a base for exploring the Côte d’Azur will be expensive; a simple café crème could set you back €4. Don’t bring a car; parking is a nightmare and you can travel across the city by tram and bus, and far into the countryside, all for €1. Or try one of the vélos bleus for a euro a day (though the wheels do occasionally drop off; as a student explained to me, late at night they simply kick every rack they pass until a bike pops out for them to borrow). Nice may be classically French in some ways – the dog-fouled paths, the aromatic patisseries (our favourite is Patîsserie Cappa in Place Garibaldi – try the palmier à la framboise, a wickedly buttery double square pastry sandwiched together with raspberry jam). But for much of its history it’s been ... not so much staunchly independent as undecided. Part of the Genoese League, then repeatedly overrun by the Saracens, allied with the Franco-Ottoman army (despite Marathon Pisa, in the hands of the the gallantry of local laundress Counts of Provence, then Catherine Segurane, who is Men & woMen the Counts of Savoy, claimed to have mooned the The nice-cannes Marathon then conquered by Turkish invaders, repulsing runs on November 4. Starting on them in both senses), later the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, taken for France by Napoleon, and culminating on the Boulevard handed back to the King of de la Croisette in Cannes, Sardinia ... whew! Nice finally it’s a scenic challenge. joined France for good only in (marathon06.com) 1860, over the furious objections of local boy Giuseppe Garibaldi, who swore the vote was rigged – and Italy did grab it briefly, one more time, in the middle of the Second World War. So Nice is in many ways Italian; the restaurant staples are pasta and pizza (try the white ones, based on crème fraiche rather than tomato sauce). If you can’t tell if locals are speaking French or Italian, it just might be Niçois (aka Niçard, Nissart or Nizzardo), an Occitan sub-dialect enjoying a revival. The French sometimes complain that Nice is more cosmopolitan than anything else, because foreigners have been infesting it ever since novelist Tobias Smollett kick-started the tourist industry, when his 41 enthusiastic letters home were published in 1766. But that’s the very quality that makes it so relaxing for the rest of us.
illustration by anne smith/annesmith.net
breakfast niçoise, left, and above, the little lighthouse at the end of the sea wall. The Talk of the Town, a play by Emma Donoghue about the life and works of Maeve Brennan, runs to October 10 at the Project Arts Centre as part of the 2012 Dublin Theatre Festival.
Aer Lingus flies from Dublin to nice daily and from Cork to nice, Tue and Sat.