Nices ancient buildings are well-preserved and its seaside atmosphere is coolly seductive with some of the most pristine turquoise waters your eyes will ever behold. Its a fashionable place where the people are friendly, the streets are bustling, and the women are exquisite. Even the elderly women are beautiful here, in a Grand Madame sort of way. How could all this elegance have come about? The same way the Riviera sky became so blue, I suppose (i.e., I dunno).
We stayed in two hotels while in Nice. The first was old enough to include the now obsolete French fixture called the bidét. (If youre not familiar with this item, its pretty much a cross between a sink and a toilet bowl, used for the purpose of cleansing ones rear end. Needless to say, we opted for the shower, a modern appliance that actually cleanses the entire body.)
The second hotel, in which we stayed, was my favorite during our stay on the Riviera (Hôtel Flots DAzur, 101 Promenade Des Anglais, 04.93.96.51.25). It sits directly on the Côte dAzur (the Blue Coast), is moderately priced, includes parking, and is run by some of the most gracious hosts youll find on this side of the Mediterranean.
One last note, to experience some of the best cafés or get a taste of the local blues and rock bands, head to Vieux Nice, the oldest and perhaps most culturally vibrant section of the city. Cest Cool, as they might say in these parts.
The Beach at
The area is swarming with cops. Rumor has it that surveillance cameras sit in every crevice and cubbyhole recording your every move. Monaco, in fact, appears to be all about well-protected wealth and little else. Sadly, youll find the same profile of visitor in the gaming rooms as you would in the environs of Atlantic City (not the spirits of James Bond, Cary Grant and Marlene Deitrich and company).
The country is still ruled by a monarchy, a similar lot to those who were overthrown eons ago in the French Revolution. The best thing I can say about Monaco is that the ride to it from Nice is nothing short of outstanding, with gorgeous mountain views and clear shots of the aqua-blue water at every breathtaking curve of the winding coastal road. Unfortunately, what follows upon arrival is a bit of a let down, if your taste is anywhere in line with mine.
Small stone buildings predate the existence of anything called America. They dot the mountainside, with their terra cotta roofs and shuttered windows, masterfully built into the sloping terrain. Down below, narrow streets wind through the village in no meaningful direction but somehow lead to one remarkable and historic place after another.
Woke up in the morning with the sun beating through the casement window of our hotel room, and the sounds of French children playing in the street. The village bell was striking nine. It was like a scene from the Twilight Zone, the one where the careworn city dweller blinks his eyes and somehow finds himself in the most pastoral setting imaginable.
Concerning the hotel, our host was somewhat short on manners (and somewhat short on towels) so, I cant, in good conscious, recommend the accommodations. Vence, itself, however, is as magnificent as they come.
The people, too, are elegant -- as one would expect. The men appear to be the sophisticated European types relaxing between jaunts to the two or three Mediterranean islands they own. The women are slender, fashionable things whose clothing appears to be painted on as flawlessly as their makeup.
A funny thing about the beaches at Cannes, though, they were inhabited with an older population, one in which I would guess the average age to be somewhere around 127, give or take a year. At night, however, the restaurants attract a younger, more vibrant crowd. The small alley of St. Antoine, in particular, houses a fashionable group who wine and dine through all hours of the evening.
Saint-Tropez, also lives up to its reputation as haunt for globe-trotters. Our visit was cursory, at best, so I can only supply limited information. I will say that the Saint-Tropez beaches are far more private and chic than those we experienced at Cannes. They are a bit tougher to access, however, being a few kilometers from the towns center, but this probably accounts for the fact that they remain so beautiful and exclusive, so the extra effort to reach them is clearly worth it.
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