15. Nice, France

Old dog, old tricks

Visiting Nice is a lot like visiting someone else’s grandma for the first time. When you first walk in it’s a fairly underwhelming experience, she’s old and tired and doesn’t seem particularly interesting, but by the time you leave, her personality and character have won you over, and you’re glad you came.

This was my first trip to the south of France, and it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. With a reputation for being a lavish, expensive part of the world reserved for the wealthy and the slightly jealous tourists, I prepared myself for a grand, clean, sumptuous, pricey few days.

However, after walking from my hotel room to the (pebble) beach with a modestly-priced hot dog in one hand, and an as-yet-unused camera in the other, I realised that what Nice offers is actually quite different.

Walk through the main streets and it feels like any other town, with big brand shops dominating the bigger roads, whilst sole traders pepper the avenues. Get to the beach, and it’s, well, a beach. The slight curve to it, with Nice in the background, adds an element of splendour, but it’s not exactly the glitzy show I was expecting.

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The thing is though, the more time you spend here, the more you start to fall in love with the place. Its narrow streets near the beach are full of character, and it throws in a few extra touches, like the water fountains that illuminate in red, white and blue in the evening, or the rather lovely view from the Colline du Chateau. It’s tired look quickly turns from a disappointment into a charm, and the quietness of the evening beach gives one an opportunity to enjoy the sound of the waves without interference (besides the occasional plane preparing its descent to the nearby airport).

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Nice has taught me a lesson: don’t go somewhere you’ve never been before with expectations or ideas, just arrive, and take in and enjoy what it offers for what it is, not what you think it should have been.

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