23 July 2010

The Promenade Des Anglais

I was a bit stuck for a subject today but then I thought of my trip along the coast on Tuesday and remembered how magnificent the sea looked - flat calm with that deep azure blue colour which gives the coastline its name. But as I drove along the Bord de la Mer (the coastal road between Antibes and Nice), I noticed quite a few changes and it had only been a few months since I’d previously made that trip.

The councils are always making changes to the coast down here and they’re not always welcome by the locals and holidaymakers alike.
One of the recent changes was to a stretch of beach not far from Juan Les Pins where we used to go a few years ago. It was a private beach with a small restaurant and if you managed to get out of bed and get down there early enough, you could park, half on the road and half on the pavement right outside the entrance to the beach. But now the council have built a small wall along the pavement to prevent parking and so the alternative now is a 1-2 mile walk from the nearest car park! I can only assume that the beach/restaurant is now deserted unless bikers have moved in – they can still park.
One stretch of beach which will not change in any major way is Nice beach and the Promenade des Anglais. Years ago, Nice was in Italian ownership but in return for French help to unify the tribes which ran Italy, Nice was annexed to France and a long history of Anglo/Nicois relations began.
It was about 1830 when the English aristocracy discovered Nice with its fabulous weather, magnificent light for artists and the crystal clear sea for bathing. Escaping harsh English winters, more and more wealthy Brits travelled south and set about turning Nice from a rather ramshackle sea town into the jewel that it is today.
Then the beach dominated the seafront with the dwelling houses located quite a bit back from the coast but it didn’t take the English long to put their stamp on their adopted town. Replicating the promenades back in English seaside resorts, they used tramps, beggars and immigrants to put down the start of what is today 5 miles of uninterrupted boulevard. Christened the Promenade des Anglais (The English Promenade), it now provides a magnificent pleasure area.
There are cycle lanes used both by cyclists and in-line skaters, areas for fishing and even a dance section at the ‘old Nice’ end, where on Sundays, the elderly promenaders waltz and foxtrot away the afternoon. Needless to say, there are scores of restaurants annexed to the beach but given that it is 5 miles long, there are still huge stretches where commercialism has not yet taken hold.
But despite this rather glowing tribute, going to Nice beach in summer would be madness with clogged up roads, few if any parking spaces and when you do get there you sit on pebbles rather than sand. Food prices in the beach restaurants are astronomical and a ‘simple’ drink has you running to the cashpoint to pay the bill.
One small glass of wine, a coke, a beer and a mineral water - €26, £24 or $36 – take your pick. Daylight robbery!
Anyway – enjoy the picture. That’s about as close as I get. 

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