Olympic Torch Passes Through Nice

Olympic Rings at Opening CeremonyAhead of every Olympic Games, the Olympic Flame makes its way from the Olympic birthplace in Greece, getting passed hand-to-hand on its way to light the caldron at the Opening Ceremony.   With the summer Olympics set in Paris next month, Tuesday June 18th is the day the Olympic Torch Relay passes through Nice on its way to Paris.

The torch officially arrives in Nice at 5:55pm near the airport and then is relayed up the Promenade des Anglais until the final runner of the day lights Nice’s Olympic Cauldron at 7:20pm across from the tip of the Old Town (Les Ponchettes beach).  Nice gets its own Olympic Cauldron as we are hosting the Olympic Soccer/Football elimination matches the end of July, and those Olympic tickets start at just 15€

You can witness and cheer on this historic passing-of-the-torch anywhere along the Promenade des Anglais, or just come party at the ‘finish line’ where starting at 4pm you can follow the torch’s progress on a big screen, with music, DJ, sports demos, food/bevs and swag.  Then you will be sitting pretty at 7:20pm to see the final handoff to light Nice’s Olympic Flame… goosebumps guaranteed.

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Photo: Best of Nice

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Death of Artist Ben: Nice in Shock

Front page of the Nice-Matin announcing the death of Ben VautierUpdate:  The city held a huge memorial with the two caskets right in the middle of the Promenade du Paillon gardens (!) backed by a big screen with photos and memories.  Over 1400 people showed up to pay their respects, including a who’s who of the local art world.  Following the public tribute, a private ceremony was held before the cremation.

Few artists incarnate the absurdity and optimism of life as Ben, a true original that painted with his words.  A world-renown wordsmith with an unmistakable French grammar school scrawl, it was in Nice that he made his home, and where he left his biggest mark.

Ben’s pithy French sayings are posted at every tram stop in Nice, not to mention popping up in unexpected places like on wine bottles (La Jaja de Jou), restaurants (Bar des Oiseaux), hotel rooms (Windsor Art Hotel ‘Ben’ room, #65), and even crowning a public toilet (“I piss, therefore I am” just below the Opera tram stop).

He was instrumental in the birth of the modern art movement which defines Nice (L’Ecole de Nice), and his whimsical work is featured not only in museums, but he printed his platitudes on almost anything to create an ironic pairing, and his ramblings soon started showing up in trendy French-leaning boutiques world wide, and of course online.

Late last Monday night, Annie Vautier, Ben’s wife of 60 years and inseparable companion, suffered a massive stroke and died shortly thereafter Wednesday morning at 3am.  A few hours later, unable and unwilling to live without her, Ben wrote his final act, taking his own life at his home in Nice, to join his beloved Annie in eternity.  Ben Vautier was 88.

Read more here from The Guardian

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80 years ago today: the US Dropped Bombs on Nice!

B-24 bomberIn the spring of 1944, the situation in Nice was dire.  Nice was not only under German occupation, but after the townspeople frequently foiled the Gestapo’s efforts to ferret out hiding Jews, the SS had recently sent a new commandant, the brutal and sadistic Alois Brunner, who was now ruling Nice with an iron hand, and submitting the town to daily horrors.

Imagine the buildings along the Promenade painted in camouflage and the empty beaches lined with bunkers and bales of barbed wire.  Armaments built on top of the Chateau hill were ready to fire upon Old Nice at a moment’s notice.  The Hotel Excelsior on Ave Duranty near the train station was being used as Nazi torture headquarters, and by that point over 3000 Jews had been packed into freight trains in Nice and sent to their deaths.

At the same time, the Allies had started a bombing campaign targeting strategic military sites in occupied France, including supply depots and train lines sending supplies to the North, and had already bombed Toulon and Saint-Laurent-du-Var.

The morning of May 26, 1944, it was Nice’s turn.  Around 10am there was an ominous buzzing in the air, then over the next 20 minutes 4 waves of American B-24 bombers dropped their payload on the neighborhood of Saint Roch, just behind the Nice Port.

