A Taste of NICE, FRANCE © Margo Lestz 2016. All Rights Reserved, except where otherwise noted.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the author.
All photos are either the work of Margo Lestz or in the public domain unless otherwise noted.
Contact the author at:
Hello and Welcome,
I feel very privileged to live in Nice and to be able to explore its beauty and quirkiness on a daily basis. This book is just a sample of some of the art, architecture, and tasty treats awaiting you in and around this French Riviera city.
Of course, Nice has much more than this on offer. For more in-depth stories about this wonderful city, you might like my other book about Nice, Curious Histories of Nice, France. Or, for more on France in general, you might enjoy French Holidays & Traditions.
But for now, let’s find out:
See my book page at:
And my blog at: CuriousRambler.com
A few years ago, I took a course that required me to get up early and commute to another town. Part of my journey included a tram ride, and I used to giggle to myself every time I heard those breathlessly sexy voices announce the next stop. They alternated between male and female voices so everyone could enjoy them.
I just thought they were amusing, but little did I know that these announcements were part of the “Art in the City” (L’art dans la ville) project. Apparently, the recordings are different depending on the time of day, day of week, and season. They’re intended to make our travel experience more agreeable, and I can personally attest to the effectiveness of those early morning ones.
When the city planners were designing the new tramway, which was inaugurated in 2007, they decided that the journey should not be just about getting from one place to another, but about beauty and discovery along the way. As part of the project, thirteen public art pieces were installed along the 8.7 km (5.4 miles) of track, turning it into an open-air art gallery.
Let’s explore a few of these artistic additions that can be discovered along the tramway:
Conversations in Nice
This installation, by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, is found in Place Massena, and is one of my favorites. The seven figures perched high above the plaza represent the continents. At night, they slowly change colors, symbolizing a conversation taking place between them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all nations could exchange ideas in such a calm and beautiful way?
Porte Fausse (False Door)
The False Door connects Boulevard Jean Jaurès to Rue du Marché in the Old Town. As you approach this beautiful arched opening clad in gold and marble, you might not even notice the engraved words on the wall which read “porte fausse” and mean false door or gate.
Why is it a false gate? Well, when the old city was surrounded by a large defensive wall, there was a small, sort of hidden door here. It was designed to be discreet and unnoticed by the enemy. When they weren’t under attack, the inhabitants would come and go through this gate. A dark, narrow corridor, which passed through part of a building, led to the Old Town. In 1946, the owner of the building donated part of it to make the larger public opening that we see today.
This “false gate” was decorated as part of the Art in the City project. The artist, Sarkis, saw it as a transitional space between the Old Town and the modern city and lavished it with gold and marble. On the landing, you can see a white marble block holding a black tray. It says “les postes restantes” which means post being held. The idea was for visitors and locals to write letters or postcards to the city, or its inhabitants, and leave them in the tray. As far as I know, this practice never caught on because, unfortunately, the only thing I have ever seen in this tray is rubbish. (You can see in the photo that the tray is empty.)
[* Blue in Morse Code -… .-.. ..- . *]
The lights in front of the Nice Etoile shopping center shine like blue stars in the night sky. The strings of lights make a series of dots and dashes that spell out the different names of the color blue in Morse code. The installation by Yann Kersalé is called “L’Amorse du bleu.”
Ben Has His Say
All along the tramway, you’ll find the work of Benjamin Vautier. Ben, as he is known, is famous for his handwritten black and white messages. The station names are written in his signature style along with various slogans such as, “j’attends l’impossible” (I am expecting the impossible), “repartir à zero” (start over from scratch), “le nouveau est vieux” (new is old), and occasionally you might see one in English such as “look elsewhere.” These sayings give us something to ponder along our journey.
“T” is for Tramway… and Totem
These “totem poles,” which identify the tram stops, form a “T” when viewed from any angle. Sometimes, as you can see in the photo, they are rather abstract “T”s, but “T”s nonetheless. They are painted in shades of blue for the sea and red ochre for the traditional color of Niçois buildings. The Totems were designed by Pierre di Sciullo.
These are just six of the thirteen works that you can find along the tramway, so there are more for you to discover. There used to be a very interesting guided tour which has, sadly, been discontinued, but you can pick up a brochure in the tourist office and do the tour on your own. It’s best to see the art in the evening as many of the installations are illuminated. Enjoy!
