A few more things to do in Nice

I know that Nice is a popular destination for a lot of you, either as part of a trip to France or Europe. Aside from my many trips to the smaller neighbouring towns, from time to time, I’ll try to cover more of Nice’s many attractions.

Visit museums in Cimiez

One of the more historically-rich neighborhoods in Nice is Cimiez. It’s home to two prestigious museums in the city, Musée National Marc Chagall and Musée National Henri Matisse, making it a hotspot for art enthusiasts from all over the world. Musée Archéologique de Nice-Cimiez can also be found here. To be honest, the view from Cimiez back down to the sea alone is worth the trip.

Take a coastal walk or hike

The French Riviera is among the most beautiful coastal destinations in the world. Aside from exploring the Promenade des Anglais, you can walk from the port of Nice to Villefranche along the Sentier du Littoral. Alternatively, take a hike up Mont Boron. There’s the hilltop forest called Parc du Mont Boron which has a picnic area and 11 km of marked hiking trails, exercise circuits and, of course, its very own castle. Parc du Mont Boron is 190m high and overlooks Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer. From Fort Alban, you can also see the Cap Ferrat peninsula one way and and the Esterel mountains the other.

Visit a Park or Garden

Parc Phoenix is a well-known seven-hectacre botanical garden and zoo, located opposite the city’s airport. There are tropical plants, greenhouses,  dancing fountains, an aquarium and much more. The park houses more than 2,500 species of plants, some of which are truly remarkable and showcased in a Mediterranean landscape setting. Its 25 metre-high pyramid-shaped greenhouse is one of the tallest in Europe and it is split into 6 different tropical and subtropical climates. The park is a veritable oasis of greenery, education and relaxation.

Go to the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain

The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (also known as MAMAC) is a Nice landmark that opened in 1990.  Located in the heart of the city, next to Place Garibaldi and an extension of the Coulée Verte, MAMAC offers a dive into art from the 1950s to the present day. The collection, rich with more than 1,300 works by 300 artists, offers an unprecedented dialogue between European New Realism and the American expression of Pop Art. The museum also displays key works of minimal or povera art. Two major figures of twentieth century art constitute the heart of the collections: Yves Klein, with a permanent exhibition room, made possible thanks to the donations from the Yves Klein Archives, and Niki de Saint Phalle which represents one of the most important collections of the artist in Europe following his 2001 donations to the museum.

See the music collection in Palais Lascaris

What used to be the home of the Lascaris-Vintimille family has been restored and turned into a Musée de France that features art and music from 17th and 18th centuries. Palais Lascaris is a Baroque palace that’s home to over 500 musical instruments, perfect if you’re a music lover. Here you’ll see some rare baroque guitars, saxophones made by Adolphe Sax and some 18th century records, among other things.

Visit Cap Ferrat

Saint Jean Cap Ferrat is property porn heaven and the second-most expensive residential area in the world right after Monaco. But, even better, go and visit the house and magnificent gardens of Villa Ephrussie at the entrance to the Cap.

Here are some more of my posts about Nice:-

Trip to Nice: Gare du Sud

Some of my favourite things to do in Nice

My potted history of Nice

Trip to Port of Nice

It’s all change at Nice’s main station

 

Visit to Musée national du Sport, Nice

To be honest, we’d long intended to visit this museum but, despite it being close to OGC Nice’s Allianz stadium, we never seemed to find the time to pop in. This was finally rectified last November, when we were invited by friends to attend the presentation of some new local bike races for elite and amateur athletes held at the museum. This afforded us the opportunity to wander around enjoying the exhibits pretty much on our lonesomes.

Naturally, I did my research beforehand not appreciating that it is the national sports museum. First established in Paris in 1922 by the French war minister – how appropriate! By the 1940s, the museum had fallen into disrepair and was re-established by the secretary of state for youth and sports in 1963. Architect Roger Taillibert created the galleries inside the Parc des Princes stadium in 1972. The museum was relocated to 93 Avenue de France (13th arrondissement) from 2008 to 2013, until its move to Nice on 27 June, 2014.

Today, the museum contains more than 100,000 items documenting different sports and sporting achievements from 16th century to the present day, including a fine collection on the history of the modern Olympic Games from 1896. The collections include sports equipment, paintings, sculptures, posters, drawings, stamps, advertising, books and magazines, plus interactive displays.

