We arrived in Nice sweaty, tired, and stressed. Once again, we were incredibly late for our train and spent the first 3 hours of the journey sitting in the snack car with our luggage because we didn’t make it to our train car. Our ticket wasn’t clear that we had a connection in Aix en Provence and we nearly missed our (what felt like and may have been) 60 second connection. I also hadn’t heard anything back from our AirBnB host about where to meet up or what to do upon arrival even though I’d emailed her several days before. We could not connect to wifi on the train and I didn’t know what to do.
I was able to connect to wifi upon arrival at the train station in Nice. Our AirBnB host had friends managing her apartment as she was out of the country. Turns out I needed to text the friend (I didn’t have international texting) and it was all a bit of a mess… Tired and fed up, I turned on my data and texted the mysterious number. We met up with the friend’s husband almost immediately (for that I was grateful). He was very nice and showed us to the apartment. We were so relieved for the air conditioning after such a long, hot day. The apartment was beautiful and truly a gem in downtown Nice. I would truly recommend it, and I would just as highly recommend having some sort of international data package added to your cell phone when traveling (not only because of this experience but because it would have helped us out in so many other situations). P.S. Use my AirBnB referral code and we’ll both receive credit off of an AirBnB stay: www.airbnb.ca/c/kbray39
We unpacked a little bit, freshened up, and changed before venturing out on the town without a plan. We were right in the centre of Nice and we wandered down to Place Masséna (the beautiful main town square) which was bustling with tourists and locals alike. I should mention, this was exactly two weeks after the horrific truck attack in Nice. I was nervous about visiting. Not because I was afraid at all, but because I felt weird about “vacationing” in a city that was mourning. All of my fears were allayed after I saw the locals in action. Children were playing in the fountains with their parents until 11pm. People were dancing in the square. Music was flowing out of the various bars and restaurants. It was blissful. People were fully enjoying their beautiful city and I felt honoured to be there enjoying it too.
We made our way to Nice’s Old Town. We wandered around and settled on La Claire Fontaine for dinner. It was a bit of a tourist trap, I think, with the set menu and just “okay” food, but the location was good–right in the middle of an open square. I had a Nicoise Salad (it was not that great. I like the Nicoise salads I’ve had in Canada better) and a fish dish with veggies. Alex had the mussels and Beef Daube Provençal that he thought was fine but nothing special.
After dinner we got gelato in the old town and I was thrilled to try Provençal lavender gelato. It was delicious. We spent the rest of the evening just wandering around Nice and admiring the absolutely gorgeous buildings, gardens, the sunset, EVERYTHING. It was a truly beautiful and relaxing evening.
The next day we took our time relaxing in the apartment. We had a lazy breakfast of coffee, pastries, jam, and bread on our beautiful balcony and spent the our time asking each other questions from thought-provoking questions book I brought with us. We needed to buy more outlet adapters (our AirBnB in Paris had a few extras and I’d forgotten mine) so we moseyed down the street to French electronic store FNAC. Basically the French version of Best Buy. After the adapters were acquired we stopped for lunch. I don’t remember where we were. It was a forgettable lunch nonetheless, but I think I had a chicken sandwich or something. Riveting information, I KNOW.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering along the beach and then we made our way to the Cours Saleya Market. We browsed the different market stalls for a while. Alex bought me a beautiful hand-beaded/fringe necklace that I love. We stopped for some snacks at one of the restaurants in the market. I tried socca (traditional Nicoise chickpea flatbread) and Alex had a ham and cheese crepe. After dinner we spent more time in Place Masséna. There was a troupe of B-Boys dancing here each night and they were just awesome to watch.
We made the next day our beach day. Now, beaches in Nice are free to use, but you can also pay a pretty penny for a more ‘VIP’ experience. I’ve never been to an all-inclusive resort and I wanted to really enjoy our day, so I opted for us to go to one of the private beaches (Plage Beau Rivage) and be waited on. It was (I think) about 50 Euros for two loungers, towels, and an umbrella. Ouch. We enjoyed our day in the loungers sipping on daiquiris and rosé, and we shared the most delicious club sandwich either of us had ever had. I absolutely adore the white opaque wine glasses they served wine in. I don’t know why I am so obsessed but I WANT ONE SO BADLY. The Mediterranean water was soooo warm and felt amazing. The beach is rocky but it is still so fun to swim in and enjoy. We relaxed the whole day and it felt awesome.
