Yes, you could have blown me away with a feather too, but indeed, there is a Statue of Liberty in Nice.

After work was carried out in 2013 to widen the pavement along Quai des Etats-Unis, a small-scale bronze replica of Auguste Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty “enlightening the world” was inaugurated on the 1st February 2014 by Christian Estrosi, Deputy-Mayor of Nice and President of the Metropole Côte d’Azur.


To date it is the smallest of Bartholdi‘s posthumous statues as it measures only 1m35 and weighs 80 kg. It has been given extra height with a 2m high base. This replica, signed by Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904), was bought in 2011 by the municipality of Nice for €110,630.

Situated on the Quai des Etats-Unis you will find it positioned between the beach-fronted Hotel Mercure and The Opera (keep the Port of Nice in your back and head towards the very tall bronze/rusty-looking metal sculpture known as Neuf Lignes Obliques). For some unknown reason, I envisaged Nice’s Statue of Liberty ‘closer to home’ and at the top end of Quai des Etats-Unis, by the pillars leading into Cours Saleya where the stone lintel spanning the archway is engraved with a dedication to President Wilson and the American people.


If you didn’t know this already, Quai des Etats-Unis was originally called Quai du Midi, taken from the old Niçois name “Riba dòu miejour” (rive du Midi –  South bank) and which formed part of the Nouveau Terrace which was built on the rubble of the city’s ramparts. In honour of the United States and President Wilson’s decision to enter World War I alongside the Allies, on May 1, 1917, the City Council renamed it and it has remained Quai des Etats-Unis ever since.


Out of interest, you can find here a list of all the other copies and replicas of the Statue of Liberty to be found around the world. It makes fascinating reading.

It is not often that I write bad news about the French Riviera. Especially not about thunderstorms. In fact, I don’t think I ever have even though I’ve experienced several ‘corkers’ at my dad used to call them.

One in 2010 sticks in my mind as I was driving along the A8 and had just passed Aix-en-Provence. The skies darkened and one almighty storm erupted. Rain became a deluge and the road and sky merged to become one grey mass. Thankfully I was in my Range Rover and, accompanied by my stalwart driving companion, a friend who has been through a number of adventures with me, we sallied on, both frightened but neither daring to show the other. Within half an hour the storm has moved on, turned and travelled away from the Riviera – the sun was shining by the time we arrived in Chateauneuf-de-Grasse.

But this Saturday, 4th October 2015, I experienced a storm that will enter the annuals of Riviera storms. 17 people died and 4 are still missing and this death toll may well rise. Rather than moving on, as I think everyone expected, this thunderstorm remained, looping round and round – with lightning bouncing off thunderclouds – for hours. It was a spectacular show – but a murderous one this time.


Cannes was one of the worst affected areas with the train station flooded and a torrent of water sweeping through the centre of the town. Cannes mayor David Lisnard said: “Some cars were carried off into the sea. We have rescued a lot of people, and we must now be vigilant against looting.”

The city of Nice is estimated to have received 10% of its average yearly rainfall in two days alone. Some Palais Nikaia concert goers attending a show by French 72 year old rock veteran Johnny Hallyday had to sleep overnight there after becoming stranded.

The river Brague burst its banks, sending water coursing into nearby towns and cities.

Valluris was also hard hit with roads closed and walls collapsing under the sheer weight of the water.


French President Francois Hollande announced a state of “natural disaster” in the affected region and visited the retirement home in the town of Biot where three elderly people died after their care home flooded. He urged residents in the region to remain cautious, saying: “It’s not over.”

Eric Ciotti, president of the Alpes-Maritimes department, tweeted: “We have lived through an apocalyptic situation that we have never experience before.”

The A8 motorway was closed, trains halted and hundreds of tourists sought shelter at Nice airport overnight. About 10,000 homes were still without power on Sunday evening, mainly in Cannes.

Three people died inside their cars after flash floods rose inside a mini-tunnel between Vallauris and Golfe-Juan. The bodies of 5 people were found in underground car parks in Mandelieu while the body of a woman was discovered near a car park in Cannes.

