The Promenade des Anglais.
The promenade seems to exert a magnetic pull. You wind up here no matter where you start. The English community imported the palm trees lining it from Africa and India. They paid for its construction to provide work for Nice’s poor in the 1800s. Today, this is where residents walk their dogs, children skateboard, and tourists admire the blue Mediterannean.
It’s a warren of cobbled streets, affordable restaurants, a flower market, art galleries, and antique and second-hand shops. It’s also home to a number of magnificent Baroque buildings described in a section of the Nice tourist bureau brochure,” The Baroque-Nisso Ligurian Route.”
One of the buildings, the elaborate Cathedral of St Réparte, commemorates the 4th century virgin martyr whose uncorrupted body was drawn by angels in a boat of flowers to the shores of Nice, hence the name, “Baie des Anges,” or “Bay of Angels.”
This fashionable hill district is the home of the Marc Chagall and Matisse museums. The Russian Orthodox Cathedral is here too, built on orders of Tsar Nicholas and considered the most beautiful outside Russia. (Open daily to tourists except during services.)
Russians joined the English in Nice in the late 18th century when a Scottish doctor, Dr Tobias Smolett, wrote that the climate had cured his tuberculosis and his melancholy.
and Nice – the way it was
THE ELEGANT villas that overlooked the Baie des Anges vanished a long time ago along with the wealthy aristocrats and socialites who once flocked to Nice. One remarkable exception, however, is the Palais Masséna on the Promenade des Anglais.
This intimate museum re-opened to the public after extensive restoration; the villa and its gardens offer a rare glimpse into a gilded lifestyle swept away by the First World War. When Victor Masséna, Duke of Rivoli, bought the property at the turn of the last century, the original structure – where the Tzarevitch had once been a guest – had already been demolished. So, between 1898 and 1901, the Duke’s seaside retreat was constructed to his requirements in an Italianate style, influenced by the Rothschild’s villa in Cannes that had impressed Masséna on his visit there.
In his Nice palace, the Duke – who at the death of his elder brother had become the 5th Prince d’Essling – had rooms designated for music, reading, smoking and dining as well as a salon and an office. The rooms have been restored and furnished in a style appropriate to the period, incorporating some pieces that had belonged to the family. Both the Directoire salon and Masséna’s office are entirely original. On the two upper floors, there’s an interesting small museum that displays a number of artifacts, including the train and diadem worn by Josephine at Napoleon’s coronation as King of Italy. Period photographs in the Duke’s library record the elegant lawn parties the Duke and Duchess enjoyed in the villa’s English-style and French-style gardens in the early 1900s.
There is a garden entrance to the Palais Masséna at 35 Promenade des Anglais, near the Négresco Hotel; to enter the house, apply to reception in the gatehouse at the rear of the villa, 65 rue de France. Admission is free, but you need a ticket. There is an attractive gift shop in the gatehouse. The house and gardens are open every day except Tuesdays from 10 am to 6 pm.« Back