Is it Sculpture or Architecture?
I have to say that normally I’m not a fan of modern architecture. I adore the grand old buildings from the Belle Époque, and Art Nouveau just sets my heart aflutter. However, there are a few modern structures that I really appreciate, and one of them is in Nice, France. I lovingly call it the “blockhead building,” but officially it’s known as la tête carrée (the square head).
This building is the administrative headquarters for the library next door. It has seven floors: three in the neck and four in the head. And it’s claimed to be the first habitable sculpture in the world.
You might wonder how the forty or so people that work inside the building manage without any windows, at least that’s what I was wondering. The secret is a sheet of perforated aluminum which covers the exterior and acts like a sheer curtain, allowing those inside to see out, but keeping those prying eyes outside from seeing in. This is too bad, because I would really love to have a peek inside. Unfortunately, this building is closed to the public.
Art Becomes Architecture
Yves Bayard was the architect who designed the adjacent library building and then he won the contract to build the administrative offices. For years, he had toyed with the idea of turning a sculpture into a building and this seemed to be his chance. He enlisted the help of his Niçois friend and sculptor, Sacha Sosno. Sosno had already created several small sculptures in the “square head” style and together, he and Bayard began working to turn one of these designs into a habitable piece of art.
Sosno had previously worked on a project in Nice that combined sculpture and architecture: the hotel Elysée Palace on rue Honoré Sauvan. He was responsible for the gigantic bronze sculptures of women which seem to be stepping out of the sides of the building to avoid being squished. I enjoy this modern structure which shows us that art and architecture can be beautifully combined. According to Sosno, the best galleries for sculpture are city streets, beaches, and squares: the places where it can be seen and enjoyed every day.
Now You See It, Now You Don’t Sosno explained his style as the concept of obliteration. Parts of his sculptures are hidden, or nonexistent, in order to let the viewer visually reconstruct the work. He said that he did only 50% of the work and the viewer must create the rest.
We can see the results of this philosophy in the “blockhead” building. It’s easily recognizable as a head but when you think about it, there are no facial features, it’s not even round. But because the bottom clearly represents a neck and chin, we finish the sculpture in our imagination by thinking of it as a head.
This intriguing tête carrée building sits at the end of the Promenade des Arts, along which you will find the library, the Museum of Modern Art and the National Theatre of Nice.
One of the ever-changing sculptures on the Promenade des Arts
If you leave the “blockhead” and the Promenade des Arts and wander down into the Old Town, you can find another “body part sculpture.” I like to imagine an underground giant with his head sticking out by the library and his long arm stretching out to the Old Town where his thumb pops up in front of the hotel de ville (city hall) to give us an oversized “thumbs up.”
The creator of this big bronze thumb (pouce in French) was French sculptor César Baldaccini. He also created the bronze trophy which is presented at the César ceremony for French Cinema – the French equivalent of the Oscars.
Give Him a Big Hand
In 1965, César was invited to participate in an exhibition called “The Hand, from Rodin to Picasso.” Since none of his works at that time fit the theme, he started making molds of his own hands. He had just discovered the pantograph machine which allowed him to easily enlarge his sculptures and enlarge them he did.
César’s larger-than-life bronze thumb sits in front of the city hall. He produced six of these pouce sculptures, and the one in Nice is the smallest, at only 1.85 meters (6 ft) tall. The largest is 12 meters (39 ft) in Paris and the other four are six meters (20 ft).
One thumb, two perspectives
Under the Thumb?
We were standing outside the tall iron fence that encloses the courtyard of the hotel de ville when we pointed out this sculpture to a friend. When I mentioned that this is where marriages take place and the newlyweds often have their photo taken by the thumb, our friend immediately thought of the expression “under the thumb.” I think he must have been influenced by the iron bars. I don’t know if there is any symbolism intended here, but if there is, I much prefer to think of it as the more positive “thumbs up.”
If it’s been a while since you’ve read the Greek classics – or if you just never got around to it – don’t worry! There’s no need to pull out the books. In Nice, France you can take a quick thirteen-step refresher course on a hilltop overlooking the sea, the city, and the port. This lovely park is called the Colline du Chateau or Castle Hill, and on the port side, you will find a short flight of steps decorated with mosaics giving a quick review of Homer’s Odyssey.