Eric Ciotti, president of the Alpes-Maritimes department, tweeted: “We have lived through an apocalyptic situation that we have never experienced before.”

Unbelievably I remained safe but I know many others who suffered flood damage. And my heart goes out to the families who have lost a loved one.

The French Riviera is an incredible region with a beauty that still takes my breath away. But we should be aware of the unexpected dangers Gaia can throw at us – even in paradise.

Photos courtesy of Nice-Matin.

The Blue Chairs of the Promenade des Anglais have become as iconic as the Promenade they grace.

In 1950 with the increase of tourism to Nice, the Ville de Nice ordered 800 chairs from Monsieur Ballanger, who held the concession for renting out chairs on the Promenade des Anglais. These could be hired for a modest sum, for which, upon payment you would be handed a receipt with the words “droit de s’asseoir” (permission to sit).

When Ballanger received the order he arranged a meeting with Charles Tordo, who lived in the perched village of Tourrette-Levens. Tordo was renowned for his inventive and creative work and had a number of patents for folding furniture and had won the Concours Lépine ten times for his inventions.

Tordo set to designing the chairs which he decided to make from the wood of Beech and Plantain trees (obtained from the forests of Belvédère situated in the hills above Nice) and bolting the planks to a metal frame. As he was already working full-time during the day, with the help of his family, Tordo worked every evening and Sunday to meet Ballanger’s deadline.

Why Blue?

Of course – the big question is why are these chairs blue? Is it be to be in harmony with the azure sea or pay homage to the workers, dressed in blue overalls, who repaired the Promenade des Anglais after the WW2? In fact, it is neither. It is simply because that particular shade of blue was in vogue when holidays along the Riviera (and particularly Nice and Cannes) became fashionable in the 1950s.

After delivery at his workshop Tordo would dry the wood, saw it up into planks and sandpaper them down. They were then bolted to pre-formed metal tubes. Once assembled the chairs were taken outside, painted blue and left to air dry.  When ready they were taken down to Nice where Monsieur Ballanger distributed them along the Promenade des Anglais.

Over the years the chairs went through a number of changes – notably that they were no longer made out of wood – but the colour blue remained although the shade changed slightly. Upon the death of Monsieur Ballanger, the concession ended and the chairs were no longer made.

Change of Design

In the 1970s, the Ville de Nice commissioned another batch of chairs with a company based in the Haute Loire.

Blue Chairs of the PromenadeThe present model, redesigned by the French designer and architect, Jean-Michel Wilmotte, were painted sky blue to complement the azure waters of the Baie des Anges, and placed on the Promenade in 1996. The Ville de Nice ordered 2,000 of these very elegant chairs, but due to “misappropriation” (ie. stolen as they could be easily picked up) only around 700 were left.

During clashes involving anti-capitalist demonstrators that erupted at the European Union summit in Nice in 2000, dozens of the blue chairs had to be withdrawn from service after they had been hurled at riot police and damaged.

In the summer of 2003 the Promenade des Anglais lost its traditional blue chairs as, according to the mayor’s office, problems with the company responsible for maintaining the chairs deprived the city of one of its most enduring symbols and the Wilmotte chairs were placed in storage. Their absence must have dismayed both regulars and tourists alike who so enjoyed sitting and looking out across the stunning Baie des Anges. When the chairs re-emerged they had been welded together in batches of 10…

Giant 2-Dimensional Blue Chair

On Saturday, 4th October 2014, a giant 2-dimensional blue chair was unveiled by Christian Estrosi, deputy-mayor of Nice and President of the Métropole Nice Côte d’Azur in the presence of the Niçoise artist, Sabine Géraudite.  Entitled “Oeuvre de SAB inspirée de la Chaise bleue de la Promenade des Anglais” (translation: Work of SAB inspired by the Promenade des Anglais blue chair) it is an homage the artist wanted to make to these iconic chairs for many years.

