August 17, 2022

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Katharine McPhee cuts a sublime determine at luncheon celebrating World Girls’s Day

On the Côte d’Azur it’s a sunny winter’s morning and I’ve decided it’s a toss-up...

On the Côte d’Azur it’s a sunny winter’s morning and I’ve decided it’s a toss-up between the beautiful damask tablecloth with the lace trim and the tiny antique brass box with the coloured etching on the lid, exquisite in its delicacy but only large enough to hold a pair of earrings or a necklace chain.
move backwards and forwards from one stall to the other, pondering my choice and dodging in and out among all the other shoppers before finally settling on the little trinket box.

If truth be told I could fill my suitcase with items from the countless stalls here in the Cours Saleya, the wide esplanade that is one of the loveliest spots in the Old Town in the city of Nice in the south of France.
Since it’s a Monday, it’s the antiques and bric-a-brac market that’s in full swing; on all other days this is where the city’s flower market operates – and what a stunning spectacle that is. No better place to grab a seat outside one of the numerous cafes that line the marketplace, order a café au lait, and breathe it all in: the scents, the colours, the atmosphere.
A regular visitor to Nice over the years, the Monday market is a place I have grown to love, just wandering there among the stalls and never quite sure – from among the jewellery and glassware to the household linens, silver cutlery, photographs and old war medals – what you might find.
Indeed, the Cours Saleya market is something of a metaphor for Nice itself, for this is a city that throws up unexpected treasures at every turn, be it the stunning artistry of Marc Chagall’s biblical paintings in a gallery entirely dedicated to his work, the peaceful and incense-laden interior of the colourful, onion-domed Russian Orthodox cathedral, or the huge horses from a funfair carousel that act as a focal – and talking – point in La Rotonde, the restaurant in the famous Art Deco hotel that is the five-star Negresco.
However, it’s the Promenade des Anglais, the seafront boulevard that runs the length of the beach, that is generally considered Nice’s star attraction.
Effectively the city’s own catwalk, all manner of life is paraded here, from the glamorous, elderly and oh-so-chic madames walking (or carrying) their tiny pooches, to the bikini- or Speedo-clad ‘beautiful people’, the teenage skateboarders as they thread their way expertly through the pedestrians, or the exercise enthusiasts, all striking their own particular poses every morning as daylight breaks over the city and the sea.  

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The beach promenade in old city centre of Nice in France

The beach promenade in old city centre of Nice in France
Apart from the myriad attractions of Nice at any time of the year, February – when I visited – is all about the city’s carnival, long regarded as one of the best in the world.
Which doesn’t say much for my advance planning because, well, the fact we have pitched up on this occasion only to find the carnival in full swing comes as something of a surprise. A very pleasant surprise, for the wonderful parades, the magnificent floats with their giant, papier-mâché puppets, the music, and the daily ‘Battle of the Flowers’ exhibits are a delight to behold.
Last winter the centuries-old carnival was cancelled due to Covid but this year it’s back, with a ‘King of the Animals’ theme that’s bound to throw up some spectacular displays.
Away from the carnival streets, however, even at the height of its two-week extravaganza, the city gets on with its life. And rightly so: for delightful as carnival time is, there’s so much more to Nice than this annual spectacle.
We are staying in our usual spot – Hôtel Windsor, a three-star gem of a place that’s only a five-minute walk from the Promenade des Anglais, with a slightly longer stroll through the pedestrianised shopping area taking you to the heart of Vieille Nice, the old medieval town that, although a magnet for tourists, has preserved its atmospheric appeal and its dignity.
The Windsor is a family-run hotel that has a lovely garden with a small swimming pool, a delightful little bar and a plethora of modern rooms that are all different and painted by contemporary artists.
The frescoed rooms by Antoine Baudoin are especially beautiful, depicting backdrops that transport you from Mexico to Venice to Asia and to other fairy-tale, magical landscapes. For me it has to be the ‘Chevaux’ room with its mythical, winged horses; it’s a quiet room which comes with a tiny balcony and a view of the garden.
On our first morning we walk to the old port on the further edges of Vieille Nice, a lovely spot on the city’s eastern side where the town’s Italian past is still present in the ice-cream coloured houses that stand sentinel here.
It’s a pleasant place to linger, for a coffee, perhaps, or to visit the nearby church known as ‘Our Lady of the Port’ because of its importance to sailors of old before they embarked on hazardous journeys.

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Roslyn Dee in the Place Massena in Nice

Roslyn Dee in the Place Massena in Nice
There’s nothing hazardous about our own journey around the city; Nice is perfect for pedestrians and it’s only when we head to the Marc Chagall gallery in the elegant, residential Cimiez district that we feel the need to jump on a bus.
We wander around the gallery, a modern building set in a pretty garden, and ooh and aah at the mastery of the artist. Not remotely religious, I still find Chagall’s depictions of the Bible stories of my childhood (Noah’s Ark, Adam and Eve, and the like) both impressive in their colour and scale, and also extremely moving.
If you’re into art, then Nice is the place for you. As well as Chagall, you’ll find a gallery dedicated to Henri Matisse; my favourite, though, is the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in the city centre. The massive marble building itself is an artistic spectacle, while what lies within is enough to impress and amuse away a good few hours. 
Meanwhile, having feasted on enough moules et frites to beat the band, we hit upon the best dining experience of all for our last supper.
Chez Acchiardo is a no-frills, family restaurant in the Old Town that serves up typical local cuisine. Having passed by the day before when it was closed, we phone ahead and turn up to find a large, high-ceilinged room with long wooden tables packed with customers. The chatter of people and the clatter of dishes fill the air.
While we wait to be seated, we’re offered a complimentary glass of wine, and eventually we’re shown to the end of a table and quickly fall into conversation with an elderly Parisian gentleman who – would you believe it – knows Dublin like the back of his hand.
Hours later, our superb beef stew polished off and our second carafe of vin rouge now drained of its last drop, we take our leave of the charming monsieur and head back out and straight into the buzzing carnival atmosphere.
This is a city where you’ll come for carnival but keep returning for all its other delights. Or, like me, come time and again for those delights and then, one year and quite by accident, discover the joy of the visual explosion that is its age-old carnival.
Getting there

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Ryanair flies from Dublin to Nice three days a week in February; prices, including carry-on bag, from €45 one way. ryanair.com
Aer Lingus operates its daily Nice schedule from March 27; prices from €40 one way. aerlingus.com
Stay at Hôtel Windsor, 11 Rue Dalpozzo, Nice. Doubles from €100. hotelwindsornice.com
Eat at Chez Acchiardo, 38 Rue Droite, Nice; Typical Niçoise cuisine, reasonably priced. Closed on Saturdays and Sundays.+33 4 93 85 51 16
Carnaval de Nice runs February 11 to 27. Programme details at en.nicecarnaval.com

 

Nice and easy surprises on the chic Côte d’Azur appeared first on maserietv.com.