Trip to Cap 3000 Shopping Centre

Only the food shops are currently open in Cap 3000 and, because it’s an enclosed mall, it’s unlikely to re-open fully on 11 May. Prior to lockdown, many of the newer outlets were yet to open or indeed be let. Neither its brand spanking new gym nor its many food outlets will open before June. 

One of the (many) attractions of our first French holiday home was its proximity to the outlets of the Cap 3000 shopping centre. Since moving away, I’ve watched its evolution with keen interest. It used to be surrounded by a massive free car park which was typically used during the summer months by sun worshippers, not shoppers. While it would often open on French bank holidays, Cap 3000 used to close on Sundays. This decision was reversed when nearby Polygon Riviera (more of which next week) decided to open 7 days a week.

As Cap 3000 has recently been totally refurbished, I thought I’d look further into its history. Towards the end of the 1960s, Jean Demogé, President and CEO of Galeries Lafayette (formerly Nouvelles Galeries), decided to build a large shopping centre near Nice-Côte d’Azur airport. He chose a vast marshy area on the opposite bank of the river Var, well served by road, rail and bus links for the project.

When it opened on 21 October, 1969, the US-inspired centre was modern, even ahead of its time. It was the first major shopping centre in France, and the first waterfront shopping complex on the Côte d’Azur. Cap 3000 constituted a genuine public space, liked and well used by locals and large numbers from outside the region, also attracting visitors from Italy and Monaco.

Cap 3000 initially consisted of fifty stores over two levels anchored by the major French department store Galeries Lafayettes. In addition, there was a glass-bottomed swimming pool on the roof, mixing leisure and relaxation with its commercial retail function.

Despite its undeniable commercial success, Cap 3000 endured subsequent changes that spoilt its architecture and limited its links to the city. Its open-air car parks had a negative impact on its exceptional location and formed a visual and physical barrier between the complex and its neighbourhood, and the sea. In addition, its retail offerings looked well past their sell by date.

With a change of ownership to Alterea, ambitious new designs were put forward for its refurbishment and extension, increasing the number of outlets six-fold. The first part of these plans debuted in 2016 with renovations to its existing envelope, an extension to the northern block and a much-needed three-storey car park. Simultaneously, the local town hall improved access to the centre.

The new buildings, which complement the existing ones, are encased in wave-shaped canopies tilted at varying angles over several floors. These canopies bring a sense of architectural harmony to the development as a whole. Undulating, ribboned facades link the various buildings together. Its roof is pierced with ribbons of rooflights and the shape of its undulating volumes references aquatic fluidity and a sensual, sleek architecture that evokes the reflections and movements of water.

Cap 3000’s audacious architecture has generated an iconic building visible from Saint Laurent du Var, the sea and the sky. The result gentle and fluid, inspired by the remarkable natural surroundings of the Var delta. More than a simple transformation of the building’s envelope, this extension and renovation has redeveloped the site in its entirety, giving it a new lease of life by reinstating links between Cap 3000, the Var delta ecosystem and Saint Laurent du Var. Reinforced by its landscaping, the centre addresses both its urban and its natural surroundings.

The development’s waves perform more than just a visually unifying function. The large white ribbons of screenprinted glass and coated aluminium protect the glazed facades from the sun and rain. The ribbons begin on the facades of the car parks and give a lightness to the glass, metal and concrete structure, but most importantly they provide a level of comfort for visitors by filtering light and heat. On the car park, depending on their angle, the ribbons give views of the cars and also facilitates the natural ventilation of all five levels of the centre.

In addition, indirect light via a number of lateral windows (carefully controlled to avoid overheating) supplements the light from the skylights. Lateral windows that open, controlled via a building management system, enable free cooling using natural ventilation, either at night in summer or by day in spring and autumn, thereby reducing requirements for cooling systems in the centre’s communal areas.

Cap 3000 remained open during its refurbishment but now lies silent apart from its pharmacy and Monoprix supermarket. The overall effect of COVID-19 on its financial viability has yet to be assessed but, with careful and sensitive management, I hope it’ll bounce back.

All images courtesy of Cap 3000

40 years of Memorable Moments: first French flat

It was only when I started to write about Saint Laurent du Var (coming tomorrow) that I realised I’d never really written about us acquiring our first holiday flat in France. So I thought I’d better remedy that huge oversight pronto. Please bear with me, it’s a bit of a shaggy dog story.

My beloved had organised a training trip to Nice for a large number of UK dentists and dental technicians which took place in Nice University’s newly installed simulation suite. A travel agent had organised the trip and based everyone at the Holiday Inn Resort Hotel in Saint Laurent du Var. However, on checking in, my beloved discovered the hotel was a room short and quite naturally he got bumped to another Holiday Inn nearby. To compensate for their error, the hotel offered my beloved a freebie weekend.

We had recently started taking our god-daughter for a few days away and thought she might enjoy a trip to the French Riviera. Little did we know at the time that this would prove to be one of those defining moments. The hotel very kindly gave us a suite for our long weekend break which was much enjoyed by all. The following year, my god-daughter asked if she could return to France for our annual trip away; so we did. By the time the following year rolled around, my beloved had accepted a transfer to his company’s HQ in Germany, to look after its global sales and marketing activities outside of its home (German) market.

Realising he would be regularly circumnavigating the globe and constantly staying in hotels, my beloved expressed a desire to buy a holiday apartment. I was not wholly on board with this. After all, the only time I ever got waited on hand and foot was in a hotel! We looked at maps and flight schedules and realised Nice would make a perfect location. We returned in late autumn to the hotel we’d previously stayed in with our god-daughter to begin our search.