AMB_Nice_Blue Chair_promenade des Anglais-2

This two-dimensional sculpture, set upon a cement block, measures 3 metres high and is situated opposite Avenue des Phocéens (located next to Jardin Albert 1er) and near to two other interesting sculptures: the Neuf Lignes Obliques and Statue of Liberty.

As a byline, the French-born American artist, Arman (Armand Fernandez) gave homage to these “chairs”  in 2004 at MAMAC.

Copyright: La Griotte à Nice
Copyright: La Griotte à Nice

The sculpture, a gift by the artist, entitled “Camin dei Ingles, 2004” adorns one of the four glass surfaces of MAMAC’s interior court and is a monumental 3D sculpture containing hundreds of blue chairs.

Lastly, you can discover a different form of art prizing these iconic blue chairs at Artnice located 2 rue Droite in Old Nice (located between Palais Lascaris and Place Saint-François).


In 2009 the Tourrette-Levens municipality paid homage to Charles Tordo, the creator of the ‘Chaises bleues de la promenade’ by naming a square after him.

There is no denying – you simply cannot miss noticing the Fontaine du Soleil on Place Masséna in Nice – especially now that a statue of Apollo stands tall and proud in the middle of it.

I remember this fountain ‘sans’ Apollo – when last visiting Nice in 2010 – and thought how beautiful and impressive it was. So I was keen to see how the addition of Apollo added to the ensemble. As it turned out, after a bit of research I discovered that this fountain also comes with a wonderful story.

As you see it today, the fountain is made up of 5 bronze sculptures that depict Earth, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, and Venus with, in its centre, a 7 meters (23 foot) tall marble statue of Apollo weighing 7 tons.

AMB_Nice_Fontaine du Soleil

The story goes that the French sculptor, 
Alfred Auguste Janniot (he sculpted the beautiful Monument aux Morts located at Rauba Capeu), began work on a group of bronze statues between 1934 and 1937 (following plans drawn up by the architect Roger Séassal) but had not made a start on Apollo when the Second World War broke out. To safeguard his work the bronze statues were buried in a garden to keep them from being destroyed. Once the war was over they were dug up and Janniot completed the statue of Apollo. The unveiling, which took place on the 12th August 1956, caused a commotion.

While many onlookers stared in shock and disappointment at Apollo’s tiny crown (representing his chariot and four horses) it would be Apollo’s manhood (considered far too prominent) that unsettled the local Nicois. To quell the people’s growing displeasure at such an abomination, Janniot was called back ‘to make adjustments’ and, armed with hammer and chisel, chipped Apollo’s offending manhood into a more acceptable size.

AMB_Nice_Fontaine du Soleil-2

But by the 1970s, fed up by the constant fuss and remarks (in particular by the Catholic women’s ‘League of Feminine Virtue’) the municipality had both the fountain and its naked sculptures dismantled and taken away. Apollo was relegated to stand at the entrance of Charles-Ehrmann football stadium while the bronze statues were placed at one of Nice’s water purification plants.

Then everything was forgotten about.

That is until 2007 when a reporter researching about water treatment accidentally came across the bronze statues and made mention of them in his article. This in turn brought both the fountain and bronze sculptures back into the public eye again and caused them to be reinstalled on Place Masséna that same year: all except Apollo that is.

AMB_Nice_Fontaine du Soleil-3

However with works on the installation of tramways and renovations to Place Masséna finally completed in 2011, a number of sculptures were added to Place Masséna. Seven resin statues (representing the seven continents) created by Jaume Plensa, a Spanish artist specialised in monumental art and one marble statue: Apollo.

In front of an enormous crowd and amidst an incredible light and sound extravaganza, on the eve of the first day of summer on Monday 20th June 2011 at 21h00, the Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, unveiled the reinstated statue of Apollo.

And he has remained every since.

MSC Divina

The thought of cruising the Mediterranean is a fantastic idea. A break of 7 or 10 days away from home to discover new lands with one day allocated to discover the French Riviera.

In reality that one day is really 8 hours when you factor in tendering, traffic and parking: sometimes it can be just 6 hours.

