by TianjinPaul on December 4, 2011
I recently read Haruki Murakami's latest novel IQ84. In it, the two main characters are transported into an alternate reality in which there are two moons in the sky. Neither of them actually notices the change in the sky at first and only become aware at random points. It was not something that appeared to them instantly. The same was true here in Nice. I certainly do not mean that there are two moons, but that the sky in Nice does look slightly different and it is not something you notice immediately.My moment of revelation, in terms of the night sky above Nice, came on my first date with girlfriend. I had been in Nice for about three months and, apparently, had really looked too much into the sky at night. We were sitting in a bar on the Promenade des Anglais enjoying a few beers looking out into the Mediterranean. It was all very pleasant. As I endeavoured to make the mood a little more romantic, I looked to heavens in preparation for a remake on the beauty of the stars (not particularly original, I know). However, I was shocked to find that the stars were not so beautiful. Or, not even so visible.My girlfriend (or 'date' as she was then) looked up too and smiled. "There are no stars." She said. "I always find it a little sad. Did you not notice before?"I was flabbergasted by this. Firstly, I was shocked that it was impossible to see the stars. And, secondly, I could not believe I had not noticed the fact.Straight away I began to ponder the massive paradox I was experiencing. The panorama in Nice during the day is truly magnificent. It takes in several different shades of blue in the sea and scores of sweeping palm trees. At sunset, it gets even more dramatic. The wonderful oranges off-set by the blue is truly wonderful. But, at night, all that goes away. I am not sure why, but the sky is a plain, unadorned dark grey with only a feint spattering of stars. It is possibly the most disappointing scene in all of Nice. It is something that has haunted me ever since I noticed. Now, in complete contrast to before, I cannot help but look into the night sky. Yet, alas, it never changes. There are no stars.
It may seem like I am cheating by writing two separate reviews of MAMAC. However, the place has so many different aspects to consider that I felt I really could not do it justice with one single entry> there is another piece that deals primarily with the art inside, whilst this piece will deal with the building itself. Like the Guggenheims in both New York and Bilbao, MAMAC does not just contribute to the world of art through the exhibits it houses, but also through its own design.I want to start by looking at the juxtaposition of MAMAC's sleek modern design and the city that surrounds it. MAMA is located less than 1km from Old Nice and is directly adjacent to Place Garibaldi. Both of these sites are full of beautiful old-fashioned architecture and design. MAMAC, on the other hand, is made up of four tunbular buildings linked by glass faced walkways. Obviously, these do not have much of an old-world feel. However, the strength of the design allows MAMAC to hold its own and stand out as a beacon of modernity> This also serves as something of a metaphor for the art housed within.As great as the art in MAMAC is – and some of it is truly fantastic – possibly my favourite part of my visit there was the roof. The first thing about the roof is the views it offers across the city. It is possible to stare out at a sea of orange rooftops and to peer into Old Nice or at Place Garibaldi> It also provides a fantastic view of MAMAC's own sculpture garden below. You can, of course, also look out to the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean, but in Nice this is not so unusual.There is also an artistic element to the roof. One of the tubular wings is topped by a beautiful rooftop garden designed by the artist Yves Klein. I founs it magnificent. The framework of the garden is made from steel and glass. The walkway is glass and the safety fences are all steel. Surrounding this is lush vegetation that rises up towards the sky. It creates a bizarre effect. The modern materials feel as though they are cutting through primordial jungle. And, this all takes place whilst the wind whistles through your hair.MAMAC is very much worth the visit for the art it contains alone. However, its design and the wonderful views from the rooftop really ensure that it is somewhere you cannot miss when you come to Nice.
As I began to write this article, I found it rather difficult to come up with a specific angle from which to discuss my trip to MAMAC. The problem is that it inspired me so much that I could really have written this piece in any manner of ways. I actively considered focusing upon such aspects as: the way in which MAMAC's design makes it a piece of art in itself; the differences to some of the more traditional museums in Nice; the parallels to the pioneering 798 Art District in Beijing; and, the juxtaposition of MAMAC's modern design style set against the beautiful antiquity of the surrounding areas of Nice. In truth, MAMAC is so interesting that I could probably use each of these angles and still have enough material to write several interesting reviews. Ultimately, though, I have fallen victim to indecision and have opted for a simple description of Nice's most interesting museum – perhaps with few dashes of the angles listed above thrown in to add some spice.MAMAC is split over four major floors and roof terrace. The first floor is reserved for temporary exhibits, whilst the permanent exhibitions are hosted on the floors above. There have been some rather impressive temporary installations – Picasso being the most notable. However, when my mother and I visited, the temporary display was a collection of works based on the use of powerful blocks of colour. Despite the absence of any big names in the exhibition, it was very interesting. Many of the works really packed a strong punch, and, the juxtaposition of the intense bursts of colour against the sterile white walls of the building was fantastic.The third and fourth floors held some of the resident displays. These were very interesting, but I found a few of them a little derivative. For example, there were several that were inspired by American pop art> In themselves they were interesting, but they lacked any major originality. There were plenty of 50s style imagery. Marilyn Monroe was around and there were plenty of signs for diners. It was nothing I had not seen before. In addition, there were plenty of displays that were somewhat 'alternative'. Again, I felt they lacked a little originality. There were lots of pieces that just seemed to be heaps of trash thrown together (there were several nods towards Tracey Emin and her infamous 'Bed'). Probably the most vivid example of this was two sculptures made entirely about of used water bottles. There was so much of this unusual stuff that I found myself craving a simple portrait or landscape piece.The last two paragraphs paint a somewhat negative picture of MAMAC, which is not really my intention> I am merely highlighting that there are some displays that lack genuine interest. There are, though, some absolutely beautiful pieces as well. I was, personally, struck dumb by some of the work by Yves Klein. A sculpture of three naked men covered in blue paint was the highlight of the whole trip for me. It was vivid and gripping.MAMAC is by far my favourite piece of culture in Nice. The displays of art on show are diverse and extremely interesting. My mother and I spent a fantastic afternoon. And, to make things even better, admission is free. IT is located close to Place Garibaldi and can easily be reached on the main tramway line.
