Happy Tuesday Y'all!
While we are off exploring today, I have the wonderful Caroline from Love Live Travel filling in for me today. I'm so excited for you to read all about her wonderful adventures in Nice.
Last summer, I decided to do something I'd always dreamed about: live in France. After spending years learning the language in school, and having briefly visited a few ports while working on cruise ships, I decided to stay for an entire summer to truly absorb the French experience. I secured a room in a furnished three-bedroom apartment a short tram ride from the centre of town for just €400 per month. Though I was sharing the flat with two others, it was a comfortable arrangement, and the room was large and light, with a small balcony overlooking the garden. I set about exploring Nice and its surroundings, trying to absorb as much as I could. Not only is the city itself a fantastic place to visit, it is incredibly easy reach to other places, including Monaco and Italy. I managed to cover a lot of ground on a limited budget, by taking the bus rather than the train, and avoiding the expensive tourist traps. I bought a 10-ride transit card for the bus and tram for just €10 and walked when I could. I bought groceries rather than frequenting restaurants, and even this was a cultural experience, with cheap but quality wines, herbs, and cheeses, as well as a huge daily produce market near my flat.
Though it's the centre of tourist activity in Nice, I truly loved the Vieille-Ville, and spent a lot of time wandering its narrow streets. Located between bustling Avenue Jean Medecin shopping street and the famous Promenade des Anglais with its stone beaches, Vielle-Ville begins at the photogenic Place Massena and runs to the equally beautiful Place Garibaldi, located near the Port. Le Marche des Fleurs is the central focus here, a market set in a square lined by upscale restaurants. It offers (as its name suggests) a flower market, but also features soaps, herbs, handcrafts, and more as well as an antiques market once a week. It's a great place to browse, but avoid the restaurants if you're on a budget as they're incredibly pricey and not always as good quality as you would expect. There are a few more affordable options in the winding streets and alleyways of the old town, and then there's Fenocchio. Fenocchio is an institution in Nice, offering dozens of flavours of mouth-watering gelato, some in bizarre flavours like Beer, Black Olive, Tomato-Basil, and Vanilla-Pepper-Rose. Of course they have lots of offerings for the less adventurous, and cinnamon was my clear favourite. From the Vieille-Ville, you can climb La Colline du Chateau – Castle Hill – the site of the old castle where you'll find a park, a waterfall, a few ruins, and a stunning view of the city and its coastline. It was an incredible summer, and I truly miss Nice and the opportunities I had to visit so many places from there.
Here are just a few places you can explore:
Though Nice is famous for its stone beaches, I found them to be overrated and overcrowded. I preferred to pop over to the neighbouring little town of Villefranche, where the beaches are made of sand and there's a bit more room to breathe. There are some great little streets to explore too, most notably Rue Obscure, an indoor road built to provide safe passage to residents during the war. There's also a fortress and a lovely church.
Eze Village is billed as 'A Medieval Village of Art and Gasronomie' - an artists' paradise set in an old fortress high on a hill. Easily reachable by bus, there is a bit of a climb up to the village, and lots of steps within it, but it's worth the exertion as it's an incredibly photogenic place. Here you can browse paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and handcrafted jewelry purchase typical souvenirs of the region, like herbs and soap, or just enjoy the view while sipping on a coffee.
Monte Carlo can be overcrowded and expensive but with its ritzy hotels and harbour full of yachts, it's a fun visit if only to see how the other half lives. The famous casino is worth a look, though it costs to go inside and you must be appropriately dressed. My favourite spot is the palace. You can tour the Royal Apartments for a very reasonable entry fee, explore the narrow shopping and dining streets, enjoy a stunning view of the harbour, and visit the cathedral where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace are buried.
Cannes is another notoriously expensive tourist magnet, but can be a great place to spend a few hours if you don't break the bank by staying there or dining at one of the super pricey restaurants. You can explore the old town, head up to Le Suquet for a great view, stroll along the promenade and take in the beach, the grand hotels, and expensive shops. A nice time to go is right before the Cannes Film Festival, when the red carpet is set up and there's excitement in the air, but the world hasn't yet descended and turned the town to chaos.
In complete contrast, far fewer people have heard of Grasse, a town situated away from the seaside, northwest of Cannes. Grasse is a grittier town than its famous counterparts, but is equally photogenic, with its historic buildings and fading ancient signage. Grasse is known for the Fragonard perfume factory, and also boasts a stunning massive stone cathedral.
Ventimiglia and San Remo, Italy
An amazing thing about Nice is that you can jump on a train and be in Italy in 45 minutes. The first Italian town, and the last stop of the French rail system is Ventimiglia, which boasts a fantastic open-air market filled with Italian meats, cheeses, and pastas along with clothing, handbags, and other typical market fare. Across the bridge behind the market is Ventimiglia's small and gritty old town, where few tourists venture. It has lots of hidden street and alleys, even tiny churches tucked away. A bit further along the train line, and much better known, is San Remo, famous for its casino. San Remo's old town is expansive and gorgeous, with winding streets making their way uphill. Exploring here truly feels like an adventure, and the photo opportunities are endless.
If you have the opportunity to explore the French Riviera, go! And make sure to try an apricot brioche...I still dream about them to this day. Happy travels!
Author Bio: Caroline Coupe is a passionate traveller who spent eight years exploring the world working on cruise ships. After her time in Nice, Caroline spent nine months living in Edinburgh, Scotland, and in June moved to Copenhagen, Denmark. Her blog LoveLiveTravel features stories and photography from her travels. She is also a contributing writer for Travel Generation, has written for Listverse, and has been published in the print magazine Oi Vietnam. Caroline can be found on Twitter @lovelivetravel.
Does that make anyone else want to jump on the next plane and travel around Nice?
Make sure to check out these wonderful posts from Caroline: