A visit to Nice, France
We had already decided that our 2018 trip to Europe would include a trip to Paris and Mont Saint-Michel, so we included Nice as another destination for all the obvious reasons including the fact that Celeste had never been there. We made this decision because Nice is very central to the Cote D’Azur area, which meant that places like Monaco and Villefrance were simple day trips - note the use of the word "trips" versus "tours". We knew where we wanted to go and we knew how to get there!
We departed Paris from the Charles de Gaulle Airport in the late morning, such that we could arrive in Nice at approximately the check-in time for our VRBO apartment rental. Arrival was on time at the Nice Côte d'Azur Airport, and we took a taxi to Massena Plaza.
Yes we could have taken a train from Paris to Nice, but as our available time was limited before we had to depart for Madrid, we opted for air travel so that we could be in the Cote D’Azur area for as much time as we had.
If you have never been to Nice & either you are planning a trip there, or you just want to know more about it, here are some good sources of information;
We had reserved a nice apartment (from VRBO) on the Massena Plaza, close to shopping, Restaurants, beach and the old town. Because the plaza is so "centered" in Nice, we did not have very far to walk to enjoy any aspect of the city. You can jump over to the VRBO link and get details on this apartment, but it is very inexpensive at $92 per night (average).
Our VRBO rental apartment was in this building (on the left), on the third floor on the backside of the building.
See the train tracks in this picture? Those are for the Nice Tramway System. You can ride from one end of Nice to the other in just 17 minutes. The Tramway is available every 3 to 5 minutes during the day, and every 12 to 15 minutes at night till 1AM. This system has proven to be so popular that a second line is under construction.
Directly across Massena Plaza was the old town area, full of shops, restaurants, pubs and various stores.
Walking around Nice is very pleasant, most of the old town streets are "pedestrian only" for example. You might see the occasional bicycle, or a delivery van, but the streets in old town are primarily for people walking.
Castle Hill is at the east end of old town, just behind the building in the center of this image.
Although there are multiple ways to reach the top of Castle Hill, the one we chose starts by the waterfront and ascends a series of steep stairs. The reward is a set of amazing views from each staircase platform, and from the top.
Hundreds of years ago, the entire city of Nice was situated on top of this hill. By the 11th century, the hill sported a Medieval Chateau, a grand Cathedral, and a bustling hilltop village, all encircled by a massive walled fortress (aka Castle) - which is how this hill got its name.
Louis the XIV conquered the fortress in 1706 and to ensure that he would not have to recapture the fortress ever again, he ordered everything to be dismantled stone by stone, many of which ended up paving the Promenade des Anglais.
What a stunning view of the city of Nice from the top of Castle Hill! Actually we had stopped to catch our breath after the very steep stairs, and happened to notice how great the view was!
The Promenade des Anglais paralles the Quai de Etats-Uni ("United States Wharf") and they both parallel the beaches. That is not a single beach, the beaches are "owned" by various businesses and you frequently have to pay a small fee to use either the beach or their facilities. For example, see where all the beach chairs are in the lower left of this image? That is the Plage Publique des Bains de la Police ("Public Beach of the Police Baths") and not far west is the Plage Publique de Castel ("Public Beach of Castel") and this continues all the way to the airport.
The Port de Nice as seen from the top of Castle Hill. You can catch a ferry in this port to various locations in the Mediterranean Sea, including Corsica & Sardinia.
The top of Castle Hill contains a very pretty park (free to the public) and there is a cemetery ( Cimitiere du Chateau) at the northern end of the park. The cemetery was created in 1783 and currently contains over 2,800 tombs.
Take a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, which runs along side the beach from Castle Hill all the way to the Nice Airport. If you want to go to the beach, or if you want to just take a look at the Mediterranean Sea, you are going to wind up walking along this Promenade.
Not sure if you can see it or not, but the beach here is covered with gravel, easy to walk on.
We spread our towels out and enjoyed the beach, and were comfortable on the gravel. It was such a nice day, that the lack of sand was not an issue for us.
This is a pedestrian only walk-way, however there is a bicycle path directly adjacent to the promenade. See the steel fencing on the right side of this picture? That separates the bicyclists from the pedestrians.
Warning: We did not see (or bump into) any pick-pockets on this walkway, but there are pan-handlers and scam artists attempting to work the crowd along this route.
We discovered the Cours Saleya market on our old town exploration, they sold everything here; flowers, vegetables, various meats, candy, olives, etc.
We were here in the early morning, and already a number of locals were shopping. There are also several restaurants, and a number of people selling various things to eat. All of these food items were either home grown, or home made, and the food stalls were very popular with everyone.
This YouTube video is one we took while we were walking through the market, admiring all of the good things to eat!
Please note that the wet paving stones in the market area were not due to rain, the shop keepers washed down everything prior to the market opening that morning.
A very typical street scene in the old town section of Nice. Narrow streets, pedestrian-only, shops everywhere with the occasional pub or restaurant.
This is an interesting area to explore, or window shop, or to find a pub or restaurant. Every where you look there is something unique!
Nougat shops can be found all over Nice, they are popular and worth a try! This particular shop is the Le Nougat de Montségur.
Nougat has an interesting history, it originated in Baghdad, Iraq (in the 10th century AD) and spread throughout the Mediterranean countries. However, the original recipe was created by the ancient Greeks and was enjoyed by the Romans who called it nux gatum.
This statue (of Jean-André Masséna) is in the Promenade du Paillon, a very nice park adjacent to Massena Place.
This park runs east & west from Massena Plaza, west to the Promenade des Anglais and east to the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum. Wide sidewalks, trees, benches, a very nice park to stroll or relax.
The Port de Nice Harbor. Villefranche-sur-Mer is just east of the Harbor, on the other side of the area in the background of this image.
This harbor seemed to be primarily utilized by smaller ships & yachts, Cruise Ships utilize the neighboring Villefranche Bay. However, we did find after some research, that this harbor is also used by two ferry companies that provide ferry service to various locations in the Mediterranean Sea.
We stopped to catch our breath on the way up the steep stairs to Castle Hill. Warning: if you are not at a reasonable level of health, do not attempt to climb these stairs as they are very steep! There is an elevator available near the stairway entrance.
The view is towards the west and you can see the Nice beach and the Promenade du Anglais, marching off towards the Nice Airport in the distance.
We ate dinner at the Le Rocher restaurant, and had a great meal of mussels and fries (moules frites).
The exterior of the restaurant where we had mussels & fries. We did not know it at the time, but we had visited this same restaurant when they were located in Rouen, France. See our blog post for this same restaurant in Rouen by clicking here
Gare de Nice Ville Train Station: on our way to a day trip to Monaco, only a 20 kilometer trip.
The French Rail System is inexpensive, efficient & fast. I cannot imagine why anyone would rent a car in Nice, parking is difficult to find, streets are narrow and the trains go just about everywhere you might want to go.
Suggested links for Nice France
- Nice Wikipedia Article
- Nice Tourism
- 15 Best Things to Do in Nice on Crazy Tourist Site
- Google list of things to do & see in Nice
- There are other sites, try a Google search.
Where to eat or stay in Nice, France
I'll mention a few places we ate at, and then really you should do a Google search to locate an eatery. There are creperies, restaurants, hotel restaurants/bars and generally speaking, they are all expensive.
For those who have not previously been in France, there are certain restaurant "rules" that you should get familiar with. For example, they do not offer "doggie bags" or allow "food sharing" !
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