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Nice Rivals Paris as the “City of Light”

SPECIAL NOTE: From time to time, instead of “Speak Paris” (Parler Paris), you will be receiving “Speak Nice” (Parler Nice). It only makes sense that when I’m on the Côte d’Azur, that instead of pretending to be in Paris talking about Nice and the Riviera, that we should just call ‘a spade a spade’ and talk about Nice instead.

For those of you who are only interested in the Riviera, and not Paris, you may opt in to just Parler Nice. And for those of you who have been reading Parler Paris for a long time, you may just have to put up with a Parler Nice on occasion. If you’re not interested in what goes on on the Mediterranean coast, then just delete the issue and forget you ever saw it.


Henri le Cactus - Nice, FranceHenri le CactusRue Massena Christmas Lights - Nice, FranceRue Massena Christmas Lights – From the balcony of Le MatisseFinger puppets  at the Marche de Noel - Nice, FranceFinger puppets at the Marche de NoelThe Grande Roue - Nice, FranceThe Grande RoueCasino at the Promenade du Paillon - photo by Phoebe ThomasCasino at the Promenade du Paillon – photo by Phoebe ThomasThéâtre de Nice Projection - Nice, FranceThéâtre de Nice ProjectionThe Russian Orthodox Church - Nice, FranceThe Russian Orthodox Church

Niçois friends have seductively bombarded me with photos of the city on the Baie des Anges during the holiday season with all the Christmas lights and good cheer. I couldn’t wait to see the decorations for myself, so with a friend I took the early train Saturday passing snow-covered fields along the way until arriving at the water’s edge and the rain. Fortunately the rain dried up overnight and Sunday was as bright and sunny as any Niçois day could be with not a cloud in the sky.

“Henri le Cactus,” the ‘mascot’ of “Le Matisse,” is taller than ever! He’s now surpassed the second rung of the window and is now growing “pups” from a top knob. Henri must have really loved the recent guest who stayed for two months and took care of him with the same loving care I give him!

Nice has outdone itself in Christmas cheer. The decorations are different from previous years, and in keeping with the trend the city has been following the last few years, they are top notch. Like Paris, there is a Marché de Noël, a “Grande Roue” (Ferris Wheel) both located at Place Masséna just a few steps from “Le Matisse,” a “Patinoire” (ice skating rink) and Christmas lights galore.

No offense, Paris, but I think Nice has you beat for beauty. Phoebe Thomas, blogger for Lou Messugo, took some of the best photos I’ve seen online of the model of the Belle Epoque casino that once sat over the water off the Promenade des Anglais at the end of the Parc Albert 1er. The original structure was an “ornate pier modeled on the famous one in Brighton, England, built in 1882 but it was sadly destroyed during World War Two in 1944.”

The model of the casino in lights now sits on the Promenade du Paillon. “Its placement at the end of the water mirror in the Promenade du Paillon, means that it reflects beautifully on a clear Côte d’Azur night and sparkles out of the mist when the fountains are on.” It’s drop dead stunning and accessible so that one can walk in and around it to get the full effect. Be sure to visit to see Phoebe’s photos.

At the end of the eastern end of the Promenade du Paillon is a sound and light show depicting the casino following the theme of the Belle Epoque projected on the facade of the Théâtre de Nice every evening till January 4th at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. It’s another show-stopper! But no matter where in the city you walk, the light show will have you awestruck.

It’s cold — colder than one might imagine, but the bright sun warms up the afternoons before turning bitter cold in the evenings. I was not prepared, but the Russians are, swathed in their furs and boots. The Russian influence seems to be more prevalent all the time. Menus are written in French, English, Italian and Russian and one might hear more Russian than French on the streets.

According to, there are somewhere between 200,000 to 500,000 people resident in France identified as ethnic Russian, estimates from 2013. The estimates are vague because there is no census and they are not obliged to declare themselves to the consulate. Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, declared Nice as ‘France’s first Russian city’ in an interview this past November on the national news channel France 24. According to local daily “Nice Matin,” the city and surrounding areas are home to a quarter of France’s 80,000-strong Russian resident population.”

I have yet to visit the famous and beautiful St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral and Chapel of the Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, a French Heritage monument to Nice, but it’s on the list of things to do while we’re here…which is long. One needs more than a mere five days in Nice and environs to even ‘scratch the surface.’

Special note to our Parler Paris readers,
off subject: I was interviewed recently regarding the short-term rental laws in Paris by two illustrious news agencies: the BBC and Le Monde. Read what their journalists had to say in the recent articles:

BBC by Hugh Schofield
Le Monde by Isabelle Rey-Lefebvre (In French. You must subscribe or pay a small fee to read the entire article.)

A la prochaine… 


The Adrian Leeds Group - cartoon rendering by Erica SimoneAdrian Leeds
Director of The Adrian Leeds Group

(cartoon rendering by Erica Simone)

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Parler Nice Apartments: Le MatisseP.S. If you would like to enjoy Nice in the style to which you have become accustomed — American style luxury and convenience — then email me directly at [email protected] to plan your stay in “Le Matisse” or one of our other American-owned apartments in the city on the Baie des Anges.

Batey 106 Project - Erica SimoneP.P.S. My daughter, Erica Simone, just returned from two weeks in the Dominican Republic as part of the Batey 106 Project where she taught these poverty-stricken kids the artistic skills of photography. During her stay, she photographed the people of the Batey (a company town where sugar workers live found in Cuba and the Dominican Republic) in their native environment. A photo’s worth a thousand words. See them here fresh on her Web site.


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