My education in Nice began with my education of Nice. Because it would be my home for the next few months, it was only appropriate that I learn about how this Provençal paradise came to be.
Geography shapes society
Nice is located in the French provence of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. On first thought, it seems a stretch to relate the beaches of the Mediterranean to the peaks of the Alps, but in reality, most of the surface of the province is elevated above sea level. With this trait, much of the province’s population is concentrated along the coast.
Nice’s history, as presented to my peers and I, was broken into three distinct parts:
1. the Greek/Roman period
2. the Baroque period
3. modern Nice
Nice has Greek and Roman origins, evident in its name; Nice derives from the Greek name Nikaia, or Nike, the goddess of victory, or victory of conquering the land. From its early modern settlement in the 1500s, Nice experienced waves of Italian influence, most specifically noted in the Baroque period of 1600-1800. This era of anti-Catholic reform leaves Nice as the only characteristically Baroque city in France. Finally, the end of the 18th century introduced tourism as a chief economic and social force in the area, and so modern Nice began.
Society shapes geography
From this time on, both natural and manmade geographical clues can reveal the progression of modern society in Nice. The Promenade des Anglais, or “walk of the English,” is a pedestrian path along the coast said to be named for the many British and American visitors to the town. The Quai des États-Unis is a motor vehicle road that hugs much of the Promenade des Anglais and is named in appreciation for the United States’ participation in WWI. There is also a small statue of liberty commemorating the wartime activities of the Americans found along the two roads.
Nice’s second water feature is underground. The Paillon is a river that runs from the Alps to the Mediterranean. This route, however, had been paved over because of unsanitary actions of residents years ago. It separated Vieux Nice from the expanding wealth of the town. The space is now the Promenade de Paillon, a grassy, park area that runs through the center of Nice, providing benches, fountains, and play structures to all.
The goal of our lesson was to analyze geography in such a way to help understand your surroundings, and question how and why society has developed a location as it has. Now that I know Nice’s history, I can better appreciate the city it is today.
For more about Nice, read about my first trip to the city here.
- 15 Quai Rauba Capeu, 06300 Nice
- Nice’s Statue of Liberty
- 4-6 Rue Saint-François de Paule, 06300 Nice
- Promenade de Paillon
- 06000 Nice
Paix, Amour, Nice