Stage 4: Nice
NICE TODAY - ALLIANZ RIVIERA, A NEW PITCH FOR THE GYM
Farewell to Stade du Ray and welcome to the Allianz Riviera stadium. Expected for long years, Nice’s new football pitch will be inaugurated this summer much to the pleasure of the fans of local club OGC Nice, known locally as “the Gym”. After many seasons in the old Stade du Ray entertaining the best French clubs, Nice will be at home in a splendid 35,000 capacity arena for French league games but perhaps also for European competitions. With its audacious architecture, the Allianz Riviera restructures the landscape of the Var valley, a few yards away from the village of St Isidore, in the heart of Nice’s Eco-Vallée. Its ovoid shape and dynamic curves, its see-through roof all evoke the flight of a bird or a giant wave. But architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte insists he sees his creation more as a protective cocoon.The stadium bids to be an example in terms of ecology and energetic performances with natural air conditioning produced though a system of blowing poles recycling the winds of the Var valley, photovoltaic panels to produce power and recuperation of the rain to water the pitch. The arena will include shops, restaurants and services. It will also be home to the National Sport Museum displaying the bikes of the Tour de France champions and other cycling trophies. Lastly, while it will be above all be the new stronghold of football in the Nice area, the new arena will also host concerts and cultural or economic meetings.
NICE AND CYCLING
Back on the mainland, the 2013 Tour de France will be back in the capital of the French Riviera 32 years after the 1981 Grand Depart. That year, Bernard Hinault had swapped his rainbow jersey fort the yellow by winning the prologue. In the following two half-stages, Freddy Maertens and Ti-Raleigh in a team time trial had dominated the proceedings while the yellow jersey passed on Gerrie Knetemann’s back. Nice the very faithful is a motto applying to the Tour de France for the city hosted 35 stages since 1906. Outside of the Tour, Nice also hosts the peloton every year in March for the finale of Paris-Nice. In 71 editions, the Race to the Sun also crowned ten Tour winners. Some even won both the same year like Bradley Wiggins in 2012. Nice was also the hometown of one of the best cycling writers, novelist Louis Nucera, who wrote a famous Roi René and a book called Mes Rayons de soleil (My sun rays) in which he tells how in 1985, at the age of 57, he rode back on the route of the 1949 Tour de France. The Nice-born riders are too many to all be mentioned but the most famous include Lucien Teisseire, winner of three stages between 1947 and 1954, Pierre Molineris, winner of a stage in 1952 or Charly Berard, a dedicated team-mate of Bernard Hinault, who rode seven Tours de France.
PLACES TO SEE
Promenade des Anglais
The world famous seaside promenade running along the harmonious curve of the Baie des Anges (Bay of the Angels) was originally a small path roughly too metres wide. An Englishman, Reverend Lewis Way, had it built at his own expense in 1820. It became known to the locals as the Englishmen’s path. In its final shape, “the Prom” was inaugurated in 1931 by the Duke of Connaught, one of the sons of Queen Victoria.
The red clay of the façades, the white window frames, the arches and the square shape of the northern part of the Massena square betray the influence of Italian Piedmont in its architecture. Place Massena is the centre of town and a meeting point for the famous carnival. Once split by the river Paillon, it took its definite aspect in 1884.
Beneath Garibaldi Square were found, during works for the first tramway line, a 2,000 square metres crypt with the remains of a fortified complex dating from the 14th century.
Sainte-Reparate Cathedral Promoted as a cathedral in the 16th century, it is the largest church in the old town of Nice. Inspired by early Roman baroque churches, the building is organised around a Latin cross plan. The decoration of the chapels and the choir is especially luxurious and inspired by the St Peter’s basilica in Rome.
Built on the Promenade des Anglais by Edouard Niermans in 1912 for Romanian businessman Henri Negresco, the palace remains the only museum-palace in Nice. It is home to several collections tracing five centuries of the history of art. The 121 bedrooms and 24 suites each have their own decoration. All the periods of French art are represented from Louis XIII to modern art. A five star establishment, it is considered one of the most beautiful hotels in the world.