Brand Spanking New: The Gare de Nice Gets a Makeover

The Gare de Nice

The Gare de Nice. Photo: Mary Kay Seales

If you’ve travelled to or from Nice on the train, you may remember the train station there as a rather dismal and somewhat confusing place. People crowding together to get through to the platforms, bumping elbows and closely guarding pockets and purses. Always a “traffic jam” by the entrance to the platform as a horde of travelers tried to navigate through the crowd to stamp their tickets, as required, in the little yellow machines.

The ticket office stood off to one side, awkwardly designed so as to require queuing up in a long line to wait for an agent.

Outside and below this office, a lone and uninviting restaurant with few other options nearby.

In fact, I think many would agree that the whole area in and surrounding the Gare de Nice was one to simply get away from as quickly as possible.

Now, dear past and future visitors to Nice, all that has wonderfully changed! This once disheveled building and its environs has had a major facelift.

Gare de Nice

The main hall with a beautifully restored ceiling. Photo: Mary Kay Seales

The building itself has been lovingly restored. The ornate grillwork over the main entrance has been polished up, and the lovely set of arched doors now enter into a spacious, open and light-filled room. The large square ceiling has been painted like a chapel and the platform doors to the trains are now opened up, giving travellers the freedom to come and go. No more crowds squeezing through a limited area.

The train schedules are projected onto the side of one wall giving it all a clean updated feel, and there are other bright new schedule signs throughout.

And those little yellow machines to stamp the tickets now sit rather sheepishly by the platform doors, still pretty but humbled.

To the left of the main waiting room is a new Relay store for your magazines newspapers and candy; to the right, a shiny new sandwich shop where you can stock up before boarding your train to Paris or Avignon.

Gare de Nice

The new deli inside the station. Photo: Mary Kay Seales

The far end of the station is now the ticket office, complete with a ‘take-a-number’ machine and bright décor – purple and yellow chairs for waiting and tables where you can plug in a laptop.

All these changes are refreshing and welcome! But there’s more. The exterior of the station has also had a makeover. The huge open plaza in front is now home to a modern tourist office and a Paul boulangerie/patisserie.

These changes to the station have had a larger impact on the entire area near the Gare, with people relaxing at restaurants across the street. From super sketchy to stylish, it is a remarkable transformation!

The overhaul of the Nice Gare is not complete; the work goes on. But already the new look and feel of this busy station on the Côte d’Azur will make landing in this charming city a treat.

Gare de Nice

The exterior of the Gare de Nice. Photo: Mary Kay Seales

CREDIT/SOURCE: By Mary Kay Seales – FRANCE TODAY

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What to see in Nice

 

Nice is glamorous. Let’s be honest, it’s what you picture when you imagine Nice; sauntering along Promenade des Anglais, ogling yachts you (probably) can’t afford (yet), and enjoying a drink outside whilst soaking up the Mediterranean sun.

With all that effort, everyone needs a break now and then, and a break is what these two sites can offer you. If you’re into the hidden, off the beaten track visits then here are places to see in Nice that will showcase the authentic history of this sunny city.

Cimiez

 

cimiez-roman-remains-nice

Now an upper-class residential area, this small hill-top neighbourhood in the north-east of the city was a favourite destination of Queen Victoria, who regularly stayed at the Regina Palace Hotel, Even further back, the Romans established an arena, amphitheatre, baths and basilica. This was the settlement of Cemenelum, the capital of the Roman province Alpes Maritimae, and was itself a rival to the nearby city of Nice.

 

cimiez-monastery

There’s also a beautiful Franciscan monastery, used since the 16th century, and definitely worth a moment of quiet contemplation, away from the bustle of the city below. When I visited, there were a few office workers taking advantage of the monastery’s quiet gardens for a moment of calm, and more like me, sauntering along before enjoying a cold drink in the shade around the park’s refreshment kiosk. Whilst you’re up there, to add even more culture into the mix, you can visit the Matisse Museum, devoted to the French painter who lived and worked in Nice from 1917 to 1954.

