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Last year I added an element of variety by going to Rome and Venice before settling into my Paris apartment the second week in May. Italy was of course thrilling, and it was a perfect time of year to visit. The contrast with more-familiar Paris put me off balance for a few days but on the whole I liked the structure of the trip. This year I decided to spend a similar amount of time at the start of my journey in the south of France, which I had not visited since a marathon road trip in my law school days.
The best vantage point for Nice is the hilltop site of the château that Louis XIV destroyed in 1706. Of course I climbed it but there’s also a free elevator.

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Looking north one sees the beach at left, the old city in the foreground and the modern city in the distance. The border line is the course of the River Paillon, now covered by a linear park opened in 2013.

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Looking north one sees a single snow-capped Alp peaking over the nearby hills. The dome on the highest point is the Observatory, a collaboration between architects Gustav Eiffel and Charles Garnier.

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Looking East we see the breakwater of the port and the gorgeous villas of the Cap de Nice, which I thought were even more impressive than the even more exclusive villas on Cap Ferrat, which I visited on a boat tour.

The old city is suitably medieval, but I was equally charmed by the modern city.
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Massena Square, steps from my apartment hotel. The guy on the post is one of half a dozen who light up in different colors at night.

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Is the bronze naked guy at the left looking up in amazement at the white naked guy? Well who would blame him if he did? The white guy does have several horses on his head!

I had read a New York Times travel piece, 36 Hours in Nice, but I really hadn’t done much research before the trip. I was surprised to learn that Nice is the fifth largest city in France. There are plenty of people in the streets but it comes across as being much smaller and cozier than Paris.

Of course Nice is famous for its beach. It was on the cool side for swimming but warm enough for sun-bathing.

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One of the grandest hotels along the three-mile Promenade des Anglais.

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The beach in front of the old city is called Quai des États-Unis, in honor of America joining the Allies in World War I.

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The beach is made up of rounded stones rather than sand.

I took a boat trip recommended in the Times piece. It was worthwhile, and included a cruise along Cap Ferrat and by the picturesque town of Villefranche-sur-mer.

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The neighboring town of Villefranche-sur-mer from the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels), the deepest harbor on the Mediterranean.

There were some charming little boats in Nice’s 19th century harbor.

Small boats in Nice harbor.

Small boats in Nice harbor.

And also an enormous private yacht that at first looked like a cruise liner.

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Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s $250 million personal yacht, Octopus. It has two helicopters but only one submarine. He also owns one of the grandest villas in the area.

One of my favorite places in Nice is the linear park called the Promenade Paillon, just opened in 2013, atop the river of the same name that runs between the old and new cities.

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Old and new architecture on the linear park above the River Paillon.

Inviting water fountain on the new linear park over the River Paillon in Nice.

Inviting water fountain on the new linear park over the River Paillon in Nice.

I had several good meals in Nice, helped by the Trip Advisor app The Fork, which I had joined when it was an independent site based in France. My first dinner in Nice, at La Ferme Saleya, did not disappoint.

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The appetizer at La Ferme Saleya, or as the French persist in calling it, the entrée.

My first dinner in Nice, at La Ferme Saleya, did not disappoint.

The main course was Saint Pierre (John Dory), not to be confused with (Coquilles) Saint-Jaques, which is a type of scallop.

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For dessert I ordered a café gourmand, which is typically a coffee and a taste of three or four of the dessert options. Sinfully delicious!

Lunch on my last day was at a health-oriented fast food place in Massena square called “So Green.”

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So Green in Massena Square. Salads and healthy fruit drinks only.

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A large, fresh salad and a yogurt-based smoothie at So Green.

The city is vigorously expanding its tram network, including — through tunnels — to several sensitive historic areas. This causes some dissonant scenes like a charming café in Garibaldi Square with what appears to be an enormous factory behind it. Fortunately these disruptions are temporary and will leave Nice with a further improved public transit system.

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Charming café in Garibaldi Square with what appears to be an enormous factory behind it.

Off to Toulouse tomorrow morning but here’s one last look at Nice.

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The beach at Nice by night.