Nice Travel Guide
Nice is irresistibly frivolous, like a dotty and unexpectedly girlish old lady. From the crisp meringue of the Belle Époque hotels on the Promenade des Anglais, to the candy-colored buildings along the Cours Saleya, it is a thoroughly delicious city.
Nice has very good seafront and urban walks – there is even a mountain of sorts, Mont Boron, within the city limits. It is also noted for its underwater flora and fauna. For the serious adventurer, however, the real appeal of Nice is its proximity to the Alps.
In a way, Nice is like the frilly hem on a rough, peasant skirt. Its back country is the Southern Alps of the Alpes Maritimes and the Alpes de Haute Provence. Several mountains in this region are more than 2,700 m/9,000 feet high, with a number of big ski resorts higher than 1,500 m/4,920 feet.
The Alpine National Nature Park, the Parc Mercantour, is a wild and challenging high-mountain region where hikes will lead you to hidden and mysterious prehistoric carvings or to wildlife not seen anywhere else in this part of Europe – possibly even wolves. Just outside the park, there are more great hiking and mountain bike trails. They link small, medieval mountain villages, many with ramparts and castle ruins, where churches contain anonymous Renaissance masterpieces.
All of this is within two hours of Nice to the northeast by car or train. Or head northwest of Nice and you are into the gorges and clues of Verdon country. The famous Train des Pignes (see box, page 195), the scenic narrow gauge railway into the Alpes de Haute Provence and the Gorges du Verdon, departs from Nice several times a day.
The temperature in Nice rarely falls below about 51°F (11°C) – and that only in the coldest months – so it is possible to turn one trip into a virtual two-center vacation. In the spring and fall, you can combine a week in the snow-covered mountains with snorkeling, sunbathing, sailing, deep sea fishing and generally basking in the warm and giddy smile that is Nice.
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