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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have always taken photographs of interesting doors but since I started taking part in this challenge I’ve upped the number of photos. This is not really a problem because there are so many interesting and beautiful doors, wherever I look. And, I look a lot.
Today’s photo features the beautiful Art Deco door of Nice’s Town Hall. The building was constructed between 1730 and 1750 and fulfilled various functions (seminary, prison, cop shop and hospital) before becoming the town hall in 1860. It was totally renovated on the initiative of Mayor Jean Médecin, in 1930-31, when its interior and exterior was rendered in Art Deco style by architect Clément Goyeneche.
Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite 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).
I took this photograph of the Hotel Negresco out of the side window of the car on a trip back from Nice in September. This magnificent overblown wedding-cake style, belle-époque building, instantly recognisable by its pink domed roof, stands proudly on the Promenade des Anglais. The hotel celebrated its centennial in 2013. You can see five centuries of French history in the hotel’s art and furnishings, where portraits of Kings and Queens rub shoulders with more contemporary works by Sosno, Dali, Gruau, Moretti and Nike de Saint Phalle.
But what makes this iconic building even more special is its fascinating history. Built by Bucharest-born Henri Negrescou, who’d carved out a brilliant career within the hospitality sector. His vision was for a fabulous palace to attract the great and the good. Sadly, during WWI, the hotel was temporarily converted into a hospital which led to Negrescou’s financial downfall.
The hotel was sold to a Belgian company and then acquired by a Breton butcher, but it wasn’t until 1957 that it regained its former glory after M. Mesnage spent eight years renovating it together with his daughter Jeanne and her husband Paul Augier.
The current and sole proprietor, since the death of her husband in 1995, is the charismatic Mme. Jeanne Augier, an animal activist (the Negresco is a pet-friendly hotel) and art collector who has taken the hotel to new heights. She still lives in a private apartment on the top floor of the hotel with her two dogs and continues enriching the hotel with the incredible art collection that she has procured over the years.
Wednesday 15 August, Assumption Day and a Bank Holiday, signals the end of the French holidays. Most people will be back at work by Monday 20 August. Nice was marking the day with a firework display, its first since the terrorist atrocity on 14 July 2016. After a day working – we tend not to observe any Bank Holidays – we decided to head into Nice for dinner and to watch the display.
The traffic was slow because the Promenade des Anglais had been closed to traffic for the evening but nonetheless there was space in our preferred parking garage, near to the Hotel Negresco, for a quick getaway.
There were a fair few cyclists about and, looking at their bike frames while stuck in the traffic, we noted how things had changed since we had moved to France. When my beloved joined his first cycle club, pretty much everyone rode on either Time or Look frames, both French companies. Indeed my beloved bought a Time bike which he subsequently sold to a friend who’s still happily riding it. My beloved now rides a Trek, an American bike, as do many at his new club. If not Trek, it’s Specialized, Cannondale or Scott.
What an about face! I don’t know whether it’s due to the influence of the professional peloton where many teams are sponsored by bike brands, greater availability of non-French brands, location – our LBS is a Trek dealer – or something else entirely. If anyone knows the answer, drop me a line below.
We parked and walked over to the Old Town – home to a wonderful market in the mornings – because the firework display was going to be held at that end of the Baie des Anges. Though from experience we know it can be viewed from miles away. One of the restaurants had a lobster sandwich special which caught both our eyes. Sold!
I may have mentioned it before but I do love lobster. I once ate it everyday on a two-week vacation in New England. The only thing better than lobster, is more lobster. I know my diet is plant-based but I do still eat fish. The restaurant even had a couple of vegan options on its menu, but I wanted lobster and it was a heavenly sandwich.
After dinner we drifted back to the Promenade des Anglais to find somewhere to sit but the place was packed. However, the 20 minute firework display was spectacular, well worth standing to watch. As anticipated, we got away quickly from the parking garage and were home in next to no time.
We really don’t go into Nice often enough in the evenings, the last time had been back in April when we’d taken friends out for dinner. We resolved to try and go at least once a month. I suspect this may well go the way of many of our resolutions.
One of these years I will endeavour to follow the entire route of Paris-Nice, just not this year. This time I joined the race for the start of stage 5 in Salon-de-Provence. We’ve visited the town a number of times as my beloved has a client here. But, last year, during the Tour de France, was our maiden venture into its small but beautifully formed Old Town.
My overnight stop was chosen deliberately because of its prized location, with a parking place, most of which in the town had been suspended because of the race. The B&B is the family home of a doctor, who runs his practice from the front two rooms, and his designer wife who runs their home, the B&B and her design practice from the rest of the building which includes a delightful, enclosed courtyard garden and pool.
I was buffeted by the wind on the drive down but didn’t mind as the sun was shining. Everything looks so much better in the sunshine, doesn’t it? Spring was definitely in the air. The mimosa might be on its last legs but the bright lime green of new leaves and shoots was everywhere, along with what I assume is cherry, or maybe apple, blossom.
