Go anywhere Nice this year?

Why yes I did, thank you, I was treated by my daughter Jemima to a wonderful few days in Nice, down on the beautiful French Riviera.

Nice is the 5th largest city in France by population, but its contribution to the tourist economy is immense. The airport is right on the beach, so the views as you land of the sparkling azure sea, with all sorts of water activity happening, and the mountains setting a dramatic backdrop, are nothing short of jaw dropping. And its the first airport where I’ve spotted a sign pointing out the toilets are next to the heliport…..

A taxi took us to the apartment we had rented for the week, just across the 7 km long Promenade Des Anglais from the sea. We had a short wait before we could get in, so I suggested we visited the sign that said “Brasserie” next door. This in fact turned out to be the glamorous https://www.hotel-negresco-nice.com/en/hotel Le Negresco Hotel, one of the most fashionable addresses and recognisable buildings in Nice. We settled in for champagne cocktails, and a charming uniformed waiter provided complimentary snacks of rosemary cashews and smokey almonds.

Suitable and impressively refreshed, we had our first look around the apartment, stunningly decorated with modern light fittings and a large kitchen lounge area (though bizarrely only one tiny toilet with the worlds smallest basin, for the whole apartment). A mirror on the back of the front door demanded selfies every time we left.

After a quick stock up of supplies from the nearby Carrefour, we set off for our first orientation wander along the prom. The weather was very warm (30+ degrees), but the gentle Mediterranean breeze made it feel very pleasant.

The girls were tempted to try parasailing, and we were all fascinated by the waterfall high on the hillside at the end of the prom. We had a delicious dinner including moules et frites, and even popped our heads around the Casino on the way home.

Day 2 was an early start, as J had booked us all onto a full day tour of the lavender fields and the Gorge du Verdun, https://www.verdontourisme.com/en/the-verdon/the-verdon-gorges-the-largest-canyon-in-europe/whose deep blue green I had even spotted from the plane yesterday. The tour was in a thankfully air conditioned vehicle, and included stops in the delightful villages of Castelane and a lunch stop in Moustier Sainte Marie. We saw how lavender oil was distilled, and learned about its many health giving attributes.

Sadly the harvest had just happened (the hot weather had meant it was early this year), but the hazy purple fields were still impressive.

Next stop was down at that stunning lake, which gets its colour from the clay underneath. The girls were brave enough to have a swim, and there were pedallos and kayaks for hire if you had some more time to spend.

Once back home, we just had a supper of pizza and frites at a nearby restaurant.

Day 3, and the girls wanted to spend the morning on the beach, so Christina and I took the open top bus tour. This gives stunning views of coast, and passes by a villa formerly owned by Elton John. We stopped for lunch at Villefranche sur Mer, a beautiful port with many restaurants and shops set around the harbour and the small sandy beach. I opted for the selection of local specialities, including stuffed courgette flowers, which I’ve long wanted to try.

Later in the afternoon, when it was slightly cooler, we walked all the way down to the ILoveNice sign, and the climb up to that waterfall. There was a lift, but it was closed. “When does it open?” asked Lisa. “In a few months when its been repaired!” was the answer. A long climb up countless stairs followed, but the views from each balcony point were worth it. At the very top we got some water from the cafe, looked down onto Nice harbour on the other side, and eventually found the waterfall itself, enjoying the refreshing spray.

At the foot of the hill, we found a window seat overlooking the prom, and played I-Spy, fashion bingo, and spot the dog, over a GnT.

For dinner I had a Salad Nicoise (of course!) and a glass of my now favourite local rose, a Minuty. Some street performing acrobats added to the colour and spectacle.

Following the recommendation of a couple we’d got chatting to earlier, the next day we headed for Monte Carlo. The train costs only 8 euro return, but the process of buying a ticket at the station was rather arduous and stressful. You need to specify exactly which trains you’ll be travelling on, the age range of each passenger, whether they had any discount cards, and even give a phone number and email! Hot and bothered, we piled onto the train, and found seats on the upper deck to enjoy to lovely coastal views.

