Well, I’ve been here a week with Erin in Nice, France. Nice is a physically beautiful city. We love it here, and we love coming to France on holiday. We have been here many times over the years. However, there are a number of things you have to take into account, if you are ever thinking about moving here.
Here is a very biased list my 7 top peeves about Nice:
1. The smoking. You cannot get away from it. Everywhere you go, on the Prom, in restaurants, on the beach, there will always be some jerk sucking on a cancer stick. The smell of cigarettes is so bad I started coughing and felt like I was smoking a pack a day myself, and I have not smoked in decades. Smokers will ruin all the pleasurable things you might want to enjoy: sitting in a cafe, having a meal in the outside seating area of a restaurant, strolling around the streets. Any time you see some older guys sitting in a cafe or some alone guy standing on a street corner or some perhaps tragic matron in a tattered housecoat people-watching on her first-floor sliver of a balcony, there will always be the stench of cigarettes. It is absolutely repulsive.
2. The motorcycle/vespas/mopeds. They are everywhere. In fact, walking around Nice sounds like you are in some sort of wasp colony, with the constant buzzing of mechanical insects wearing menacing bulbous black helmets. You will have a tension headache within 5 minutes, and it will stay with you all day. They go on sidewalks, threatening pedestrians. They zoom down alleys, turning into them at high speed. They don’t have their headlights on at night. And those 2 cycle engines are class A air polluters. Between the droning buzz-saw racket of the motorcycles, which goes on from early morning till late at night, and the pollutants they throw off (coupled with that of the ubiquitous smokers), you will soon want to leave for a place that is quieter and where the air does not make your lungs scream.
3. The “Russians.” I lived in Nice for a year, many years ago, before the EU. The biggest difference between now and then in terms of visitors is that it is now infested with these Russian / East European tourists, who all look like thugs on the lam. They are a physically ugly people — short, stocky, crude looking — their languages repulsive to hear; and they have no manners.
You might be having dinner at a bistro, as Erin and I were tonight, and some Russian thug will stop in front of you, throw his still lit cigarette on the sidewalk, and go sit with his half drunken friends in front of a giant soccer television screen. I saw it happen. They honestly make Nice seem like a haven for gangsters, which of course it was when the Corsicans ran things, but that was normale. At least the Slavic infestation seems transient, which is not the case with…
4. Les Beures. It is quite obvious Nice is being overrun by North Africans. They are now literally taking over by the Prom, whereas before les Arabes were confined to Riquier. Now Gambetta is like welcome to the Casbah. See for yourself.
Is this is a good thing? Read the novel Soumission by Houellebecq. If this keeps up, Nice is going to end up looking like downtown Algiers one day! Or not. Nice used to Italian. And before that, Phoenician. So, who owns what? What belongs to whom? Do you know? Take a walk down Rue de France, between Magnan and rue Paul Valery, near all the subway construction… around midnight. Is that a pretty postcard?
5. Old people: Nice is full of retirees. While they tend to congregate in downscale neighborhoods such as Liberation, you will still see them hang out in droves in Musiciens. They walk very slowly, which makes quickly negotiating the narrow sidewalks of Nice a tricky affair; they take forever to order their minuscule quantities of food at takeout places; and they will drive you nuts at Casino (a popular supermarket chain) as they fish in their bags and purses to pay for their stuff with small change.
6. The beach. In a word, it sucks. Unless you enjoy walking barefoot on uncomfortable, hot grey stones, Nice is not the place to go for a swim or catch rays. You will constantly be having one continuous 9-11 moment, as giant commercial jets swerve sharply, a few hundred feet above your head, as they make their approach to Nice airport. Add to that the fact that the beach is jammed with loud, leather-skinned Italian retirees on holiday — we are talking overtanned guidos in their 60s in black upchuck speedos — and you have yourself a recipe for a bad day, especially given how surprisingly brisk the sea is in mid Sept.
7. The Old Town. Junk shops. Bad restaurants. Noisy. Full of pickpockets and drunks. Everything here will be overpriced and aimed at the hordes of Birkenstock tourists who infest the place, thinking they are having an authentic Nissard experience. The only authentic thing about Old Nice nowadays are the few, very very old locals who still live there, but don’t get your hopes up: you will rarely get to see them, let alone talk to any of them.
Well those are the top 7. Don’t say you weren’t warned!