Summer Trip to the French Riviera
Posted on October 28, 2015
Carrie and I decided to take advantage of Nice’s convenient location and accessibility to a number of cities and countries we both hadn’t been to and planned a two-week trip spanning a small portion of the Mediterranean region with another couple, Rob & Danielle. Our trip began and ended in Nice and included a short day trip to Monaco and several days in Corsica and Sardinia. It was a perfect summer getaway. One I highly recommend.
Côte d’Azur and Tourism
Southern France, particularly Côte d’Azur is a popular international travel destination, with visitors flocking to well-known cities like Nice, Cannes, and Saint Tropez. Côte d’Azur, synonymous with cloudless skies, topless beaches, super yachts, and a vibrant nightlife, rightly attracts travelers worldwide. The nearby islands of Corsica and Sardinia, both popular summer destinations for Europeans have stunning beaches and rustic countryside. Nice, the second most popular tourist destination in France, after Paris, has a vast range of hotels and restaurants, catering to every budget, and the Nice Airport is the perfect gateway to the region, with a range of domestic and international flights, and easy access to surrounding areas like Monaco, Provence, and the islands of Corsica and Sardinia.
We arrived at Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport late morning on a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul and were pleasantly greeted by the beautiful warm weather and atmosphere that is the famously luxurious French Riviera. The French Riviera which covers a portion of the spectacular coastline, spanning from Menton in the far east to Saint Tropez in the west, attracts a range of celebrities, royalties, and jet-setters.
From the airport, we grabbed a city bus (number 98 €6 each, one-way) to the city center. Conveniently, the bus ended just outside Garibaldi Square on Boulevard Jean Jaurès, about two blocks from our hotel. Nice’s airport is strategically located on the coast close to the city center, making for easy access into the city, the surrounding cities, or the beach. It’s about a 20-minute bus ride to the city center from the airport. We took Uber back to the airport from our hotel (€ 31) to catch our flight to Ajaccio, Corsica. Taking Uber was easy, fast, and only a little more expensive than the bus if paying for four people.
Where to Stay in Nice
Garibaldi Square - Aparthotel Adagio
For our first stay in Nice, I chose the Aparthotel Adagio Access Nice Acropolis. The Adagio, part of a European-based hotel chain ACCOR Hotels, had great reviews, was within our budget, and was within easy walking distance of Vieille Ville (the old city of Nice) and the beach, the two main attractions of Nice.
Our room overall was spacious enough for two people, but the bathroom was a tight fit. The room also contained a kitchenette with a table and balcony. The balcony, however, did not provide a great view but instead looked over the parking lot of an adjoining building. The kitchenette was perfect for storing drinks and food we picked up from the nearby bakery and supermarket. Next to the bakery was a friendly butcher who spoke English and willing to humor our inability to decide what all we wanted to eat. We ended up buying truffle honey, local French cheese, cured meat, and rosé. Shopping in markets and grocery stores allows for a deeper understanding of the community you are visiting by exploring typical foods that locals consume and enables you to make a direct impact on the local economy.
We returned to Nice for one night after traveling to Corsica and Sardinia and stayed at the NH Nice, a short walk beyond our first hotel. NH is a Spanish based hotel chain with a collection of modern designed hotels at moderate prices. I chose this particular hotel because of the reviews, rooftop pool, and its location. As we were only staying in Nice the one night this time and had pretty much seen all that we wanted to, the comfort and amenities of the hotel were more important.
What to See and Do in Nice
Walk around Vieille Ville
Vieille Ville, the old part of Nice built in the 1600s is filled with beautifully-maintained buildings and narrow alleys with restaurants and shops that lead to several squares, and eventually to the promenade. We spent a lot of time wandering Vieille Ville, getting lost in the alleys and stopping at various restaurants and cafes, like Les Distilleries. Les Distilleries, a corner cafe located in the lower part of Vieille Ville close to the beach, had a wide range of beers and wines, a good happy hour, and was perfect for people watching.
Go to the Beach
Nice is most famous for Promenade des Anglais and its spectacular pebble beach. The beach is set in a large bay (Bay des Anges) running west to Nice International Airport and east to the city’s port. The pebbles were large smooth stones, and make for an adventure getting into and out of the water. They are extremely awkward to walk on without shoes and are hot from the beating sun, so every trip to the water and back to your towel was a careful exercise of bravery and trying not to look stupid and fall. I would strongly suggest water shoes. The nice part about the pebble beach, however, is that you leave the beach free of any sand.
Day Trip to Monaco
A bonus to staying in Nice is the relative ease of getting to and from the Principality of Monaco. From our hotel, it was a short walk to Port Lympia where we boarded a local bus to Monaco (number 100). For €1.50 you can enjoy a stunning ride 45-minute ride along the coast, passing through several villages before arriving in one of the grandest places on earth, the Principality of Monaco.
We disembarked near the Casino de Monte Carlo to check out the array of luxury cars parked outside before heading into the ornate casino. The casino is unlike any other casino I have been to. Due to the fact that there is a fee of €10 to simply enter the casino floor and a strict dress code is enforced- so make sure you dress appropriately (i.e. no flip-flops, t-shirts, etc.) and bring your passport as it’s required to enter the casino.
After checking out the small casino and having a drink we then walked down the hill (ten minutes) to the famous harbor, filled with yachts. We had dinner at a harbor-side brewery called Brasserie de Monaco, Monaco’s only brewery, and soaked up the view as the sun set over Monaco’s harbor. To get back to Nice we took the train, which runs later than the bus. It’s a bit of a hike to the Nice train station from the harbor, so be prepared or take a taxi. The train costs more than the bus (€ 3-4 depending on which train you get) but took only 15 minutes.
Where to Eat and Drink in Nice
When we checked in on our second visit to Nice, it was already 10:00 p.m. and luckily, right across the street from our hotel was a large square with a few restaurants that were still open. We chose a quaint little restaurant on the corner, called Le Hussard. We ordered a bottle of white wine and I ate a curry inspired moules frites (mussels and fries), which were delicious. We celebrated our last night of the trip with a calvados, an apple brandy from Lower Normandy, France, before retiring to bed after our long journey, which began over 12 hours earlier in Bonifacio, Corsica.
The next day our flight back to Istanbul wasn’t until the early evening so we had time to enjoy the rooftop pool, return to our favorite cafes in Vieille Ville like Antonia Caffe in Place Rossetti, and pick up some souvenirs. We had such an amazing time in Nice I would certainly consider returning in the future.
Our Mediterranean trip was long enough I thought it best to break it up into two parts. Part one covered Nice and Monaco and part two covers Corsica and Sardinia. Don’t forget to check out some of my blog posts!
All Photography by Albert Bond
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