Vieux Nice

La Fontaine de la Soleil

It has often been said that the old part of Nice carries the most charm of the city.  D’Accord, I say.  From the Place Masséna, considered by some to be the central square of Nice, you are, within a few strides, in the vieille ville, the medieval quarter.  Heralding this is the La Fontaine du Soleil with a very white classical figure (Heracles?) brooding over the Place, from an exuberance of fountains.  In the spray there are bronze figures surrounding Hercules, each with an animal, each with a story:  vide the ubiquitous Mediterranean bull brandishing horns.

If you go there, start with the Cours Saleya, the open-air market, with tableware, clothes, pottery, leather goods, vegetables, fruit – and the most audible sounds of the Nicoise entrepreunerial spirit.  Warm-hearted and adamant, the buxom saleslady tells you in the local patois exactly why her pan bagnat (see Afterthought) is the best on the row.  I bought mine later, deeper into the narrow streets and slow moving rivers of tourists.  A trio of young girls with double bass, drums and sax were most rhythmically crooning Cole Porter’s Night and Day.

Towering above the tents, tables and tourists is the façade of La Misericord, 17th-century baroque cathedral.  It is considered by some to be one of the most beautiful baroque edifices in the world, though its doors were locked and barred.  But this vieille ville will not disappoint you if you are interested in this era of architecture – there are several masterpieces within a few minutes’ stroll from one another.  These churches, cathedrals, perhaps, follow the architectural tradition – a pedimented, two-tier façade.

St Reparate Nice

Sainte Reparate on Place Rossetti was completed in 1650, a time when the Catholic Church was working hard on the Counter-Reformation with a building form distinct from gothic-romanesque.  In the 19th-century, an imposing bell tower was added.  The saint after whom the church is named is the patron saint of Nice.  She was a teenage matyr in the Holy Land in the year 250 c.e.  The interior, as with St Jacques, the other church I saw, has the typical baroque elements – a way of letting in light from the roof, a departure from the solemn gloom of the older cathedrals; the dome above the centre point of the church; the opulent use of colour; stucco ornamentation and the deliberate fragmenting of traditional forms like the pediment.

I bought my pan bagnat at one of the cafés that honeycomb the narrow streets. I sat chewing and watching the tourists.  There were large numbers of Americans, but you also hear Italian and German, and if you’re sharp, anything else there is to hear.  Nice is the second most visited city in France.  Above the susurration of the stream, I heard a piano accordion and saw a man in a beret playing, fulfilling one of the biding images one has of this country.  Near him a gull pranced haughtily on the head of a statue of a dolphin, as a few drops of rain plonked down.

Place Masséna

I returned to Place Masséna where I saw the ongoing and extensive alterations to the area that includes the Museum of Modern Art.  There was an advance on the Theatre Nationale de Nice, a massive block of a building that looked as if it had been covered with fine gossamer in its entirety, a la Christo.

And then, I marvelled again, as I had done previously, at the oddest art statements in a large public place that I have yet seen – six aliminium poles, probably 25 metres tall, on which there are beige ceramic naked male figures sitting, clutching their knees, staring into the middle-distance.  I have no idea who the artist is, but I assume that this is a precursor to the completion of what will be called The Art Park.  There they are, naked amidst the Belle Epoque splendour of Avenue Felix Faure and the rest of Nice.

©Will van der Walt

Vendredi  6 Juillie 2012

Afterthought with an aftertaste

 Source – Wikipedia – “The Pan-bagnat (Occitan: pan banhat for wet bread) is a sandwich that is a speciality of the region of NiceFrance. The sandwich is composed of a circle formed white bread around the classic Salade Niçoise, a salad composed mainly of raw vegetableshard boiled eggsanchovies and tuna, and olive oil (never mayonnaise). Sometimes balsamic vinegar, ground pepper, and salt will also be added. The name of the sandwich comes from the local Provençal languageNiçard, in which Pan-banhat means “wet bread”. It is often misspelled “pain bagnat” which, with French pain rather that genuine local pan, produces a hybrid term reflecting neither the pronunciation nor the spelling used in Nice. The Pan-bagnat is a popular lunchtime dish in the region around Nice where it is sold in most bakeries and in most markets. The Pan-bagnat and the Salade Niçoise (Salade Nissardo), along with Ratatouille (La Ratatouia Nissardo in Provençal), Socca and Pissaladière are strongly linked to the city of Nice, where they have been over time developed out of locally available ingredients”.

Images Sources: Photographs by Will

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