My girlfriend's sister and cousin were in Nice to visit. And, so, accordingly, we were under pressure to entertain them. Just two weeks before, my mother had come over from England. Keeping her entertained had been a bit of a breeze as there are lots of things to do in Nice and lots of beautiful places to just sit and relax. However, whereas it was my mum's first trip to the Cote d'Azur, my girlfriends family had been before. As a consequence, Old Nice and many of the regular tourists spots were old news. So, we had to look further afield.I suggested a trip to either Cannes or Antibes. However, they had visited both of these places on their previous vacations here. Thankfully, though, the suggestion triggered something in my girlfriend's memory and she came up with the idea of visiting Isle St Marguerite – an island about 5km off Cannes. I have to admit, I knew nothing of the place. But, she assured me it was very beautiful and had a nice beach. It sounded perfect for a day out. And, so it proved.To get to Isle St Marguerite we needed to take a ferry form the far corner of the port of Cannes, away from the expanse of beautiful yachts in the marina. The ferry cost 10Euros each and took approximately 20 minutes to reach the island. The crossing was, in the main, rather dull. It was a rather grey day and the bay was crowded with cruise liners anchored for the afternoon. However, just as we pulled into St Marguerite, the skies cleared and the sun began to shine. It was a rather beautiful way to arrive.The island itself is perfect for a day out as it has both beaches and forest. We arrived and headed up into the woods for a picnic, As we were quite early, we were lucky enough to find a nice secluded glade where we could tuck into our sandwiches in peace and enjoy the shade of some rather cool pine trees. After out lunch, the woods were perfect for a nice stroll with soft ground underfoot and nice shade overhead.Like most of the Cote d'Azur, St Marguerite does not boast a beach made of sand. On the south of the island, it is rather rocky with the beach being made up solely of pebbles. This didn't seem all that enticing to us. So we opted to find a spot close to the small port where the beach was made up of leaves that had fallen from surrounding trees to form a bizarre soft bed that led down into the water. It was a very nice place to spend the afternoon. Not only was the beach very soft, but the sea was unbelievably calm. It was like taking a dip in a small pond. It was so flat and easy to swim, that it was possible to get out and swim amongst the yachts that were anchored in the bay.Ferries run from Cannes to Isle St Marguerite from the morning until 19h00 in the evening. It is advisable to take a picnic because food and drink on the island is a little expensive.
As you may imagine, real estate prices in the South of France are high – very high. This means that renting a spacious apartment can be a very expensive endeavour. When I moved to Nice, I decided that the cost of renting somewhere with two or three bedroom just simply did not make fiscal sense. Some of the prices I was quoted quite simply beggared belief. So, I decided to opt for a modern studio apartment instead. This was very nice and I like it a lot. Unfortunately, there was one drawback. It means that when people come to visit, I do not have a spare room.So, when my mum announced that she was coming for a visit, I needed to find a place for her to stay. As accommodation in Nice is so expensive, we found ourselves with a bit of a dilemma. We could go for something in the centre of Nice, but for anything nice it was likely to be very expensive. Or, we could opt for something a couple of kilometres from the centre, which would be far more reasonable. As my mum was keen on doing plenty of shopping, we opted for the latter.We chose the Etap on Avenue Californie, which is just under 3km from the centre of town. It proved to be a great choice. The rooms were basic, but very clean. They had a double bed, small TV and a simple bathroom. There was also free wi-fi (although it was a little slow). There was, though, no hair dryer or fridge in the room. We were also very pleased to find that the staff spoke very good English and were extremely helpful. As we intended to spend most of our time out and about, the Etap proved a great choice. Had we been looking for a little more entertainment we may have been struggling as Etap markets itself as a simple budget option (it has branches across France). There was no bar, pool, gym or restaurant. As I mentioned before, the Etap was a litlle bit away from the center. However, the location was excellent as it was on two important bus routes. The 9/10 runs directly into the center of Nice, whilst the 23 goes straight to the airport, which made arriving and getting to the sites very easy. One night at the Etap cost 60 Euros in August, which is very reasonable. In the winter the prices drop even lower. In November it is 50 Euro.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009