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To Nice residents (Niçois), the Promenade des Anglais is La Prom and it's the centre of Nice life. It's a gym, running track, seaside stroll, pickup strip, kiddie playground, roller derby, cycling route and fashion parade. It's the place to go for a marital discussion, family outing or a contemplative session of sea-staring. On one side, there's the rippling and blue Baie des Anges and on the other side, well, there's a rippling and busy five-lane road. It's relaxation, urban-style.
The Promenade des Anglais was built by the English who were making Nice their winter sun spot of choice at the beginning of the 19th century. By 1820, they noticed that it would be nice to avoid the panhandlers that were pestering them for money at every turn and also give work to the local population. Their seaside promenade started as a dusty 2m wide path along the pebbles. In 1840, it was enlarged and prolonged from the town centre to the Magnan bridge.
What to See
Cross the road to the northern side and you can appreciate the architecture of the Promenade des Anglais which is a throwback to the days when English aristocrats brought their chic-itude to French Riviera. Start at the Jardin Albert 1er constructed between 1855 and 1895. Even though the vegetation can penetrate only 70cm into the earth, the garden is lushly green. Notice the fountains and sculpture, especially the 'Volti' fountain and the 'Arch" of Bernard Venet. The Theatre de Verdure is a popular concert space in the summer
Heading west, you'll next come to the Palais de la Méditerranée, now a hotel. The original art deco building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as a casino but it closed in 1977. After much thrashing about, the building finally re-opened in 2004 with its magnificent facade intact and restored.
The next hotel to notice is the Hotel Westminster. Built in 1879, it was restored in 1990 but retained its classic facade.
The Villa Massena is now the Massena Museum, reopened after a lengthy restoration. The turn-of-the-century villa was built in the style of Italian villas for the grandson of Maréchal Victor Masséna. It now houses a museum devoted to the history of Nice.
The Hotel Negresco with its pink cupolas is instantly recognizable. Classed as a National Monument, this ornate Belle-Epoque hotel was inaugurated in 1912 and immediately became the most prestigious hotel in Nice. It's worth the price of a drink in the Salon Royal to admire the glasswork of Gustave Eiffel and the chandelier of Baccarat crystal.
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