A Beautiful Diva on the Sea
On balmy summer nights Vieux Nice—the medieval warren of the Old Town (called bahazouk in the Nigois dialect)—and the popular Cours Saleya buzz with a mix of young and old, locals and tourists. Although Nice is the fifth largest city in France, it has a small-town ambience, and the main market, Tuesday through Sunday, evokes the colors, smells, and wonders of the Provencal countryside just outside town.
The golden era when Nice was Europe’s most fashionable winter retreat is reflected in the deep pinks and ochers of the town’s elegant Italianate architecture (Nice, after all, belonged to Italy; it was ceded back to France in 1860). The wedding cake Hotel Negresco, built in 1912 on the seafront in the grand style of a French château, is one of the Riviera’s great hotels and deserves a lingering visit.
Recently restored, this national landmark shimmers like a gem; the immense 19th-century Baccarat crystal chandelier in the Salon Royal was commissioned by a Russian czar. The Gobelin tapestries on the wall seem too big to be real, but they’re the real thing. Rooms facing the Bay of Angels have balconies overlooking the fabled Promenade des Anglais, where a twilight stroll reminds you why the Cote d’Azur is still the coast with the most.