Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Best City Beach Break in the Sun? Nice Versus Los Angeles

Bight blue beach with city - best beachside city in the sun
Seafront in Nice


Cities in the Sun... L.A. is in the United States, and the city of Nice doesn't fit into the 'American Dream' but what about the Mediterranean Dream?

Surrounding mountains of the Cote d'Azur and the city of Nice
Surrounding countryside of Nice

I was only a teenager when I went on holiday to L.A. but I'm going to try and be objective about this...

My recent holiday to Nice (on the Cote d'Azur in the South of France) had my senses buzzing and it wasn't just the sun's sparkle on the infinately turquoise sea which was brighter than the sky itself - it was so much more than that and here's why:

Coloured people statues at nightVariety

The Variety of things to see and do in Nice and the surrounding area is immense in many ways, however the thing that strikes me the most is the difference between each village and town on the French Riviera. Cities and towns such as Monaco, Vence, Cannes, Antibes and the neighboring (and slightly tattier) Italian Riviera all scream their own character. You can go from crumbling hillside towns to ultra chic resorts within just half an hour in any direction of Nice, and of course in winter and spring you can ski in the maritime alps, just an hour away by car.

Of course in L.A. the variety is great in other ways, there is of course so many things to do including the fantastic Universal Studios and all the fame, Hollywood and popular culture buzz.

city of Nice old town colourful buildings - greens and yellowsHistory

For history, Europe is of course a perfect destination, and right at heart of this are arguably France and Italy. Nice's identity as a French town with Italian history (it used to be in Italy) makes it extremely historically interesting and some of the architecture is testament to this. The Notre Dame (pictured below) was built in a Gothic style in the mid to late 1800s to make the city more French when it became part of France. Of course, like most visitors to Nice, my favourite part is the old town (towards the east of the city). The winding narrow alleyways crammed with shops, restaurants and cafes in colourful, ornate and sometimes crumbling old buildings, snaking down to the glittering coastline add to the distinct soul of this beautiful city.

A different kind of history, far more recent and full of popular culture is L.A.'s (and California's) film industry. This is obviously something that interests the majority of visitors to L.A. and although the French Riviera has its own thriving celebrity and film scene, the one in L.A. is unrivalled in terms of its constant and mainstream nature. Take for example the infamous Hollywood walk of fame (star-studded pavement) and Grauman's Chinese Theatre featuring the historic forecourt with various A-lister's handprints.

French raspberry and chocolate mousse from patisserieFood and Drink

For me, there is absolutely no contest here. A mediterranean French restaurant scene with a strong Italian influence, local Rose wines famed the world over, and an entirely deep history of refined cuisine are unrivalled by the oversized greasier portions found in most generic estabishments in the U.S. In Nice expect tomatoes with the brightest red hues, juicy olives bursting with flavour, and filet steaks cooked to perfection, not to mention French Patisseries!  

That said, the sheer quantity on the plates in some of the restaurants in L.A. is not to be sniffed at and of course the accommodating nature of the staff in American restaurants and the sheer amount of choice on offer of course goes in favour of L.A. in this comparison. A variety of eating establishments such as Abi's, I-Hop, Applebees and Sizzler all offer such a huge range of choice it's mind-blowing (well they stuck in my memory for some good reason anyway!) Also if you go to the right places and pay quite alot more, you will find the gastronomy quality found more commonly in Nice.

Notre Dame De NiceLight

The fantastic bright glowing quality of the light in Nice is something that can't really be described, but the proximity of the sea and the vivid colours of the buildings seem to enhance the way the light casts its warm and soft bright glow over the city. Anyway, it's a beautiful and photogenic place - Henri Matisse didn't move to Nice from the North for nothing - it was the light.

L.A. of course experiences a stunning light itself - the whole hollywood film industry has found itself in this part of the world simply for this reason to begin with, and this speaks for itself. However does Nice's old town beauty and elegance give this special light more of an edge?

Nice - Main square architexture - arches and colourful pink buildingCulture

Nice screams attitude and culture. The long-established and slightly colliding cultures of the French and the Italian make Nice a passionate place to be on holiday, and the multicultural feel just adds to this buzz. The architecture is stunning, such as the Place de Massena, built in the 1830s (pictured). The opera house (L'Opera de Nice) and the various art museums (such as Musee d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemprain) housing modern and contemporary art, Matisse works and pop art etc are just some of the cultural highlights. In the evening there's always something going on especially in summer along the seafront. If you feel like it, join the hundreds of others having a moonlit picnic or gathering on the pebbly beach of the Cote d'Azur to admire the reflection of the moon on the sea and soak up the evening buzz.

Of course L.A. has its own disctinctly popular American culture and the hollywood film industry is great contributor to this, however this can be no match for the variety and history of Nice with its rich various aspects of rich culture and significant heritage such as the art, performance, food and architecture.

Hotels and Transport in Nice

A 3 star hotel I'd really reccommend in Nice is the Grand Hotel Le Florence - in the city centre and about a five minute walk from the old town and the shoreline. Rooms are very clean and stylish and the staff are so friendly with lots of knowledge about the local area and happy to share. Prices are very reasonable for the area.

Transport in Nice is excellent - it is just 1 euro per journey on the tram and this includes trips to surrounding towns like Cannes. Parking is extortionate. Park outside the city centre and travel in by train or bus if you have a car.

It seems needless to say that I am slightly biased towards Nice, however L.A. is also up there - hence the comparison. I'd be interested to see what you think, even if you haven't been to either of these places. What sounds ideal to you? What did you prefer if you've been? (Comment below - you don't have to sign up). 

Text, Images and Videos Copyright © Lise Griffiths, 2012
All Rights Reserved

Best things about Nice, Nice vs Los Angeles, best beach city breaks in the sun, holidays in Nice and Los Angeles

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