Too Nice for Too Many

CORBIS

PLAGE AU FOLLES: It was easier to find a place on the beach at Nice in 1922

Mass tourism dates from the 1840s, when Thomas Cook began chartering trains to take Britain's working class at reduced fares to temperance meetings within the country. By the 1860s Cook was selling tours to continental Europe, and by the start of the 20th century even the grandest hotels on the newly named Côte d'Azur were doing deals with the English entrepreneur. A century later 2 million travelers — half from outside France — descend on the Riviera as August begins and hotels from Menton to Théoule proclaim they are complet (full).

The history of Nice, affectionately charted by...

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