Located on the south-east coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast. The natural beauty of the Nice area and its mild climate came to the attention of the English upper classes in the second half of the 18th century when an increasing number of aristocratic families took to spending their winters there. The city’s main seaside promenade, the Promenade des Anglais (‘the Walkway of the English’) owes its name to the earliest visitors to the resort. Nice is one of France’s most visited cities, receiving 4 million tourists every year. In 2007, when travelling on Busabout with my then 16-year-old granddaughter, we experienced this city in the Côte d’Azur with the amazing bright blue water that gave it its name.
I have read that in 1897 Nice opened the first wholesale cut flower market in the world. The growers in the hills would bring down their cut flowers every morning. After the wholesalers had made their bulk purchases, the market would be opened for individuals to buy their bouquets. Thanks to the railroads, loads of cut flowers were shipped from Nice to cities across France and Europe every day for almost 100 years.
Only one street back from the seafront, Cours Saleya is a mainly-pedestrianized street/square which hosts a daily market. This is ranked by France’s National Council for the Culinary Arts as being one of the country’s special markets. It is split between its famous flower market selling bucketfuls of blooms and a magnificent food market at the eastern end with long trestle tables displaying exotic spices, shiny fruit and vegetables, pastries and glacéd fruits (glazed or candied fruits such as figs, ginger, tangerine and pears) and more.
In the shade of pretty striped awnings, hundreds of flowers made for a wonderful display. There were irresistible multi-coloured roses, orchids, geraniums, intense mauve fuschias, dahlias and vivid impatiens being sold by the nursery vendors. The air was filled with the fragrance of these beautiful flowers and the atmosphere was alive as both locals and visitors meandered, either just looking (and not touching) or making purchases from their favourite stalls. Lined by restaurants and cafés, it is the perfect place for breakfast or just to sip coffee and people-watch. It is no doubt one of the most active spots in Nice.
Annually, during the month of October, in the Cathedral Sainte Reparate (in Place Rosetti, in charming old Nice), florists embellish and illuminate the building for the Feast of the Holy Flower to display their highly artistic craft. It is open for all to marvel at the expertise, creativity and talent of the participating florists. This event was established in 1996 and there is now a national holiday.