You might be wondering what all this “Greekness” has to do with Nice. Well, quite a bit, actually. The Greeks settled on this very hilltop around the fourth century BC and called it Nikaia after the goddess of victory (the same one the Nike sports shoe is named for) and the name eventually evolved into Nice.
In the 1960s when the city was renovating the park they decided to add mosaics with a Greek theme as a nod to this hilltop’s Greek heritage. The results are lovely and you will see many mosaics scattered around the park, but for now let’s start on our own little odyssey.
Odysseus (or Ulysse as he’s known in French): He went off to fight the Trojan War which lasted ten years. When it ended he climbed aboard a ship and headed for home. But things didn’t go exactly as planned. It ended up taking another ten years and many adventures before Odysseus was able to return to his patiently waiting wife back on the Greek isle of Ithaca.
Dolphins: Every other step shows dolphins in a swirling sea, representing the constant danger and problems posed by the treacherous waters.
The Cyclops: After the war, Odysseus left Troy on a ship with his fellow Ithacans. They stopped on an island where they were trapped (and some of them were eaten) by a giant Cyclops. Odysseus came up with a plan to blind the Cyclops and escape.
Circe, Goddess of Magic: Next stop was on the island where Circe lived. She entertained Odysseus and his crew with a feast… and then promptly turned them into pigs. Odysseus was spared by eating a magic plant that protected him from Circe’s spell. He won her favor and convinced her to turn his crew back into men, then he stayed with her for a year. After a goodbye kiss and a quick trip to the underworld, Odysseus was back on the seas.
The Sirens: Next the sea-farers had to pass the sirens – those monster-women with beautiful voices. When sailors would hear their sweet song they couldn’t stop themselves from steering toward it and wrecking their ship on the rocks. The clever Odysseus had his crew use earplugs so they couldn’t hear the singing. But he had the men tie him to the mast and leave his ears unplugged. This way, he was able to hear the beautiful song but couldn’t steer the ship toward disaster.
Charybdis: She is one of a pair of monsters that inhabited a strait through which Odysseus had to pass. On one side of the strait lived Charybdis, a monstrous whirlpool who would suck in the sea (and a ship along with it) and then forcefully spit it all back out. Odysseus had been warned to keep to the other side of the strait which meant passing by Scylla , the six-headed monster that gobbled up one man for each head.
Aeolus , God of the Winds: He took pity on the weary travelers and helped them out by putting all of the winds that would drive them off course into a nice little bag and securely tying them up. He left only the gentle west wind free to guide them safely home. Unfortunately, Odysseus forgot to mention this little detail to his men who assumed the bag contained treasure. They opened it, and a hurricane was unleashed which blew them off course. Again.
The Phaiakians: After running into problems with the sun god, all of Odysseus’ crew died in a storm. He tried to head home alone, but he shipwrecked and washed up on the island of the nymph Kalypso who held him captive for seven years. When he was finally allowed to leave, he had another shipwreck and wound up on the island of the Phaiakians who were kind to him. While there, he unwillingly participated in a discus throwing competition in which he frightened everyone by his strength. When the Phaiakians discovered his true identity, they gave him treasure and a safe journey home. I think this mosaic represents the King’s daughter, Nausicaa.
Penelope the Patient Wife: The steps are finished, but the story continues. Where the path turns, you will see Penelope. During the twenty years that Odysseus was out on his adventures, she was home waiting. She had no word of him for at least ten years and didn’t even know if he was still alive. Every day her home was invaded by suitors who wanted to marry her and take over Odysseus’ wealth. But Penelope tricked them. She was weaving a burial shroud for her aged father-in-law and told the suitors that when she was finished she would decide who to marry. Penelope would weave all day long (all the while weeping for her husband). Then every night she would pick out the stitches, assuring that the cloth would never be finished.
Odysseus’ Vengeance: Odysseus arrived home, but disguised himself as a beggar so he could check out what had happened during his twenty-year absence. He saw all the suitors and learned that Penelope had given them a new challenge. She announced that she would marry the one who could string Odysseus’ bow and shoot an arrow through twelve axe heads. She knew, of course, that no one would be able to do it. They all tried and failed then Odysseus, still dressed as a beggar, had a go. He succeeded, revealed his identity, and then killed all the suitors to boot. After a little problem with the parents and relatives of the suitors Odysseus had killed, the goddess Athena intervened and organized a truce to restore peace in the kingdom.