Which begs the question – is it possible to see the French Riviera within that time frame? And would you get to see the real French Riviera? More importantly, would you remember it?

Such was my question yesterday when I gave a private guided tour to a lovely American couple who were on their first cruise to the Mediterranean. After meeting them at Quai Laubeuf and strolling along the port and La Croisette, we then journeyed by car to Phare de la Garoupe where we stopped for a picnic and marvelled at the incredible panorama that stretched before us.

After a stroll around Nice we stopped for an Espresso on Place Rossetti. As it happened we arrived in Nice during the film preparation of A Bag of Marbles and drove past German soldiers, trucks and WW2 Jeeps all grouped along the Promenade des Anglais. After parking the car and arriving in Cours Saleya we found the Palais de la Prefecture rigged up as the Hotel Excelsior with local police busy tow trucking vehicles out of the way. As I write this it seems we missed the unfurling of a giant Nazi banner over the front of the Prefecture and the commotion it caused…

With coffee over we then made our way to Monaco with the hope of having time to stop at Monte-Carlo. But ‘Time’ reared its ugly head and so we only drove round what I can only describe as ‘Cement City’ before we made our way back to Cannes and awaiting cruise ship.

The glitz, glamour and somewhat idiosyncratic nature of this region is evident to all who come to visit. Indeed, it is a major attraction – but there is more to the French Riviera than that.

If you are thinking of taking a Mediterranean cruise in 2016 I’d be more than happy to be your private tour guide. I promise you will remember your visit long after you’ve returned home – and yes, you can have a picnic too.

Valbonne’s market, along with that of Antibes, Nice and Cannes, is, I think, one of the best on the French Riviera and perhaps the most difficult to photograph.

Shards of astonishing bright sunlight cut through the shadows thrown by 16th century arches, awnings and tall village houses. The cobbled streets are narrow giving little room to manoeuvre or step back: it’s a challenge to say the least.


AMB-2Held every Friday morning, the market starts in the heart of the village, Place des Arcades, and extends outwards and through the adjoining streets. While it may seem a jumble of stalls extending every which way, the municipal police are on hand to make sure no-one over steps their allotted space – and that the ends and beginning of streets are in plain view at all times.

AMB-7Like most markets, it is noisy, busy and colourful and I was eager to return and photograph it – plus feast my eyes on a wonderful medley of stalls. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I do feel somewhat self-conscious when I’m out and about taking photos: my Nikon D800 is big and noticeable. I’m always in two minds whether or not I should introduce myself and hand-over my business card. But then again, most of the time I forget to bring them. So it’s a smile, a bit of chit-chat (thankfully I speak French) and then a wave and a nod by way of thank you.

You will find a longer article about Valbonne here but suffice to say that, if you haven’t yet discovered this charming village – then you have missed something very special.

Valbonne’s Market Day
Every Friday 08h00 through to 13h00


Since returning to Nice and more especially the Promenade des Anglais, it’s been fun discovering some of the changes that have occurred during the five years I have been living in England.

Apart from the Promenade du Paillon, which I will write about in a future article, there is a major feature on the Promenade that cannot be ignored: ‘Neuf Lignes Obliques’ created by the French artist, Bernar Venet.

Neuf Lignes ObliquesCreated to mark the 150th anniversary of the annexation of the County of Nice by France, you will find this 30m high Corten steel monument (and weighing in at an impressive 40 tonnes) just in front of the Esplande George Pompidou, itself located between Hotel Beau Rivage and the Opera House.

Inaugurated the 31st May 2010 by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi the monument is said to symbolize the nine valleys of the old County of Nice and surrounding mountains overlooking the Mediterranean.

Personally I think if would have been more fitting to have had it placed in the Promenade du Paillon, near to Bernar Venet’s other monumental creation:  the ‘Arc de Venet – 115°5’. I find it jars somewhat with the beauty of the promenade and magnificent curve of the Baie des Anges.

Stepping inside the gates of the private estate Villa Santo Sospir on Cap-Ferrat, you are embarking upon a very unique lesson in art history.

