Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Southern France: The Côte d'Azur Illusion

I had an idea of what Nice and Southern France would look like. Beautiful Mediterranean apartments and villas, old medieval churches, unending beaches, beautiful women, and lots of tourists. This idea was only partially correct. The reality of Nice is far different from how I imagined her, and if it wasn't for her lovely neighboring villages I may have left with a bad taste in my mouth.

Nice suffers in the same way the Paris surrounding area does: suffers because of decades of failed immigration and urban planning policies. The Paris situation is less visible because for the last five decades it has been keeping minorities and most immigrants in the Banlieus surrounding the city like a cushion (think GTA); whereas Nice being a small city has integrated its French segregation policies into the town itself. There is a clear divide between the (mostly youth) North and West African and the white French population in the city, and maybe I'm exaggerating but sitting on the tram you can feel the tension. A police officer from Nice told me that while working in Marseille his station had grenades thrown into the building on 9 occasions. This sounds like Afghanistan, not Le Midi. The feeling in Nice is that it is a great place to go if a) you're wealthy; b) you're not actually staying in Nice but somewhere nearby c) you're stopping in for a wedding or d) you're comfortable with the constant threat of being pickpocketed and robbed past dark at any time.

Ville Franche sur-mer
Now for the part that isn't an illusion: the surrounding countryside. Take the train 5 minutes outside of the city, and you have a great treat waiting. Villages built on cliffs, walking-only roads with restaurants and cafes strewn about around every corner, bridges and medieval history reeking from every pore of the stone. Take a nap in a small shaded area by trees near an old church. ahh. This is the Côte d'Azur I have in my mind. settle the night with a tasty dinner and a complimentary glass of cognac. Since living, opposed of traveling I've been very careful to not judge a place before going, and finding gems like this emphasizes the importance of going yourself, and feeling the best and worst of the world, because they go hand-in-hand.

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