Local traditions and culture in Nice

  • Rene Socca
    Rene Socca
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    Looks all set for a picnic, doesn’t he?
    by Muscovite
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Most Viewed Local Customs in Nice

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    Endorsed motorbikes

    by Muscovite Written Apr 11, 2014

    I always wondered how such a posh city as Nice puts up with such un-posh phenomenon as gnarling, sibilant, life-threatening motorbikes.

    Eureka - the veteran Nice mayor M. Christian Estrosi happens to have been Champion de France in younger years!

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    Natural call while in Nice?

    by Elainehead Updated Jan 25, 2012

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    Wanna spare 0.50€? Go to "Quick" (Belgian version of McDonald's). There is one at 41, Avenue Jean Medecin and another one on the Pedestrian zone (on the corner of Rue Halevy and Rue de France - the toilet is upstairs).

    If you need to go to the loo during lunch time, try going to "Hippopotamus" restaurant on 16, Avenue Felix Faure (Massena square). It usually gets so crowded that no one will even notice you. The loo is downstairs.

    If you are in the city center (ie, around Avenue Jean Medecin), you will find toilets (They are no longer free, so you'll need 0.50 € to access them) on the last floor of Nice Etoile Shopping Mall . They are next to Nature & Decouvertes shop.

    If you are desperate, you may try...

    On Avenue Jean Medecin, but towards Place Massena, you can find toilets at Galeries Lafayette (no longer free - if you need coins, there's a change machine inside), they are on the third floor, close to the stairs. Notice: it's a mixed WC with no windows, so they usually smell bad. I would rather go to the ones at Nice Etoile Shopping Mall.

    At Fnac? *I think* it is on the third floor, next to the "Manga" section. You need to insert 0,50 € to unlock the door that will lead you to the WC's. I don't think they clean them that often, so it's a rip-off!

    Never tried them, but you may want or need to use them...

    Mc Donald's WC's? You need to buy something there, at least the one close to the train station works like that. On the payment ticket, there is a number code (the numbers after the words CODE WC) you have to type in order to open the door that leads to the WC.

    The public 'toilettes' on the streets (except it's urgent... *I think* it's 0,30 Euros).

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    About Restaurants

    by emotionx Written Aug 6, 2011

    Our generic experience in those two weeks at nice was: NEVER go to the same restaurant twice!
    Why: It could be that you were very satisfied the first time. You had a good lunch or dinner and good peoples serving you. Next time it could be more worse.
    We had this in 3 restaurants in this time, all different kind of restaurants.

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    Tourist Office.

    by Dizzyhead Updated May 6, 2011

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    If you arrive directly to Nice by tarin, you are a lucky traveler. The tourist office is at the train station and they are very helpful there and will give you all information and maps and other information folders. They speak very good English and they even call and help you to find free places in hostels. It is amazing what help they gave me. Now I give them a lot of credit, but from other people I have heard other things, so I guess it depends who help you. Good Luck.

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    1st May - La Fête du Muguet

    by Muscovite Written May 5, 2011

    The 1st May is not only the Labour Day (with no labour, as it’s a day-off).
    There is a very popular tradition of La Fête du Muguet in France. Everyone around is seen with a little bouquet of lily-of-the-valley to give to a friend, relative – or oneself.
    Normally selling anything in the street requires paying for a permit, but merry May Day enjoys a tax exemption.

    As I got to know from an Internet Fairytale site, 'muguet is also known as Our Lady's tears since, according to Christian legend, the tears Mary shed at the cross turned to Lilies of the Valley, and in another legend, the flower also sprang from the blood of St. George during his battle with the dragon'.

    Photo http://www.lunion.presse.fr/article/culture-et-loisirs/entre-manif-syndicale-et-brin-de-muguet-des-idees-de-sortie-pour-dimanche

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    Fancy cars on Promenade des Anglais

    by Muscovite Updated May 4, 2011

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    Jean Behra historic rally has been held regularly for 14 years.
    The event is reserved to 30 years old -or more- classic cars.
    Imagine these rarities to cover 700 km of twisty roads, including 13 special stages (2 on private road) across the French riviera and south french and italian Alps.
    Organised by Automobile Club de Nice

    Jean Behra was a Formula One driver and, as motor sport’s site says, a real daredevil. He was born in Nice in1921 and crashed his Porsche in a race in Germany in 1959, just 39 years of age.

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    Pompiers en grêve

    by Muscovite Updated May 3, 2011

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    You would expect uniformed people to take care of those up to public mischief?
    No, in France they are often the ones on the rally.

    Firefighters protest against pension age reform, place Massena, September 2010.

