After 2 nights in Antibes, we headed for a short 15-20 minute train ride to Nice. We attempted to bus to our hotel – but with our luck, the bus we took had either broke down or stopped service after only a couple minutes. We couldn’t understand the bus driver’s announcement, and many other people stayed on the bus… but we ended up jumping off and walking the rest of the way. It wasn’t too far and we eventually reached our hotel – Villa la Tour in Vieux Nice (old town). The outside was very “Provençal” and immediately our spirits were cheered.
We had arrived just before lunch time and we were hoping to drop off our luggage until our room was available. Luckily it was ready, but the front desk offered us a glass of wine as a welcome. We sipped the wine on the front patio, then walked up the 3 flights of stairs (no elevator) and entered our teeny, tiny, itty-bitty room. The toilet was in the shower, and you could use the sink while sitting on the bed. No matter, our purpose for visiting Nice was not to sit in the hotel room, but to enjoy life outside in the city.
Another plus to this hotel was the roof top terrace – just big enough for a table and 4 chairs, but definitely a good spot to sit and enjoy some time.
Nice, like many other French cities, is old with much history. There are many narrow pedestrian streets and the color palette is focused on the brighter side: yellow, pink, orange and green shades are painted throughout the city. Stores, booths, cafes, bakeries, and gelato shops are heavily scattered through old town. We grabbed lunch at La Table Alziari and really enjoyed the atmosphere.
After lunch, we meandered towards the beach where we found fully covered in pebbles. Not an idyllic beach by Californian standards, but everyone seemed to be used to it. Possibly there are better beaches in more private areas, but for our short one-day, the public beach near the old town was sufficient. Shaun swam in the Mediterranean waters, and said the temperature was like pool water – not too warm and not too cold. We finished up with a glacier from Fenocchio – known for its huge variety of flavored ice creams.
In the late afternoon, we took a bus ride to Monaco (#100). Our only concern was making sure we didn’t miss the last bus back to Nice at 8:00pm. We headed straight for the Monte Carlo casino for sightseeing and the obligatory gambling. The casino was as glamorous as we expected.
One thing we didn’t realize about the Monte Carlo Casino was how scenic the surroundings are. The hills of Monaco backing right up to the ocean is a truly unique setting.
We got back into Nice and perused the streets, looking for the perfect spot for dinner. We happened upon cours Saleya, a bustling market street lined with restaurant after restaurant for several blocks. In the very middle of the street, there were booths filled with various arts and crafts and other goods. On either side of this was tented seating for the restaurants. The lines for each restaurant were blurred, but all of them were busy and serving many customers. We finally picked one after a few passes, called La Cambuse. We had a nice dinner and really enjoyed the market that was open until at least midnight.
We loved Nice and wished we had more time to spend here. We actually preferred the atmosphere over Antibes, for our style and energy level. It captured the young, fun, vibrant and beachy feel we were hoping for in the French Riviera. The next day we packed up and caught our only domestic flight of the trip to Nantes.
Check out our 3 Weeks in France page for a full summary of our trip!