The French Riviera; it springs to mind visions of St. Tropez tans, Gucci, and yachts the size of small homes. One of the wonderful Côte d’Azur cities is Nice. Nice is a sprawling Mediterranean city in southern France and it is also the fifth most populous city after Paris, Marseille, Lyon, and Toulouse. After Marseille, it’s the second-largest city on the Mediterranean coast. The city is actually called Nice la Belle; Nice the Beautiful, and that it is.
Arriving at its modern airport, l’Aéroport Nice Côte d’Azur, as a visitor, I found exiting to be quite a breeze. Once you retrieve your bags at the carousel, you exit to either the cab stand or public bus transport. We opted for the public bus as it was dramatically cheaper than a cab and dropped us off a couple of blocks from our hotel.
The climate is quite moderate and a welcome change from Miami’s summer heat and humidity. It is actually also nice to be able to wear nice chic clothes as it seems most everyone here does.
The port where cruise ships dock/anchor is Villefranche-sur-Mer which serves the cities of Cannes and Monaco as well as Nice. Villefranche is 2 train stops away from Nice (about 10-15 min) and it is quite convenient.
While riding the bus from the airport, you are whisked down alongside the famous Promenade des Anglais displaying in full view the beautiful Côte d’Azur.
It is a perfect introduction to Provence’s glorious azure coastal waters. An amazing vibrant hue of blue, it is a slap-in-the-face wake-up call that I am here and on vacation. We chose to stay at Hotel Massenet and found it to be as charming on the outside as the pictures on the Internet suggest. We were greeted by kind staff who spoke English very well. We always do try to speak the local language when we can out of consideration but it usually reverts quickly to English. If you don’t speak French, they can accommodate a variety of languages. Our room was nothing special or extravagant but it was clean and uncluttered and quite spacious. The only thing I could oppose in the room was the shag carpet that just didn’t seem right in a hotel room. It is set off-street so it was fairly quiet for sleeping.
We walked around the seaside streets and cafés basking in the beauty of the Belle Époque (Beautiful Era) architecture. The Belle Époque or La Belle Époque was a period in French history that is conventionally dated as starting in 1890 and ending when World War I began in 1914.
We eventually got hungry and stopped in Le Liber’tea café. We filled our jet-lagged bodies with mushroom pizza and a cheese plate while washing it down with a Provence rose.
The city is sprawling but easy to walk. Like Paris, it is just delightful to wander down side streets and watch life go on as you take a break from it. Fragrances of local cuisine fill the air as you take in the beauty around you.
We stopped in Fleur Café where I had the American breakfast special for 8 Euros. It included eggs or omelets with bacon, mushrooms, cheese, and toast. Orange juice and coffee were included to help wash it all down. Yes, I know I’m in France and could have eaten like the locals with croissants and coffee, but the value was just too good to pass up. As far as restaurants go, there is no short supply in Nice, and pizza is served at most of them. In the city center, you’ll have no trouble finding somewhere to eat however, you may have difficulties deciding where to feast.
Nice has many sights worth seeing and while walking around, I did get to experience some of those. I’m always fascinated with architecture and Nice did not disappoint. One of the most fascinating structures is the Russian Orthodox Church with its colorful domes and un-Nice-like facade. There are many other churches and cathedrals to see if you so desire. After Paris, Nice has the most museums in France. You can experience nearly anything you desire from Seashells (Musee de Malacologie) to Matisse at Musee de Matisse.
Nice is a centralized location which is great for jaunting off to surrounding cities such as Monte Carlo,
Monaco, St. Tropez, or even Marseilles. The train station is easily navigated and bustling but one should know that train times change often so don’t rely on the times nor should you rely on that “last train” as it could get canceled.
I fell in love with Nice. It is my Paris by the ocean. It is Paris but more laid-back and relaxed. It isn’t the touristic Paris of “sight after sight” but a more “real” version of France. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of tourists, but you don’t feel as though you have a checklist of things to do. I can’t wait to go back and continue my tour of the Côte d’Azur. Until next time, thanks for tripping with me.