On the road in France – Nice

Southern France is always worth a visit. No matter where you go, I’m quite certain that you will enjoy your stay. When it comes to Nice though, I would like to add that this particular town would very much deserve to be pronounced the English way. After all it is very nice there. That’s one of the reasons I decided to pay the city on the French riviera another brief visit this summer.

Wherever you come from, Nice has its own airport, so there’s no need to spend too much time thinking about how get to your hotel. At least that’s what I thought until – waiting for the bus to the city center – I remembered that I was in France. I have spent some time in France, Paris respectively, and I should have known that wherever you go in this country, a strike is never far away. So as I mused about what to do and where to go during my vacation in Nice, it suddenly struck me that the reason for my prolonged waiting could well be a strike.

It was. And I as well as some 40 other people had decided to resist the urge to take a cab and remain obstinate, as if to demonstrate our own right for public transportation, close to midnight outside of Nice Airport. Fortunately I possess extensive experience with and a general sympathy for the sometimes sanguine, sometimes grumpy French people and did exactly as they do when they’re faced with delayed public transportation due to various strikes. Which is pretty much nothing, combined with a smile on your face. But that is rather easy when you’re inhaling salty air from the Mediterranean Sea and are looking forward to 5 days of „joie de vivre“.

Finally the bus arrived and I made it to the hotel at last. A friend of mine was already waiting and in order to properly start the holiday we headed out to the historic quarter (Vieux Nice) and the part that’s usually referred to as Marché Aux Fleurs to toast to good food, weather and of course – wine. Which, if you’re willing to take my advice, should be Côtes de Provence rosé wine.

Despite the fact that we had had some plans for this vacation, all of them were abandoned on day one, when we visited the private beach of our hotel, which was the Hotel Beau Rivage right behind the famous Promenade des Anglais. It’s not as private as you may think, everybody can go, but you have to pay an entrance fee and when you do, you will find yourself in a little paradise, equipped with comfortable deckchair, a restaurant with handsome waiters, who will deliver right to where you’re slumbering, pretty blue and white umbrellas, your own life-guard, and most importantly the turquoise colored freshness of the Mediterranean sea, five steps from your deckchair.

Nothing, absolutely nothing was able to beat that, and with the happy coincidence of outstanding weather, my friend and I forgot about Cannes, St. Tropez, Villefranche sur Mer or other places to go and stayed in Nice. Five days of absolute bliss.

In case you ask yourself why I’m telling you all this, when you may have wanted to read about sights and things to do, well, if you ever want to be an accomplished traveler you should heed the few pieces of advice I have to offer. Which can actually be summed up in one sentence: When you travel, do what you FEEL like doing (and don’t rely on travel guides). This is something of a taoist travel mantra, which I’ve used in the past few years and which has always rendered my vacations more or less perfect.

The one at Nice turned out to be a mixture of laziness on the beach, food and drink. And southern France is actually one of the best places for these occupations, considering that the weather is pleasant most of the summer, the French definitely know how to cook and I don’t need to mention the wine.

So when you travel to Nice, and when you find yourself lucky enough to have a few days of sunshine ahead of you, why don’t you indulge yourself on one of the private beaches. Go get front-row deckchairs, bring a good book and let time get washed away by the pleasant sound of the Mediterranean surf. If you get thirsty, the waiters will be happy to bring you a glass of wine, some olives and as far as I’m concerned – not much more is necessary to make a traveler happy.

When it comes to eating, you definitely want to check out „L’Ane Rouge“ at the harbour. I can savely say that it’s been a long while since I’ve eaten better. The personnel is friendly and very attentive, if you stay late, make sure they call a taxi for you – remember a strike is never very far away in France and cabs can get rare on these occasions as well.

As for the touristy area around the Marché aux Fleurs – my friend an I ate there twice and even though one might suspect tourist traps in these places, we were never disappointed. We tried La Cambuse, and found excellent Pizza, Chez Freddy served an outstanding lobster paella, prices were reasonable, the service ok. Le Pain Quotidien turned out to be a wonderful place for breakfast. They have a wide variety of breads, which are baked fresh every day, delicious cream-coffee (the french way in a big mug) and different selections of breakfast add-ons, ranging from omelets to muesli or smoked salmon.

When you’re not relaxing at the beach, strolling around the old quarters is a pleasant waste of time, if you’ve absolutely got to spend money, the area around Place Massena (Rue Paradis, Avenue de Suède…) will provide you with plenty of opportunities to get rid of whatever you have in your wallet. Nightlife centers around the old quarters, at least that is where all the tourists can be found. There are clubs that may be popular, some place called Le Klub for example, where my friend and I found ourselves on the one and only excursion late at night together with one other lost soul. Who knows, they may get busy in the early morning hours, we didn’t care to find out. By this time we had long decided that our vacation in Nice was going to be spent lazing on the beach, reading a good book or gazing out at sea.

Where I live, we use a saying to describe a person who knows how to live very well. We would say he or she lives like a god in France. If you get a chance to do as I did in Nice, you’ll agree with me that the selection of France as the place where even a God may feel spoiled, couldn’t have been more appropriate.

Useful Information

Getting to Nice and accommodation: Nice has its own airport. Most cities in Europe offer direct flights to Nice, when you come from further away, you will probably have to fly via Paris. Hotels are plenty in Nice, but I can recommend the Hotel Beau Rivage. The have excellent rates if you book early (around 180 Euros per room). Despite the fact that the interior designer got a little carried away with the design rather than stressing function (e.g. in the bathrooms). the hotel is in a great location, right near the Marché aux Fleurs and the beach, personnel is extremely helpful, hotel guests enjoy slightly reduced rates at Beau Rivage Beach.

Food:  Le Pain Quotidien, 1 Rue Saint-François de Paule. Excellent selection of breads, terrace seating, a far better choice than the overpriced hotel breakfasts. L’Ane Rouge , 7 Quai des Deux Emmanuel, situated at Nice harbor, outstanding sea-food and fish, I recommend the fixed-price menu, but don’t fall for the outrageously overpriced aperitiv! La Cambuse, 5 Cours Saleya, pizza, salads and regional specialties. Chez Freddy: 20 Cours Saleya, sea-food and fish, excellent paellas.

Susanne, August 22nd, 2010

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