That first morning, as we walked along the esplanade in Saint Laurent du Var, we realised its proximity to the airport (15 minute walk), abundant bars and restaurants, plus its Cap 3000 shopping mall, meant it was an ideal location for a holiday home. In addition there were a number of apartment blocks with flats directly overlooking the beach.

We popped into the nearest estate agent and asked if they had any flats overlooking the beach for sale. They did have one and an inspection visit was organised immediately. The apartment was a second-floor duplex in a striking (now Heritage listed) 1970s building which afforded splendid sea views. The flat was in mint condition, although somewhat eccentrically decorated. We loved it and made an offer there and then to the amazement of the owner and agent. Our offer was accepted and completion was set for early April (Easter) the following year, a date which suited both parties.

For a couple of years we spent all our holidays in the apartment, meeting up there most weekends and every bank holiday. I would fly over Friday evening from Luton and back again on a very early Monday morning flight, courtesy of Easyjet. My beloved would either fly in from Stuttgart or drive. Though, in any event, he had to leave by lunchtime on Sunday.

Although, I’d resisted the idea of a holiday home at first. I really came to love the lifestyle. So much so that I began to resent having to go back to the UK on Monday morning. We started discussing how we might make the move more permanent. The rest, as they say, is history!

Orange bliss

After our recent  successful trip to Orange in Cap 3000, we now have a fully functioning LiveBox with service restored to its former glory, new iPhones and a smaller monthly bill. I call that a result. Or I would, if it were not for the chaos which ensued exactly one week later.

I had woken feeling very unwell the day before we were to leave for San Sebastian. I decided I was going to take it easy and emailed our friendly car service to ask if he could collect my beloved from the airport. I sent him an email telling him it would be Christoph, not me, picking him up. He didn’t respond, but that’s not unusual.

After a day spent resting and sipping water, I was feeling better though not wholly restored. Christophe rang just before 17:00 to say unfortunately he couldn’t collect my beloved. I said not to worry, I was feeling better and I’d do it myself. I messaged Richard with the change in arrangements.  His plane was due in from London City at 19:20. I knew traffic would be bad en route and left at 18:45, hoping to sweep in, pick him up and head back home.

He’ll typically message me when he lands. I checked my phone, no message and, for some reason, no service on my phone! While circling the airport, I managed to reboot it but it made no difference. After circling for 30 minutes, I concluded my beloved had seen only my first message and had gotten a taxi. I drove home, but there was no sign of him. I rang him from the fixed line, no service on his mobile. So he was having similar problems. Thirty minutes later, I was about to call BA to check whether he’d been on the flight, when he arrived back by taxi.

The plane door had jammed, so it had taken 45 minutes just to get off the plane, plus another 15  minutes to get through the terminal to our usual pick up point. He’d waited 10 minutes then gotten a taxi. He too had no mobile service. It appeared that both phones had been cut off at the same time. I tried in vain to contact Orange but no one was home or, if they were, they were constantly engaged! We were leaving for Spain at 05:30 the following morning so would need to contact Orange on our arrival.

Once we were settled into our hotel, I had managed to find a telephone number for the Orange store in Cap 3000 and we tried to ring them on Skype, but no luck. I had found the Facebook page and Twitter handle for the shop, so sent them messages – no immediate response!

Meanwhile, my exasperated beloved had decided to engage with the Orange chat line. The first person he contacted promised our service would be restored within a couple of hours. It wasn’t. We couldn’t contact anyone the following morning as, horror of horrors, the internet had gone down in the whole of San Sebastian.

Once WiFi was restored, my beloved was chatting once more to the Orange help line, a chap called Valentin who, after 20 minutes of emailing back and forth, told my beloved he needed to contact the business help line and promptly disconnected! I wouldn’t have minded but he had asked upfront which type of service we had and my beloved had advised him we were business customers.

Undeterred, though by now muttering under his breath, my beloved located and logged into the business help line only to discover it demanded tons of information on the company which we don’t usually carry around with us. However, I knew I’d provided that information by email recently and was able to retrieve it. We were back in the game!

Or were we? My beloved kept getting logged out of the system. Eventually he got through to someone who suggested we go down to our local Orange shop. Did he not read the bit where my beloved explained we were in Spain and had indeed popped into the local Orange shop. No queue and the staff were extremely helpful but, after checking both our phones, had advised someone back at HQ in France had cut off our service although they didn’t know why. Sadly, Orange Spain is a completely different legal entity (so much for EU) and they couldn’t assist us further. They would have been happy to call the French help line for us but could only make local calls from the shop.

After lunch, I discovered I’d received a reply from Orange at Cap 3000 from the lady who’d set us up. She had sent me her mobile no. so we could call her. We did so on Skype and she asked us if we’d changed over our SIM cards? The penny dropped. She had said we’d have to do this but I’d assumed the technician had done it down at the shop when we’d left him with our old phones, passwords etc to change everything over. My beloved had gone back down to fetch everything on his own so I hadn’t checked – rookie error!

As a result of an error on our part, we’d incurred a taxi bill of 45 Euros and lost several hours of our life, which we’d never get back. On the plus side, I now have the email address and mobile phone no. of the most helpful person I have ever met at Orange. Plus, the six days no one could get hold of us on the phone were otherwise pretty blissful, maybe we should do it more often!