As anticipated the drive took me just over two hours. I easily located my lodgings and joined my hostess for a reviving cup of green tea while her tiny dog Lilli gazed at me in adoration and gave my shoes a quick clean and polish. The owner looked a tad put out at this open transfer of affection. I didn’t bother to enlighten her about my enduring and inexplicable attraction to dogs.
The house was charming and had been strikingly decorated. It certainly wasn’t to my taste but it made a pleasant change from a beige hotel chain bedroom, plus my bedroom and bathroom were very generously proportioned. Space is always a bonus. I was also their only guest and barely made a dent in the copious breakfast the following morning.
I had arrived suitably laden with baked goodies for a number of the teams. I noted with interest that my race winning brownies served up at Strade Bianche had wrought their magic in the team time-trial at Tirreno Adriatico. Maybe, they’d have a similar effect at Paris-Nice, I certainly hoped so.
Brownies handed out and gratefully received, the peloton departed and I tarried over lunch in the sunshine before heading back to the motorway to get to the race finish in Sisteron. This is a much used location by ASO and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve visited. I’ve also ridden extensively around here, so it’s always a pleasure to revisit. I typically stay at the same hotel, the Ibis. Definitely beige but usually in the company of a couple of cycling teams. This time it was to be Lotto Soudal and Astana.
As I joined the motorway I had an epiphany. I cancelled my room in Sisteron and drove home. I just had this feeling that I should watch the stage finish, not the stage start. This was to prove a wise decision.
Friday afternoon, I drove up to Vence to watch the final kilometres of a stage which covered roads I know, ride regularly and love. As ever I get a real kick from seeing the professional peloton ride on my roads. My instincts proved correct, the stage was won by a friend, Rudy Molard. I was so happy for him. And, yes, he’d been one of the recipients of my race-winning brownies!
Sadly this year’s Race to the Sun was no such thing. The week-end was a wash-out. I woke on Saturday morning to the sound of pouring rain, rolled over and went back to sleep. I had no intention of getting soaked like the previous week-end in Siena. Instead I watched an enthralling stage on the television before heading to the airport to collect my beloved, where I discovered – not for the first time – he’d misinformed me about his arrival time. I returned home, took his dinner out of the oven and returned once more much later.
Sunday morning we awoke to the sound of heavy rain and wind. We took an executive decision to watch the final stage of the race on the television. This too proved to be wise as, with the exception of the last few kilometres, it rained all day. It felt like a bit of a cop out not to watch both stages live but, to be honest, my flu symptoms had reared their ugly head again. Serves me right for kissing so many in the peloton who were subsequently DNF or DNS on account of the flu. However, when you get to my age, the opportunity to kiss so many fit young guys in lycra shouldn’t be ignored, despite the consequences.
In spite of the weather, or maybe because of it, this year’s Paris-Nice was a rip-roaring race which kept us on the edge of our seats throughout before a long-range, smash and grab by the Spaniards on the final stage causing a couple of wags to re-christen the Promenade des Anglais, Promenade des Espagnols!
Next out of the bag is a photograph of the Promenade des Anglais taken in early March on the last day of the Paris-Nice race. I’ve chosen it in memory of all those who were injured or lost their lives there in a senseless act of violence on Bastille Day that surely wouldn’t have been countenanced by anyone’s god.
The Promenade stretches along the seafront of Nice between the beach and the road and is always bustling, not just with people strolling in the sunshine but also dog-walkers, joggers, cyclists, in-line skaters and sightseers, many of whom pause on bright blue chairs to enjoy the azure sea in the Baie des Anges. The road was financed by the English and the City of Nice in the late 18th century largely to provide work for the unemployed, hence the name.
Yeah, I know it’s just up the road but it occurred to me that I don’t bang the drum enough about my home region and, this year, the final two stages of Paris-NeigeNice were both around Nice and the Niçois hinterland, and it WAS a race to the sun.
Every time I attend an ASO organised event I am reminded of what a superb job they and their staff do to make the race run seamlessly and seemingly effortlessly. However, if like me, you’ve been involved in arranging or managing any mass participation events, you’ll appreciate how much work goes into it. In addition, ASO are constantly innovating. This year there was a sizeable village with plenty of stands and activities for all the family.
And that’s not all. Last year ASO organised Challenge #ExploreNice, a multi-stage sportive showcasing the area. This year the one-day Paris-Nice challenge saw amateur riders, including my beloved, tackle Sunday’s stage on Saturday. I dropped him off nice and early in Nice on Saturday morning, well before the sign on for that day’s stage, leaving me to hang around to collect him later. He calculated he would be back at 13:30, and he was.
Meanwhile, I watched the start of the queen stage of Paris-Nice where anyone who harboured GC ambitions would have to make their move on a parcours which proved probably more difficult that many imagined: a summit finish, seven climbs and barely any flat, apart from the roll-out on the Promenade des Anglais. The stage didn’t disappoint with the leading protagonists enjoying a ding-dong battle royal up La Madone d’Utelle where, cruelly, the steepest section is in the last 500 metres. It’s a deceptively long and difficult climb and I’m speaking from experience.
