Wednesday, June 18, 2014

France 2014 - Road Trip to Nice - Part 3

Our plan for our second (half) day in Nice was to take an English-speaking guided walking tour of the Old Town from the Tourist Info Office.  What we ended up getting was a French/English tour, where the tour guide would speak in one language and then translate or repeat in the other.  She was obviously much more comfortable in French than English, and so the English translations became shorter and shorter relative to the lengthy French descriptions.  A first, we strained to try to understand some of the French.  After a while, we just stopped listening and simply followed along, since we were still led to places that we would not have found on our own.

The tour took us past Jardin Albert 1er, where we saw the sculpture dedicated to Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory and police officers in t-shirts and helmets riding around on segways through the park.  The Hotel de Ville (city hall) was packed with multiple wedding parties jockeying for position.  In the courtyard stood a sculpture of a large bronze thumb, which looked just like the one that we would see when we visited the Columbe D'Or restaurant in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.  Another stop was to the Saturday flower market in the Old town, where stall after stall had beautiful blooms for sale.

While in the Old Town, we were brought to the beautiful chocolate store Henri Auer, which had a gorgeously decorated interior in the Art Nouveau style, and some whimsically shaped (and very expensive) chocolates on display.

Across from the chocolate store stood the Nice Opera House, which was built in the late 1700s and, according to the tour guide, it rivals Paris' Opera Garnier in beauty.  We passed by the Maison D'Adam et Eve, a 16th Century building with a bas-relief carving of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  They are depicted in very aggressive stances and facial expressions as if they are about to attack each other.  The tour guide quipped that this was appropriate for the original owners of the house, who were known for their loud arguments.  We were then brought to several beautiful churches, although they started to look the same after a while.

We were shown an ancient wash basin and explained about how the water was supplied and that there were separate sections for washing and rinsing.  And finally after an extra long tour due to the duo-language explanations, our last stop was at the Lascaris Palace, a 17th Century aristocratic home of the Vintimille-Lascaris family, whose coat of arms prominently decorates the ceiling of the entrance foyer.  The building now houses a musical instrument museum that has a collections of some very old and unique instruments. including one shaped like a snake, and what looked like very tiny violins.

In addition to the instruments, we were able to experience the Baroque-style architecture, furnishings, paintings, sculptures and tapestries in the state apartments.  The ceilings were adorned with 17th century frescos depicting mythological themes.  So we did end up getting something out of our tour, even though we couldn't understand much of what was being described.  But next time, we're going to be a bit more leery about an "English" tour in France.
Actually the tour wasn't quite over, but we had followed it for over an hour past the original duration, so we decided to take off on our own.  We wanted to climb up to the top of Castle Hill before we ran out of energy.  We had surveyed the ascent the previous day while looking at the impressive War Memorial which sits at its base, and decided to forego the elevator that could take us up.  This was a good choice.  Although the climb was steep, it was very scenic along the way.  Castle Hill is a bit of a misnomer these days since the castle is long gone, but what remains are the lush gardens and grounds with their stunning views of Nice and the Mediterranean Sea.

We were quite tired when we got to the the top of Castle Hill, and only planned to walk over quickly to look out in one direction.  But we were won over by the amazing views and ended up walking around much of the gardens.  Then it was back down to the Old Town for rest and substance before heading off to the next town on our weekend road trip.

Looking for a quick lunch, pizza seemed to be the way to go since there were pizza joints aplenty in the Old Town.  We picked the covered patio of La Claire Fontaine in Place Rosetti, which we spotted the previous day while having ice cream at Fenocchio.  We each had our own pizza since Rich and I do not agree on how we like our pizzas. Although we both like really thin crust, I prefer mine loaded with topping, which my Quatre Saisons pizza more than fulfilled.  It had tomato, cheese ham, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and something green that might have been chopped up spinach.  Rich wants very few toppings so hisNapolitaine pizza with tomato, cheese, and a sprinkling of olives and anchovies fit the bill.  While we were cooling off under the shade of our patio umbrellas, a troop of acrobats were performing out in the open square.

It was a whirlwind tour through Nice and we could have used more time to do it properly, but in summary, Nice is nice (pun and understatement intended).

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