Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Day 13 - Nice

We made a slow start, perhaps not a smart move when heat was threatening our day but I didn't have the heart to wake Sue before 9:00am. It doesn't matter where we holiday ... the sleep in is the crucial element when Sue isn't working.

After another fabulous French breakfast, we tracked down the Nice tour bus: a hop on, hop off, all day ride, multi-language commentary bus which most cities have now . This one offered a good discount on two days and travels the physical highlights and the museum circuit. It was a pleasant 90 minutes driving around Nice but a tad warm in the open top, double decker and at times, a little dangerous. I was twice hit by branches! Among the many piazzas or places we visited, the Place Messena is the most beautiful. The square is part of a track which has covered the River Paillon in order to use space more effectively. To prevent the Paillon flooding and inundating the city, it was simply buried in tunnels and arrives at the sea unheralded.

Nice is a beautiful city and one of the oldest continuously civilized areas in the world. The ancient Greeks are known to have been here 350BC and named the city Nikaia, in honour of Nike the goddess of either victory or sandshoes. Its a place where everyone has had a go at running the place, including the Romans, the Barbarians, the Russians, Italians and finally France, who claimed it as their own in 1860. There are 350 000 residents and who knows how many tourists every year in August.
A small cafe in a smaller lane

The tourists come for the food and the beach. Its not surprising that Asian food barely features but Italian cuisine is a big favourite in the myriad of cafes that line every street and alley way but French cooking still dominates. Both days here we have had our main meal of the day at lunch and just eaten lightly on nuts and fruit at night. It means we sleep better and rest appropriately with our main meal rather than rushing something down in the middle of the day. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes offering two and three course meals for under 20E and we usually added a half bottle of vin rouge with that and today, three carafes of water. The portions are usually very generous and extremely good value.

I had mentioned that Italians seem to make up a large proportion of the tourists here and there is no doubt theirs is the most dominant voice heard on the streets but the Russians would be third after the French residents of the place. Yanks, Poms and Germans are also present in large numbers and the English are obvious because they almost all wear football kit of some description or another and their women are always complaining. There are others here too - a handful of Asian faces and today a Pakistani family but us Aussies seem pretty thin on the ground.

Nice Beach, becomes crowded early in the day and stays that way until sunset. Actually, to call it a beach is a massive exaggeration. The only common threads with an Australian beach are water and babes in bikinis because their are no waves, let along breakers, just flat, clear blue water which is heavily saline so floating is easy, even for the largest bellies and backsides. There is also no sand ... at all. The beach consists of rocks.

Sue took me to "the beach" this morning, both of us sporting new swimmers and mine purchased here in Nice in a very chic shop. They had a nice pattern but when it was all boiled down, they were still the elastic waistband, drawstring trunks I had as a kid ... the ones with the lining undies sewn in. Sue stone hopped into the cool water but I sat at the back of the beach, looking as uncomfortable as I felt.

Le Petit Train
Our other main activity was catching Le Petit Train, a smaller scale drive around Nice whose highlight was a visit to Fort du Alban, high on the hill to the east of the main part of the city. It was here that Greek sailors built their community BC and here where Louis XIII tore the fort down. We watched sunset as we descended the hill and finished our outing with a slow walk back along the Promenade de Anglais.

Singing drifted into our room as we ate a late dinner and we went to the balcony at the back of the building and watched a female busker go through her paces and eventually build up a crowd. My pictures reminded me of van Gogh's "The Night Cafe".

Museums tomorrow.

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