On-line Guide: The Cannon Man
It’s your first day in Nice and you are sipping a cold drink on the Cours Saleya waiting for your lunch to arrive. Then BOOM! You jump out of your skin when everyone around you remains unperturbed. Don’t worry, it happens to all of us – for the uninitiated, this is the century old tradition of the Nice Cannon and a reminder to every self-respecting Nicois.
The ‘Lou Canoun de Miejour’ (as it is called in Nicois) remains a true tradition for Nice dating back to 1861 to 1866 when Sir Thomas Coventry-More, a British army colonel, came to his house in Nice to enjoy the Riviera sunshine. His wife would go for a walk every morning, but because she was a great gossiper and did not carry a watch he had a hard time getting her to return home for lunch time. He devised a novel idea to remind her of the time - he proposed to the Mayor of Nice that a cannon be fired from the top of the Chauvin Hotel on Rue Chauvin every day, and being a former Colonel, he said he’d even provide the cannon.
The deal was done, but after several years of this daily ritual, Sir Coventry left - taking his cannon with him. The people of Nice complained as they found this signal perfect to synchronize clocks all over the city. So, on the 19th November 1875 the municipality of Nice decreed that the cannon be fired every day. Though the cannon started its life on the terrace of the Chauvin Hotel (now rue Chauvin), it was moved to the Opera House before finally ending up at the Colline du Chateau.
Over 150 years after the tradition started, the “cannon” itself has been replaced with a special firework that explodes 3 seconds after it is fired from the beautiful Colline du Chateau. Since 1992, it is the civil duty of one Philippe Arnello who takes the drive to the top of the hill every day and Pebbles have been lucky enough to get some insider information from the man himself:
During his reign as The Cannon Man, Arnello has only missed firing the firework twice; however, this was not for lack of trying, as both times were due to heavy traffic.
Every 1st April he deliberately fires it at the wrong time, as a little April Fools for the people of Nice.
He enjoys the idea that he is reminding the people of Nice that it is lunchtime so much that Arnello has no intention of quitting anytime soon. This is what we like to hear as he does such a good job at what he does to keep this remarkable part of Nice’s history alive.