The museum has four permanent exhibition areas:-

1. Individual sports – where human limits have been pushed to the limit: swimming, cycling, athletics, skiing, horse riding, etc. featuring amazing and unique works such as: 1st speed record bike, outfits of great champions and examples of the first sports’ equipment (bikes, skis, kayak, etc …)

2. The one-on-one challenge – where athletes duel one another and only one can be declared the winner! This area features unique pieces such as Marcel Cerdan’s shorts and boxing gloves, equipment from great judokas, tennis players etc

3. The collective challenge – focuses on team sports and particularly showcases those years where France won the Football World Cup. There’s also a large collection of jerseys from famous athletes, not just French ones, such as Lionel Messi and Michael Jordan.

4. Finally, those challenges “Beyond Limits”   – bear witness to the most extraordinary of human exploits! Such as crossing the desert by bike, windsurfing across an ocean, or speed records in motor sports. This is where you can drive an F1 car at the Monaco Grand Prix using the on-site simulator.

Of course, there are also rotating temporary exhibitions. Coincidentally and very appropriately, at the time of our visit, the temporary exhibition was celebrating the centenary of the winner’s jersey, le maillot jaune, of the Tour de France.

The exhibition designed by the museum in collaboration with Amaury Sport Organization, organiser of the Tour de France, traced the jersey’s many adventures, including those where it was draped across the shoulders of the sports’ greatest champions and more modest riders.

The jersey’s first appearance was in 1919, the 13th edition of the Tour de France, and has long since become the Tour’s universal emblem. The exhibition reminded us that if the yellow jersey is synonymous with glory, it is also permeated with the sweat, and sometimes the tears, of a long succession of exploits, disillusions and even tragedies. From Eugène Christophe, the first to wear this badge of honour, to Eddy Merckx, absolute record holder who spent more than three months of his life in yellow.

More than 170 objects and numerous immersive and interactive devices (bicycle simulator, virtual reality headsets, holograms, family games, etc.) paid tribute to this legendary jersey which, since its creation, has made the rider stand out from the others in the peloton, weaving its magic and confering greatness.

If, like me, you’re a sports’ fan, this museum is well worth a visit! Of course, it’s best combined with a trip to watch my beloved OGC Nice.

Trip to Musée National Henri Matisse, Nice

The Musée Matisse is part of a vast heritage complex in Cimiez that includes the Roman arenas and ruins, a garden with hundred-years old olive trees, as well as the Cimiez monastery.

Henri Matisse (1869 to 1954) is considered by many to be the most outstanding representative of Fauvism, a style which emphasises painterly qualities and strong colour over the representational values of Impressionism. Though, before this, he painted in many different styles. He was a noted friend and peer of Pablo Picasso. From 1917 until his death, except for a five-year break when he lived in nearby Vence, Matisse lived in Nice, creating his works in a studio located in the “Yellow House” in the Cours Saleya, in Nice’s Old Town.

Matisse first stayed in the building which now houses the 4* Hotel Beau Rivage, when he came to Nice to cure his bronchitis. Unfortunately, it rained for the whole month, so he painted the interior of his room over and over again. On the final day the sun came out and, when he saw the light, he was hooked. He stayed here until he died of a heart attack. He is buried with his wife in the Cimiez cemetery, near his eponymous museum.

The Musée Matisse was inaugurated in 1963 on the second floor of 17th century Villa des Arènes (formerly the Palais de Gubernatis – after the first owner), to exhibit the artist’s and his heirs’ gifts to the City of Nice. It is one of the largest collections of the French artist’s works.

In 1989, the Archeological Museum, which previously shared the same building, moved out to its own dedicated building to facilitate a remodeling of the museum. Architect Jean-François Bodin rethought the interior spaces of the old Genovese villa and designed the expansion to accommodate a vast foyer, an auditorium and a bookshop. The new building was inaugurated in 1993. An educational workshop was added in 2002, and a design office in 2003.

In 2013, the ceramic La Piscine, a gift from Claude and Barbara Duthuit (Matisse’s grand-son and wife) , was installed in a dedicated room, on the entrance level. In 2017, another renovation project rethought the way visitors interacted with the space, remodelled the entrance and installed interactive educational devices.

