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Nice, World Heritage Site

The first thing you notice about the Baie des Anges is that it's a startling azure blue. This distinctive color eventually gave the region its name, Cote d'Azur or Azure Coast.

Nice Uncovered: Walks Through the Secret Heart of a Historic City

Previously known only as the Riviera, French writer Stephen Liegeard renamed the coast in his 1888 book Cote d'Azur. (Find out more fascinating facts about Nice in Nice Uncovered: Walks Through the Secret Heart of a Historic City now on Amazon)

But astute observers note that the color of the Baie des Anges changes. In fact, sometimes there are two colors: a lighter blue near the shore and darker blue further out as in the photo below.

Baie des Anges

Why are there two colors in the Baie des Anges?

The striking two-toned sea comes down to Nice's famous galets (pebbles), composed largely of limestone. The galets as well as larger limestone rocks extend beyond the shoreline about 100 metres into the sea.

When there is turbulence, fine particles of limestone are torn from the rock and remain suspended in the water. When the sunlight illuminates the water, the particles diffuse the light in a phenomenon known as the "Tyndall effect". The opalescent shade is most frequent after a storm or during a period of high winds and tall waves. You'll also see the two-tones when workers add galets and level the beach before the summer season. The rocks are disturbed and release their particles.

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