We made our way back to the apartment and got cleaned up and ready for our night out in Monaco. (Did you know that Monaco is a sovereign city-state, country, and microstate?) Alex dressed up in a suit and I wore my nicest dress. We originally had plans to go to the casino, but as detailed in this post about the side effects of Remicade antibodies, I was in sooooo much pain. It made moving quickly very difficult and by the time we got to Monaco we had less than two hours until we had to catch the last train back to Nice. UGH. We wandered around for a little bit and ogled at all of the fancy yachts, mansions, condos, and cars. For dinner, we ended up at the swanky Cafe de Paris. Oh my god, I have never seen so many Hermes and Chanel bags in-person in my entire life. We were seated amongst Donatalla Versace lookalikes left, right, and centre. Just unreal. As I mentioned, Alex and I dressed our very best, but I think we were still seated in the “poor” section (i.e. we were seated where we couldn’t be seen from the sidewalk and there were no designer purses to be seen).
By the time we were seated we only had about 45 minutes before we needed to leave for our train back to Nice. We asked about ordering something small that could be served quickly (because of our train) and I’m pretty sure the waiter thought we were bluffing because the menu was so expensive. We ultimately settled on cheese plate, a glass of rosé for me and a beer for Alex and our bill was 40 euros (8 of which was the stupid bottle of Evian that we ordered without thinking). The cheese plate was LEGITIMATELY 4 CUBES OF CHEESE AND ONE BREADSTICK. Ugh. And this was supposed to be our big, nice meal of the trip. We felt like such fools. One of the cubes of cheese was seriously so gross too. An all around failure that we can now laugh at. We rushed to our train, made it back to Nice and bought some 3 euro ham and cheese tortellini from the all-night Monoprix and chowed down at 11pm. Oh well.
The next morning, we checked out of our apartment and took an Uber to our airport hotel because we were flying out the next day at 5am. By the time we were all settled it was about 1pm and we weren’t sure what to do. We really wanted to go to Ezé village but public transport was going to take a looooong time. I really wanted to go and I’d heard so many good things about it. Renting a car was super expensive and a bit scary and ultimately we decided that we wanted to go badly enough to take an Uber and maximize our time there. The Uber ride worked out to about $65 Canadian, but I’m glad we used it and saved the time.
We arrived in Ezé and I was absolutely blown away at how beautiful it was. This mountain-top medieval village overlooks the Mediterranean sea and is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. The pictures speak for themselves and I can’t recommend a day trip here enough. It is seriously breathtaking and I felt like I was in heaven. We spent the first hour wandering around the winding cobblestone pathways, ducking in and out of shops and gasping at the beauty of every winding alleyway.
We made our way to Le Cafe du Jardin at L’hotel Chevre D’or. This restaurant has a beautiful terrace with the most spectacular view of the hillside and the Mediterranean. I would pay the price of our meal for the view alone. Absolutely unreal. Having missed out on a swanky dinner in Monaco, we decided that this would be our true splurge meal of the trip. And splurge it was… In addition to several beers and glasses of rosé we both enjoyed one of the most memorable meals of our lives. Alex had what he described as the best pizza he had ever tasted. It was seafood pizza with a creme fraiche base, shrimp, smoked salmon, scallops, greens and red onion. Sadly, I couldn’t try this work of beauty because I’m allergic to salmon. I had prime rib with bearnaise sauce and potato wedges and salad and it was absolutely fantastic.
After our long and lazy lunch we made our way to Eze’s botanical gardens. OH MY GOD I AM CONVINCED THAT I TRULY VISITED HEAVEN ON EARTH. I don’t think I’ll ever go anywhere more beautiful. The garden is huge and has so many different plants, cacti, flora and fauna. There are waterfalls, look off points, streams, ponds, sun loungers, benches, winding staircases. Just perfect. I can’t wait to go back one day with a book to relax all day long. At only 6 euros for an entrance fee, it’s a total steal.
We made our way back to Nice on the bus and decided to wander around for one last time. We took some time to pay our respects to at the makeshift tribute to the victims of the truck attack in Nice just weeks prior. It was incredibly heart-wrenching to see all of the mourners weeping and saying goodbye to who I can only assume were friends, neighbours, colleagues, loved ones, and acquaintances. It was truly humbling and made me extra grateful to be alive and well.
We continued along the Promenade des Anglais and stopped for drinks and dinner at Balthazar. We were drawn in by their extensive drink menu. I can’t remember exactly what we got, but I recall having a strawberry mojito, probably some rosé, and I’m pretty sure I had some deep fried pickles. Sounds like me at least. We capped off our night with a quick little walk to see the Hotel Negresco in person and then we took an uber back to our airport hotel.
I was fairly certain I’d enjoy Nice. I didn’t expect to fall completely in love with it.
Here’s an excerpt from a facebook status I posted while I was in Nice (on July 31st, 2016):
“I guess what I’ve been thinking about the past few days is how it could have been any day that a tragedy happened here, not just Bastille Day. There still would have been (and there still are) hundreds or thousands of families celebrating, dancing, eating ice cream, drinking wine, walking down the promenade, playing in the miroir d’eau, and enjoying the magic in the air every night. It makes me a little sadder and a little happier at the same time. As our uber driver said this morning, “this place is paradise.””