Matisse Museum, Nice

The museum perfectly documents the various stages of the artist’s development. Several dozen paintings; hundreds of drawings, prints, and photographs; sculptures, mostly made of bronze by Matisse himself; as well as books illustrated by the artist and numerous cut-outs, have been gathered together here. In addition, the museum houses everyday objects that belonged to Matisse.

An exhibition about the Chapel of the Rosary (Chapelle du Rosaire) located in Vence and designed by Matisse occupies its own space. The museum has, among other things, a scale model of the chapel, as well as the projects of individual works constituting the chapel’s equipment.

This is yet another of my favourite places in Nice and can easily be combined with a visit to the nearby Musée Marc Chagall.

Sculpture Saturday #5

It’s week five of my participation in this challenge hosted by the Mind over Memory blogger and I’ve chosen a statue from the seafront in Nice, near its Old Town.

Neuf Lignes Obliques is by French artist Bernar Venet, commissioned to mark 150th anniversary of the 1860 annexation of the County of Nice by France. The sculpture comprises nine steel beams, 30 metres long which meet at the top. It sits on the Quai des États-Unis, an extension of the Promenade des Anglais.

  • Share a photo of a sculpture
  • Link to the Mind over Memory’s post for Saturday Sculpture

Go on, give it a go, you know you want to!

Thursday doors #56

Today we’re local with doors from nearby Cannes, Nice and Monte Carlo. Luckily for me there’s never a shortage of doors to photograph.

First up, two from Monte Carlo:-

Two doors from Nice Old Town that are quite close to one another.

Here are the final two from Cannes:-

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

One from the Vaults: Heavenly

I’ve decided that once a week I’ll re-post something from my extensive archives. Obviously many of my early posts 2009 – 2014 heavily feature cycling. I’ll try to keep these to a minimum as I know not everyone is a cycling fan. Here’s one from February 2013.

The cold snap appears to be over and since returning from my trip to the UK I’ve been enjoying being out on my bike. I rode with my cycling coach this week who asked if I minded whether one of his other clients joined us. He assured me that she was at a similar level to me. Of course, I didn’t believe him. Experience has shown me otherwise. The lady in question was a triathlete thinking about training for the Embrun Ironman – one of the toughest ones. She’d apparently not ridden much lately and wanted my coach to assess her form to see if this tough event was achievable.

We picked her up in Beaulieu and she easily rode me off her wheel up the short sharp incline to Cap Ferret, thereby proving my point. Now, I’m suffering a little congestion after my trip to the UK but nonetheless it’s always annoying to be beaten by someone who claims not to have ridden for ages.

I have a girlfriend at another cycling club which has a very large female membership. They often join after their husbands have ridden at the club for a while, turning up in trainers on a bike that’s clearly seen better days. Three weeks later they’re leaving my friend for dust. Typically these ladies weigh under 50kg, rode extensively when they were younger but have always kept themselves fit and trim. It doesn’t matter how long either of us train, we’re always going to be at a massive (weight) disadvantage. However, we can gain back time/put the hurt on rolling along on the the flat and, in my case, going downhill.

With my coach we did some of my favourite uphill sprint intervals. As always the legs were fine while the lungs were found wanting. By the time I’d gotten back home, I’d been out for almost four hours and was in need of sustenance and a nap! Thursday also dawned bright and fair and I couldn’t resist going for a quick thrash around Cap d’Antibes. If on a scale of one to ten, yesterday was a four Thursday felt more like a seven.

Friday is the day I do, among other things, my housework so I generally don’t ride. However, I decided to make an exception today as the weather was so mild. It seemed a shame not to go out. There’s just something so liberating about getting on my bike and thinking “Mmm, where shall I go today?” As if the world were my oyster. The answer, as always at this time of year, was along the coast. I wasn’t the only one with the same idea. The roads were pretty busy for a Friday with throngs of riders in both directions.

On the way back, still feeling a seven, I stopped to drink in the sunshine and enjoy a quick coffee. As I sat there with the sun warming my face I reflected that I never, ever want to live anywhere else. I came back down to earth with a bump as, sadly, the housework was still waiting for me when I got back.

Thursday doors #47

Today, my last door post of 2019, I’m featuring those doors photographed on my most recent trip to Nice. The wrought iron and glass doors are typical of those found on apartment blocks all over France. These were all along the rue de France, as is the last door though that one belongs to a church.

