The Blue Coast of France




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In the 19th century, aristocrats from London to Moscow flocked to France’s sunny Côte d’Azur, or “Blue Coast.” Much loved for its blue seas and blue skies, this was the place for northern Europeans to socialize, gamble and escape their dreary weather.

Whether you’re rich or not, Nice, with its eternally entertaining seafront Romenade and fine museums, is the enjoyable big-city highlight of the Riviera. In its traffic-free old city, Italian and French flavors mix to create a spicy Mediterranean dressing.

Nice may be nice, but it’s hot and jammed in July and August. We’re here in early June, beating the serious heat and crowds.

The broad Promenade des Anglais, literally, the “Walkway of the English,” was paved in marble for blue-blooded 19th-century English tourists who wanted a safe place to stroll and admire the view without getting their shoes dirty or smelling that fishy gravel.

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Today, it’s a fun people’s scene with a bike and roller blade path that leads all the way to the airport.

The beach, while pebbly, is popular. Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline rush or just working on your suntan, this beach has it all. Tan lines can be hard to find as Europeans are relaxed about topless sunbathing.

While major stretches of the beach are public, much of it is private, where you pay to rent a spot, complete with mattress, lounge chair and umbrella.

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Nice was born on its easy-to-fortify hill. From there, and inland from the beach, spreads its colorful old town.

The old town squares feel more Italian than French because, until 1860, Nice was ruled by an Italian king. Until the mid-1800s, the people here spoke an Italian dialect. Street signs are still in two languages and pasta is still a favorite.

Nice’s Italian rulers lived in this palace.

As the modern nation of Italy was being created, this region was given a choice join the chaotic new country of Italy, or join wealthy France, which was enjoying good times under the rule of Napoleon III.

The vast majority of the people voted to go French, and voilà.

The old town offers a cultural scavenger hunt of opportunities. From its medieval market square with fresh seasonal produce, to a pasta shop showing Nice’s Italian roots, to the nearby Patisserie Auer — its belle epoque storefront brags that it’s been run from father to son since 1820.

Queen Victoria satisfied her sweet tooth right here. Socca, a thin chickpea crepe, seasoned with pepper and olive oil, is a peasant’s staple predating tourism that’s still dear to local hearts. At this busy stand, the socca arrives by motor bike, hot out of the oven, and it’s sold and gobbled up as quickly as they can slice it.

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Flowers seem to grow effortlessly and everywhere in this ideal climate. This has long been the Riviera’s biggest flower market. Fresh flowers are a fine value in this otherwise pricey city.

And with such an abundance of flowers, it’s no wonder perfume is a local industry.

The Molinard family has been making perfume from Côte d’Azur flowers for a century. Perfume is distilled like cognac and then aged like wine. It takes more than 400 pounds of lavender to produce just one quart of pure essence.

For the French, finding just the right perfume is a personal quest.

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Beach. Only French peasants from the countryside visited Côte d’Azur, or (the Blue Coast) in the 1800s. True or false? These days, do only rich people visit Côte d’Azur?

Seaside, Coastline, Shoreline, Seafront. Did visitors come to the Blue Coast to (only) do business and attend conferences? What do visitors do there?

Promenade. In the city center, there are lots of cars and traffic. Is this right or wrong? How do people move about in the old city?

Pedestrian Mall. Was Nice always a republic or democracy?

Market, Marketplace, Bazaar. The people of Nice speak English, and the culture is a mix of American and Canadian. Is this correct or incorrect?

Restaurant, Bistro. People like to shop in shopping malls and department stores. Yes or no? What do shops sell? What do visitors like to buy?

Cafe, Bar. Is pizza the most popular food in Nice?

Club, Nightclub, Disco. There are lots of imported plastic flowers sold in supermarkets. Is the main industry there video game production?
Boutique. My friends and I have visited seaside towns or seaside resorts. Yes or no?

Souvenir Stall, Souvenir Stand. Where do rich people like to travel to and have vacations?

Luxury Items, Perfume, Handbags. Do you and your friends prefer shopping in shopping centers, departments stores, pedestrian malls, street malls, markets, bazaars or online?

Street Food, Street Food Stall. I want to live and work in Nice or a seaside town.

Hotel, Hostel. What might happen in the future?

Yacht, Cruise Liner, Cruise Ship. What could or should people, governments and businesses do?

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