There’s much sayed about the clear and soft light at the Côte d’Azur that makes the colours pop – believe everything you’ve heard, it is perfect right! There is a reason that this coast is called the “blue coast” – the blue of the sea that ranges from dark blue to bright turquoise is stunning and is topped by a (most times) bright blue sky.
The vibrant blue colours are contrasted by the warm terracotta colours of the houses as well as the surrounding landscape.
And its fully understandable that the English and Russian aristocrats of the 19th century discovered Nice and the surrounding coast for their winter retreat as it has very mild winters. But summer’s also very pleasant: There’s always blowing a clear breeze of air even through the narrowest street of the old town.
Anyway the old town was my favourite part of Nice: a bustling cozy labyrinth of streets with lots of nice restaurants, bars, corner shops and studios of young artists.
Food, of course, is the keyword: Visiting the local markets and trying local specialities is an absolute MUST for me. And the daily market at Cours Saleya has everything you can expect from a mediteranean market: Fish and seafood, fresh vegetable, delicious cheese and sausages, honey and nuts from the hinterland.
Courgette flowers were all around at Cours Saleya – they’re used for beignets de fleurs de courgettes – as well as the black Cailletier olives, essential for the famous salade niçoise as well as for tapenade. Another speciality of Nice – candied fruit. It can be found on the market as well as in the traditional Maison Auer, maître chocolatier et confiseur since 1820. The interior of their shop near Cours Saleya is a shift back in time, the chocolates are pieces of art.
The Côte d’Azur has close links to Italy. Nice itself belonged to Piedmont-Sardignia from 1815 to 1860 and one of THE fathers of modern Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi, was born in Nice. The neighbourhood and the historic legacy is present all around Nice: architecture, language – the local language Niçard has strong Italian influences – and of course: food. Pissaladière is a pizza-like dish, the dough is topped with caramelised onions, anchovies and olives. Another niçoise street food is socca – which is actually popular all along the the Ligurian coast. A few years ago I ate this chickpea pancake in Liguria – there it is called farinata.
The most famous socca in Nice is served by Theresa, who is a great entertainer as well. It is a big show when she sprinkles the socca with olive oil, cuts it into irregular shapes and then wrappes it into paper.
And – like everywhere in southern Europe – coffee ist just perfect, especially when drunk with a great view on the sea, or together with a croissant or pain au chocolate (or both). We could enjoy this delicious start into the day every morning in our hotel Comté de Nice. This was, by the way, not the only good thing at the hotel: the central location and the friendly, helpful stuff make it as well very recommendable.
Two places you shouldn’t miss in Nice are the Colline du Château and the Franciscan monastery with its beautiful garden (Monastere Notre Dame de Cimiez). Both places are great viewpoints to see the city, the coast and the sea from above. The Musée Matisse as well as the archeological site where you can see roman amphitheatres and baths from the 3rd century are worth a visit (both next to the the monastery).
On the programme of our excursion stood as well visits to Monaco and Cannes. But as I want to show nice pictures on my blog, it isn’t possible for me to show any photographs from our visit to Monaco. It was – to make it short – like I thought it would be (and in a way interesting to see it for myself): an about 2 km² big area between the sea and the Sea Alpes that is jam-packed with housing blocks and hotels … and of course yachts in the small harbour – for me: a ruined piece of land, an accumulation of architectural sins … I couldn’t feel the attraction of glamour and luxury…
and it was a relieve for me to leave Monaco, by foot along the coast to Cap d’Ail, where I was able to make some beautiful shots of the blue coast again.
When we made our day trip to Cannes, it was one day before the opening of the Festival de Cannes. Depending on your intentions this is the best or the worst time throughout the year to visit Cannes. It’s then crowded with media people, fans waiting for their stars, street vendors; the yachts are getting polished up. I was not unhappy that we soon escaped to the idyllic Île Sainte-Marguerite, just a 15-minutes-boat-trip away.
There we visited the infamous Fort Royal where the myterious “Man in the Iron Mask” was prisoned is located on Île Sainte-Marguerite. But mainly we enjoyed an afternoon picnic at the rocky beach – with baguette, sun bathing and swimming.
And then it was already time to leave for home … having a last bird’s eye view onto the blue coast with its magical colours.