Friday, October 22, 2010

All calm on the Côte d'Azur

Several people have been in touch recently to check how I  have been coping with the strikes. At first I was a little perplexed by the question as the strikes have had no noticeable effect on my life, or Nice, as far as I can tell. I don't need to jump barricades to get to the shops or queue for petrol (if the worst came to the worst, we joke, we could drive to Italy). There have been a couple of strike days at my daughter's school. But we saw this as an opportunity for a relaxed breakfast in the sun at our local café. Any demonstrations have been low-key minor affairs - more carnival than serious protest. I watch the flights a little more carefully, but there have been no major cancellations. All in all, Nice is it's usual laid-back self.

Once owned by David Niven, this villa on St Jean Cap Ferrat is typical of why the Côte remains desirable

But if you watch what is happening in other parts of France, it's a different story. Marseilles, in particular, now has rubbish stacking up in the streets. Riot police are clashing with college students in Lyons and Paris. The north is running out of fuel. Now much of this is a media-led frenzy, I know, but still it seems as if I live in a different country by comparison.

And this made me think about Nice and the Côte d'Azur and what makes it such a pleasure to live here. Last year clients asked me why property prices were so much higher on the Côte than down near Marseilles. I guess the strike is one way of answering the question. It is a very protected (and pampered) area of France. Perhaps the stunning geographical beauty and warm climate make the people here less radical. But I suspect it has more to do with the high affluence ratio and the fact this region depends on the smooth running of its services to maintain the equilibrium that we are so use to.

When the Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, was voted in we saw a move to the centre-Right. Whether you like his politics or not, since day one he has been on a mission to make Nice the star city (next to Paris) of France. His public transport policy with its state-of-the-art tram system and bike hire on every corner (almost!) has been a huge success. As has his '1 euro anywhere in the Alpes-Maritime area' fare scheme. Yes, you can get to Monaco on the bus for 1 euro!

Estrosi's closeness to Sarkozy (he is also in his government) has seen Nice favoured with grants. The latest scheme is to make Nice the most protected city in France (probably Europe) with 600 CCTV cameras installed around the city. Now, considering Nice is hardly a hot-bed of street crime this does seem like a huge waste of funds (7.6 million euros). But none the less, it all helps to build  the city's ambitious plans to become France's second city.  

So in answer to the question 'Why is it so expensive here?', the answer would seem, 'Because we have a highly privileged and stable quality of life'. And where there is privilege - exclusivity even - and stability, there is investment, and where there is investment, property prices tend to stay high and rise, making it a good investment area. And so the wheel turns. This is particularly so when the world is going through a financial crisis - investors retreat to safe havens.

And as much as I may like to think I have a tinge of the radical in me, ultimately I'm happy to remain in my 'safe haven'.

I'm always happy to offer advice to people looking to buy on the Côte d'Azur. You can email me at or visit my website

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