From the moment I received the invite to visit Villa Santo Sospir I knew this was going to be something special.  In fact, I have held off writing about the villa for over two years because, quite frankly, it felt like one of those secrets you just wanted to keep for yourself.

The legendary Villa Santo Sospir was owned by the socialite Francine Weisweiller and her husband Eric, who spent most of his time in Paris with his mistress. After Francine’s death in 2003, it was passed down to her daughter Carole, but in order to avoid the huge inheritance tax and because of the nature of the villa, it has now been classified as an historical monument.

The idyllic setting, located on the southeastern tip of the exclusive Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, close to the landmark lighthouse on the peninsula, is somewhat in contrast to the non-traditional activities held back in the day with a house consistently full of family and friends. If you are an art history buff, you will love to hear the juicy details of an interweaving group of friendships installed in the villa. These friendships brought not only lots of love and creativity, but also jealousy and sometimes even volatility.


Property manager Eric, who started off being a nurse for the late socialite long before her death, has continued to live in the villa as the entrusted caretaker and guide to this day. His love for the place truly shines through in how well it is maintained and he will patiently guide you from room to room, telling you stories about the wild parties, from those in the art world to the sometimes sad and lonely times of Francine.

As part of the story goes, in the Spring of 1950, Francine Weisweiller invited the artist Jean Cocteau to the villa for dinner and basically he and his handsome boyfriend (otherwise known as his “adopted son”) Edouard Dermit ended up moving in and staying for 13 years. Initially Francine’s villa was painted all white inside. Looking at it like a canvas, Cocteau offered to do a drawing over the fireplace in the main living room. Over time the whole house ended up like a piece of art, mosaic flooring, walls and even the ceilings were covered with his work and all in representation of the individuals and the lives they were leading there to the point Cocteau nicknamed the villa “the tattooed house”.


Here it seemed Cocteau was able to experiment with his art (it didn’t hurt to have the financial backing of Francine either); he even directed a film at this location titled, “La Villa Santo-Sospir”. Over the years many famous notables such as Marlene Dietrich came by (who ignored Francine on visits and only spoke with Jean), along with Greta Garbo (who apparently said very little), Coco Chanel (drinking companions) and even Pablo Picasso was a regular visitor.

When I was being shown around, I was told that during one of the big parties in the villa, Picasso was upset that Jean Cocteau was allowed to do his art work all over the house and he thought he should be given areas to do as well, so he took it upon himself to start with the fronts and backs of the doors, also leaving behind some of his ceramic pieces as well. That story was tame, but there are many fascinating stories about sex and drugs to go with living a life of leisure in the villa, but I don’t want to divulge all the intriguing details and secrets, just to suggest if you are in the French Riviera, Villa Santo Sospir is well worth the visit.

From my understanding Eric doesn’t take huge groups on a tour of the villa, which is a good thing. I would advise you to set up an appointment ahead of time – this is a very special, private tour, so don’t expect to just show up at the estate (which is protected) and be let in.

Meeting with Eric is a story within itself, he is very generous, caring and will make sure that you get the most from your visit. He can be contacted for visits to the villa through the official Villa Santo Sospir website.

Lead image courtesy Villa Santo Sospir website; all other images courtesy Jameson Farn

Note from the editor: This article was first published in Riviera Buzz in May 2013. I would like to express my sincere thanks to Riviera Buzz and in particular to Iarla Byrne in granting me permission to reprint this excellent article written by Jameson Farn.

Continuing with the animal theme to raise awareness, yet again, for Leslie Frasier of the Chats du Mercantour…….

Leslie has fought tirelessly for her feline friends for some ten years now.

Having recently moved out to a lovely grange outside of Saint-Etienne-de-Tinée, which Leslie and her partner are lovingly restoring, there has been the opportunity for Leslie to take on and home, not just chats, but chevaux…..

Alba, Louise, willyThe first arrivals were three gorgeous donkeys belonging to Lydie, a great supporter of Leslie, (Zazou the crazy cat loves to sit on their backs!), then in came rescue horses (& mule) – Osane, Obélisk, Margot, and more recently, Elliot.


