Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nice, France as a starting point

We began our vacation by spending two nights in Nice. This made for a wonderful introduction into this area of France as well as a convenient location for access to other coastal villages and places of interest. Bus and train access is frequent and inexpensive. By staying in Nice, we didn't have a need for a car. When we left Nice for Mougins, we picked up our rental car at the train station.

When we arrived on May 1st at the Hotel Suisse at the Promenade des Anglais, we were struck by the beauty of the Mediterranean. The water IS as blue as shown in this photo. We had sunny weather in the 60-70 F range with no rain. At night, a light jacket was needed. Our room was small, but very nice, clean and modern. The staff were very kind and we would stay at the Hotel Suisse again.

May 1st is a holiday in France so the Promenade was full of folks out strolling, biking, or roller blading. There is a "bike/blade lane" along the wide Promenade. This made for delightful strolls. For those of you planning to visit this area with your male family members...yes, topless sunbathing is completely normal here.

Due to the "resort" atmosphere all along the coast, we found that even the French were more casually dressed than what we'd seen on previous trips to Paris and Provence. It was more common than not to see jeans, and even shorts on men and women up to the age of 60. The teenagers and young adults were pretty much dressed like those in the US with Puma or Nike sneakers. Casual sundresses, slacks and spaghetti strap tank tops worn with sneakers or sandals were prevalent on even the more sophisticated looking mature women. It is very easy to blend in with the locals in this region.

We had a room overlooking the Promenade. I can't imagine wanting to stay anywhere else. It was worth the two night splurge for the view. Here is a night time photo.

The food in Nice seemed to be predominately Italian in influence. There are some fantastic gelato places, too! Pizza and pasta was plentiful and fine. Le Claire Fontaine, a restaurant with outdoor seating at Rue Rosetti, served up fine pasta and Nicoise selections. The service was fantastic, although you'll find the tables very close together due to the popularity of this restaurant. I enjoyed a pesto pasta on one night, then opted for a return visit to try a sampler of Nicoise veggies (stuffed zucchini, tomatoes, onions, eggplant). Speaking of veggies, a walk through the market in Nice provided some insight into the freshness of our meals:

While on the topic of the Nice market, the flowers were also gorgeous! My husband had to drag me away from all the beautiful bouquets!

Walking through Old Town is enjoyable, day or night. It's lively, but not too much activity to distract from the enjoyment of being out and about. There are also a few more modern areas that are pleasant, too. I especially enjoyed seeing the architecture around Nice. It would be easy for me to spend more time in this lovely city with friendly people.

During our time in Nice, we took a bus to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferat to visit the Villa Ephrussi gardens. We also had lunch at the harbor, then walked up to Beaulieu to catch a bus to Menton. Bus fare was 1 Euro per person, each way. Although, a 4 Euro bus pass worked from Nice to Beaulieu (but not to Menton). A first class train ticket from Menton back to Nice was 6 Euros, although second class seemed just as good on an empty train (this time of year). I'll cover these day trips in other blog entries.

NEXT: Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat