Buzz: La Cote d'Azur

By Margaret Kemp To escape August heat and dust, to sit on a gorgeous beach overlooking the Bay of Angels and tuck into a genuine salade Niçoise, drizzled with local olive oil. Welcome to the big olive. Protected on three sides by hills and mountains, Nice first found fame with Brits, including Queen Victoria, as a warm winter hideaway. The city’s favourite ex-pat, Sir Elton John, parties on from his pink palace on Mont Boron!
During August you should be part of the 8 million annual passengers to check in at the state-of-the-art Nice Airport.  It’s only 5 azur-blue kms from the town centre, so you can sun-bus it;  take a taxi for about 15€, or hire a car from Century for about  272€ per week T: 04 92 27 0510 For travel outside Nice, take a helicopter to, say, Monaco or St-Tropez (from 250€). www.niceaé : Tourist Office 5 Promenade des Anglais : 
Michael Jackson always stays at The Negresco, a Belle Epoque listed wedding cake of a building. But, in spite of this, it’s well worth a visit for the Louis X1V artwork and the liveried footmen. The stained glass cupola in the salon was designed by Eiffel, the Baccarat chandelier, with 16,000 crystals, was created for Tsar Nicholas. The outsize rotating sculpture is by Niki de Saint Phalle  (T:04 93 16 64 00) Ask about the two-night “Escapade,” including multi-perks such as breakfast in bed, 10% reduction in Galeries Lafayette!
Prince Alexei Lobanov Rostowsky’s former home, Château des Ollières (04 92 15 77 99) is the closest you can get to the life of a Russian aristocrat. Rooms from about 170€. 
Room 65 at Hotel Windsor has wacky decor by local artist/philosopher BEN, other rooms by other artists from 100€. 11, rue Dalpozzo -e-mail  Or try the achingly chic state of the art Hi-Hotel, where you need a degree in engineering to figure where to find the light switches. 3 avenue des Fleurs. 04 97 07 26 26
A bird’s eye view of the city is from the Colline du Château, at the eastern end of Quai des Etats-Unis (prolongation of Promenade des Anglais). Climb the 400 rocky steps (wimps take the lift: 8am-6pm at the Tour Bellanda, by the Musée Naval). At the summit, explore the pretty park with magic roundabouts, ice cream stalls—it’s an ideal picnic spot. The coastline spreads out beneath you, as do terracotta rooftops, the blue Mediterranean, and the hillside vineyards of Bellet (the best wine of Nice). Pick up a copy of Nice Matin, the local rag.
Discover Haute-Provence on the Train de Pignes, which chugs up the lower Var Valley to Digne-les-Bains via Puget-Theniers and Annot . Get off at Entrevaux to admire the fortified village, once a frontier town, upstream from the border between France and Italian Savoy. Or take the train+visit+repas ticket: trains are modern, but steam trains may run (if there are no strikes!). Sundays between May-October. Leave from Gare de Provence, 4 bis rue Alfred Binet. (E-mail: T:04 97 03 80 80 ) It’s a five- minute walk north of the main Nice SNCF station.
Find a friendly local to teach you the rudiments of “Le Nissart,” Nice’s quintessential local language. Or buy (at FNAC, Nice Etoile, avenue Jean Médecin) a CD of local hip band Nux Vomica. The Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Promenade des Arts (04 93 62 61 62), showcases the greats (Warhol, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein) and also local boys who made good: Yves Klein, Arman, César, Sosno and Ben’s Fantasy House. On top, the minimalist roof garden has 360º views of Nice. The Musée Matisse is a hommage to the artist who lived in the nearby Hôtel Régina and died with a paintbrush in his hand. The magnificent ochre-coloured villa, in olive grove setting, is at the summit of Cimiez, Nice’s snob suburb. Permanent exhibitions showcase his possessions, and there are concerts and lectures. Take a stroll around the cemetery; Matisse lies in lonely splendour in an olive grove.  (164 Ave des Arènes de Cimiez - T:04 93 88 11 34)
The daily Marché aux Fleurs at Cours Saleya, in the old town, exudes the heady aroma of spices. Old women in coloured aprons sell morning-picked organic vegetables and cook socca (egg-pancakes); weather-beaten old men offer local and Corsican cheeses. It’s a film-set. Terres de Truffes, 11 rue St.- François de Paule (04 93 62 07 68) is truffle heaven by the King of Truffles, Clement Bruno. Plat du jour, glass of wine and dessert about 20€. Or try truffle socca or truffle pasta; to finish: truffle ice cream, washed down with a truffle marc. Then pause in the shadow of St.-Reparate cathedral and choose from 72 + exotic ice-cream sensations  Try sorbet a la bière, violet, basil-tomato, rhubarb, thyme and lavender. Fennocchio, 2 place Rossetti.
Most of the designer stores close between 12.30 & 3 pm. All shopping roads lead off Place Masséna. Galeries Lafayette, open all day, is a sprawling department store, useful to stock up on French cosmetics. Retail nirvana begins on the corner of rue Paradis, with the renovated Louis Vuitton store At the other end Nereides has the hippest, sexiest jewelry; think the souk comes to Nice. Walk avenue de Suède, rue Paradis, rue de France and rue de la Liberté, where the outdoor cafés are perfect for fashion and people watching. Your basic Morgan, Kookai, Longchamp can be found at 24 Avenue Jean Médecin, Centre Commercial de Nice Etoile.
Friday morning, take a train from Nice Ville Station to Ventigmilia (in Italy), eat a pasta lunch at Marco Polo, passeggiata Cavalotti 2, (0184 352678) and bring back fabulous fakes from the market. Shhhh….don’t tell anyone.
To Eze ( A 15-minute drive from Nice along the magnificent Moyenne Corniche,  Eze is a cluster of medieval stone buildings  perched on a mountainous rocky peak, overlooking Cap Ferrat. Allow 1½ hours to hike the steep mule-path from the panel marked “bord-de-mer.”   Nietzsche’s Walk is named after the German philosopher who lived in Eze, where he wrote Thus Spake Zarathustra.  Once you get to Eze-village, boutiques, galleries, and studios line the steep labyrinth of cobble-and-tile passageways. This leads to the Exotic Gardens, 429 meters above sea level. After dining on local specialities by chef Christophel l’Hospitalier, flop into a four-poster bed in the former home of the Swedish Royals. Château Eza (04 93 41 12 24)
Or fancy some sexe, sexe, sexe? That’s the summer exhibition at Galerie Beaubourg, a 30-minute scenic drive from . “La sexualité dévenue objet d’une investigation”…hmmm
You may need a stiff drink after all the sexe, sexe, sexe: Le Club (rue Halevy) for red wine and cassis, Pimms and frozen margaritas.   Prefer Cuban-Latino? La Bodeguita del Havana, 14 rue Chauvain (04 93 92 67 24)   Delhi Belhi (04 93 92 51 87) is always packed with celebs who love a good curry (Liz Hurley, Sir Elton, etc.) after sexe. And early evening is a great time to hang about outside La Meranda, 4 rue de la Terrasse (near Cours Saléya) no reservations, no telephone, no credit cards. Chef is Dominique LeStanc, who quit the Negresco’s kitchens to run hees leetle bistro. Just go!

