Some of us have recently returned from a very enjoyable and stimulating trip to Nice, where we enjoyed four days of pictures, sculptures, architecture, gardens, gourmet food and fine wines. This trip was organised by ACE Cultural Tours who booked us into a very comfortable hotel, Le Grimaldi, located only a few minutes away from the city centre which is now attractively refurbished after the completion of a new tram line and showing off Place Messina with its rosy red façades built during the nineteenth century. Many of us enjoyed revisiting the Place during the evening where seven resin sculptures atop steel poles, created by Jaume Plensa, and representing the seven continents were illuminated in constantly changing rainbow hues.
In Nice itself, we also visited Vieux Nice, the Cours Saleya with its Antiquities Market and the Palais Lascaris , a seventeenth century aristocratic building of baroque Genovese style like many of the buildings in old Nice, as Nice was once part of the Duchy of Savoy. The Musée Matisse, Musée Chagall Biblique lay just outside the main city on neighbouring hills.
We were particularly delighted by the Musée Bonnard, located in a suburb above Cannes at Le Cannet. Not only was the building a delightful merging of contemporary and nineteenth century architecture, but the paintings were full of colour and interest, reflecting Pierre Bonnard’s love of his family home and garden, his family and his pets. He lived there for twenty six years. The afternoon provided an interesting contrast. After a convivial lunch in the old town of Antibes, close to the covered market, we visited an exhibition of Picasso’s work, completed whilst he lived at the fourteenth Century Chateau Grimaldi, located on a dramatic rocky headland at Antibes from July to December in 1946, creating lithographs, paintings, drawings and ceramics. We enjoyed the views from the windows of the stone Chateau, looking out over old Antibes and the rocky coast, particularly dramatic on a gusty day with an afternoon thunderstorm and waves crashing on to the rocks below.
One of the many highlights was the morning visit to the Fondation Maeght near Saint- Paul de Vence, with its eclectic collection of twentieth century art, sculpture, water features, ceramics and mosaics, set in and around buildings, courtyards, terraces and patios and a landscaped garden all designed by Josep Lluis Sert, with views over the foothills of the Alpes Maritimes. The current ‘must see’ item is the Mastaba – a pyramid 9m high, 17m long and 9 m wide, constructed entirely of coloured empty oil barrels, placed in the Giacometti Courtyard and created by Christo. After a pleasant, short stroll along an ancient lane, this visit was followed by a sumptuous and surprisingly relaxed lunch at Le Colombe d’Or, with its eclectic collection of paintings. A visit to the Matisse Chapel of the Rosary, planned and carried out by Henri Matisse for the Dominican Nuns of Monteils, provided a peaceful and inspirational end to a full day.
A further highlight was the visit to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild at Cap St Jean Cap Ferrat on a day of pouring rain and strong winds. The tour of the interior revealed much about Béatrice de Rothschild and her taste for luxurious and valuable furniture, ceramics and other objets d’art. Not only did the garden look enticing from inside the Villa, despite the reseeding of some of the lawns, but the poor weather was braved by all for a closer inspection of flower beds, terraces and fountains, all with views over the bay towards Nice.
This was a most enjoyable tour and thanks must be offered to Liz, who arranged it all, in conjunction with Ace Travel.