Beachcombing in Nice with Céline Valenza
Céline Valenza lives and beachcombs along the French Riviera in Nice, France. She loves collecting sea glass, beach pottery, and driftwood on beaches along the Mediterranean, where she has lived for 45 years. She hits the beach mostly from mid-March through June before tourist season begins, and in September and October when the tourists have all gone home, but as it rarely gets below freezing, you might find Céline there any time of year.
Nice’s beaches are spread along the gentle curve of the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels). This area is known as La Promenade des Anglais (The English Walkway), which stretches almost five miles from west to east. In the early 1800s, English aristocrats vacationing in Nice proposed the creation of a walkway along the sea. Nice took up the project and when it was completed, it was named the Promenade des Anglais. Today, “La Prom” is a great place to take a walk or bike ride, or in the case of Céline, to beachcomb. “Promenade des Anglais is a nice spot, with wonderful finds after rough seas!” Céline says.
The beaches are mostly rocky along the Riviera. Céline finds her beach treasures among the pebbles, called galets, which land on the beach after traveling down rivers from the foothills of the Alps, just inland from the city. Céline finds sea glass, marbles, driftwood, and pottery that likely originated from towns along the French Riviera from Monaco to Cannes, and from boaters dumping trash from their yachts. Céline also recommends Villeneuve Loubet. “The beach is close to the Marina and is famous for wonderful driftwood.” Beaches to the west—in Cannes and Antibes—are sandier than the beaches in Nice.
No need to get wet to find beach glass, pottery, and small shells in Nice. “You can walk and find plenty,” says Céline. “Or snorkel to find bigger shells.” One great thing about beachcombing in Nice? “Seems I'm the only one collecting sea glass here!” exclaims Céline.
“When I found my first marble (a teal Codd marble), I was so happy I wanted to share my happiness with the whole beach,” says Céline. “I shouted like a child ‘A marble, a marble!’ An old man came over and we discussed about how small things can make us happy. We are still friends!”
She tries to get to the beach once a week and every day during holidays, always searching for glass and marbles. A lifelong beachcomber, she likes beachcombing solo, heading out early in the morning so she can have the beach to herself. “Marbles are my holy grail!” she exclaims. Her favorite finds are marbles, stoppers, and cobalt sea glass. She only keeps the best pieces she finds. “I have two full shoe boxes—quality over quantity!” she explains. She keeps them in glass jars where she can look at them and take them out for photos when inspiration strikes.
The French Riviera is known for its beaches, but Céline loves the outdoor opportunities, art, and food and wine. The French Alps are just an hour drive from the coast, plus there are lots of walking and cycling trails in the local countryside. “It’s beautiful scenery!” In addition to hitting the beaches, Céline recommends walking The Promenade des Anglais, visiting the lively Old Town and Castle Hill, and taking a boat trip on the Mediterranean Sea. Visit in February if you want to be in town for Carnival.
“Nice and its surrounding area have plenty to offer art lovers,” says Céline. “There are art museums, including Musée Matisse in the city and Musée Picasso in nearby Antibes, along with local artisans such as glassblowers and painters.” There’s also a Marc Chagall museum, the Archaeological Museum, and Villa Masséna Musée, housed in a Belle Epoque villa on the Promenade des Anglais.
Don’t forget to sample the variety of cuisines in Nice. “Nice is a good choice if you enjoy good food and wine,” Céline says. “The city is home to a lot of traditional French restaurants, but also Mediterranean and Italian influences.” Céline says there are fabulous vacation rentals downtown, and a visit to the Cimiez district is a must. If you are into shopping, there are shopping areas downtown, at the Polygone Rivera, and Cap 3000, about six miles from Nice.
With an international airport, trains, a harbor, and plenty of bus routes, it’s easy to visit Nice and the surrounding area. “I recommend the following: Villefranche-sur-Mer, a very pretty little Mediterranean town with its citadel; Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a peninsula favored by very wealthy visitors, with incredible luxury villas, a coastal walk tour, and coves along the way; Eze, a small village perched above the sea; Menton, a small town on the Italian border; Antibes, known for its Fort Carré, a 16th-century military fortress by the sea and the old town; Cannes, known for the famous film festival and the Lerins islands; and The Principality of Monaco, with the renowned Oceanographic Museum.”
For Céline, the best activities after beachcombing are still at the beach. “I’m a sea lover,” she says. “I could spend my whole life swimming and snorkeling.”’
Follow Céline's beachcombing adventures and see more of her collection on Instagram @nepenthesblue.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine January/February 2022 issue.