Visiting Nice on the Côte d’Azur in France With a Small Dog – Part I
Our pied-à-terre while on the French Riviera … pied-à-terre … “foot on the ground,” a small living unit some distance away from an individual’s primary residence … pied-à-terre on the French Riveria … Doesn’t that sound just so fine? And, oh, it was!
Our pied-à-terre was in Nice, not too far from the lovely old port, the famous Promenade des Anglais, and all the fun to be found in Vieux Nice (Old Town Nice). I will tell you all about those areas in my next post – promise! But I wanted to set the stage because as far as I’m concerned, we were in the right place to enjoy this city.
The best way to see Nice is to just walk around, as is so often the case in Europe. So my three posts on Nice (yes THREE!) will basically take you along my own little pet friendly walking tours. I was going to put them all in one post, but Dear Reader … that would make for one VERY long read.
But back to Nice, and walking around. First thing you need to know about Old Nice is that you don’t need to worry: You can’t easily get lost. The area is too small and the Old Town is basically a triangle with easy landmarks to get your bearings:
- the looming Castle Hill to the east (Stay tuned for that post in Part III!)
- the Mediterranean Sea to the south, just on the other side of the Quai des États-Unis, where there is a replica of the original Statue of Liberty. The original in New York was a gift from France to the United States. The replica in Nice was unveiled just this year to commemorate 100 years since WWI (more on that and the Old Town in Part II) and;
- the Paillon River valley to the north. But don’t look for the river: it’s underground, buried after too many floods. The river now remains below the surface and no longer threatens the city. This area is what todays post is about!
Promenade du Paillon
Instead of visiting the buried river, you can visit the coulée verte (greenbelt) that has been built on top of the covered river. Officially known as the Promenade du Paillon, this new greenbelt in the heart of Nice was opened with great fanfare in 2013 after 10 years of construction. The objective was simple: improve the quality of life for the citizens of the Old Town and the infrastructure serving them (hence the really cool new tram system). And it all started with the demolition of an old bus station and car park that were 1970s concrete monstrosities and eye sores. Over the 10 years of construction, those eye sores became the beautiful space it is today.
The best thing about the entire area is that it isn’t a tourist attraction in itself. In fact, most people would never see it as a distinct place. It really is a space for the people… and their dogs! It’s a stunning setting, beautifully kept, and safe. So, if you are in town and have your canine companion with you, check it out! I really can’t think of a better place for you to take a walk! Plus, given the central location of this greenbelt, you very well may have to walk through it anyway.
I started my walk along the greenbelt at the Promenade des Anglais – or, simply, La Prom – the famous, long boulevard of entertainment and leisure that follows the sea coast. There’s a two-storey carousel on La Prom at the base of the Promenade du Paillon where The Paillon river, although underground, empties out into the sea. And I took a ride! Yes! I was allowed a ride! So much fun! I had done this before in Paris and it now seems that our new tradition is that, every time I am in France, I must take a carousel ride!
From the carousel, I headed up through the gardens, past a huge, odd, upside-down arch-shaped sculpture, to the Place Massena. The Place has lovely red arcades and checker-board street and sidewalk. This is where the Promenade du Paillon officially begins. This is also the main shopping strip for those who like to indulge. Do enjoy the pedestrian shopping there, and stop at Amarino. The Gelato, chocolates, waffles, crepes and coffee are totally amazing if the bipeds reaction is anything to go by. Mom highly recommends the dark chocolate sorbet, a personal (very hard to find) favourite. All the chocolate goodness without the cream! Not that I could have any. All I got was a bowl of water. *scowls*
As we started our walk we were immediatly mesmerized by a large water feature based on a, 3000 square metre spread of black granite. You can walk through this “water mirror,” but be prepared to get wet! The area is dotted with fountains that launch in random patterns, sure to soak you if caught. You have been warned, Dear Reader! I was not amused by this but the bipeds certainly seemed charmed.
There are also smaller fountains along the promenade that will entertain kids. The jets range from high and strong, to just producing a mist. I can see how in the heat of summer this would be a fantastic place to cool down.
After the water feature, we came to the best kids’ play structures ever. Yes, EVER!. The structures are wooden sculptures in the shapes of different animals and sea creatures. Each structure is designed for a specific age group, with the structures getting progressively more complex. They are not only stunning to look at, but the kids seemed to really enjoy playing on them. Art meets function. Best combo possible.
There is so much more to see along this greenbelt. The Lycée Massena, the city’s top high school, is housed in a beautiful 19th-century building that abuts the playground. I’m guessing high school kids would be too cool for animal-shaped play structures though. I also noticed a Baroque church next to the school. The bipeds checked out different outdoor exhibits showing what the Paillon river bed looked like before it was covered up.
As we walked about, we noticed that a wild garden has recently been planted as a living fence around the perimeter of the greenbelt. In time, it will be a lovely jungle. I will be sure to bring my adventure gear for exploring that trail when we return!
Best of all, dogs are welcome along the greenbelt so long as they remain on leash. But no flexi-leashes! And keep watch for “red zones” — areas where dogs are not allowed. These are typically the children’s play areas and clearly marked.
There are a surprisingly large number of activities that aren’t allowed on the Promenade du Paillon and a strong police presence to enforce the law. So take a moment when you arrive to look at the list of rules and follow them.
In review: This new greenbelt is a hidden gem of Nice. You will not find it mentioned in the guide books, at least not just yet! But if you are travelling with a canine to Nice; I really can’t think of a more lovely stroll. Best dog park ever? possibly. The only thing missing would be an off-leash run area and it certainly would reign supreme as such!