Nice is also called Nice La Belle or Nice the Beautiful. We visited it recently and agree with its nickname. Here’s why!
We entered Nice from the east with sweeping views of the city below from a ridge high above. This is a large city with over 1 million in its metropolitan area, making it the fifth largest city in France.
We stayed here two days touring Nice and then two more villages nearby. We lodged in the Hotel Splendid which was within walking distance of their promenade by the sea. Anyone visiting for just a couple of days will want to stay near this area. Everything is in walking distance. Near the Hotel Splendid is the Casa Corleone, a great Sicilian restaurant, and one of the best meals we had the entire trip. Love this place.
The next morning we went first to the old town which is south-east of our hotel. We took a bus, though it may have been within walking distance.
They renovated and changed much of the old town down near the sea. Our tour guide showed us a hotel that faced the Boulevard, and she told us that most of the old grand hotels that were built up until the beginning of the 20th century faced the boulevard and not the sea. People were less interested in seeing the sea and more interested in being seen.
Then we took a walk through their marketplace which for vegetables is open until 2 pm and for other non-perishables is open until 5 pm. They gave us time on our own to shop, use the facilities, and snack. We met our guide at the other end of the market 30 minutes later.
As a group, we walked north deeper into the old town where we stopped at a small magnificent cathedral that was built in the 1650s.
This is the Eglise de Gesu and it has beautiful Baroque interiors. It looks out at the intersection of the former Street of the Jews, where the city’s Jews used to be locked in at night. This street is now called the rue Benoit Bunico. The Eglise or church sits at the intersection of Benoit Bunico and Gesu Street thus the name of the church. Gesu is Jesus in the Nissart language.
But Nice grew rapidly in the 1600s and the church was already too small when completed so they built a larger cathedral to replace it within 20 or 30 years of the smaller one.
We also visited the newer church built in the late 1600s called Cathédrale Sainte-Reparate, which was built on the site of an earlier church from the 1200s.
It too was beautiful inside.
It had a yellow and red umbrella showing that the Pope made this church a basilica.
There were several amazing paintings, too.
They named the basilica after a young Palestinian teenager called Reparate, who refused to renounce her Christian faith in 1060. Her torturers tested her but the angels foiled their attempts. It poured rain when they tried to burn her, and she didn’t die when they poisoned her. Finally, they decapitated her.
To deny her a Christian burial, her murderers left her body on a raft in the sea; but the angels intervened again and the raft came into the bay of Nice where her body arrived untouched and pristine. Today the bay in Nice is called the Bay of Angels, and the young martyr became Sainte Reparate, the patron saint of this Cathedral.
This old town part of Nice looks like an old medieval village.
This is another city where they did something to the river. In this case, they covered the river and put a park on top of it so the river runs underground.
By the Sea
Later, Chuck and I walked down to the promenade by the sea. It was a beautiful day, and there were sunbathers. There is a wide sidewalk that stretches between the boulevard and the beach. On the other side of the boulevard are the hotels, most of which now open on the sea side of their buildings.
This is the promenade where the terrorist drove his truck on Bastille Day. We saw several armed men and women in full riot gear patrolling the streets and the Promenade de Anglais Boulevard which was closed the night of the attack and made into a pedestrian thoroughfare. Today, though, I never felt unsafe.
We also walked down toward the sea to a street which is full of restaurants and had a great plate of paella. This is a great city for walking.
We usually avoid cities but we loved Nice.