Map of Saint Roch neighborhood in NiceThere were 29 bombers in all, each carrying 5-6 tons of explosives.  The targets were a Saint Roch warehouse stocking metal (from the Jette de la Casino?) and the Saint Roch train station which sent the supplies to the North.  But the bombs were dropped from such a high altitude, especially with the resulting smoke, that precision was not possible and the bombs fell everywhere…

The catastrophic result:  an entire quarter destroyed: 384 people killed, 480 injured, and 600 buildings damaged or completely destroyed.

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Adieu Velo Bleu! How to Use Nice’s New Self-Service e-Bikes

Bike wheel with shadowAdieu Velo Bleu!  Nice just got two new fleets of modern electric share bikes that anyone can use, locals and tourists alike. They’re easy to use, not expensive, have sturdy construction and are well-maintained. In all, there are 2000 bikes in designated zones all over town (even in neighboring towns), mostly where the clunky old Velo Bleu docking stations used to be.

You’ll see blue bikes and green bikes: The main differences are that the Day-Glo green Lime bikes are just for one rider and have a big handy basket on the handlebars.

The blue Pony e-bikes are made for 2 riders, with a comfortable rear passenger seat and footholds.  Also, for purists, Pony has a few classic muscle-powered bikes mixed into its fleet as well.  Pony is a French start-up and Lime is an American share-bike giant, formerly affiliated with Uber.

Both companies have their own app, but they work basically the exact same way:

  • Download the Lime and/or Pony app to your phone (both available in English) and register a payment method (For Pony, enter promo code 7ASKRQNH or click here for first 10 minutes free)
  • Look on the online map to find the nearest bikes (each bike’s battery charge is noted in kilometers)
  • Put a 10-minute reservation on your chosen bike so no one else can snake it before you get there
  • Walk up to your bike, scan its QR code with your phone to unlock it, and away you go…
  • The ride ends (and the timer stops) when you park the bike in one of the designated zones.  Nothing to do, the bike just knows (but take a photo anyway)

Both Lime and Pony start with single-trip prices of 1€ plus a few centimes per minute (.19 for Pony, .23 for Lime), then offer much cheaper multi-trip discount deals by the day/week/month: Pony’s are based on number of trips, and Lime’s are based on cumulative minutes.  See my Bike Rentals in Nice page for an easy chart with the pricing options, but between the two there is an affordable offer to fit every user.

If you have never tried an electric bike you are in for a treat: you start peddling and then it just peddles for you… it’s so fun, like riding a magic bike!  Test it out with a morning spin along the Prom: you won’t regret it!

See related page Biking in Nice

Photo by Best of Nice

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Airport Tourist Tram Scam – Redux

Nice TramwayBack in July, I posted about the new rip-off tourist airport tram ticket (10€ when it only costs 1.70€ a trip for everyone else!) and how to get around it by buying a normal tram card from the machines at the first tram stop outside the airport (Grand Arenas).

The good news is that the word on the workaround has gotten out… but the bad news is, not just to arriving passengers!   The Grand Arenas tram stop is now attracting pickpockets and scammers, often teenage girls, that hone in on tired luggage-laden tourists huddled around a ticket machine.  In accented English, one sweetly offers to help …while her friend is helping herself to your sweets!  Not a great way to start your trip to Nice…

QR code for tram ticketsDo you have an Android phone? If yes, you can skip this problem altogether.   Just download the free tickets app from the Google Store, sign up for a virtual rechargeable tram card (saving the 2€ card fee!), and charge your virtual card up with a few trips; you can do all of this from your home country before you leave. Then when you arrive at the airport just get on the tram and wave your phone over the ticket machine to validate your voyage.  Super easy.   But again, this only works with Android, not iPhones (only because iPhones won’t work to validate the trips) and only for 1 ticket at a time, so if you are a couple, you both need an Android phone.

If you only have an iPhone and need to do the Grand Arenas shuffle, just know that the ticket machine looks exactly the same as the airport ones, but offers all the choices instead of just one.  The machine is in multiple languages, easy to use, and takes credit cards (but you are safer to use contactless cards or ApplePay so no one spies your pin code).  While at the machine have your backpack in front, and if you are two people, have one do the machine and the other on pickpocket alert, and beware of friendly strangers!

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