And there you have it. Now the next time the conversation turns to ancient Greek epic poems, all you have to do is remember these charming mosaics and you’ll sound like an expert!
The Homer’s Odyssey steps and other mosaics around the park were designed by Charles Catherin, the city architect, and assembled by Honoré Gilly. They are made of stones and other repurposed articles. You’ll see bits of roof tiles, pottery, marble, etc. – every piece was specially chosen by Mr. Gilly to fit a certain spot in his creation.
In the last chapter, we had a look at the Homer’s Odyssey mosaics, but they aren’t the only artistic tilework you’ll find in the Colline du Chateau or “Castle Hill” park. Many more lovely mosaics, like Athena and the Sea Creatures, shown above, are waiting to be discovered. They were all designed by Charles Catherin, the city architect, and assembled by Honoré Gilly in the 1960s.
Fountain of Birds (Fontaine des Oiseaux)
You can see more of Mr. Gilly’s handiwork on a wall lined with mosaics of birds in arched niches which can be found on a small street that runs beside the Jewish cemetery. There is an odd fountain in the center of the wall which is decorated with a male head with horns – possibly Pan, a Greek god associated with nature. I’m not sure what it has to do with all the beautiful birds, but this water feature is the reason this wall is called the Fountain of Birds.
The street is named the Allée des Justes Parmi les Nations, or “Alley of the Just among Nations.” It bears this name because of the monument across the street from the bird mosaics. The monument is called The Just among Nations and was erected by the state of Israel. It lists the names of 107 Niçois who did their part to aid the Jews during the Holocaust.
Around the corner from the Bird Fountain mosaics is another of Mr. Gilly’s decorated walls. It’s in the parking lot just past the front of the Jewish cemetery. These images continue the Greek theme with ships, Greek urns, and other mythological symbols.
Other mosaics are scattered around the park, and if you look closely, you’ll see that they are made from all kinds of recycled materials, such as broken pottery, old roof tiles, pieces of marble, and, of course, rocks – lots of rocks. Mr. Gilly personally picked out every stone to make sure it had the proper size and shape. These are definitely the work of an artist, even though the modest Mr. Gilly described himself simply as a mason.
Garden Albert I – You can see a bit more of Mr. Gilly’s work in the Garden Albert I, at the back of the Theatre de Verdure and below the Three Graces fountain. Here he created the Niçois Eagle, the symbol of Nice, in a stone mosaic.
Many thanks to this “artistic mason” for adding so much beauty to our city.
The Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognized symbols of the United States. But did you know that Lady Liberty is an immigrant? It’s true, she’s a French woman by birth who has made New York her home. No wonder she’s so elegant.
There are replicas of this monument throughout the world, and now Nice, France has one too. The Quai des Etats-Unis (Quay of the United States) which fronts the Old Town has been given a facelift and a new statue of Lady Liberty adorns the way. She’s a bit on the short side, only 1.35 meters (4 ft 5 in) but apparently she is cast from an original mold signed by Bartholdi, the sculptor who made the big one in New York. And speaking of the Grand Lady in New York, did you know that she almost found herself homeless?
It all started in 1865 with a Frenchman called Edouard de Laboulaye. He was an idealistic political thinker who wanted to make a monument to the liberty that both France and the United States valued. It would be a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States with no government involvement. The French would produce the statue and the Americans would provide the pedestal on which it would stand.
Laboulaye enlisted the help of a sculptor friend named Auguste Bartholdi. Together they planned and waited for the right time to start their monumental project. Ten years later, in 1875, the project was officially announced.
The Americans Don’t Want It
This noble and idealistic French plan had only one little flaw. They had not even considered the possibility that the Americans might not want to participate. But that was the case.
Bartholdi went to New York to meet with the movers and shakers of the city. When he explained that the people of France wanted to give America a giant statue to glorify the idea of liberty, that was fine with them. When he asked them to fund the pedestal that it would need to stand on, that was a different matter.
They weren’t keen on a gift that cost them money. They tried to think of ways they could profit from it. Maybe they could advertise their businesses on the pedestal… They half-heartedly agreed to form a committee to raise funds for the base but the money was slow to come in.
Meanwhile, the committee in France organized concerts, opera events, and collected money from individuals all over the country. They raised the amount needed for the statue and construction began.
