With many memories of living in Rome soon approaching their end, my friend Ryan and I made our last weekend an adventure as we hopped on a plane for a fun weekend in Nice, France. The trip was booked on a whim and I had never been the south of France, but I could not have dreamed of a more trip! Located on the French Riviera, Nice’s stunning beaches, historical museums, attractive seaside promenade and other beautiful landmarks makes it a fantastic destination for any time of the year.
When we arrived, we drove along the Promenade des Anglais; a long promenade stretching among the coast of the Mediterranean where you can find the perfect stage for taking a stroll, locals milling about and an incredible view of Niçois sunsets. Since we had been traveling all afternoon, we ended the night with a lovely dinner at Statu.co and went to bed.
Our first morning, we headed down to Nice Vieille Ville, also known as Old Town. Old Town is an absolutely charming neighborhood lined with quaint streets and cute shops that locals and visitors alike adore and appreciate. Shaped in a triangle, Old Town is perfect for wandering around, tasting some great traditional Niçois food or just embracing the unmistakable Mediterranean ambiance.
Marking the end of Old Town and the start of sea is the Cours Saleya market. In the mornings, the Cours Saleya street comes alive as sidewalk cafes and souvenir shops greet its daily market overflowing with beautiful flowers, fresh produce and tasty bites for a fun experience.
After our walk through the market, we hiked up to Castle Hill. Though no longer a castle, the top of Castle Hill has been transformed into a park full of nature and archeological architecture consisting of old ruins, a playground and artificial waterfalls. Once you make it to the very top, you can find the most spectacular view of the entire city. Grab your camera and make the short climb up to the very top for an unforgettable and picturesque sight.
After a fantastic view from the top, we headed down to see it up close in the main square called the Place Massena, also known as the center of Nice. Built in the 1840’s, the Place Massena is truly the heart of Nice. The Place Massena is an attractive, pedestrian only plaza surrounded by Pompeian red buildings, pretty gardens, busy shops and bustling restaurants great for relaxing, people-watching and taking in the lovely scenery. By some luck, what started out as an overcast morning turned into a sunny afternoon and I got to enjoy the evening sitting on the beach and ended the night with a enjoyable meal at Les Epicuriens.
The next day we took a ride to the glamorous side of Monte Carlo in Monaco. For a future traveler’s note, getting from city to city along the French Riviera is most accessible by bus. For only €1.50, you can take Bus 100 to Monaco/Menton which leaves from the Promenade des Artes stop about every 15 minutes, just be sure to plan for any daily changes in the bus schedule or in our case, not understanding French directions. Almost everything was closed since it was Sunday; nonetheless we still got to walk through the streets fit for the rich and famous. Walking through the Chanel and Mazerati lined streets, we ended up in front of the luxurious and legendary Monte Carlo Casino. Afterwards, I had wanted to visit the Prince’s Palace and was extremely glad I did and definitely recommend seeing while in Monte Carlo. Built on the site of a fortress original built by the Genoese in 1215, the Prince’s Palace is the official private residence of the Prince of Monaco and is open to the public to tour its luxurious courtyard, elegantly adorned rooms and elaborate gallery walls showcasing the royal residence in all its glory.
For a true taste of traditional Nice, be sure to stop for a delicious aperitif and try the locally famed socca. A specialty of the region, socca is a giant crepe made solely out of chickpea flour, water, olive oil and salt which is then baked over a fire for a perfectly crisp, warm and salty snack. For the best socca in town, Chez Pipo is without a doubt the pro and well-worth the trip to his off the map corner hot-spot.
For dinner, I ended up at Chez Juliette that served a traditional and most delicious French cuisine. With a grilled cod salad and entrée of duck cooked to perfection, Chez Juliette’s friendly service and great price made my list for best meal in Nice yet. Full on a fantastic meal, right down the street from Chez Juliette is Fenocchio Glacier, Nice’s original and most popular ice cream parlour. With over 94 flavors ranging from cactus to beer, the lavender and almond did it for me, but you will just have to try some of the best for yourself!
Our last morning, we planned on visiting the charismatic city of Eze, but a missed bus and fantastic thunderstorm complete with buckets of rain and lightning kept us in Nice. After grabbing a delicious pan bagnat at La Fougasserie for breakfast, I made a stop at the Musee Marc Chagall, which created a newfound appreciation and admiration for art and Chagall himself. Also known as the National Musuem Marc Chagall Biblical Message, this museum houses including Chagall’s seventeen paintings illustrating the biblical message represented in the books of Genesis, Exodus and Song of Songs. The deep spiritual meanings and metaphors so elegantly expressed through Chagall’s talent in a mixture of vibrant colors and artistic harmony make this inspiring and beautiful art gallery an absolute jewel not to be missed.
I think it goes to say that even in the few short days I was there, I should start embracing my name and hope to return to the south of France very soon!