A Village of Antiquities on Cathy’s Street
Our Paris Interior Designer, Martine di Mattéo, came to Nice this past weekend to work on two very special projects she has for our clients. Each of the clients was able to score a unique property here in the heart of Nice that deserves the finest of renovation and decoration. Martine is working with our Nice designer, Laura Poirier, to help facilitate the logistics and add her own talent and experience on the ground as Martine works long distance, but comes to visit the “chantier” (work site) from time to time.
When Martine arrived on Thursday, I realized that I hadn’t seen the sea in several days, as my nose had been buried in my computer all week getting work done as quickly as possible in time for her arrival. We made a point of strolling down the Promenade des Anglais Thursday evening after dinner. The moon was almost full (it was entirely full last night), but bright enough to cast quite a beautiful glow over the water. We were mesmerized by the scene at the Plage Beau Rivage as we strolled down the “Prom” along with the Niçois and the tourists. It’s the city’s “passeggiata”—although that’s what the Italians might call it, but not the French.
Martine came to Nice equipped with floor plans and story boards from which to work (and to show off to us!). Each property is not only unique within the city as a “jewel,” but will be unique in its future self—both very much the style of the owners, but also very much “à la Martine.” I know how she works to pull the “theme” of the apartment together by using well coordinated colors, fabrics and forms as well as particular (or not) furnishing styles. I told her while she was here how much I admire her ability to make any environment feel so comfortable and homey, and not so much reeking of “professional designer showing off.” Each home is so different, mirroring the personality of the owner, yet 100 percent approachable and inviting. I’ve learned over the years that when it comes to her suggestions over mine, Martine is more likely right and it’s best to just trust her. We both know that the clients who give her a lot of free reign also end up with the most beautifully decorated homes.
As part of her research on the projects, we took Saturday morning to peruse the antique shops, which are largely located along rues Catherine Ségurane and Antoine Gautier just off Place Garabaldi. A gallery of shops can be found in the “Antiquaires Nice Village Ségurane,” located at 2 rue Antoine Gautier, but it also has an entrance on rue Catherine Ségurane. This is Nice’s hidden gem of a collection of shops worth perusing, if not just enjoying the ambiance of the gallery.
The street, Catherine Ségurane, bore the brunt of the construction of the East-West Tramway Line #2 for many years, making it near to impossible to walk down with any pleasure. Now that the tramway is complete, the sidewalk is wide and more than delightful down which to stroll or visit the antique shops. By chance we came upon the “Village.” A cabinetmaker, Siegfried de Molina, is responsible for having opened the “Village Ségurane” as long ago as the summer of 1967, but I was totally unaware of it, not having ever had the occasion to shop for antiques. There are about 18 shops and dealers within the enclave, in a charming setting around a triangular patio with two covered levels.
We weren’t looking for anything special—just getting an idea of which shops had interesting things from which Martine could get ideas and likely find a few special pieces. One enormous chandelier was a replica of the Covid-19 virus, unintentionally. A modular leopard-skin sofa was a show stopper, begging for just the right place from which it would both wow and invite guests. The excursion got my juices flowing for the Fractional Ownership projects we’re working on and on behalf of all of our clients in the midst of their own renovations and decoration of their new homes. I saw so many things I wanted!
If what you are looking for are unusual antiques or decorative objects, this is the street where you will want to go to find silverware, furniture, pewter, earthenware, weapons, romantic paintings…you name it, all within a few short blocks and much of it inside the Village Ségurane. Many new shops have opened and the district is showing a complete revival since the completion of the tramway. One can surmise that this is just the beginning of a burgeoning “quartier d’antiquaires”—or more a serious revival of what was already there, but suffering because of the work on the tramway and confinement during the health crisis.
This “Swiss Village” in Nice was named after the heroine Catherine Ségurane, as was the neighboring street. It was from the top of the ramparts overlooking the neighborhood, according to legend, that this local laundress galvanized the ardor of her compatriots in 1543, before scornfully revealing part of her anatomy to the discouraged Turkish conquerors (according to legend, she “mooned” them!). The story goes that at the time, Nice was part of Savoy and independent from France. It had no military to defend it, but Catherine, led the townspeople into battle. She was so determined that she knocked out a Turkish soldier and took the flag he was about to plant as a sign of victory.
The best told and funniest rendition of the story about Catherine Ségurane is told by Margo Lestz of The Curious Rambler, who calls her “Cathy” as if we all know her personally. The story has never been authenticated, but the locals still love it and continue to pass it on…as I am today. Louis Andrioli wrote an epic poem about her in 1808, and in 1878, a play was written by Jean-Baptiste Toselli dedicated to her. In 1923, a bas-relief monument to Catherine was erected near the supposed location of her “mooning” and in Nice, Catherine Ségurane Day is celebrated annually concurrent with St. Catherine’s Day on November 25th. The legend lives on…
Tomorrow I will be traveling by car with Jennifer Parrette and Patty Sadauskas to visit a house potentially for sale in the beautiful Provençal town of Vaison la Romaine. We’ll then spend the evening and night with clients-turned-friends in the hilltop village of Venasque, before heading back to Nice via Cucuron for lunch with my long-time friend Barb Westfield who lives in Ansouis. On route, we hope to stop in Lourmarin to visit Les Olivettes.
It’s all doable and easy peasy from Nice…and you’ll never hear a complaint from me about spending time in Provence! You’ll hear all about it (or at least some of it) on Wednesday! Stay tuned!
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
P.S. Coming in September, you get another chance to watch us on House Hunters International’s “A Renting vs. Buying Battle in Paris.” Details and air times are on our website. Watch it live or set your DVRs now!