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Nice is irresistably frivolous, like a dotty and unexpectedly girlish old lady. From the crisp meringue of the Belle Époque hotels on the Promenade des Anglais, to the candy-colored buildings along the Cours Saleya, it is a thoroughly delicious city. Everyone who visits Nice falls in love with the palm-shaded walks along the eight-km/five-mile sea front on the Baie des Anges, with Antibes in the distance. In the Mont Boron Forestry Park (created in 1866 with the planting of 142 acres of Aleppo pines) visitors climb miles of marked paths in search of rare flowers (wild orchids, lentiscus, miniature carnations) or to savor the views of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. Or they are drawn to the exquisite daily flower market on the Cours Saleya. Nice flirts with tourists and knowing that it is a well-practiced flirtation doesn't diminish its charm in the least. Nice has been a destination for visitors longer than you might imagine. Some 400,000 years ago, when ice sheets covered most of Europe, elephant hunters, possibly chasing a herd across from Africa, set up temporary residence. They knew how to pick a good spot. Their camp was near the center of modern Nice on Boulevard Carnot, not far from the Port – still a good location. They left enough of their shelter and tools for paleontologists to identify the settlement. The Terra Amata Human Paleontology Museum is now located at the site. The Niçois have catered to a steady stream of visitors for nearly 150 years. Much of what is attractive and alluring about Nice today is a result of the waves of visitors who have come here and shaped their surroundings for their own pleasure. From the Victorian period onward, Nice attracted wealthy foreign tourists. English aristocrats came first, building their gingerbread mansions in the Cimiez quarter and their sparkling Belle Époque hotels along the seafront named in their honor – The Promenade des Anglais. Countless important artists came here to work and some, like Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse, stayed – Matisse remaining for the rest of his life. The last major town on the French Riviera before the Italian border is a Baroque masterpiece. It is hard to imagine an angle from which Menton could not be painted. Many artists did paint in Menton. Yet, given the profligate way important artists of the 19th and 20th century showered the Riviera with attention, only a few – Monet, Renoir, Dufy – actually painted it. Could it be because the town is a work of art itself? Nature and man seem to have conspired in creating a perfect composition. Squeezed between a dramatic Alpine amphitheater and the mountain-shadowed sea (the Mediterranean is an undeniably darker blue here), Menton sparkles in endless sunshine. From the old harbor, the old town – the heart of Menton – climbs steeply up the Colla Rogna hill, its ochre-colored houses arranged higgledy-piggledy around streets that near the top are little more than wide staircases. About halfway up, the Basilique Saint Michel Archange gives Menton its striking profile. The church, set before a plaza paved with the Grimaldi coat of arms, is considered one of the best examples of Baroque architecture on the Riviera. Not far from it, the more Rococo Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs sits behind an ornate facade of pinnacles, friezes and garlands. Higher up, the houses are medieval and several of the narrow streets are vaulted. If the old town is a treasure trove of medieval and Baroque monuments, the "new town" is a bijou example of Belle Époque style and finesse. Like Nice and the surrounding area, it was "discovered" by wealthy English and Imperial Russian tourists from the mid-19th century onward. They filled the new town with their mansions and "follies" and gave the community fabulous public gardens full of palms and exotic plants. Where else would you find Seville orange trees lining the avenues as shade trees? Visit Menton at the right time of year and breakfast drops right into your hand. Menton is linked by dozens of footpaths to at least four nearby hilltop villages. Set on the crests of the mountains that encircle the town, they offer fascinating glimpses into the past – from Roman chapels to Baroque churches and from medieval seigneurial castles through to modern fortifications. Trails range from leisurely walks to strenuous hikes, opening up to breathtaking views. The paths are well-worn and once you arrive you won't be alone. Most of these little hamlets are full of art galleries, artists' studios and restaurants. Everything you need, and want, to know is here: The history, the culture, what to see and do, where to eat, where to stay, and much more. Loaded with color photos and maps.

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