Henri Matisse Museum, La Massara and More in Nice
Escaping to the beauty that is Monte Carlo, Monaco, sometimes leaves an inspired explorer feeling lethargic. Picturesque palm trees, sailboats floating ever so gently and luxurious amenities at every corner entrance passerby, hypnotizing them into utmost tranquility.
Therefore, we opted to forego buses and trains on the third day of our trip to the French Riviera. We would simply “take it easy”, and explore Nice at a leisurely pace by foot. Sounds relaxing, right?
Once we finished eating breakfast in our petite Niçoise apartment, we embarked on a journey to explore the coastal city for a second time.
A splendidly warm day called for a visit to the Henri Matisse museum. Set in the rosy pink Villa des Arènes, a 17th-century villa standing proudly in the Cimiez neighborhood, the museum boasts an extensive Matisse collection. According to its website, the Henri Matisse museum contains 68 paintings and gouaches, 236 drawings, 218 prints, 57 sculptures and 14 books – all created by Matisse himself.
The French artist contributed greatly to the modern art movement, with paintings like “The Dance” and “Les Capucines” contributing to his popularity to this day. Despite Matisse’s masterful creations, I fell in love with his designs for the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence. Interestingly enough, Matisse, an atheist, created the church as a sign of gratitude to his friend and muse, Sister Jacques-Marie.
A few stained glass windows, sketches, models and chasubles filled one room of the museum, granting visitors a glimpse into Matisse’s creative process. Utilizing his famous “cut-out” method, Matisse’s designs for the church evoke a sense of divine simplicity – an appropriate characteristic for a Dominican chapel.
Jewel-toned purple, green and yellow stained glass windows add a spirited glimmer to Matisse’s modest black-and-white murals, dramatizing the space tastefully in a respectful manner. If you have the opportunity to visit the chapel itself in Vence, you should!
Filled with inspiration, we then sauntered across the villa’s lawn for a coffee. Café au lait in hand, we observed a group of old men dressed in white button-down shirts and dress pants playing a game of boules. The click and clack of metal balls on the crisp green grass, coupled with the soft sway of trees, made for a delightfully authentic afternoon in Nice.
And then hunger struck. We found ourselves craving Italian food after a few days of French cuisine, so we opted to dine at La Massara located on Rue Halévy. When our dishes appeared, we knew we selected the right restaurant.
Fragrant, fluffy, filling – three characteristics of a perfect calzone. Yes, I was hungry (and on vacation), so I convinced myself a few bites of the prosciutto and mozzarella-filled wonder wouldn’t hurt. Each forkful proved irresistible to the eye and tongue. Clearly, chefs roaming the French Riviera are masters of Italian cuisine as well.
Finishing the meal with digestifs (limoncello is mandatory), we headed “home” satisfied as ever. As my eyes closed while reposing in bed, I couldn’t wait to see what our last day in the Côte d’Azur would bring.
FEATURED ATTRACTIONS & RESTAUTANTS
The Matisse Museum
164, Ave. des Arènes de Cimiez, Nice, France
Phone: (+33) (0)49-381-0808
Hours: 10 AM-6 PM Monday-Sunday, closed Wednesdays
Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence
466 Avenue Henri Matisse, Vence, France
Hours: 205:30 PM Monday, Wednesday, Saturday
10-11:30 AM, 2-5:30 PM Tuesdays and Thursdays
Closed Fridays and Sundays
11 Rue Halévy, Nice, France
Hours: Noon-3 PM; 7-11 PM most days