The Arm Misses the Party
Bartholdi had hoped to present the completed statue at the opening festivities of the American Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, but the project was behind schedule. So he decided to take the most symbolic part of the statue – the arm holding the torch. Unfortunately, the ship carrying it was delayed by a month, and the opening ceremonies were finished by the time the arm arrived.
Even though he had missed the opening, the Centennial Exhibition was still going strong, so Bartholdi picked up his giant arm at the port and hurried off to Philadelphia where he exhibited it and charged people 50 cents to climb up to the flame. It was a big hit and the interest of the American public was piqued by his project. Back in France, Bartholdi continued his publicity by displaying Lady Liberty’s head at the 1878 Paris World’s Fair.
Lady Liberty’s head at the Paris World’s Fair in 1878
All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go
In 1884, after nine years of construction, the statue was finally complete – but the base wasn’t. This giant of a woman had no place to go, and the Parisians launched a petition to keep her. But in 1885, Bartholdi decided to send her to New York and hope the Americans would finish the pedestal. The French government agreed to pay for her transportation to New York, which was the only government involvement in the entire project. The 210 crates containing the dismantled lady arrived in New York and were stacked next to the unfinished base. The Americans were still $100,000 short of having the funds they needed to finish it.
The Pennies Roll In
An immigrant newspaper man named Joseph Pulitzer (the same one who later established the Pulitzer Prize) stepped in to save the day. He decided to bypass the rich businessmen and do what the people of France had done. He got the whole country involved. Using his newspaper, he started a campaign asking everyone to give money, even if it was just a penny. He promised to print the name of every person in his paper no matter how small their donation. The rest of the money came pouring into the newspaper office in pennies, nickels, and dimes. $102,000 was raised from 120,000 contributors. Pulitzer kept his word and every contributor’s name was printed on the front page of his newspaper.
With the pennies of the people, the base was completed, and the majestic French lady stepped up onto her pedestal. The statue that started as an idealistic French plan, and was unwanted by the Americans has become one of the most important symbols of the United States of America, and today, people often forget that Lady Liberty is a French woman. It’s no wonder the immigrants coming through Ellis Island could relate to her so well, she too was an immigrant.
Nice’s small Statue of Liberty
A few more interesting facts:
Just down the coast from Nice, on the promontory of St. Jean Cap Ferrat, sits an elegant pink villa which was built for Charlotte Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild. She was born into the European branch of the Rothchild banking family and married Maurice Ephrussi, a friend of her parents, who belonged to a Russian banking family. The couple had homes in Monaco, Paris, and Dauville in addition to the magnificent villa on St. Jean Cap Ferrat. If you visit this villa, you will hear that Beatrice, as the lady of the house was known, had a wedding for her dog. But was that really true?
We certainly know that Beatrice loved animals. Her villa was equipped with a zoo containing antelopes, gazelles, monkeys, and bird houses. But the animals weren’t just relegated to the zoo; two monkeys and a mongoose were her favorite companions and lived in the house with her. She even had miniature furniture made for them. You can see the little chairs in her bedroom where a dog and the mongoose slept.
Beatrice loved her animals as if they were her children, and she was a bit eccentric. Her gardener told of how she had long and strange conversations with her furry companions. But did she really go so far as to have a wedding ceremony for her dog in her Paris home? Monsieur Ephrussi categorically denied it.
A Dog Wedding
In December 1896, articles started to appear in newspapers in France and elsewhere, recounting the fantastic marriage between Beatrice’s female poodle and the male poodle belonging to her father.
Here is an excerpt from a long and detailed account in the Morning Times, a Washington DC newspaper, dated 10 January 1897:
DOGS ARE REALLY MARRIED:
Latest Fad Among Members of French Smart Set
There is a new fad among the rich – dog marriages. And the creator of this fad is none other than Madame Ephrussi, daughter of Baron Alphonse de Rothschild and wife of Maurice Ephrussi. It is well known that Madame Ephrussi is a dog lover, a trait inherited from her mother. She went searching for a new form of amusement and the dog wedding is the result.