A lovely oasis of calm although, I would certainly recommend the bus up and down – the hill is particularly steep, and not much fun on a hot day…

Palais Lascaris

 

palais-lascaris-nice

The Palais Lascaris is a seventeenth century gemstone, cunningly tucked away on rue Droite, and if you didn’t know it was there, it would be easily missed. It’s currently home to a collection of musical instruments. But even if you have no interest in this aspect at all, the décor and architecture of the former aristocratic home are worth the entry fee.

If you are interested, however, then the collection of over 500 musical instruments is one of the finest you’ll encounter, including both the historic and the famously-connected.

The rooms the exhibits are displayed in are restored to their original glory, and give a real insight as to how the nobles of Nice lived in the Old Town’s glory days, before the wealthier families were moved out of what was then a going down-hill area, and into the New Town and countryside beyond.  Talk about grandeur!

Credit/Source:  Posted by The Good Life France

 

French Riviera / Cote d’Azur

Sun and sea, nature, villages perched, beauty, diversity, art, activity, traditions, & yachts:  some words that come to mind, from living here for over 8 years, but what stands out the most is (Mediterranean) BLUE!  The one thing I would change would be to have sandy beaches in Nice, rather than pebbly ones.

Overview of Nice and all that this area has to offer – watch new Tourist Office video HERE

 

 

Ten things you definitely didn’t know about Nice

Ten things you definitely didn't know about Nice

Photo: Lee Carson/Flickr

Published: 06 Apr 2016 by Le Local

1. It should really be in Italy   
Nice has only been part of France since 1860, when Italy reluctantly gave her up to repay France for helping defend itself from the Austrians. The Mayor’s office likes to say that ‘Nice chose France’, but the truth is that the famous ‘vote’ was rigged: there were no ‘non’ ballots printed! This mixed heritage gives Nice its fabulous melange of French and Italian, as seen in its architecture, colours, cuisine and lifestyle.
2. The original Nike Town 
During the Greek Empire in 500BC, the hill above the Old Town was named Nike, which is Greek for ‘victory’, making Nice the original Nike-Town. During its multi-century Italian period it was called Nizza, and since becoming French just 150 years ago, it is called Nice. The people of Nice are Niçoise, like the famous salad, and have their own dialect called Nissart.
3. A tourist hub for 400,000 years
Yes, it’s true. An archaeological dig (which is now a museum) on the hill above the Nice Port found that Nice’s earliest tourists arrived almost 400,000 years ago, and were transient cave-dwellers that came to Nice once a year to hunt woolly mammoths. And tourists have hardly stopped flocking (though the mammoths are a lot harder to find).
Riviera view: Photo: Michel Riallant/Flickr
4. The Heroine Laundry Lady of Nice   
In 1506, this town of only 3,000 inhabitants was attacked by a flotilla of 20,000 Franco-Turks. After weeks under siege the town was still hanging on, and the attackers once again tried to scale the walls. With very few soldiers left to mount a defense, washer-woman Catherine Segurane climbed up on the walls herself and tried to beat back the attackers with her laundry bat. Incredibly, her blow killed a warrior, whereupon she impulsively grabbed his flag, lifted her skirt, and made a gesture like she was wiping her behind with it.
The attacking soldiers were humiliated; and the next day, weary and demoralized, the army gave up and Nice was saved. Segurane is considered emblematic of the Nice spirit, and there are small monuments to her throughout the old town including a cannonball from the siege suspended on the corner of rue Droit and rue de la Loge.
5. Secret passageways for Jews
In the Middle Ages, the town’s Jewish community was forced by law to reside on one gated street called Street of the Jews, where they were locked in each night. In response, the non-Jewish townspeople, having lived harmoniously with their Jewish neighbours up to that point, tunneled a network of passageways under the buildings with secret doors back out to the village.
You can still see the Street of the Jews (Carriera de la Juderia, between rue Rossetti and rue de la Loge), but it is now called rue Benoît Bunico, named after the Italian statesman who pushed through the legislation, 200 years later, giving equal rights to Jewish citizens.
6. Famous Brits on the “English” promenade
The Promenade des Anglais takes its name from these uppercrust English (Anglais) tourists, who would promenade along the sea with their parasols… a strange sight to the working-class Niçoise.  Among the celebrated Brits were Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill, and dancer Isadora Duncan, whose dramatic decapitation took place in front of the Hotel Negresco, when her long scarf caught in one of the wheels of her convertible.
Sitting down in Nice. Photo: samtup40/Flickr
7. Lunch with a bang!
In 1860, Sir Thomas Coventry and his easily-distracted wife were living in Nice.  Having become increasing frustrated by his wife’s lack of punctuality in presenting the noonday meal, he approached the Mayor’s office to propose a daily noon cannon shot, like back in his home village in Scotland, and offered to foot the bill.
Some years later, Sir Coventry returned to Scotland and took his little cannon with him, but by that time the locals were so used to their midday alarm that they petitioned the city to carry on the tradition, and it continues today.
8. Elton John calls it home (and he’s not alone)
Modern celebrities include part-time resident Elton John, whose yellow hilltop villa above the Port can be seen from the top of the Chateau. Other notable Riviera Rock Stars include Tina Turner, Keith Richards and Bono… see photos of their digs here.

