Key Dates:

Call for Papers
Summer 2008

Abstract Submittal Deadline
3 October 2008

Authors Notified,
Student Travel Grant Recipients Notified
December 2008 

Schedule Posted
January 2009

25-30 January 2009

Nice: Geography & Culture

Prepared by the Co-Chairs of ASLO 2009: Jean-Pierre Gattuso, CNRS-University of Paris VI, Laboratoire d’Océanographie, BP 28, 06234 Villefranche-sur-mer, Cedex, France;; Markus Weinbauer, CNRS-University of Paris VI, Laboratoire d’Océanographie, BP 28, 06234 Villefranche-sur-mer, Cedex, France;; Peter Bossard, Department of Limnology, EAWAG, Limnological Research Center, CH-6047 Kastanienbaum, Switzerland;

Reprinted from L&O Bulletin 16.2.

In geological terms, the French and Italian Riviera and its back-country have been made by the African continental plate pushing against the Eurasian plate and folding up the still growing mountain range of the Alps. Where the Alps descend into the Mediterranean Sea, there is an old settling ground with a multitude of geographies. For example, the high Alps are close to the sea and provide cold winters in the back-country. The nearby Provence is particularly dry and hot in summer, hostile and attractive at the same time, whereas the combination of protecting hills and the ocean create a mild microclimate around Nice and other places of the Côte d’Azur.

The geographic variability (in addition to the climate and the food) has attracted a lot of people and the purpose of this short piece is to give a feel of what the ASLO delegates can expect in the area. Naturally, the light and the colors have attracted painters much more than other artists. A forthcoming article by Malcom Shick will dwell on the art in the area of Nice.

Festivals are plentiful. If you stay a bit longer, you can attend the Fête du Citron in Menton (ca. 30 km from Nice at the Italian border), which was, until about 100 years ago, the biggest lemon growing area in the Mediterranean. Now, during the “lemon carnival,” thousands of lemons are used to create figures for the processions. Another attraction is the two-week Carnival of Nice, soon after the ASLO 2009 Meeting, with its different types of processions. The glamorous towns of Cannes and Saint Tropez are close and also attractive in the off tourist and festival season. In Monaco, there will be two car rallies around the meeting. Music festivals are rather rare at this time of year, however, the opera in Nice is quite renowned.

The geographic variability also provides possibilities for leisure activities. In winter, the first ski resort is just a bit more than an hour away and daily transport can be arranged. The next day you might decide to go diving at the steep, rocky shores of the Cap de Nice or Cap Ferrat, not far away from where the first SCUBA divers such as Cousteau opened the door to the ‘submarine’ coastal ecosystem. Put on a reasonably thick diving suit and the seawater winter-time temperature (13°C) will not be too bad! Off the Bay of Villefranche, several world records in free deep diving have been broken. Sadly, Loïc Leferme, who held the record of 171m for a while, died in April 2007 during the preparation for his next attempt at 185 m. If you are lucky, you can swim with dolphins. During wintertime in Roquebrune Cap Martin, you can paraglide and land on the beach. Canoeing, rafting and mountaineering (ice and stone) are, of course, also possible in the Alps. Sailing and rowing is particularly nice in the protected Bay of Villefranche. You can also take a less than 2 h train ride to the Mercantour National Park, which leads through beautiful valleys. The highest peak is at 3143 m and, in the Summer and Fall, one can seek out the wolves and the marmots. Or, just take a car or motorbike and visit one of the small mountain villages in the hinterland of the Côte d’Azur (e.g. Roquebrune, Sainte Agnès, Peillon, etc.).

The Provence, home of the troubadours and minstrels, is famous for its lavender and flower fields and its smells of herbs. The Luéaron is an area not only famous for its wine, but also infamous for a certain cruel marquis. From the Provence and the Alps, you can descend to the coast with the citrus, olive, palm, pine, and sycamore trees, bougainvillea, and mimosas. Castles, palaces, cloisters, churches, or just charming old buildings are everywhere. Like an impressionist’s palette, in shades from yellow to red or ochre, the walls of the towns recall its origins, the sun and the sea and the mountains, the heat and the happiness. Experience the profusion of Mediterranean life!

The perfumeries in Grasse, the town looking down from the Provence to the Côte d’Azur; the towering, tree-covered Massif des Maures (maouro, provençal word for dark wood) and Massif de l’Estérel, legendary stronghold of brigands raiding the surrounding area; the amphitheatre of Arles, the elegant opera and theatre town Aix-en-provence; Avignon, the city of the popes; Marseille, the multicultural, vibrating harbor city; the steep cliffs and fjords of the Calanques, probably one of the most idyllic and fascinating coasts in France; the Camarque with its river-ocean mix of landscape; the old trade (and pirate) places Monaco (do not forget to visit the aquarium!) and Genova; mountain-top villages in the back-country; the culinary astonishing countryside of the Italian Riviera and Piemonte. All of this, you can reach in a day trip. You certainly do not want to miss visiting Villefranche-sur-mer, one of the most picturesque villages in the area (and home of the French organizing laboratory). The high-speed speed ferries take less than 3 hours to reach Corsica, which is called in French ‘Ile-de-Beauté’ (Island of Beauty) and this is no joke. If you like food you will find some of the best sausages, hams, and cheeses in France, but food is the topic of the next installment.