anton Chekhov wrote several acts of The Three Sisters while staying here. Nice remains popular with Russians, who come here to cafe-sit, smoke, imbibe huge quantities of alcohol and argue loudly with each other in their distinctly non-musical tongue.
My workload has picked up a bit (the “retirement” part of Real Life Retirement remains elusive) so I work in the mornings from the apartment while W. takes classes at the Alliance Francaise. In the afternoons we explore Nice. Things, as they say, could be worse.
As a PS, we took a bus to Eze yesterday afternoon (at a cost of one euro each) and hiked up a huge mountain (taking the Sentier Nietzsche or “Nietzsche Trail”, which was marked with quotations from Also Sprach Tharasustra) to the “high town” of Eze. There we sat in a cafe and had a Perrier-sirop. Then we poked around some stores, talked to a nice couple from New York, and took two buses and two trams back to our apartment.