October in Scotland has been, on occasion, described as so windy, “it’ll cut ye in half”. Locking myself indoors over this month to re-learn how to study has arguably been made easier by the poor weather. With the first month of my PhD done, and the piles of books I need to read steadily increasing, a kindly offer from my incredibly talented and successful bestie from Vancouver, to meet in Nice for a weekend, was pure class.
My last rendezvous with Nice was in 2008 (the youthful and relatively tattoo free main picture dates to then); the sights and smells of Nice are summed up for me by ‘ça m’a marqué’. To walk the Promenade des Anglais again in the October sunshine was a welcome change of study space.I wish I could say that I studiously read up on much of the history of Nice, but that would be a lie. We came for sun, beaches and the famous cuisine that characterize this gorgeous little spot of paradise.The open-air markets had spectacular varieties of sea salts and spices, with dried herbs and lavender filling the air in the narrow winding streets.
For a few short days, the ambling life was pretty spectacular. But the itch to see some of the ancient history in Nice was more powerful than delicious paté and fancy cocktails.
Site Archéologiques de Nice-Cimiez
Though in the city centre of Vieulle Nice the shops and amenities were all bustling, Sunday morning in the outskirts of town was effectively closed for business. The imperative task of finding coffee and croissants before exploring Roman ruins was nearly impossible. Eventually, we secured essential pastries and found the archaeological site of Cemenelum. The hilltop archaeological park is situated in the fairly posh and residential neighborhood of Cimiez, and contains a small but interesting portion of the Roman baths.
This Roman city was built not far from an established Greek city, Nikaia, and under Augustus, it became the capital of the province of Alpes Maritmae, with occupation and development into the 4th century AD.
The bath complex and partial roads that remain were part of a bustling military encampment, servicing the legions as they passed through or remained stationed there. Some estimates have placed the inhabitants at 10,000, with a decent amount of seating in the amphitheater, back when it still had seats.
The face of habitation changed over time, and even with incursions from hostile tribes, Cemenelum maintained a community of Christians into the 7th and 8th centuries AD. The evidence of this phase is present in the houses that were built into the abandoned baths.
After a solid hike up to the site, it was time for a few remaining hours on the beach, and one last swim in the Mediterranean. With the first month of my PhD over, and the piles of books to read getting ever higher, a sunny weekend of ambling around in Nice was the perfect excursion as fall quickly turns to winter. Merci pour ce merveilleux voyage ma chère amie!
A la bientot!