Gustave Eiffel shocked and awed in equal measure. His avant-garde genius built monuments as diverse as Budapest train station and the structure of the Statue of Liberty in New York.
But his work wasn’t to everyone’s taste. Parisians originally loathed the Eiffel Tower. French author Guy de Maupassant used to dine in its top floor restaurant every day – as it was the only place in Paris where he couldn’t see it.
And when the going got rough? He took the train to Nice.
Indeed, the French Riviera furnished Eiffel with many of his most memorable creations. Architecture fans who aren’t busy viewing property with Nice Pebbles (naughty, naughty!) may seek out his bridge over the Vésubie River at Pont du Var, his Font Lauguières viaduct near Grasse and his meteorological laboratory in Beaulieu.
But Eiffel’s two biggest Cote d’Azur commissions make up some of the finest real estate in Nice.
First is the spellbinding glass dome inside the Hotel Negresco. Its Salon Royal roof filters a rainbow of sunshine onto the marble floor below. The liveried doorman are sometimes sniffy about who they let in, so dress the part if you’re popping by.
Second is the astronomical observatory perched 372m above Nice. Eiffel designed the massive main dome in 1885 to house the largest telescope in the world. A visit to the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur (available at 2.45pm on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays) is seriously cool.
Rumour has it that an occasionally hard-up Eiffel would take ironwork commissions for apartments in Nice. These include an interior staircase near the Banque Populaire on Boulevard Victor Hugo and the showy balustrades above the Société Générale bank on the corner of Rue Cassini by Nice Port. If only he built the balconies on the Nice Pebbles office…