The Promenade des Anglais, affectionately known as “the Prom”, is one of the most beautiful seaside boulevards to be found and lucky me, I live right by it. Our new apartment is about a 3 minute walk to the sea and this lovely promenade.
A Place for Everyone…
On the wide pedestrian thoroughfare, you can see people walking, jogging, skating, and biking. (There are bike rental stations placed along the way for those with the urge to ride but no bike.) Others just sit and enjoy the view, either of the calming blue waves or of the sunbathers on the pebbly beach below.
The Sea Isn’t the Only Thing That’s Azure…
You might notice a definite blue theme going on here. The chairs are blue, many of the parasols on the beach are blue, the rental bikes are blue and even the bins (trash cans) are coordinated with the colour of the sea and sky.
But What About the Name?…
“Promenade des Anglais” means “avenue of the English”. So what is an English avenue doing in this French city? Well, to find out, we have to go back to the early 1800s. At this time, many wealthy English tourists were coming to Nice to spend their winters. They settled mainly in the area to the west of the Old Town, where they built villas and hotels as well as establishing their own Anglican church and cemetery.
They Wanted to Walk by the Sea…
Since many of these winter visitors came to the area for health reasons, they wanted to be able to walk or ride in their carriages along the sea and breathe in the health-restoring air. But that was difficult because the seafront was a marshy and rocky place at that time.
At the same time that these church-going, sun-seeking English visitors were dreaming of walking by the sea, another problem arose. The region was hit by hard times. Two seasons of bad harvests reduced many people in Nice to begging. And where did they go to ask for money? To the rich tourists, of course. But giving charity to those physically able to work was contrary to the early 19th century British mindset. They thought it demoralised the poor and led to dependence on handouts.
A Problem-Solving Priest
Reverend Lewis Way, the local Anglican priest came up with a brilliant plan. He saw the opportunity to remedy the problems of both the English and the Niçois with one project. He took up a collection among the English to build their seaside promenade. Then he hired the poor and unemployed to build it. It was a win-win situation. The English would have their healthy walks by the sea and the poor would find honourable work.
The English Can Promenade at Last
In 1824 the first promenade was completed. The modest unpaved walkway/road was 2 meters (6 ½ feet) wide. Officially it was called the “strada del littorale”, or “seaside road”, but the people of Nice called it “camin dei Inglés” which in French became the “Promenade des Anglais” (English Promenade) because it was financed by and used by the English community.
The Prom Grows and Grows
In 1835 the city took over the upkeep of “the Prom” and it has been enlarged and improved many times over the years. The result is what we see today – a wide boulevard with lanes for pedestrians, bikes, and automobiles, running along the magnificent azure sea. It is one of the loveliest promenades that you can find anywhere and is a great example of something beautiful being created by people working together to solve their problems.
Find Out More – You can read more about the history of Nice in my book, Curious Histories of Nice, France.
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Thank you for yet another interesting tale that I didn’t know, despite having lived in the area since 1980! Great blog Margo – I hope you’ll be able to keep finding more stories to tell us for many years to come.
Hi Clare, I’m glad you like my stories. I am very interested in history and always curious to find out why things are the way they are. Thanks so much for the nice comment. I’ll do my best to keep finding interesting tales for you. 🙂
What a great story, Margo! Win-win…and a win for us today. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. Just goes to show how valuable cross-cultural tourism can be.
Thank you Jonelle. You are right, tourism is beneficial for the tourist as well as for the host country. Everyone wins. Oh, that makes me want to go plan a trip. 😉
Me too ! And the trip I want to plan is back to Nice 😀
That’s a Great idea! 🙂
Hi Margo. My husband and I, (Joe Eastwood) are members of GENISTAR LTD. and it is through this that I have been introduced to your lovely blogs which I thoroughly enjoy reading – I also love your drawings! Joe and I visited Nice for a long weekend about 5 years ago – for our 20th Wedding Anniversary – we’re celebrating our 25th Anniversary this November! Nice is such a lovely, historic place. We went on the little ‘Tourist Train’ – it went through the very narrow, very windy ‘road’ which takes you up to the top of the hill where there’s a llittle cafe. You can sit and sip a lovely, cool drink whilst looking down at the wonderful scenery below. I’m disabled so can’t walk far but I remember walking slowly down to the beach and, because it was lovely and warm, we stopped at one of the local cafes. We stopped there for ages, watching the w-i-d-e variety of different shaped ladies walking down to the sunbeds from their exclusive Hotels or apartments which overlook the wide ‘English Promenade’ – Margo, maybe you were there with Jeff at the same time? Lovely memories – lucky you!
Hello Anne, It is nice to hear from you. Congratulations on your upcoming anniversary! Hope it will be as nice as the 20th was. I’m glad to know that Nice had a part to play in it and that it left you with happy memories. I think it is a great place and yes, there is a good chance that we were here at the same time as you. By the way, the hill that you went up to in the little train is the “castle hill” that I wrote about in the last article. Here is the link in case you missed it.
Thanks for sharing your memories. All the best, Margo.
Having recently retired and moved to Nice from Canada with my husband, I am so delighted with your articles. I too love history and want to learn as much as I can about this beautiful city.
Hello and welcome to Nice! It is just a wonderful place to retire, I’m sure you will love it. If you would like to get together some time, drop me a note through the “contact” tab at the top of the page. All the best! -Margo
Wow! Great blog! I saw this place through the news regarding the Truck/Terrorist attack on Nice, France.
Unexpected and sad event, I know, but I couldn’t help to admire the seaside. The blue ocean, nice walkway and hotels. One thing intrigued me is the name itself. Why does it sound so English yet on French soil? And voila! I stumbled on your blog.
Funny isn’t it? The fancy way of English do have its advantage. Lol
Yes, the British have had a great influence on this city, and we still enjoy many of their improvements today. Thanks for commenting.
I regret that you’re very lovely blog is receiving so many visits through such a terrible circumstance. Thank you for helping a worldwide, saddened community understand the place that was so tragically impacted. Blessings to you.
Thank you so much for your kind words. Nice is a place I truly love, and we are all so saddened by the terrible blow our city has received. Thank you again for writing.
All the best, ~Margo