At the home of Monsieur and Madame Ephrussi on Avenue du Bois de Boulogne in Paris. Madame Ephrussi sent out formally engraved invitations to several hundred of her friends, announcing the approaching nuptials of Diane, her favourite poodle, and La Petite Major, a handsome poodle, owned by her father. Not only were the recipients of these invitations asked to come themselves, but requested to bring their dogs along. The humans and their dogs turned out in full evening dress. The bride, Diane, who is described as a poodle of rare grace and beauty, wore a white satin dress trimmed with beautiful lace; a long tulle veil decorated with orange blossoms, and white kid shoes. Major, the bridegroom, wore full evening dress, swallow-tail coat, vest, trousers (not creased, because it is not fashionable to crease the trousers at weddings), patent leather shoes and gloves. On the buttonhole of Monsieur Major’s coat was a dainty orchid.
The notes of the wedding march softly floated through Madame Ephrussi’s magnificent ballroom and the ceremony commenced. First up the aisle, walking upright, were three small poodles, each in evening dress and joined together with a white ribbon. They were followed by the bride, leaning on the hand, of her mistress. Behind them, walking on his hind feet without support, came Monsieur Major accompanied by Baron Rothschild. Then came the bridesmaids and groomsmen, the former wearing white silk dresses, and long veils; the latter in full dress and adorned with embroidered white satin coats. All these advanced upon their hind legs. At the end of the ballroom the wedding procession was met by the staunch and sober bulldog of Comte de Berteux. Upon his head he wore a tall silk hat, and around his waist was tied the tricolor sash representing the office of the Mayor. After greeting the procession, the bulldog Mayor walked on his hind legs in a dignified manner, and then seated himself upon an embroidered cushion.
The Mayor looked solemnly at the young couple whose destinies he was about to unite, and then barked distinctly three times. The bridegroom gave a short bark. The bride barked low and impressively. A gold ring with a diamond setting was then slipped over the paw of the fair Diane, the Mayor barked gleefully, and the procession moved to the adjoining room, where the marriage register was signed, in this instance the owners of the dogs having to act for them.
Next came the reception and supper. Every dog was given a seat at the table, and a regular course supper served. It is not stated that there was any reprehensible conduct on the part of the canine guests to any greater extent than is witnessed at a wedding supper at which only human beings are in attendance. And so passed off the first dog wedding.
Well, that seems a bit far-fetched to me, and Monsieur Ephrussi thought so too. He wrote a letter to several papers denying that there was any truth to the story and demanded a retraction. Some of the papers printed a retraction and an apology to Monsieur and Madame Ephrussi.
The dog wedding story was dropped, but the newspapers weren’t finished with Monsieur Ephrussi. They announced that there would be a duel between Monsieur Ephrussi and Paul Cassagnac who had written the article about the dog wedding. It seems that Monsieur Cassagnac, as well as being founder of the Authorité newspaper, was an inveterate duelist. He had fought twenty-two duels between 1880–1889 without ever being seriously wounded. It might be worth noting that some of his duels had been with other editors.
But alas, the duel rumor was also untrue. Monsieur Ephrussi and Monsieur Cassagnac both denied it, and the newspapers had to do another retraction and look elsewhere for a story.
And today, when Monsieur Ephrussi is no longer around to defend himself, I find on the internet a theory (believed by very few) that Maurice Ephrussi might have been the father of Joseph Stalin.
Now that might be something worth dueling over.
Do you need to add a little sweetness to your life? I know just where to go for that. One of my favorite places in Nice is Maison Auer in the Old Town. It’s a confiserie/chocolaterie (sweet shop/chocolate shop) – can it get any better than that?
Feast for the Eyes
For me, this shop is a “must see” on any tour of Nice for two reasons. First of all, the architecture is beautiful. When you enter this amazing shop on rue St. François de Paule you are transported back in time about 150 years. The original Florentine style interior is decorated with stained glass, crystal chandeliers, and marble-topped display cabinets adorned with cherubs and festoons of flowers. It’s easy to imagine Victorian skirts swishing among these displays as elegant ladies and gents shopped for a few sweets before heading across the street to the opera.
Maison Auer and its elegant 19th-century interior
After you’ve finished admiring the architecture, you’ll start to notice the tantalizing products on offer. This, of course, is the second reason it’s one of my favorite places. You’ll see candied fruit in the window, glistening from all of that sugary goodness within. You’ll also find fruit jellies, glazed chestnuts, and of course, my personal favorite – chocolate. They make more than twenty kinds of chocolate here so you’re sure to find something to suit your taste.
