A dream holiday for me is one where I have good weather, beautiful views and the freedom to move about as I please. For this reason, the French Riviera is an amazing place for a long weekend. We based ourselves in Nice, giving us a city break at a slower pace and hopped along the Riviera with ease.
Nice, also known as Nice la Belle, or Nice the beautiful, has all the charm of a French Village, but with an Italian flair, all the folly of the seaside and all the convenience of a city. As soon as we arrived there was no time for us to wait, so we set out to explore. I immediately began to see why people loved this place so much, with its relaxed atmosphere and picturesque natural beauty.
Our first instinct was to head towards the markets on Cours Saleya Street in the Old Quarter, where we wandered through stalls of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables and on to beautifully cut wild flowers and heather. Other stalls sold and antiques and curios and there were artists also selling their works. While the market stalls line up in the centre of the street, they are flanked on each side by a range of restaurants and bars of all kinds.
From here we strolled up to the Colline du Chateau, the ruins of an old Castle. Here we found the most stunning vantage point with views all around the city and out onto the Mediterranean sea. There is a lift to the top which is free and it leads to a public park. We took the lift up, but chose to walk down along the old cobbled streets.
The St Nicholas Orthodox Church was listed in all of the guide books as a must see. It is a bit of a walk from the city centre, which left us hoping that our efforts would be worthwhile. It was indeed very grand and like a less colourful version of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Inside, it was elaborately decorated with gold, portraits and candlesticks. The jury is still out on whether or not it was worth the walk!
From the Church, we strolled down towards the Promenade des Anglais, stopping for coffee and a catch up on our guidebook. Our next stop was to the Hotel Negressco, where our guidebook told of an antique carousel in the reception. Sadly, we were met at the door by a sign saying that there were no visitors allowed.
This was disappointing, but not discouraging and we decided to head to the beach for sunset. High on my list of things to do was a visit to the famous pebble beaches and beautiful as they were, I couldn’t help but notice that they bore stark resemblance to the stony beaches of Bray, Co Wicklow! What did however make this a unique experience, was that we were there to watch the magnificent sunset over the Riviera. It was just perfect.
I don’t need to tell you again that I love ice cream and that hail, rain or shine; it is always the right time for ice cream. On our short trip to Nice I had ice cream twice! My first indulgence was a actually a sorbet of mango and coconut, so kind of healthy (ssssh!) What made this special was that it was in the shape of a beautifully formed flower that almost looked too good to eat. Almost!
The next spot that you absolutely cannot miss is the famous Fennochio, an ice cream parlour with over 500 flavours, ranging from the classics, to more unusual choices, like beer, wine, gin and tonic, chilli and tomato. I played it somewhat safe with salted caramel, but also tried some chilli chocolate and a mojito sorbet.
Food in Nice is somewhat unique to France due to its location on the Mediterranean. This means lots of Italian influence and plenty of pizza. I also wanted to try something really traditional, so I bought some Socca, a Nicean street food. Socca is a flatbread made with chick pea, but to be honest mine looked more like a pancake than bread. It wasn’t the most visually appealing and it was edible, but nothing to shout about. Still, I gave it a go! While in Nice, you also have to try crepes and gallettes and shed loads of seafood!
Of course as I mentioned, Nice is ideally located for tripping along the French Riviera, with a cheap and reliable train service, it is minutes away from Cannes, Eze, and Monaco. We did make some day trips of course, but they will have posts of their own.
So until next time, it’s Au Revoir!