Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Executive summary by darmansjah

NICE’s historic streets and modern galleries are a joy to explore, or take it easy by people-watching on the beach.

The Cote d’Azur might suggest a world of airbrushed glamour, or beaches littered with the impossibly beautiful and the impossibly rich, but as its ancient capital Nice reveals, there’s some welcome grit to go with the glitz, not to mention a thriving arts scene.

Besides the obvious pleasures of the beach, why not take in a view of the terracotta-tiled old town from the Parc du Chateau? Away from the sun, Nice has lots of museums, some of which are free. Great modernists like Matisse and Chagall earn their own museums, but there are also ones dedicated to contemporary art, photography and natural history. When you can resist no longer, Nice’s restaurants, boutiques and beaches await.

Baroque churches and tall, narrow houses with faded shutters crowd together in Vieux Nice – the city’s historic centre – which has scarcely changed since the 1700s. the arcade-lined Place Garibaldi in the northeast corner is named after the Nice-born Italian revolutionary. If Flemish taperstries are your thing, the Baroque Palais Lascaris is where you need to be.

The Parc du Chateau stands atop a 92m-high rock offering an epic panorama of Nice and its bay. If you don’t want to climb the steps, take the Ascenseur du Chateau lift at the eastern end of the beach (close 8pm summer, 6pm winter; US$1.60).

Years ago, English visitors to Nice saw the long beach and decided it needed a promenade. Known ever since as the Promenade des Anglais, It’s deal for taking in the grand facades of the Hotel Negresco and the Palais de la Medierranee.

The Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC) is unissable. Highlights include a rooftop garden and gallery featuring pieces by city son Yves Klein ( 00 33 497 13 42 01; Promenade des Arts; 10am-6pm Tue-Sun; free).

Further Afield Located just north of the centre, the Musee Matisse displays works by the famous painter in a 17th-century Genoese villa overlooking the ruins of a roman Bathhouse (00 33 493 81 08 08; 164 Avenue des Arenes de cimiez; 10am-6pm Wed-Mon; free).

The repertoire of frozen concoctions at Fenocchio is astounding-it has 59 ice-cream flavours and 35 sorbets, including such curiosities as cinnamon, rosemary, cactus and beer (00 33 493 80 72 52; 2 Place Rossetti; 9am-12am, Mar-Nov; ice cream from US$3).

La Merenda doesn’t make things too easy , and the pocket-sized bistro has just 26 seats, but the chef has a way with Nicois cuisine (4 Rue Raoul Bosio; Mon-Fri; mains US$16-US$24).

Little has changed in decades at L’Escalinada. Rich nicois favourites like daube (beef stew) and courgette flower fritters are favourites here ( 00 33 493 62 11 71; 22 Rue Pairoliere; lunch & dinner; mains US$19-US$32).

The intimate wood-panelled dining room of Terres de Truffes is devoted to the sought-after taste of truffles. The fungus features throughout the menu – in the pastry-wrapped pigeon with foie gras, and in the caramel that comes with the apple pie (00 33 493 62 07 68; Rue St Francois de Paule; Tue-Sat; mains around US$40).

The décor might be more reminiscent of the chef’s native Japan, but the cuisine at Michelin-starred Keisuke Matsushima is overwhelmingly Mediterranean-scallop carpaccio, quince compote with amascarpone mousse (00 33 493 82 26 06; 22ter Rue de France; closed Mon lunch, Sun; three-course lunch menus around £30, five-plus-course dinner menus US$96-US$192).

Hotel Wilson is eclectic. The 16 rooms are individually decorated with inspiration coming from wide-ranging sources – Africa, Frida Kahlo, Matisse. Remember to watch out for the two resident tortoises as you sit down to breakfast (00 33 493 85 47 79; 39 Rue de l’Hotel des Postes; US488).

If you want to stay in the old town, it’s Villa la Tour or nothing. Thanfully, the romantic Provencal rooms in this 18th-century former convent don’t present a hard choice. Rooms with and old town view are an extra £35 (00 33 493 80 08 15; 4 Rue de la Tour ; from US$88).

Heavy iron gates hide the Nice Garden Hotel, with nine rooms blending old and new (room 4 has an original mosaic floor and the remnants of a ceiling fresco), overlooking an equally exquisite garden (00 33 93 87 35 62; 11 Rue du Congres; from Us$144).

The name might suggest tradition, but there’s little that’s conventional about Hotel Windsor. Twenty out of the 54 rooms are customized in the style of contemporary artists. Others are decorated with frescoes and posters. The biggest star is the walled garden with its exotic plants (00 33 493 88 59 35; 11 Rue Dalpozzo; from US$192).

Nothing more than a crumbling art deco façade a few years back, the Palais de la Mediterranee has risen from disrepair to become one of Nice’s most luxurious hotels. The indoors-to-outdoors pool on a terrace overlooking the Med saves you the two-minute stroll to the beach (00 33 492 14 77 00; 13-15 Promenade des Anglais; from US$272).

Classic Drive The Grande Corniche (the highest of the three roads running along the coast from Nice to nearby Monaco) presents drivers with an enviable dilemma. You can stop to appreciate the awe-inspiring coastal views at turn-off around nearly  every bend, or you can simply enjoy the thrill of the road itself. Trying both at once is likely to get dangerous. Even those with rally driver hearts, however, shouldn’t miss the Roman monument at La Turbie or the hilltop village of Eze.

On the Market the open-air Cours Saleya in the old town is like a Nicois version of London’s spitalfields Market, with lots of bric-a-brac and more expensive antiques on sale. I bought a set of art deco cocktail spoons and a handful of costume jewellery. I love the contrast between the hot sun and the shaded courtyard (flea market Mon, flower market Tue-Sun).

Rooftop Pool forum users rate the Hotel Gounod. This Belle Epoque-style building painted in sunny yellow is equisdistant from the sea and the city’s railway station. Provencal colours and patterns feature in the design of the rooms, as well as more modern Cote d’Azur style. Best of all is the swimming pool on the 8th floor, with views over Nice to the foothills of the Alps (00 33 493 16 42 00; 3 Rue Gounod; US$256).

The nicetourisme.com website from the city’s tourism office is also worth a visit, as is guideriviera.com for tips on the winder region.

No comments:

Post a Comment