on September 10, 2011
Throughout my years of living overseas, I have often found that it has taken the visit of a friend or relative to catalyse me into visiting some of the attractions that were sitting on my doorstep. For example, the first time I visited the fabulous 798 Art District in Beijing was when my mother came to visit. The same was true in Turkey when I took my first Bosphorous cruise on another maternal visit. I guess I should thank Mummy dearest for spurring me into action so often. I walk past Musee Massena almost everyday on my way to work. Therefore, I had been able to appreciate its beautiful architecture on an almost daily basis. It is a large imposing building, crafted from light stone. It is built in a very classical Mediterranean style that blends an imposing with wonderfully ornate and delicate touches - this is particularly clear in the windows, doors and balconies. However, it wasn't until my mother came to visit that I actually stepped inside.Musee Massena was originally a villa owned by the aristocratic Massena family. It was then donated to the city of Nice in the early part of the 1900s to be used as a museum for the history of the city. In truth, as a museum, it does not really fulfil its remit as it gives a very narrow view on the city, focusing mainly on the aristocratic lifestyle lived by its previous owners. However, this does not detract from some of the wonderful displays.The ground floor has been largely preserved as it would have been in the building's heyday, when it was occupied by the Massena family. The decor is unbelievably lavish. The walls are hand-painted, the floors are marble and the deepest of dark woods, and the ceiling is supported by beautiful marble pillars. The whole place also glistens with the light of the chandeliers that reflect of the gilt frames and gold candlesticks. It is all definitively opulent.The first and second floors are closer to what you might term a 'museum' as they are filled with art, antique furniture and curiosities from the city. None of the displays are deeply cultural or insightful, but they offer a wonderful array of art depicting Nice and some of its more illustrious inhabitants. There are scores of oil paintings of the Promenade des Anglais, all done at different stages of history, and, there are some wonderfully rich portraits of famous generals and aristocrats. I also deeply enjoyed the display on the second floor of antique posters advertising events in Nice. Most of these date from the early part of the last century and have a truly art deco feel about. Despite the lavish nature of the decor and the richness of the art on display, the most attractive aspect of Musee Massena is its location. It is set in ample grounds just back from Promenade des Anglais. The front area is filled with lush green palm trees that quiver in the sea breeze. They also work to frame the building beautifully when you snap a photo. The garden is a lovely place to sit and relax - you can gaze out to sea or at the beautiful facade of Musee Massena.
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