There’s plenty of art, history, and culture to absorb and study in Nice, France. These days, thanks to the constant lure of the French Riviera since the late nineteenth century, plenty of luxury restaurants and crystal studded lounges in which to pass the time also dot the landscape. I repeatedly get distracted from all this by one thing: the eye-popping allure of the Mediterranean. The beaches of Nice beckon at every turn with vividly azure colored waters and blue-and-white striped lounge chairs. Walking from street to street, I accidentally bumped into annoyed strangers and almost fell into several gutters as I gaped idiotically at the sea view. For my own education (and according to the boss’s instructions) I should be traipsing the many ancient churches or at the very least studiously examining artwork at the seven excellent museums in town. Instead, I’ve spent the last six hours happily ensconced in a plastic chair at a café on the Promenade des Anglais, nursing a carafe of wine while gazing dumbfounded at the gently lapping waves in front of me. It’s not the only thing I’ve been watching though. Children building sand castles, tourists taking photos of the Mediterranean, several men and women jogging the length of the promenade, and about two dozen tiny dogs have also passed my notice. The waiter, as all good French waiters, has been distantly watchful, stopping by to refill my water glass, brush away some crumbs, and twice kindly but surreptitiously dropping off extra bread so that I can continue my very absorbing task uninterrupted.
The Promenade des Anglais, or English Promenade, was built sometime in the 1800s and is so named after the fact that a group of Englishmen helped build it. It was a popular gathering place for ex-patriots and travelers from the British Isles who came to the French Riviera to see and be seen during the summer months. Nothing about the promenade’s purpose or its two important attractions have changed over the centuries. The Mediterranean remains as beautifully watchable as ever while the cafés and restaurants continue to be prime real estate for the watchers. I changed my perspective by paying my bill and becoming one of the promenaders. I walked down to the beach where tourists apparently managed to rent out all the lounge chairs then back along the paved and busy promenade. I strolled along unsure whether to watch the enticing sea to my right or the gaggle of cyclists, skate boarders, and rollerbladers weaving around me. Exhausted, I have decided it’s better to watch than be watched on the Promenade des Anglais. If only I could decide which of the many cafés to stop at next before the sun sets on the fascinating scene before me.
If you’re interested in reading more about the French Riviera and the artwork it inspired, you may also like Bespoke Traveler’s “French Riviera: Artist’s Paradise” available to read on your favorite mobile device. Cheers.