Nice’s “boardwalk” is on the Promenade des Anglais, one of France’s most famous streets. Its narrower, shorter genesis was called the “chemin des Anglais” (a path), back in the early 19th century when British (including royalty) first built villas here along the Mediterranean Sea to escape the consumption-associated winter damp of home. By the 1930s, most of the villas had been demolished and replaced with the luxurious hotels, residences and casinos of today.
By then the Promenade had been extended, enlarged and made to accommodate more tourists. It is now about seven kilometers in length, with the airport at its western end. It has incorporated a bike path, and, since the Bastille Day 2016 terrorist attack, posts at regular intervals to deter trucks from driving on the pavement.
In today’s mass tourism age, the Promenade has suffered a fate similar to that of Fifth Avenue in New York City and the Champs-Elysées in Paris. It’s more like Venice, California, and a lot less about salubrious luxury. There you will find svelte joggers, the old with their canes, young skateboarders, dog walkers, groups of winos, a fair share of the world’s selfie-takers, bubble men and other assorted entertainers. By the end of the day trash bins are overflowing, some people have let their dogs make a mess of the pavement, and the crowd is stifling.
Still, it is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The line of buildings facing the Promenade makes for an architectural marvel. The palm trees urge relaxation. The Bay of Angels sparkles. Hardly a day passes when I haven’t walked on it at least once.
When I manage to rise for the sunrise on the Promenade, it is glorious, illuminating my entire day thereafter. The winos are slumped in benches, North African men are fishing from the beach, a small few boats are on the water, but there aren’t many people walking along with me and I can almost imagine Nice the way it must have been.