    Just in case you need them, and they are not on strike for the moment:
    POMPIERS (Fire station in Nice): telephone 18

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    Baywatch

    by NiceLife Updated Oct 2, 2009

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    Half a million years ago history tells us the earliest forms of life crawled out of the sea.(Apolgies to any "creationists", as they say, "on which day did He make the fossils"?)

    Then being homesick is the only explanation I have for our fascination with that sea view. And Nice's famous blue chairs were the perfect vehicle for that paleontological memory lane, back to our past as drifting amoeba.

    Unfortunately, light-fingered Italian tourists in mobile homes tended to spirit the chairs away across the border as free garden furniture. So the Maire of Nice instructed French welders to join them into sturdy virtual cinema rows that would no longer fit into the back of camper-vans. Which must be very galling to the Italians, as they are now the perfect size for that Italian extended family .

    As a result, you can once more enjoy the Nice tradition of sitting in a blue chair, looking out to sea. Back to your roots.

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    First of May

    by NiceLife Updated Mar 29, 2009

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    First of May is Labour Day, which as is often the case means the opposite of what it says - It means NO labour day.

    Irrespective of what it says on bus timetables about "Sundays and holidays" service, there is absolute no service whatsoever by buses within Nice and connecting services between Nice and other towns. The only exception used to be the Airport Express Ligne 98 and 99 which soldiered on regardless, but now they too cease to operate on May 1st.

    Most shops also close, and central Nice is given over to the big trade unions like the communist-leaning CGT transport union who hold large rallys with lots of speeches and much red flag waving. Lots of young people are attracted to waving red flags. This is because they feel life is unfair. We all know life is unfair, but unlike them we also know that all those red flags have ever done is make it more unfair still (Eastern Europe, 300m people under Communism, 1945 - 1995, quod est demonstrandum)

    Another custom of First of May is the celebration of Santa Capelina, who apparently is patron saint of people who wear hats, and symbolically carries a hat and a fish, which you are invited to go eat.

    Needless to say the place this is celebrated is the Rauba Capeu, literally "where the wind steals your hat" on the very tip of the Baie des Anges.

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    Why shopkeepers are suspicious of you

    by NiceLife Updated Mar 29, 2009

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    When entering a shop in France you will often be greeted cheerily, but thereafter eyed with suspicion. Are you going to try and steal in my shop? Napoleon famously called the British a nation of shopkeepers. Well France is a nation of shoplifters, if my recent experiences are anything to go by.

    In supermarkets the practice we call "grazing" - eating goods within the store with no intention of paying for them - is commonplace. Recently at lunch-time in Carrefour we watched a respectable-looking mother and her two daughters munching away at packets of sandwiches taken from the shelves. Each then casually dropped the empty plastic packet, footed it under the counter and wandered off.

    You will often come across discarded food packaging among other items on the shelves. I chanced on an opened screw-cap bottle of wine, from which someone had taken several mouthfull to wash down their stolen lunch, and returned the now quarter empty bottle to the shelves. Another "grazer" had pierced the plastic film stretched over a large wedge of cheese, broken off a large chunk for themselves, and then returned the opened packet to the shelf, with the price and weight now wrong (and bacterial content unknown).

    Its common to sample food like tasting one grape before commiting to buying a bunch, but I watched a middle-aged man in Monoprix brazenly break off a large bunch and breeze off across the store, shamelessly munching from the bunch in hand. Another shopper had peeled a complete satsuma "to try it" leaving it peeled and half-eaten in the basket.

    Actual theft is less common because of security men poised at exits - that's stealing - but it also happens. At checkout it is customary to show your shopping bag or caddy is empty. On the same shopping excursion we watched an apparently respectable middle-aged man at the checkout carefully arranging his trolley. On the floor of the trolley, out of sight of the checkout girl, were two flat packets of expensive smoked salmon concealed by two conspicuously empty large shopping bags on top of them. The man loaded up the trolley, paid for the official shopping, and sailed off with his spoils. It had a practiced air to it.

    Perhaps the French shopkeepers are right to keep a beady eye on you, as they know how some of their countrymen behave. Perhaps its French "politics of redistribution " - it's not fair, the supermarket has a lot of food and my needs are so small. Or perhaps its just old-fashioned "something for nothing"? Theft happens everywhere, usually a teenage thing, but in France it looks altogether too common, and by grown-ups old enough to know better, who are not necessarily "poor".

    Tip: When shopping in supermarkets it's worth checking that what you have picked up hasn't previously been opened or tampered with.

