As a precursor to my visit to Paris in May of 2003, I wanted to spend a few sunny days by the Mediterranean. I chose Nice as my home base for two days, planning a side trip by train to Monaco.
The Promenade des Anglais is essentially the French equivalent of a boardwalk in America, and runs nearly three miles along the Mediterranean beaches of Nice. On the other side you can find cafés and shops along with hotels like the famous Negresco Hotel that hint of the prominence that the fifth largest city in France has earned.
The Negresco can be seen from just about anywhere on the promenade, as its pink dome dominates the landscape. It’s rated as a four-star hotel, but acts like it’s a five-star. The bellman open the doors for you, clearly overdressed for the climate with smart black uniforms and hats. Whether you are a guest there or not, the grand room is worth a peek. Crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling, colorful and grandiose furniture sits along the walls, and modern artwork -– including a replica of a Picasso statue -– decorates the room.
If it’s the beach life you’re after, there are some things you should know about the plages (beaches) that line the Promenade des Anglais. There are both private and public beaches, each with pros and cons. With a private beach, you have to pay. I saw one beach at 8 euro, another at 10 euro. However, with your payment comes a restaurant, an umbrella, a dressing room, a shower, and most importantly, a beach chaise. This is a plus because the beaches in Nice are rocky, not sandy. (While only a few miles down the shoreline in Cannes there is plenty of sand to be had.) The benefit of a public beach is that it’s essentially access to the same beach for free, minus the amenities. However, a beach towel on rocks won’t be a comfortable situation. I had a hard time even walking on the rocks -– turning my ankles easily. I did make it down to a public beach and manage to dip my toe in the Mediterranean -– brr! From a distance, the water looks blue and clear, but on the beach’s edge, it was really dirty water. It was like a greasy film on top, with debris floating in it, but only along the edge, from what I could see. That didn’t seem to stop all the people that were swimming in it, and the Atlantic, where I’m from, isn’t all that clean either. Honestly, I preferred the hotel pool with a view of the sea.
The Promenade is also a great place to gather with your fellow visitors to Nice and watch the sun set. It was a nightly occurrance!