Fri 25th May
Our arrival into Nice last night was similar to that into Madrid; a stuff up. I will never pre-book airport transfers again. We arrived at 11.35pm on schedule into an airport that was surprisingly busy and filled with glamorous people due to the Monaco Grand Prix being staged next week. By midnight the arrivals hall had just about emptied, except for us and all of the expectant taxis queued outside. Anyway, a few phone calls later and we finally got on our way and into our apartment at about 12.45am. My first impression of Nice during the drive into town was that this place seems to know how to enjoy life; it was pumping with life even at this hour. In fact it was nearly as busy at night as it was the following day. The drive into Nice from the airport is along the coastal route of Promenade des Anglais. It is truly a most beautiful town; much like what a very clean and polished, luxury version of the strip along Brighton le Sands could be (use your imagination). We were all very impressed and looking forward to exploring the next day even though somewhat tired and cranky from our long day of travel from Marrakech.
We have again been lucky with our accommodation. Our apartment, Le Boucherie, is large and light-filled and located along a picturesque cobble-stone lane in the pedestrian-only part of the Old Town. The Old Town stretches from the other side of our apartment and down towards the beach, less than a 10 min walk away. There are many beautiful clothing boutiques in our area as well as restaurants, cafes, gelato bars, magnificent old Churches and gift shops. It is a visual treat to simply walk out the door and stroll around the neighbourhood. Mark and I ventured out early to stroll through the flower/fruit/vegetable markets. These markets are located along the cours Saleya in the Old Town, just one road back from the beach. This too was a visual feast on such a beautiful sunny morning; the day was to be a hot one with a peak at 310C. We sat off and had a coffee at one of the many cafes lining the markets and reflected on how lucky we were. Mark took his life in his hands over coffee, not for the first time I might add, by stating that he wished we had more time in Nice; he with the short memory had forgotten that he did not want to come to Nice and only acquiesced to this stop providing that it was short!!!!
We eventually set off for an Open Top Bus Tour after a quick breakfast at home and were shown the key sights of this beautiful town; a town with varied landscape and a magnificent harbour. We were naughty and ate lunch at an Irish pub; the call of the Kilkenny on tap was too much for Mark to withstand. From there it was a slow route home through the maze of narrow lanes that were bustling with life, locals and tourists. Mark, Tom and Annabelle went down to dip in a free section of the Mediterranean at about 6pm while I stayed home, along with my headache, to write this note. The water was beautiful apparently but the beach, a pebble variety one, was a bit too hard on the feet after the luxury of Bondi sand. NB: Annabelle just walked out from her post-swim shower to state, for the blog, that Nice is her favourite place so far!
We headed out for a walk at about 7 pm and then on to dinner. Mark managed to squeeze in some shopping (it’s that kind of place) before we had a drink along the Rue de la Prefecture. It was only a short stroll from there back to Place Rossetti, site of Cathedral Reparatae, for ‘the best meal ever’ at La Claire Fontaine. As filling as this meal was, we all still managed to fit in gelato before heading home for an early night. The gelato here leaves the ones in Paris for dead!!! Thoughts about going to Monaco for the day tomorrow were put on hold as we realised that there was still so much to do in Nice, thus, we will stay here for our last day in France. We have concluded that we will have to come back to France to take in more of the country side as well as the Riviera.
Sat 26th May
Mark and I woke before the kids so decided to escape for a walk and a swim before our family outing to the produce markets. We both realised how much we missed Bondi with our walk along the azure coast. Our dip into the Mediterranean was a hoot. Anyone who has ever attempted swimming at a pebble beach will know what I am on about. Trying to get into the water was an adventure on its own. I fell over in about 12 inches of water and was then pummeled back and forth for quite some time, laughing so much that I could do little to redeem my situation. Bizarre thoughts started to float through my head: such as the waste of purchasing pumice stone the day before when, if I stayed in my current state for much longer, I could achieve a total body exfoliation in only a matter of minutes! I eventually made into deeper water and enjoyed the moment. That was until I had to get out; when the whole process was repeated in reverse. It was one of those ‘at least I can say I’ve done it’ kind of things.
We explored the produce markets and bought food for lunch before setting off in the afternoon to check out Monaco, site of the Grand Prix to be held the following day. We caught the bus to Monaco which was a spectacular journey in itself. The bus route meandered along a coast line dotted with villas, shops and hotels nestled into the most spectacular limestone cliffs rising abruptly out of the ocean. This was visual splendour on a most grand scale. We arrived at Monaco after about 40 minutes and the first thing we noted once off the bus was the noise; there was this high pitched roar which took only seconds to register as the roar from the formula one cars racing around the Old Town below us; it was adrenalin material for sure. We hurried down the hill to see if we could get a vantage point but, they were all blocked off. We could steel only glimpses between the barricades but strangely, that was exciting enough. The whole town was filled with people caught up in the hype…it was quite exciting, even for a non-petrol head like myself. We went on though to visit the renowned Musee Oceanographique de Monaco, an aquarium that receives rave reviews; had they been to the Sydney Aquarium though they wouldn’t bother. From there it was on to the obligatory visit to Grace Kelly’s tomb stone. We then decided to head back down to the Old Town to immerse ourselves, albeit briefly, in the hype of the Grand Prix moment. We did so but at great expense; 7 euros for a lemonade!!
From there we headed home by train, a journey that was much like a post Swans’ match one…much laughter and friendly banter from passengers, lots of Americans. We then headed out to Place de Jesus for dinner, a square surrounding the church Iglesia de Jesus and, yes, more gelato before tucking into bed for our last night in Nice. Off to Milan and then Lake Como, Bellagio tomorrow.