Before we arrived on Friday morning, the most I had seen of Nice was from the air when I flew into the airport to attend the Cannes Film Festival this past May. My host then whisked me off by car, but I've been dreaming of those cliffs studded with colorful houses ever since.
Now that I've explored the city more, it turns out it's oddly reminiscent of Italy - particularly Naples. That shouldn't be so much of a surprise, I guess, given the two nations' proximity to one another. What I love about both are the red tiled roofs and pastel-hued buildings in faded orange and coral that just scream summer; it's such a nice change from the austere, whitewashed look of Paris.
Like in Naples, Old Town makes you feel like a mouse caught in a maze from the way the crowded stalls whose awnings affixed to tall buildings on either side make you crane your neck to see their tops. Many cater to simple tourist tastes, offering postcards, keychains, and the like, but I also spotted the odd spice shop, apothecary, and even a butcher whose front display featured whole hog's heads (fur, face, and all).
Castle Hill is particularly memorable, if not for its namesake (all that's left are ruins) than for its incredible panoramic views of the region.
What else is there to like about Nice? The food. The abundance of fruits de mer plus the cultural influence of nearby Italy and Spain makes local cuisine a lot more exciting than standard French fare. I loved the paella we had for dinner on our first night, and can't wait to try bouillabaisse, another traditional dish.
And, because it's holiday season, a Christmas market and ice skating rink have taken over Place Massena. The entire city center lights up at night, which makes the sun setting so early seem a less serious offense.