Story continues below…

Photo: AFP
9. The Monster’s Lair
After the war Nice, like the rest of Europe, was in bad shape. The Old Town was so run-down and poverty stricken that it was referred to as the “Babazouk” or The Monster’s Lair. Even in the 60’s most families in the Old Town didn’t have refrigeration and still bought ice chipped off the ice man’s cart. Laundry was still washed by hand in communal tubs and garbage was dropped from the windows into the rat-infested streets below.
10. The Great Nice Sewer Heist
In the 70s, a man named Spaggiare dug through sewage tunnels for months before robbing the Societe Generale Bank on avenue Jean Medecin of the equivalent of 29 million euros in cash and jewels.
The spectacular heist saw the bankers finally get into their vault, only to find the words: “Without hate, without arms, without violence”. Spaggiare made a “clean” getaway, too (well, as clean as possible considering the sewage”.

Piano Bar in Nice

I recently had tapas and a cocktail at a piano bar in Nice, as I enjoy trying out new places.  menu

Being a Friday evening, the jazz band began tuning up and started their first (early) set to add music to the lovely ambiance of the place.  My only complaint is the champagne was served in a tulip glass that seemed small (or maybe I just wanted more!) but the cocktails were generous servings, as well as the food.

All in all, Le Kosma is a very nice, cozy place to relax, enjoy a cocktail and tapas while listening to some great music.  La vie est belle!

cocktails tapas wall mural bar band bnad2

 

13 of the best hill villages near Nice

NOTE:  The “Village House for Sale” on the sidebar is located in village #7 on this list!

 

The Alpes-Maritimes department in south-east France, including the world famous Côte d’Azur, is home to several hundred medieval hill villages, fortified towns and ruined iron age camps, and many are close to Nice.  The “villages perchés” vary from little more than a pile of ruins to perfectly renovated sophisticated small towns, some are now the ancient centre of a modern town, others are gloriously isolated deep in the countryside.  Some are almost at sea level others over 1500m high in the mountains.  What they all have in common though is that they are built in strategic locations, to protect themselves from invasion, often on rocky outcrops or cliff faces; places hard to access and easy to defend. They tend to centre around a church and castle at the top with winding narrow cobbled alleyways, twisting down to the ramparts.  These lanes are sometimes covered, forming tunnels, they often turn into steps and are nearly always far too narrow for cars.  They were built for donkeys, horses and carts but nothing any bigger which makes for an interesting spectacle when a modern day resident has a large piece of furniture delivered!  (Surprisingy they are very nearly all still inhabited).

Peillon village near Nice France at sunset

I don’t suppose I’ll ever get to all the hill villages in the area, especially when you consider there are plenty more in the neighbouring Var department and across the Italian border in Liguria, but I’ve visited plenty and love discovering new ones.  Here’s my choice of the 13 best easily reached from Nice and surrounding towns (in no particular order), with a brief description.

1.  GREOLIERES

Gréolières

Gréolières (not to be confused with Gréolières les Neiges, the ski resort nearby) is a small, easily accessed hill village as it isn’t too steep.  It lies dramatically on the edge of a cliff over looking the Loup river.  The drive to it and just a bit further past towards the ski area is spectacular and one of the main reasons to go.  The village, which has a handful of restaurants, is unpretentious, existing for locals rather than the tourist market    It’s extra pretty in the snow which it regularly gets during the winter.