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    It's twelve o'clock...BOOM!

    by ange_famine Written Feb 2, 2009

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    You may have noticed, if you've been near the Vieux-Nice around lunch time, that there's an explosion at noon, from the Chateau Hill.
    DO NOT panic! It all goes back to the 1860s, when Sir Thomas Coventry, eager to remind his distractful wife of lunch hour, asked the then mayor Malaussena if he could fire a canon ball from the hill every day at noon to remind her to come to the table...
    Tradition has kept it ever since (though it is no more a canon ball that is used but a piece of firework).

    Oh, to be torn 'twixt love an' duty.
    S'posin' I lose my fair-haired beauty.
    Look at that big hand move along,
    Nearing high noon.
    Frankie Laine - "High Noon"

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    The Place Massena fountain

    by ange_famine Written Aug 22, 2008

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    You need to know that this fountain (or absence of) has created a lot of debate lately.
    When I was a kid, of course the tramway was not there, and the fountain was in place and fully functioning, with sculptures representing fierce-looking people and animals.

    In the 1990, the town government had the strange idea of emptying the basin, filling it with sand, placing a palm tree on top and - ni vu ni connu j't'embrouille - no more fountain.

    With the refurbished Place Massena, came back the fountain, the humans with bulls, horses and dolphins and...the naked Adonis, standing in the middle.
    Outraging or natural? The nudity of the work of art is a topic of discussion among the elected. Shall we remove Adonis? Shall we keep him with a camouflaged manhood? Shall we...? Shall we...?

    You get the picture. So go and see the naked Adonis for yourself while it's still there.
    This picture was taken just before they put him back, I think.

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    Talking

    by NiceLife Updated Jun 2, 2008

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    The French love conversation. Everywhere you look you will see people in conversation, especially when dining out on lettuce leaf in an alfresco setting. Contrast this with dull silence that accompanies so many of our encounters in other countries.

    I attribute this to the fact that French television is truly awful. Quiz shows, dubbed American cop shows, the British Inspector Barnaby, three hour round table discussions, and adverts that endlessly about food and more food - kitchen setting, cooking, and the perpetual washing machine repairman telling the dim-bulb houswife she should have used "Calgon"

    As a result of the poor quality of entertainment and substitute relationships though the media, people actually communicate a lot with other people, and the pleasant climate facilitates doing this outdoors, far from the reach of television.

    People in Nice are endlesly engaged in conversation.

    Try it yourself, but remember the topics so loved in the Anglo-Saxon world - " Hi - what do you do? (and how much money do you make!) are absolutely forbidden. The weather is usually a safe opening, followed by some existential observations on life.

    Be sure to observe "La Politesse" - the public politeness of greeting and farewell on entering and leaving a shop. When the merchants' greeting "Bonjour!" next hits you as you enter a shop , respond in kind. "Bonjour!" Then on leaving - "Au revoir!" Bon apres midi! This is normal. It doesn't constitute a conversation.

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    Little dogs - very South of France

    by NiceLife Updated Jun 2, 2008

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    You will quickly come to notice the Nicois take their little dogs seriously. In some countries the pet is just another member of the family. Here, it is the family.

    Little dogs fit very well into little appartments. And little dogs leave behind little presents on the pavement under your feet, everywhere. But since everyone (except tourists) has a little dog, no one seems to mind (exept tourists). So always walk with one eye on the azure blue sky and the other fixed firmly on the pavement a few yards ahead.

    This little doggie in the window, a King Charles spaniel, is waiting for you to take him home. How can you resist?

    French commentators have noted the devotion of the French to their pets contrasts with their harsh judgement of others. Like of Americans, for example.

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    Charming the ladies, with your chapeau to hand

    by NiceLife Updated Jun 2, 2008

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    Nice is much favoured by French ladies of a certain age who still have some oomph in them, and appreciate the better things in life. Like a man with panache (that's panache, not panaché. which is a shandy) And charm: a little bit of Maurice Chevalier, a touch of Alain Delon. The French do it well. He holds court to the ladies sitting out beneath the art deco arches of the Promenade, enjoying the Winter sun.

    Three to one is about the ratio of older women to men in Nice. These comfortably-off retirees have probably buried their civil servant dear husband in Paris and headed off south to the sun, with the generous retirement benefits of the public sector that are bankrupting the economy. Company nowadays tends to be a little dog, and grown up children visiting maman on Sundays, so a single man over sixty still vertical is good news.

    Everybody is smartly tailored, and his blue suit cuts a fine dash. But its the hat that finishes the ensemble. It allows him to tip the hat as a gallant flourish that simple can't be replicated with a baseball cap worn backwards.

    Every French town boasts several chapelleries. If you want to get ahead, get a hat. Not just to cover up an absence of hair, or to keep your head warm,or shaded, but to add a little swagger - hat-titude.

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