The Chantecler will not disappoint.  Alain Llorca’s is still creating  “the 11 dish dance of the tapas” and his brother Jean-Michel still makes a mean tomato tatin with olive ice cream. The setting may be baccarat crystal, but the cooking is based on simplicity, fresh seasonal products, natural flavours.  Let Patrick Millerau guide your choice of wine. From 80€. 37 Promenade des Anglais (04 93 16 64 00) e-mail: negresco@nice
Roller blade, jog, scooter or VTT along the Promenade des Anglais to burn the calories, meet new best friends. Head for the Russian Orthodox Church (av. Nicholas-11 & boulevard du Tzarewitch) 04 93 96 88 02.  Red Square comes to Nice with the largest Russian church outside the Motherland. The onion-domed edifice sparkles in the sunlight and is crammed with icons, frescoes and chic well…Russians of course.  Get a more zen aspect at the Kenzo Tange-designed, high-tech Musée des Art Asiatiques. (24) The 13th century tea-pavilion, under the gingko trees, will awaken the real spirit of Japanese culture. Take part in a tea ceremony given by a Master of tea, if he’s not on holiday. 405 promenade des Anglais: 04 92 29 37 00.
Immediate boarding on the terrace at chic Coco Beach 2 av Jean Lorrain (04 93 89 39 26. Cocteau, Picasso, Pagnol, Guitry ate here. Jagger, Naomi Campbell & Co. love the bouillabaisse. Vegetarians head straight for La Zucca Magica, 4 bis, quai Papacino (26) (04 93 56 25 27), where Rossella and Marco cook regional Italian dishes that change daily at lunch (16-25€) and dinner (book ahead, no credit cards).  
It really is so much nicer in Nice.



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