Arriving in Monaco 20 minutes later, we began the long climb down many steps to the harbour, from where we picked up an open top bus. It was pretty packed, but we were only going one stop to the Palace, where we were just in time to catch the changing of the guard. Lovely views over the harbour from here, and then we were back on the bus to find a suitable lunch spot. We’d considered the Japanese garden, but there is a towering and noisy forest of construction work happening round here, so we instead continued to the Casino stop.

A never ending stream of fancy cars crawls round here, doing the famous Grand Prix circuit. The elegant terrasse of Cafe de Paris called to us, and soon we were settled at a table in its gilded sumptuous surroundings, admiring the waiters passing with long trays of dishes out to the Chanel and Louboutin clad clientele.

I do love a Ceasar salad, but I don’t eat chicken, so I was delighted find a version with prawns on offer here. Bread and water were provided, and they had my fave wine available by the glass – result! Coffees were served with a delightful selection of petits fours – chocolates, butter biscuits, and little pate de fruits.

We had a quick look inside the Casino, were you can get to a selection of slot machines which will greedily take 5 and 10 euro notes off you in the blink of an eye. And no photography allowed!

The traffic in the city moves at a snail pace, and we were quite hot sitting on the top deck of the bus, so it was a relief to get back to the cool and cavernous station. The train home was jam packed, so we treated ourselves to a taxi ride back to the apartment, which I followed with a refreshing dip in the sea itself.

For our last evening, we dressed up in our finest flocks, and had a seafood platter followed by crepes suzette.

On our last day we had plenty of time before our late night flight, and had managed to arrange a late check out time. In the morning, the others went to the rather rocky beach, suitable shod in waterproof shoes, while I explored the tram system. This is very clean and efficient, and well worth using to get around the city. One journey is 1.50, a multi journey ticket for 10 trips costs 10 euro, and I treated myself to an all day ticket for 5 euros. I was in full-on research mode, took a tram to Place Garibaldi, walked to the harbour, to the tram all the way to the airport, enjoyed a glass of rose in my matching frock and fan, before getting off at the station nearest to us.

Over lunch using up all the remaining cheese, strawberries, and crackers, we discussed options, and decided to take the tram to the old part of Nice. This is just adorable, little winding alleyways crammed full of shops selling herbs, honey, soaps, clothing and trinkets, as well as food stalls serving fish and socca. Not to be missed!

The tram out to the airport was smooth and quick, but we were having difficulties in checking in online. This would mean that we couldn’t get through security to all the shops and restaurants beyond until 90 minutes before the flight. Thankfully, Jemima managed to work out that my little card sized Irish passport is an ID card, not a passport, and we were soon taking our time choosing lavender honey, Fragonard perfume, truffle oil, and the all important rose wine. Suitably stocked up, we went for a meal at Jamies Diner, which had a disappointingly small range of options, but did have a lovely view out to the runway and the beach and mountains beyond. I treated us all to macarons from the nearby patisserie.

Our plane was already delayed by over an hour, and by the time we finally boarded it was going to be another hour before a take off slot was available. I have to give full credit to the Easyjet team here: They were communicative and managed expectations well. The captain came out and invited anyone who wanted to come see the cockpit, get photos, ask questions etc, to do so, and the crew passed out soft drinks and chocolate bars.

The very late (early?) landing at Gatwick meant there were no trains running, and a massive wait for taxis. But the impressively efficient Jemima managed to secure an Uber, and we all fell into bed about 3.30. Given that there are so many delays and cancellations of flights right now, I was just so glad that all our flights had actually succeeded in getting us to and from destinations. (My add on flights between Belfast and London were also problem free, so full marks to “greasyjet”!)

Final thoughts – I absolutely love this part of the world, and will happily revisit Nice, as well as other destinations along the Cote dAzur. Nice was exactly as it should look, including our local, Le Negresco, old Nice was charming, but Monte Carlo disappointing. The food and wine were all delicious. But the most memorable and enjoyable part of the holiday was the fun and laughter I shared with the best bunch of ladies in the world – love you Nicoise Gals xxx!!!