Discover the Local Gems of Nice
Ascott’s Area Manager of Riviera France, Marlène Landrieux, reveals the local charm of this glamorous, luxury destination
Issue: Feb 2012
Nice, which lies along the French Riviera, offers a beautiful view of the Mediterranean sea, as seen from the Promenade des Anglais here
When you work in the playground of the rich and famous, every day can feel like a holiday. I have been the Area Manager for French Riviera or Côte d’Azur, as we call it, for 10 years and I love every minute of it. The French Riviera refers to the 560-mile Mediterranean coastline at the southeast of France that boasts a glorious view of the ocean. Dotted along this stretch of prime real estate are numerous tourist destinations of renown like the city of Nice, the most visited city in France after Paris and the largest city in the French Riviera; Cannes, host of the annual Cannes International Film Festival; and the sovereign state of Monaco.
While I am not a native of Nice, coming from Saint-Maur des Fossés (a town located 10km away from the southeastern suburbs of Paris), I have to say that Nice is the one of the most beautiful cities in France. Nice combines the languid beauty of a coastal city with the sophistication of an elite destination. Variety is what Nice offers. Here, French and Mediterranean culture and cuisine co-mingle, offering you exotic Europe in a single destination. Because of its location, you can ski in the snowy Alps up the Var Valley in the morning and bask in the sun-drenched beaches in the afternoon, all in a single day. The combination is intoxicating and unrivalled by most.
Begin your experience of Nice with a lovely stroll along the Promenade des Anglais which is within walking distance of Citadines Buffa Nice and Citadines Promenade Nice. The famous boulevard, lined with palm trees, shops and cafes, stretches for several kilometres and offers a stunning view of the Mediterranean shoreline.
Every February, from the middle to late of the month, the Promenade or La Prom for short, hosts the Carnival, a Nice tradition. There are corso or processions with decorated tanks, firework displays on the beach and the Bataille des Fleurs or Battle of Flowers where flowers are distributed to bystanders from the tanks. I love the festive atmosphere and our guests delight in coming back with armfuls of flowers. Most of the parades can be enjoyed for free from the pavement but the Bataille des Fleurs require an admission fee. Our Citadines properties usually have an arrangement with the Tourist Office to offer our guests a package that includes this event when they stay with us.
For the kind of luxury the rich and famous indulge in, stretch out beneath a beach umbrella and savour an ocean view at any of Nice’s pebbled private beaches
Photo credit: www.planetware.com
Along the Port of Nice lies a selection of seafood restaurants and nice spots from which to enjoy the view of the Mediterranean sea
You cannot come to Nice without spending a day on our beaches. My favourite places are some of the private beaches because they are more comfortable and secluded than the public ones. As our beaches are filled with pebbles instead of white sand, I would recommend renting a beach chair. Lying back on a beach chair with a drink in hand, there are, in my opinion, few other pleasures in life more satisfying. Citadines Buffa Nice and Citadines Promenade Nice have secured an agreement that provides our guests privileged access to a private beach. For a reduced entry fee of €10 per day per person, guests can have a beach chair or day bed to enjoy the breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea.
To enjoy the sea view at night, go to the Port of Nice in Vieux Nice or Old Nice. Filled with seafood restaurants that serve the freshest catch and trendy night clubs, you can have a spectacular view of the waters filled with yachts of the rich and famous. In the day, you can visit a candy factory, walk along the seaside trail and visit the flea market.
The walk along Promenade des Anglais will lead you to the old districts of the city for a village experience of Nice. Old Town or Vieux Nice is a 15-minute walk from Citadines Buffa Nice and a 20-minute walk from Citadines Promenade Nice. Old Town is the jewel of the city, a gorgeous tribute to ancient architecture with its buildings capped with sienna-tiled roofs and painted with faded Roman gold with ornate Baroque interiors, and Italianate facades. I enjoy soaking in a bit of Nice’s past as I visit the buildings and churches there.
Wander through the maze of narrow streets with boutiques and cafes and sample street fare from local vendors like la pissaladière, an onion pizza, and socca, a chickpea flour crepe. Have a cuppa there or, enjoy a scoop of handmade ice-cream.
Marché aux Fleurs
on Cours Saleya is a flower market that sells the freshest of blooms, local produce and products
Photo credit: www.routard.com
If you go in the morning, be sure to visit Marché aux Fleurs on Cours Saleya. This flower market offers fresh blooms, local produce like fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, and cheeses, and souvenir shops. Every Monday, the Fruit and Flower Market turns into an antiques market.
What is lovely about Old Town is that, like Nice itself, it offers variety. Shopping, eating, enjoying history, you can have it all. And every time you visit it, it offers a different experience. Sometimes when I go there, it is crowded; sometimes, it is quietly tranquil. Always, it is lovely.
When our residence guests go on shopping trips there, we encourage them to take the complimentary trolleys we offer within the residences. This is a Green initiative service that we have implemented across our properties in Europe to help save the environment. Our guests like the fact that it is practical and it goes perfectly well with our fully equipped kitchen within the residences.
When it comes to Niçoise cuisine, let me introduce you to l’Escalinada. My colleagues and I love this place because it reflects the real traditional cuisine of Nice. French cooking is very much influenced by the region from which it originates and Nice dishes reflect the characteristics of southern French cooking that is permeated with the flavours of the Mediterranean. Try the local specialty, les petits farcis or small stuffed vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini and bell peppers are filled with a meaty mix. Of course, there is la salade niçoise or Niçoise salad that is salad with rice, tomatoes, olives, green beans, tuna and anchovies. Tourte de blette is a less common local dish, though no less delicious. It is basically a pie that features the star ingredient, Swiss chard, which is a leafy vegetable rather like spinach, that is native to Nice. There is a savoury version that includes parmesan cheese and, unlikely as it sounds, a sweet version with raisin and pine nuts.
For an authentic taste of Nice, l’Escalinada is the place my colleagues and I enjoy going to
Photo credit: www.escalinada.fr
Very close to the residences are restaurants like La Cave de l’origine where you can sample French cuisine and L’Ardoise where you can enjoy a lunch of Mediterranean dishes and some French delights that are typical of Paris brasseries. Take a 10-minute walk from our residence and you will find la Villa Corleone which offers Italian food, Le Bosphore which offers Turkish cuisine and Poco Loco which is a Mexican restaurant. As I said, Nice is all about variety.
Nice is often portrayed as the hideaway of the glitterati and with good reason. Its gorgeous ocean view, its varied offerings and its exquisite food all make it an ideal holiday destination. The fact that it is close to Cannes, the Mecca of the movie-making crowd; and Monaco, where casinos and fast cars have found a special place, also make Nice a sought-after spot. But there is a side of Nice that is enduring, full of tradition and old-world charm. And I hope it is this warm and gentle side of Nice that you will discover when you next come to this city.
Stay with us at …
Citadines Promenade Nice
3-5, boulevard François Grosso
06000 Nice, France
Tel: (33 4) 93 97 95 00
Fax: (33 4) 93 44 93 88
Citadines Buffa Nice
21, rue Meyerbeer
06000 Nice, France
Tel: (33 4) 97 03 28 50
Fax: (33 4) 93 16 18 32