We’ve been back in Nice a little over a week, and have been surprised at how many small and large changes have occurred in the relatively short time (four months) we were away.
The biggest change has been in the area of public transport. The second tram line was inaugurated at the end of June, and is now running from both airport terminals to our centrally located neighborhood (by December it will run all the way east to the Port), with a spanking new underground station a couple of blocks away. Having failed to experience anything like major new infrastructure back home in recent years, I couldn’t help but be surprised at how thrilling it was to see a fine example of urban investment. Honestly, I felt the way I do when I buy a new pair of shoes!
The new tram has made other urban improvements possible. The city has been able to take hundreds of buses off the street by reducing the number of routes and redirecting certain lines, all with the goal of easing noise and air pollution, while actually improving access to fast public transportation. The mayor’s office claims 90 percent of Niçois will soon be served by a tram or bus passing every 15 minutes.
Once choked with noxious traffic, deafening noise and stinky soot, the old bus routes are undergoing an impressive beautification. Projects are underway to re-pave sidewalks and plant trees, the latter being part of the City Hall vast “végétalisation” effort.
The other changes perhaps are a fast forward to what these improvements portend for the status of our neighborhood. The Gambetta/Fleurs/Victor Hugo zone of Nice is populous and thriving. But during our absence the first discreet luxury hotel opened on our former street. A pretty park has been restored. In addition to new CBD dispensaries and shops specializing in the kind of local products tourists buy (e.g., Savoneries), two fairly ordinary cafes disappeared to be replaced by examples of globally trendy coffee houses, with their English names and mediocre pastries. In fact, the tourist district in the heart of the city is expanding here. And everywhere.
It was kind of fun to see the changes. And, after a summer of rural living, city life and its conveniences (movie theaters) are a treat. We’ve promised ourselves we’ll take regular nature breaks in the nearby hills. In the meantime, there’s always the Prom.