Nice, on the French Riviera, is the starting point for a series of one-day train or bus jaunts to neighboring villages along the Mediterranean Coastline. I love this city for its culture, color, beautiful water views, its proximity to all the Riviera towns, and its superb Sunday market on the Cours Saleya. And for the ease of getting around the entire South Coast of France. It is the fifth largest city in France and for me it has a similar feeling in size to that of downtown Seattle.
If a city could be called the “tug of war” town, it would be Nice, which has been inhabited by, claimed by any number of other countries and principalities before the French finally were able to claim it forever and ever in 1860. A big hill above what is now the Old Town in Nice was inhabited by the Greeks in 500 BC and its was name Nikaia, meaning victorious one. Yes, Portland, it was the original Nike-Town. Then the Italians from Sardinia took it over and re-named it Nizza. Kiss the ends of your fingers and give the kiss a toss when you say Nizza and you’ll say it with just the right rhythm and flair. The French and the Italians played tug of war, in the most literal sense of the term, battling over this sun kissed corner of France until their cultures became a mélange of two. So, here the cuisine is a bit French and quite a bit Italian and they call it Niçoise. The long-time Niçoise people have their own French/Italian dialect. A dish of Nice gelato here is just the best there is. Don’t tell the French people this, but combining the two cultures made the best possible hybrid.
And to underscore my humble opinions about this old, old city, major literary figures, artists, philosophers, and musicians have lived here and sought inspiration for their work. Light, climate, the Mediterranean Sea, the ease of being here drew them to Nice. F.Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Somerset Maugham, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Chagall, Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Paganini, Graham Greene, Elton John, Keith Richards, Tina Turner to name a few of the old and the newer who have made or do make their homes here. At least one technology mogul makes one of his homes here. I flew over the orange roof of Paul Allen’s maison on Cap Ferrat as our flight landed in Nice. One of you readers will appreciate that I’ll be tucked in right across the hall from where Nietzsche lived during his time in Nice!
There is a firework (emulating the sound of a cannon) set off every noon in Nice, to announce the lunch hour. It’s boom echos off the mountains all around the city…a startling sound that has caused me to reflexively jump and duck both days I have been in the apartment here.
I am fortunate to have two friends who moved from Paris to Nice several years ago and when they travel, which they are doing this September, they make their lovely Old Port apartment on the historical street named rue Catherine Segurane available for friends and family to rent. Michael Honegger and I were French language classmates at l’Institut in Villefranche sur Mer and through Michael, I met his partner, Timothy Smith. Both of these gentlemen are citizens of the world…one with a lifetime of experience in various parts of the Peace Corps and now by avocation, an artistic photographer, and the other, now a playwright and writer, worked for years with developing countries for the World Bank. By small coincidence, they are also have a close connection with my late mentor in the world of politics and child welfare in California. While I am in their apartment this September, they are on the island of Lesvos (Greece) helping Syrian refugees who have crossed through Turkey and come to a dead end road on the shores of Greece, IF the refugees make it across the seven miles of sea in their small rubber boats. Thousands of women and children, sons and fathers with nothing but the shirts on their backs. Feel free to ask me more about the volunteer organizational work they are leading, true humanitarian life-saving work.