Tasty treats from Auer
Chocolate One of the things I love about France is that chocolate is recognized as a health food – dark chocolate, that is, with at least 70% cocoa. It’s recommended that everyone eat a square of chocolate every day. I must admit that on occasion, I’ve exceeded the recommended dosage – actually, on many occasions.
Recently, I read an article listing the many benefits of chocolate, and it seems that one of its numerous powers is that it can act as an aphrodisiac. I’m not going to comment on that personally, but I do know that the founder of this beautiful sweet shop, Henri Auer, had fourteen children. Might there have been a connection?
Auer – a sculpture of chocolate and the real thing
A Bit of History
Henri was a Swiss confectioner who moved to France in the mid-1800s and opened up several shops in the Marseille area. But when this shop came up for sale in Nice, just across from the opera, he sold his other shops and moved here. No doubt it had something to do with the boom in tourism happening in Nice at that time. In the 19th century, Nice was filled with wealthy, mainly British, tourists looking for places to spend their money. Henri’s business flourished and has been in the same location ever since. Today, this sweet shop is run by the fifth generation of the Auer family.
Canel Confiserie, 21 rue de France. One of their specialties is almond paste formed into mushrooms, small woodland animals, croissants, and colorful fruits and vegetables. Warning: these do NOT count toward your five fruit and vegetable servings per day!
Can’t Get Enough?
Of course, Auer isn’t the only confiserie in Nice. As you wander around town, you are sure to see others with mouth-watering window displays. If you would like to see how some of these sweet things are made, you can visit Confiserie Florian, in the Port area, for a free guided tour of their small factory. This family business started in 1949. You can go for a tour anytime, but if you go on the weekend you won’t see any sweets being produced. After your tour, go upstairs to the shop and taste some of their products. One of their specialties is flower petal candy and flower petal jam. Fancy a bit of rose, violet, or jasmine jam on your morning toast? This is the place to get it.
[Florian Confiserie – You can go here for a free factory tour _]and to _buy your flower petal jams
I hope this little confiserie tour has made your day a little bit sweeter. Below, you’ll find addresses and websites of a few sweet shops in Nice:
– Maison Auer, 7 rue St. François de Paule, in the old town, just across from the opera.
– Confiserie Florian, 14 Quai Papacino, in the port area. Go here for a tour and to get flower petal jam.
http://www.confiserieflorian.co.uk/ (site in English)
– Canel Confiserie, 21 rue de France. A charming little shop packed full of goodies www.canel-confiserie.com
– La Cure Gourmande, 2 rue Sainte-Réparate, just off of Place Rossetti and there is another one at the Nice airport for those last minute purchases.
– L’Art Gourmand, 21 rue du Marché in the Old Town. They also have a small tea room.
I am American by birth but now divide my time between London, England and Nice, France (with a little bit of Florence, Italy thrown in for good measure). Life in a foreign country is never dull and every day is a new learning experience.
I describe myself as a perpetual student, and I’m always taking some kind of course or researching a moment in history that has caught my fancy. I’m curious by nature and am always wondering who, what, why, when, where, and how.
I share my adventures (and my questions) with Jeff, my husband of many years. I enjoy travel, history, observing cultures and traditions – and then writing about them, of course.
I am also the author of:
Visit my book page here: curiousrambler.com/margos-books
Read my regular articles here: curiousrambler.com (Curious Rambler)
Curious Histories of Nice, France
A queen and a donkey? Ammunition that becomes a snack? Lunch and a cannon? This book tells the stories of the people and events that have made Nice the city it is today.
[* French Holidays & Traditions*]
April 1st and paper fish… May 1st and poisonous flowers… Mice and teeth… This short book delves into these and other curious French traditions.
A Taste of Nice, France
Sexy voices announcing the tram stops… A dog wedding… A blockhead building… This book with color photos gives just a tasting of what you will find in this Riviera city.
All books can be found on Amazon or see my book page for more info: curiousrambler.com/margos-books
WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW: - Why sultry, sexy voices announce the tram stops. - How the Statue of Liberty almost stayed in France. - Why the library headquarters looks like a head. - If an eccentric Riviera lady really had a wedding for her dog. - Why Greek themed mosaics adorn the hilltop. - And maybe most importantly… Where to get good chocolate. I feel very privileged to live in Nice and to be able to explore its beauty and quirkiness on a daily basis. This short book is just a sample of some of the art, architecture, and tasty treats awaiting you in and around this French Riviera city.