If you have read some of the other entries in this journal, you will have seen that I very much enjoy a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais – the road that runs along the sea-front in Nice. You may will have also noticed that I enjoy donning my sneakers and enjoying running parallel to the waters of the Mediterranean. It did not take me long to establish this as one of my weekly rituals of life in the south of France. There are, in fact, few better ways to spend a warm Sunday afternoon.
However, as wonderful as the scenery on the Promenade des Anglais can be, there are a few drawbacks to running there. The largest of these is the sheer volume of people. On a balmy Sunday afternoon, not only a large proportion of locals, but also scores and scores of tourists descend on the Promenade to enjoy the sunshine. On occasion, there are so many people that the whole area becomes decidedly claustrophobic. Not only are there pedestrians strolling along the sea-front, but there are also bikers and roller-bladers all battling for territory.
This situation makes having an enjoyable run almost impossible. There have been occasions in which I have spent more time swerving from side to side to avoid tourists who had stopped suddenly to take a picture than I did actually running in anything like a straight line. There have been others where I have had to take large detours to avoid large families of British tourists walking four abreast and monopolizing the space available on the Promenade.
To escape the tourist hordes and to get some breathing space, I have hatched all sorts of schemes. The first of these was to try and run away from the port and centre of Nice and head towards the airport. This helps a little as the traffic on the Promenade dwindles in certain spots. However, there are several beach volleyball and boules courts at the far end of the beach that get very crowded on a hot day. I have also tried running at night. This certainly helped with the congestion. Unfortunately, it had the major drawback of rendering the beautiful scenery null and void. I also faced the problem of encountering rowdy drunks or the army of prostitutes that ply their trade on the promenade after dark.
As the weather improved, it seemed like I would be doomed to dealing with the crowds on the Promenade. And, sadly, this is something I have become resigned to. However, there was one Sunday in early April, that gave me a brief taste of liberty. It was a Sunday when the heavens opened and it rained all day, giving me the opportunity to enjoy the sea-front in blissful solitude. Being a native of the north of England, I am no stranger to cool and windy weather. So, when I awoke to grey clouds, pounding rain and blustery winds, I was not fazed. I simply donned my running gear and stepped onto the Promenade. I was alone. So very alone. I was able to run all the way to the airport (about 1km from my apartment) without encountering another soul. I then pounded – and splashed – my way back all the way to the Massena Museum and then home.
At this point, I can guess what you are thinking. Surely, the weather would make the view on offer far less impressive. In a way, you would be right. The bright blue sky and the Azur waves of the sea had been replaced by a combination of greys. However, rather than damaging the view, the weather simply changed it. The sea, instead of looking like some inviting photograph from a holiday brochure, took on a deep and ominous shade that seemed to give it a whole new personality. There was also a wonderfully delicate mist drifting in and dancing over the palm trees to create a wonderfully paradoxical feel.
The Promenade in the rain was fantastic. It gave me the chance to enjoy my run in peace and also allowed me to view the scene in a completely different light.