Monday, March 26, 2012


Yesterday my parents enjoyed a beautiful and rewarding day in Nice. It was a perfect final day in France for them.

According to my parents, Nice is an extravagantly beautiful city, far exceeding any expectations they had.

First thing yesterday morning, tour participants were given a guided walking tour of the central part of Nice. They were guided through the streets of the ancient old town as well as escorted through key portions of the city built in the 18th and 19th Centuries. It was during the latter period that Nice’s numerous plazas were created. The spacious plazas lend the city a special Mediterranean beauty.

After the guided walking tour, the tour group embarked on a scenic boat ride that explored Nice’s harbor and the coastal portions of the city.

My parents said that the boat ride was lovely.

Leaving the harbor, the tour group was transported to the Matisse Museum, located in one of Nice’s suburbs. Henri Matisse lived in Nice for much of the last thirty-seven years of his life and gave the museum its founding collection shortly before his death as well as through testamentary gift. The Matisse family has continued to add to the museum’s collection ever since.

The tour group was provided a guided tour of the Matisse Museum, which my parents enjoyed. The building—a villa from the 17th-Century—was beautiful and the displays were beautiful. However, the collection itself is of relative unimportance compared to Matisse holdings in American museums, where the bulk of Matisse’s most important work resides. My parents said that the Matisse collection in Nice was a minor footnote compared to the Matisse collections held by such American institutions as the Baltimore Museum Of Art or The Barnes Foundation.

From the Matisse Museum, tour participants were transported back to the hotel, with the rest of the afternoon free.

As soon as the tour group was dropped back at the hotel, my parents immediately proceeded to Saint Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, the most important Russian Orthodox Cathedral outside Russia.

Saint Nicholas was built during the period in which Russian nobility and members of The Imperial Russian Court spent significant portions of the year in Nice, a period that lasted from the mid-19th Century until The Russian Revolution. Tsar Nicholas II himself funded construction of the Cathedral, which opened in 1912.

The Cathedral opens at 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and my parents arrived a few minutes before opening. They walked around the exterior and then went inside for a short visit. My parents said that—to the best of their recollections—the interior of Saint Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Nice looked exactly like the interior of Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris, which had been erected fifty-one years before the Nice Cathedral was consecrated.

From Saint Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral my parents went to Nice’s primary art museum, Musée des Beaux-Arts, which houses and displays paintings and sculpture from the last five centuries. Musée des Beaux-Arts is housed in the former villa of a Russian princess, who had commissioned the building in 1878. The building is yet another indication of the important Russian community that in Tsarist times had spent much of the year in Nice.

Since the museum remains open until 6:00 p.m., my parents had sufficient time to examine the permanent collection of paintings and sculpture to their satisfaction. The collection, overwhelmingly French, is neither particularly large nor particularly notable, and is very heavy on the 19th Century, but my parents very much enjoyed their visit to Musée des Beaux-Arts.

From the museum my parents proceeded to a designated restaurant for what was described as a “farewell dinner” for the tour group.

The dinner was excellent, even festive. Practically everyone that participated in the tour was sorry to see the tour end and sorry to see fellow travelers head their separate ways.

My parents had a splendid time in Provence—it was a perfect ten-day getaway for them—and they would like to return to Avignon and Nice, as they barely scratched the surface of either city. My parents said that Nice, like Avignon, is probably worth ten days of exploration.

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