06/01/2015 07:30 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Nice Is Nice

When visiting the French Riviera, the best home base is Nice. There are many reasons, and in these six photos, I share a few reasons why, where I come from, people like to say that Nice is nice.

By the way, I was here during the busiest week of the year: The Grand Prix was happening half an hour to the east, in Monaco, and the film festival was raging half an hour to the west, in Cannes. Yet Nice was a delight, from the beaches to the restaurants.

After being torn up for many years, Nice is now the proud owner for a wonderful new tram line. Trams glide through the heart of town every few minutes, replacing so much traffic congestion and turning a huge swath of the city into a delightful people zone. Bravo, Nice!

The local term for the French Riviera is the Côte d'Azur, meaning "the Azure Coast." I've been coming here for decades, and I've never seen the côte quite so azur as it is on this visit.

While you won't find sand on Nice's beach, the pebbles seem to work just fine. Sunbathers can rent lounge chairs (€16/half-day, €19/full day) and have drinks and meals served literally on the beach. And the law requires that every beach must also have free, public access.

All over Europe, my go-to salad for a working lunch is a salade niçoise. And in its hometown, you just have to order one. The presentation these days is getting much more fun and pretty. I have a favorite restaurant right on the beach, Restaurant Castel, and having my salade niçoise there was just right. (It was pricey, at $25, but a great value... considering it came with a big memory.)

There's something about being out and about after dark with a camera in France that I really like. The French are artists with facades, trees, and floodlighting.

Nice's old town artfully mixes the character of Italy (it was Italian until 1860) and France (elegant dining and a general affluence). In researching our guidebook, the selection of great-value restaurants was abundant.