In retrospect, coastal French cities are a terrible place to take an old VW van when you are eighteen and have no experience driving abroad, or in general really. Having traversed the south coast of France it was time to take the van back to more comfortable climes in the mountains or in the countryside, instead, we headed into the heart of the city. My misguided belief that this was a good road trip destination and would provide a good camp spot was just stupid, and it was a shame that we happened to be visiting the city of Nice days after one of its most tragic events.
Bastille day is one of great joy and happiness in France, celebrating the storming of the Bastille in Paris in 1789, marking the beginning of the revolution. It brings friends and families together to party and spend time with each other. Revelling and reconnecting, people spend the day eating, drinking and laughing, watching the military parade and dancing. The highlight of the day is the fireworks which illuminate the night sky, sending bursts of light out over villages, towns and cities, lighting up the smiles on a crowd of happy faces. As hundreds of people lined the Promenade des Anglais staring in gleeful wonder at the fireworks, a truck ploughed through the crowd in an act of horrendous terror in which 86 people lost their lives.
This unprecedented act of murder sent shockwaves through the whole of France and a melancholy atmosphere of anguish and heartbreak had descended over Nice. I have travelled to places and learnt about horrendous acts in their pasts, but none as recent and fresh as when I went to Nice. The events of the previous weekend cast a dark and solemn cloud across the town and we should not have gone there. The vibrant hustle and bustle of the prom had dissipated and was replaced by a harrowing display of tributes and sombre displays of flowers and instead of tourists dressed for the beach, soldiers were dressed for war. Surrounded by misery and pain, it was not a place we wanted to hang around in.
Obviously, it is not fair to judge Nice in the aftermath of such a tragedy and during any other time I’m sure we would have had a great time there, but this list is based solely on my experience of the places at the time I visited them and in those circumstances it was a bad place to be. It still makes the list as it is a beautiful place in the heart of the riviera and I think it is important to remember what happened and the victims who lost their lives.