Read this blog: The one where we aim to confuse
Sunday 10th September 2023
The morning after England’s first win of the tournament, we left Marseille by train to travel to Nice. For several years now we have been secretly plotting with our friend Belinda to host a surprise sixtieth birthday holiday on Tresco for her and her husband John.
Part of the surprise involved us maintaining the fiction that we were staying in France for the RWC, rather than travelling back to the UK. Our trip to Nice, the next RWC venue for England, was in fact a cover for the fact that we would be flying home from there to avoid the thousands of fans travelling back from Marseille. Although we were not staying for the next match, we would have most of a day and one night in Nice, hopefully throwing a dummy pass to keep John guessing.
Matilda wanted to look at some of the sights despite the heat. She suggested a visit to the Russian Orthodox Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas, which is apparently the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe. However, as official tour guide, Robert exercised his power of veto and refused to include it on the route on the basis that he was boycotting all things Russian in support of the Ukrainian people.
Instead we walked to Place Rossetti to see the Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate. Building started on the main body of the current cathedral in 1650: it was finished in 1685 and consecrated in 1699. Embellishments and decorative elements including a baroque facade and a campanile [bell tower] continued to be added right up until 1949.
The beautiful Baroque interior includes ten chapels as well as three organs.
From here we strolled through the Place du Palais de Justice which is one of the oldest squares in what is known as the most modern part of the Vieux-Nice district. The Palais de Justice, the building from which it derives its name, has recently been renovated and cleaned up and has an impressive neo-classical facade. Markets are held in the square here every Saturday.
Walking on towards the seafront, we passed the Cours Selaya which is famous for various different markets, perhaps the most well known of which offers flowers and fresh produce. There are also plenty of cafés in this area surrounded by beautiful buildings, painted summery citrus colours to reflect the sunshine.
When we continued on to the Quai des États Unis, we found we had swapped the crowds of rugby fans for the madness of the IRONMAN World Championships 2023. Large sections of the seafront were closed off so that triathletes of incredible determination and stamina could tackle a gruelling 140.6 mile endurance test – the equivalent of three marathons – comprising running, swimming and cycling in punishing heat. We had to pass through security to be able to walk further along.
The cyclists passed us appropriately enough as we strolled along the Promenade des Anglais [see Selfie and Video of the day].
A little back from the front we found Massena Square and the Fontaine du Soleil [Fountain of the Sun]. One of Nice’s most recognisable landmarks [see feature photo], the fountain features a central statue of Apollo, the god of the sun, encircled by five bronze statues that represent the planets – Earth, Mars, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn – to symbolise the solar system.
We took photos on our route to stress that we were still in France.
The Hard Rock Café on the promenade has an art deco frontage and is conveniently close to the tourist office.
Just watching the cyclists in the heat made us thirsty and we dropped in to rehydrate. Here we met the family of one of the contestants and were told that many of the athletes had collapsed and had to withdraw. It was also an unusually hot day back in the UK and we were pleased when we received news that our daughter Ruth had successfully completed the Richmond Half Marathon, shortly before the race back home was cancelled due to the heat.
We would like to return to Nice, perhaps at a slightly cooler time of year, and spend more time here without the distraction of the IRONMAN competition.
The next stage of our journey back to the UK to surprise John will be a flight to London City Airport and then a sleeper train from Paddington down to Penzance.