Gréolières in snow

 

2.  GOURDON

Gourdon

Gourdon is the real jaw dropper of the region.  It is practically carved out of the rock at 760m altitude but surprisingly within its walls it has a castle (where Queen Victoria once stayed) and a garden designed by Le Nôtre (he of Versailles fame no less).  Unfortunately the castle is no longer open to the public but a wander around the tiny village is worth it for the views alone.  Only 20 minutes from Lou Messugo I take all our visiting friends here and pose them in the same spot!  This aspect shows just how precarious its location is, over looking the Gorges du Loup.  It’s a very popular place for paragliding.

Gourdon paragliding Alpes Maritimes

 

3.  CHÂTEAUNEUF-DE-GRASSE

Châteauneuf Grasse Village

The hill village part of Châteauneuf de Grasse is hidden away from the road and easily missed despite being in quite a built up area only 4 kms from the city of Grasse.  It’s a quiet residential place where you won’t find shops or cafés, just sleepy cats lazing in the sun.  Every October it holds a festival dedicated to the humble pumpkin when the place comes alive but for the rest of the year it’s wonderfully tranquil and seemingly empty.  I’ve written in more detail about the Fête de la Courge and Châteauneuf itself previously.

Châteauneuf Grasse

 

4.  LE BAR SUR LOUP

Le Bar sur Loup distant view

Le Bar sur Loup is one of the most picturesque and perfectly formed hill villages with a castle, keep and chapel popping out the top.  You can see them in the photo above.  Despite what many websites say about the village the tourist office is no longer in the keep but has been replaced by an excellent restaurant “le Donjon”.  Le Bar sur Loup is known for its production of bitter oranges and celebrates them with a wonderfully fragrant fair every spring at la fête de l’oranger.  A must if you are in the area at the time.

Bar sur Loup staircase

 

5.  TOURRETTES SUR LOUP

Tourettes sur Loup Alpes Maritimes Côte dAzur PACA

Tourrettes sur Loup is famous for its violet production, grown for the perfume industry in Grasse and for crystallised candy and like many of these hill villages it celebrates its flowers with a festival in the spring. To get to the old part of the village from the central square (unfortunately a carpark) you pass through an archway and enter the quiet alleys, where you’ll come across charming and unusual red houses amongst the stone buildings.  For the best view of the village approach from the road from Grasse (rather than Vence).

Tourettes sur Loup street

 

6.  ST PAUL DE VENCE

St Paul de Vence Côte dAzur France

St Paul de Vence is probably the most well known of the Côte d’Azur hill villages owing to its association with some of the world’s greatest artists.  Over the years names such as Picasso, Chagall, Matisse and many more have either lived here or been inspired by it.  The town is the location for one of the best private modern art collections in the world, the Maeght Foundation, and nowadays is chock-a-block full of art galleries and studios.  It’s an art lovers paradise and it’s exquisitely beautiful.  The lanes are perfectly paved and every building is renovated and maintained to a high standard.  The downside to this is that it gets very crowded.  Take a look here for tips on how to avoid the crowds and more detail about the lovely St Paul de Vence.art galleries in St Paul de Vence

 

7.  HAUT-DE-CAGNES

Haut de Cagnes Côte dAzur France

Hauts-de-Cagnes is slap bang in the middle of the conurbation of Cagnes sur Mer-Nice, is very easily reached by public transport from all over the Côte d’Azur and yet it is relatively unknown. Being in the centre of an urban area it is hard to get a good distant photo of it, with one of the best views being from the motorway!  My shot above was taken on a gloomy day where you can just about make out the mountains behind; when you notice it peeking above the busy streets of Cagnes you realise it’s begging to be explored.  There’s a quirky fact about Haut-de-Cagnes, they play square boules “pétanque carrée” on the steep streets, the balls being square so they don’t roll downhill!