Never fear, I shall be back in 2020 with even more doors! Meanwhile, I’ll be indulging in my regular seasonal post “12  Days of Christmas” featuring some of my favourite photos of 2019.

 

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

It’s all change at Nice’s main station

One of the things I love about living in France is its constant investment in infrastructure. In the fifteen years we’ve lived here, pretty much everywhere has benefited from urban renewal. None more so than one of the city’s main arterial roads, rue Jean Medecin. I recently described the renovation of the old station Gare du Sud but, more excitingly, just a few hundred metres down the road, further redevelopment is taking place.

The main railway station in Nice Côte d’Azur (8 million passengers a year – 11 million expected by 2020), Nice-Thiers station was built in 1870. The arrival in 2023 of the new high speed network, the reinforcement of the TER (second largest in France after the Ile-de-France) as well as the development of the tramway network, highlight the importance of the redevelopment of this station. The aim is to create a real multi-modal exchange hub, which will meet the evolving transport needs of the city’s inhabitants and visitors.

Work on the passenger building, services and access to the platforms was completed at the end of 2015. A second phase of works, to integrate a commercial space into the junction with the tramway is planned for delivery by 2020.

These works will not only upgrade the station but will also revitalise the neighborhood. The planned construction of a mixed-development complex  will be housed within an “Iconic” building designed by Daniel Libeskind, the architect of Groud Zero’s “Master Plan” in Manhattan and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

The 40 metre high structure will be made of concrete, steel and glass (imagined in the header photo above) and will be reminiscent of a multi-faceted diamond.

Libeskind claimed:

I was inspired by the mineral forms of azurite, a harmonious crystallization to create a building that can be seen from all angles and thus help to remove the border between these two parts of the city. It will also serve to reflect the city, the light and the landscape.

On a footprint of 6,500 m2, this building will have 19,000 m2 over six levels. The ground and first floor will house 6,000 m2 of shops. The other levels will house 3,000 m2 of office space, a Hilton hotel with 120 rooms and a 1000 m2 fitness room, and a 600-seat auditorium – something the city currently lacks.

The development will not only unite the north and south of the city but will also, amd more importantly, regenerate the neighbourhood. This is one of the bolder station redevelopment projects ever undertaken and represents a significant investment for the city.

 

(Header: Daniel Libeskind et ­l’agence Février Carré. © Studio Libeskind)

Trip to Nice: Gare du Sud

One Friday evening we drove into Nice to see the recently reopened Gare du Sud, a former railway station located in the Libération quarter.

The station closed in December 1991 when it was replaced by the smaller Gare de Nice and remained derelict until 2013, when the station building was renovated and converted into a library.

Inaugurated in 1892 and designed by architect Prosper Bobin, the station building, set back from the Avenue Malausséna, was designed in an elegant neoclassical style. It has a monumental and imposing facade with a central high section flanked by two side pavilions, decorated with ceramic tiles, painted designs and picturesque stonework.

Behind the station building is a tall metal train shed with a glass roof to cover the platforms which was designed by Gustave Eiffel – yes, the bloke that did the Eiffel Tower – for the Russian and Austro-Hungarian pavilion at the Paris Exposition Universelle (1889) and added to the station in 1891.

Ownership of the old station was transferred to the city of Nice in 2000 and initially there were plans to demolish it but, after a public outcry, the Culture Minister blocked the plan. Furthermore, the facade of the old station building was listed as a historic monument in 2002 and the train shed was listed in 2005.

Although the station had been saved, its future remained uncertain. Finally, architect Pierre-Louis Faloci was asked to create a new design which would preserve the building as well as the metal train shed. The first phase of his design, the internal and external renovation of the station building, took place in 2013 and the new Raoul Mille library, incorporated into the station’s former waiting room was opened in 2014. The building also houses multimedia rooms, meeting rooms and a climate-controlled storage basement.

The second phase of the project involved the restoration of the train shed site within plans for a shopping centre, cinema, sports facilities, housing and underground car park. Much of this was completed last year though the project won the Pyramide d’or, the highest award of the Fédération des Promoters Immobilisers in 2016.