Leslie and Lydie do have grass mowers on tap, but also need to encourage kind people to sponsor the equines. Their upkeep is rather more scarey than for a cat – imagine even just the annual hay bill!

This is a great opportunity for people to pay – even a tiny amount per month – to support their chosen adoptee. There are plenty of animal lovers out there without the land, time, experience or funding, for whom this gesture goes part way at least, to having involvement with a deserving animal and friend. All contributions are tax deductible too!

Sponsors can be sure of updates on the welfare of their charge and are welcome to visit, and lend a hand at Leslie’s place – willing hands always appreciated – even if you have the time but no spare cash.

IMG_8143Leslie is just over an hour north of Nice – a beautiful drive and stacks of fresh mountain air.

This time of year is desperately busy – with a huge huge amount of cute kittens looking for homes, as well of course as older cats which are much more difficult to place.

Ensure pet care is part of your holiday “to do” list

Furthermore, and a sad indictment of the attitude of some pet owners today, it is the time of year when pets are turfed out on the street to fend for themselves as their owners head off on holiday. Many owners, off to tan themselves – without a care it seems – not bothering to find a neighbour, a house sitter, a cattery/kennel facility – or even worse leaving their dog tied to a motorway bridge with a bowl of water. The ultimate disposability??

Please be aware and assist if you can – tens of thousands of animals will suffer this plight in the next few weeks – and all manner of authorities will have to pick up the pieces and appeal to already heaving refuges.

Leslie Frasier
06 18 94 35 76
32 rue Droite
06660 St Etienne de Tinée

Liz Lord

In rural France, the presence of stray cats napping in the sun is an integral part of the image of village life – as evocative as a battered 2CV, a game of boules, and an apéro at a local bar.

The reality can be much harsher – if a cat has nine lives, it also has the scary ability to reproduce at an alarming rate – and a burgeoning feline population becomes a plague. Catching some of the cats to be put to sleep is not a practical solution, as their remaining brethren will continue to multiply apace.

The Alpes-Maritimes (06) is fortunate enough to have a saviour in Leslie Frasier, who has lived in France for many years, and advocates the capture and sterilisation of strays – these lucky animals may then be placed in kind homes, or released back into their territory, where they keep an effective guard against fertile incomers. Even older or antisocial cats, have their paradise, in two granges near Saint Etienne de Tinée, where they can live independently – but still be fed and keep warm and dry.

Leslie’s Association ( has treated over 2000 cats since its creation back in 2006. Leslie’s work takes her all over the Alpes-Maritimes to deal with all sorts of cases – from nuisance village strays, to pets having lost their owners, and hardship cases. The task is enormous, and mightily expensive – to capture/sterilise/microchip/treat just one cat can cost up to €150 – yes just one!

Les chats du Mercantour2After a recent visit to Leslie, I can assure you that her phone NEVER stops – kind-hearted, immensely patient, and with a veterinary background. She is the local animal expert and not just for cats………. her own beautiful home is surrounded by fields…. housing – donkeys , a mule and a pony.

Leslie works tirelessly – and holds down a job! – supported by a band of volunteers who fund raise, serve as temporary Familles d’Accueil, and offer their time. There is some support from local communities but certainly not enough.
With time and/or money to spare, animal lovers can easily lend a hand – with admin, event manning, sponsoring an animal (donations are tax deductible!) if you don’t have the possibility of owning one yourself, offering a temporary foster home, passing on your unwanted towels……..

Have a look at the website and be inspired…. even a small gesture makes a big difference.

Consider too, having your own animals spayed, and, if looking to adopt a cat – don’t spend hundreds on a spoilt pedigree – take in a kitten, or an older cat that really needs a home and keep it for life!

A fellow animal lover – Tania Burrows is also active in the Alpes-Maritimes – rescuing and homing dogs and cats.

Les Chats du Mercantour are on Facebook.

Leslie Frasier
Tania Burrows