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To deal cards the Provençal way is to throw them down on the table so they become as mixed as possible. This noisy, seductive, teeming, vibrant ‘city by the sea’ takes some getting used to. The crime rate is horrific; the Mardi Gras carnival is a commercial fraud; the traffic is a nightmare; miniature poodles seem to be mandatory; the phones are always vandalised; and the beach isn’t even sand. You don’t come to France’s fifth largest town for a quiet time; neither do you come for a standard seaside holiday. You come for business not pleasure—Nice is the nucleus of a dynamic southern economy dubbed the ‘California of Europe’. And yet Nice manages to be delightful—the sun and the sea and the laid-back, affable Niçois cover a multitude of sins.

Nice, the undisputed queen and capital of French Riviera, was founded by seafaring Greeks, who named it Nikaia to commemorate a victory (Nike in Greek) over a nearby town. The Romans followed in 154 BC, settling Cemenelum (now Cimiez). Italian nobility ruled here until 1860, when they handed the city over to the French and Nizza became Nice. Down by the sea you’ll notice that the promenade is English, or at least it is called the Promenade des Anglais and the grandest hotels in the town sprang up here. It was built on the initiative of early English tourists who discovered the benefits of the delightfully mild climate. These mixed influences are most apparent in the central area, where you will find the convincingly Italianate masséna, the belle époque architecture, the extravagantly… Bar Sorel.

For many years, Nice was run as a son of personal fietdom by the Médecin family. Jacques Médecin, the city‘s right-wing mayor, was eventually imprisoned for corruption and died in exile. today, nice has escaped the clutches of the Médecins and its way of life is attracting huge numbers of visitors once again. It’s most visible characteristic is a casual attitude to life – and it works hard to ensure that its guests are relaxed and entertained. There are plenty of spacious gardens with a thousand sprinklers to keep the grass lush. Fountains ease the harshness of new prestige developments and every park is full of flowers. And along the seafront the frayed but sturdy palms survive against all odds the fumes of speeding cars.