The main hall finally reopened at the beginning of May 2019 its destiny largely determined by the head of Nice’s department for Urban Renewal who wanted to create a large contemporary market, inspired by those in other major cities such as London and New York, where everyone could gather to eat, drink and listen to music.

It’s fair to say, looking at the crowds there on Friday evening, that the objective has easily been achieved. 

My potted history of Nice

It occurred to me that before writing about my favourite places in Nice I should share with you my potted version of its long, interesting history. So here goes.

Introduction

Superbly set on nothing less than the Bay of Angels, Nice has a gleam and sparkle like no other city in France. No one can resist its lively old town squeezed between promontory and sea, its markets blazing with colour, the glittering tiled domes and creamy patisserie of 19th century hotels and villas, the immaculate exotic gardens, and the famous voluptuous curve of the beach and palm fringed Promenade des Anglais. It’s the one town on the Cote d’Azur that doesn’t seem to need tourists, the one that stays open throughout the winter. You could come here for the food alone, a seductive melange of the best of France and Italy; you haven’t really had ravioli until you tuck into a plate in Nice, where it was invented.

The capital of the department of Alpes-Maritimes and France’s fifth-largest city, Nice is also the most visited French city after Paris. The English have been coming for well over 200 years, back when “Nizza la Bella” still belonged to Savoy, and Russian Tsarinas and Grand Dukes fleeing winter’s blasts weren’t far behind. The presence of so many rich, idle foreigners who stayed for months at a time formed a large part of the city’s character: corruption, reactionary politics and organised crime are part of the famous salade niçois, along with a high density of apricot poodles sporting the same hairstyles as their owners. But Nice also has a football team, a university, many museums, the brilliant light so-beloved of Matisse and a genuine identity as a city: rough, affable and informal.

Its History 

Nice has long been a property hot spot. People have been taking advantage of its prime real estate for many, many years. 400,000 BC, hunters who tracked mammoth and frequented the caves of Terra Amata (now the site of Boulevard Carnot, to the east of the Port) learned how to make fire to BBQ their prey and founded the world’s first take-away – McMammoth’s. Indeed, the first human remains dating from c 1,000,000 BC were found up the road in Menton leading one to conclude that the Cote d’Azur was indeed the Garden of Eden, as only a French woman would have the figure and chutzpah to wear a fig leaf. And, contrary to popular belief, she didn’t want the apple to tempt Adam; she needed it to make a tarte tatin.

Around 1,000 BC, the Ligurians were the first to settle here permanently, constructing their settlement at the mouth of the Paillon River and on the hill overlooking the valley. Greeks from Marseille, (the Massaliotes) founded a commercial colony near the seaside settlement and named it Nikaia, literally “giver of victory”. The beginnings of the new town were established on the slopes of the Colline du Chateau, overlooking and between the present old town and port. At this time, Nice was a small stronghold, with a few hundred inhabitants, mainly merchants, under the authority of magistrates nominated by Marseilles.

Beset by Ligurian pirates, the Nikaians (foolishly) asked the Romans for aid. The Romans duly came, and stayed. But they preferred to set up camp on the hilltop because it was closer to the Via Julia Augusta, which linked Nice to Vintimille. They named this town Cemenelum (modern Cimiez) and made it the capital of the province of Alpes Maritimes. By 3rd century AD, Cemenelum had 20,000 inhabitants and three thermal baths. The city was a military enclave intended to supervise and control this accident-prone and wild country. But the disorganisation of the empire, the barbarian invasions and the absence of fortifications led to a preference for the steep hills of Greek Nikaia. By 6th century AD, Cemenelum had collapsed along with the rest of the Roman Empire and became a mere neighbourhood of what was later to become the city of Nice.

While almost no traces of the Massaliotes remain, the Romans left many reminders. Not just the afore-mentioned Via Julia Augusta, but also the Trophée d’Auguste. It’s a magnificent construction with four well-preserved columns, which offers a great panorama at La Turbie and symbolises the submission of the Alpine peoples to Roman rule in 14 BC. Emperor Auguste can also be credited with setting up the region’s first real administrative organisation. Finally, the most manifest remains of the Roman presence in Nice are the well-preserved Roman amphitheatres and baths around the site of Cimiez’s Archeological Museum.

