Graced with an average of 2,640 hours of sunshine per year, Nice, France, proudly wears the colors of Chagall and Matisse: Its Mediterranean bay is azure blue, its tiled roofs are red, its houses ocher and yellow, and its gardens emerald green. All those colors also show up at the wonderful flower market on Cours Saleya and on the tiny bikini bottoms worn on the pebbly but oh-so-fashionable beaches.

Greeks and Romans, Savoyard kings and wealthy visitors have shaped the destiny of Nice, and still this is the only town on the Cote d'Azur that doesn't seem to depend on its 4 million tourists per year. The dynamic capital of the departement of Alpes-Maritimes may be the most-visited French city after Paris, but it is still a very local affair.

If you avoid the summer months in Nice, you can still enjoy the local cuisine to its fullest and soak up the Mediterranean light that Picasso so loved. And the stunning highlights of the French Riviera are just a few minutes' drive away.

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