Haut de Cagnes square boules carrées

 

8.  BIOT

Biot village Alpes Maritimes France

Biot is another of the hill villages which finds itself today as the historical and tourist centre of a much bigger but otherwise rather nondescript town.  It’s small but very lively with plenty of restaurants,cafés, boutiques and art galleries.  It holds a weekly market every Tuesday morning. Biot is famous for its hand blown glass which you can see being made in a small workshop on the main street and in the biggerVerrerie de Biot just below the village on the main road to the coast.  It is also well known for its very popular annual medieval festival every April.

arcades in Biot Alpes Maritimes

 

9.  MOUGINS

mougins village near cannes in france

Mougins is located between Cannes and Grasse and rises in a spiral of streets from the plain around. Seen from above it is most unusual.  It has become known as a centre of gastronomy with many fabulous restaurants including some with Michelin stars and an annual food festival.  It is also packed full of art galleries and the home of a small but good classical art museum.  One of the most attractive aspects of Mougins village I think is the trees that grow through the restaurant terraces in the main square.

Mougins near Cannes France

 

10.  CARROS

Carros village perché Alpes Maritimes France

Carros is a surprising stunner of a hill village, one that very few visitors ever see owing to the reputation of its namesake modern town.  Modern Carros, built about 40-50 years ago is a hideous grouping of soulless apartment blocks and industrial buildings but go beyond this, a few kilometres up the hill and you’ll be well rewarded.  The views are some of my favourites of all the hill villages around, stretching up and down the Var river valley to snowy mountain peaks and the Mediterranean at Nice.  The 12th century castle at the top of the village houses a rather unlikely International Centre of Contemporary Art and there are some interesting modern sculptures juxtaposed in the ancient streets.

Carros Village sculptures

 

11.  PEILLON

Peillon village near Nice France at sunset

Peillon, as you can see from the beautiful photo above, sits in splendid isolation surrounded by forested mountains and valleys and yet it is only 12 kms north of Nice.  It is tiny, peaceful, completely pedestrian and entirely empty of tourist tat and other commercial enterprises except for an unlikely secondhand clothes shop!  At the top of the village next to the church you’ll find a panoramic map pointing out the nearby peaks and distant cities.

Peillon Côte dAzur France

 

12.  SAORGE

Saorge hill village Alpes Maritimes France

Saorge is another completely untouched, in places run down, fully authentic hill village oozing charm and character.  Looking out over the gorgeous Roya river its houses are built in about 5 layers up and up the steep mountain side meaning that the little lanes are often tunneled through the buildings.  There are bridges and secret passages everywhere, cool and calm in the summer heat.  I defy anyone not to fall in love with this gem of a perched village.

Saorge village near Nice France

 

13.  EZE

Eze village viewed from Grand Corniche

Eze village is a superstar of hill villages and along with St Paul probably the most visited in the region.  Its proximity to both Nice and Monaco make it popular with cruise ships but this don’t let this put you off, just choose your moment to visit wisely.  Its unique attraction is its botanic garden perilously hanging off the rock.  The views from Eze, particularly from the gardens, peeping through cacti and sculptures, over the warm tiled rooftops and across to St Jean Cap Ferrat are truly splendiferous!  Within the village walls you’ll find souvenir shops, cafés and an achingly beautiful 5 star hotel that mere mortals like me can only gaze upon and dream…

Eze Côte dAzur France view from jardins exotiques

 

For some 13 is unlucky so I’ve included a bonus 14th choice particularly interesting to visit at Christmas…read on…

BONUS:  LUCERAM

Lucéram model of village with Santons

Lucéram is known as the Christmas village for during the month of December it comes alive with a “Circuit des Crèches“.  Literally every tiny alley, every balcony, every doorway and every nook and cranny is decorated for Christmas with ribbons, baubles, tinsel, pine cones and santons, traditional Provencal clay figurines.  The idea is to follow the circuit of Nativity creches (or cribs) around the village spotting the hidden ones and marvelling at the bigger scenes.  The photo above is of a model of the village with santons, located in a room at the entrance to the village.  Read more about this lovely tradition here.

Lucéram Christmas village

 

My advice for visiting hill villages is to explore the back alleys, get away from the main streets and lose yourself in the myriad of twisting dark lanes.  Look out for interesting details and a sudden shaft of light. Breath in the smells of the flowers in bloom or the damp odours of hundreds of years of history.  Move away from the crowds and you’re sure to find yourself alone even in the most popular places.  If you think you can’t visit these places with kids, think again. Above all make sure you visit at least a few of these gorgeous historical places while on the French Riviera, they are such an important and lovely part of its charm.

CREDIT/SOURCE: reblogged from http://www.loumessugo.com/