Meanwhile, Greek Nikaia struggled on, shaken by the family rivalries of its successive nobility, exhausted by the multiple invasions of the Goths, Francs, Saxons and Saracens which ravaged Nice and pillaged the coast for 150 or so years. It was only in 972 AD that Guillaume, the Compte de Provence, managed to rout them. The commercial activity of the lower town intensified around the cathedral on the Colline du Chateau and in 1176 the first town charter was drawn up.

The creation of the port of Villefranche [sur Mer] made the coast safer and encouraged maritime exchanges. Nice became much sought after by the Italian States, notably Genoa and Pisa. By the 1340s, with a population of 13,000, Nice was the third city in Provence after Marseille and Arles. The city’s coat of arms had an eagle’s head on it, looking to the left, to France.

On the death of Queen Jeanne of Provence, rivalries worsened, the Black Death and civil wars soon cut it down in size, and in 1388 the city’s leaders voted to hitch their wagon to a brighter star than Louis d’Anjou and pledged allegiance to Armadeus III, Count of Savoy. The eagle was redrawn to look right towards Italy.

In 1543, the Turkish fleet, aided by the French troops of King Francois I, tried in vain to reconquer the city. Local washerwoman turned symbolic figure Catherine Ségurane used a particularly unusual form of defence. Legend has it that she lashed out with a carpet beater to send them running while showing them her very ample, bare derrière!

The Savoys fortified Nice and it grew rich trading with Italy and 17th century saw the expansion of Nice outside its medieval walls, and in 1696 and 1705 came the first of several French interludes that punctuated Savoy rule; interludes which Louis XIV took advantage of to blow up the city’s fortifications. In 1713, the town again retreated to the protection of the King of Savoy, who had also become King of Sardinia.

Apollo Fountain in Place Massena behind which lies the Old Town

The 17th century also witnessed the flourishing of baroque art in Nice. Façades were painted in warm reds and yellows, ochre and burnt sienna; doorways and window sills were given contrasting colours and the woodwork was painted in cold blues and greens. The restoration of the façades over the last few decades has returned Nice to her former baroque glory. Other striking examples of this artistic tradition are the churches of the old town, such as Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate.

Interior of Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate

Between the French Revolution and the Empire (1792-1814), the Alpes-Maritimes region was created and annexed to France. By the same token, Nice was also returned to the French, but this time with the assent of the people.

With the fall of Napoleon, Nice again came under the sway of Sardinia, but her language and culture distanced her further and further from Italy. On the 24th March 1860, Napoleon III and Victor-Emmanuel II, King of Sardinia, agreed that Nice would be handed over to France once and for all, a decision that met with universal approval from its inhabitants. A remarkable economic boom ensued; roads were built, the railway arrived, and the population underwent explosive growth.

At the same time, winter tourism, which had started to develop in the mid-1700s with the arrival of the British aristocracy, gathered ground. Even though it took at least two weeks to reach Nice from Calais, by 1787 there were enough Brits wintering here to support a casino, an English theatre, an estate agent and a newspaper. In 1830, when a frost killed all the orange trees, the English community raised funds to give the unemployed jobs: building a seafront promenade along the Baie des Anges known to this day as the Promenade des Anglais.

Promenade des Anglais during Paris-Nice bike race

The latter part of the 19th century and the run up to the First World War was Nice’s heyday, to which the prolific and luxurious belle époque residences attest. It really was the playground of the rich and famous.

The early 20th century was deeply marked by the First World War and the Rural Exodus. Although southern France saw no action in WWI, soldiers were conscripted from the region and many lives were lost. In the 1920s the region once more became a mecca for artists and writers (including Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Aldous Huxley and Thomas Mann). The luxurious Train Bleu made its first run from Calais, via Paris, to the Côte d’Azur in 1922.

Le Train Bleu restaurant at Gare de Lyon, Paris, decorated with scenes from south of France

Nice was included in the ‘free’ Vichy France zone during the first part of WWII, and became a safe haven from war-torn occupied France. Vichy France was invaded by Nazi Germany in November 1942, and Nice was occupied by the Italians. Allied forces landed on the Côte d’Azur in August 1944, and the region was liberated. It didn’t take Nice long to bounce back, and the bohemian jet set soon returned. The resort is now an all year round holiday spot and tourism is a vital and fundamental part of the local economy, a fact borne out by the airport (the second largest in France), and the vast array of hotels, holiday homes and yachts.