I had whipped up my race-winning brownies for a couple of my friends (and their teammates) who were taking part. I felt they deserved a treat given the cold and snowy conditions they’d had to ride through on Wednesday. You might wonder why I call them race winning brownies. Suffice to say those who have eaten them in the past have won the stage or gone on to win the overall race. This time the teammates of my friends won the overall and finished third on the podium. Ironically, I was rooting for runner-up Alberto Contador. I really must make him some of my brownies.
At most ASO events, while the race unfolds, someone will engage with the spectators and ask them questions about the race. If you answer the question correctly, you get a prize, typically a bidon. I love Cycling Quizzes. After an embarrassingly large haul of bidons, my beloved pulled me away before the quizmaster started saying: “Does anyone other than Sheree (yes, he knows me by name) know which of today’s participants has won the most stages?” Easy, peasy that’s Tom Boonen with six stages. Am I the only person who knows the correct answer? It would appear so…………….
Sunday morning we were down bright and early to enjoy breakfast in the Cours Saleya in the Old Town, always worth a visit. There’s a flower, fruit and vegetable market every morning save Monday (antiques) and the better stands with local producers are to be found at the far end of the market.
Suitably fuelled, we headed back to the start area to catch up with friends and acquaintances all enjoying the warm spring sunshine and the prospect of another day’s great racing. Before the riders signed on, ASO and Astana held a touching presentation in memory of Andrei Kivilev who, while riding for Cofidis, crashed and died 13 years ago last Friday. It’s a nice touch and helps young Leonard Kivilev, who was born after his father’s death, and his mother keep his flame burning bright in their and our collective memories.
While my beloved took photos of the sign-on, I looked around for riders to have a quick chat to for VeloVoices or team press officers to set up future longer interviews with certain riders.
Once the boys had ridden off, I got to see my little cupcake race around the Promenade des Anglais in the Louis Nucera. He’s a little lacking in form having spent three months off the bike due to growing pains in his back. It was a tough event to debut his season thanks to the presence of a few ex-pros, now riding for amateur teams.
Once the race was over, my beloved required feeding (again) so we headed to one of our favourites, the roof terrace at Le Meridien which affords a great view of the finish line, though we were back down in time to see the television coverage and the unfolding of an absorbing final stage. Despite his efforts, Alberto Contador couldn’t put enough time into Geraint Thomas to take the title for a third time and was noticeably disappointed on the podium.
All in all it was a magnificent weekend and there’s more to come on 14-18 September 2016 when Nice/Monaco hosts the European Road Championships which will be organised by ASO.
I realised this morning that I am watching my 10th Tour. How time flies. There are a couple of riders taking part in their 16th and 17th Tours, I’m sure they feel the same. I’ve now gotten into something of a routine. I study the route, make my plans and book my hotels before the preceeding year is out.
As I’ll be watching a large part of the first week live, the flat is looking spick and span and the freezer is groaning with pre-prepared (by me) meals. I’ve already worked my way through a rather large “to do” list with some success, aided by my beloved’s absences. I have all my “Tour Guides” to hand, plus the essential list of participants with photos. While I’m at home, all three televisions will be tuned to The Tour, albeit different channels, so as not to miss a moment. Though with France television’s dawn to dusk coverage, this is kind of dangerous! I also have my list of tasks to be completed while viewing otherwise it’s all too easy to turn into a couch potato.
Around 47% of viewers watch the Tour just to see the French countryside and there’s a part of me that understands why because I keep a notebook in which I list all the places I’d like to visit after having seen them showcased during the Grand Boucle. It could well end up as a bucket list.
Of course, this year the Tour is coming to me and is literally passing our front door, or at least the driveway to the Domaine. I will however be down at the Hippodrome to see the boys head off to Marseille before speeding there myself to catch their arrival. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, Nice has laid on all manner of Tour related goodies to keep everyone entertained until Tuesday’s team time-trial.
Yesterday, the amateurs – singly or as part of a team – got a chance to ride the 25km time-trial course, to the acclaim of a substantial number of spectators lining the route. My beloved took part with three of his mates, much enjoyed the experience and finished in the top half. I meanwhile was manning a friends’ clothing stand in the entrance of Casino Ruhl, next to McDonald’s which afforded me a splendid view of the starting and finishing circuit.
I’d like to report that business on the stand was brisk, but it wasn’t. Although much interest was shown in the 100th centenary range produced by G4 for this year’s Tour, as worn by Eurosport’s commentators and journalists. Instead we seemed to function as an outpost of the local tourist office answering all manner of queries in a variety of languages, none of them French. It soon became evident that many visitors had no idea that their stay clashed with one of the year’s sporting highlights and I was dishing out advice left, right and centre as to where to best watch Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s stages.
In order to encourage visitors to the stand, I had prepared a number of my well-known baked goodies for the participants to enjoy after their exertions. They certainly brought traffic to the stand but sadly no additional sales. It did however give me the opportunity to trial a few new recipes which will be shortly appearing over on VeloVoices in The Musette.