On Saturday I finally realized my dream of visiting the south of France, and it was everything I imagined it would be and more! The trip really began at around 4:30pm on Friday, when I made a point of stopping by every single office in my corridor at work to tell my colleagues that I was off to Nice for the weekend! 😉 Afterwards I met my friend Naomi at Gare de Lyon and we boarded our train, arriving at our hostel five hours later at 11pm.
We awoke the next morning with a well formulated plan to seek out pastries in Vieux Nice, the city’s historic old town. It took about 20 minutes to get there by foot, and once we arrived I felt certain that we had crossed the border into Italy. The narrow alleyways, the laundry artistically hanging from the windows, the abundance of pizza places – all of it screamed Rome or Naples to me. Even the street signs were in a mix of French and Italian. And since I happen to love Italy (like almost everyone), I was very pleased by this discovery!
After eating our pastries and wandering through the old town, we decided to climb to the Parc de la Colline du Château, which promised beautiful views of the city, the ruins of a castel and a waterfall. We stopped multiple times to
catch our breath take photos, and as we got higher the views got more and more beautiful! From one side we could see Port Lympia, Nice’s main port, and from the other, a view of the city and its main beach. We spent a long time wondering where the castel was, before realizing that we were standing on it (all that remained were the foundation and walls), but even that was cool (plus there was a conveniently located snack shop there!) We did find the waterfall, however, arriving there at 12 o’clock noon. I remember because someone fired a cannon somewhere at exactly that moment, and it made me jump much more than it should have!
By the time we were done exploring the park I was very hungry, specifically for seafood, so we headed back down to the old town, pausing in a shop that sold an incredible assortment of salts and olives, as well as the main Nice market. We eventually settled on a place called La Tapenade, where Naomi got mussels and fries and I got a scallop risotto. It was so nice to have such a relaxing, grown-up lunch in such beautiful surroundings; for a while I felt like a grand old lady who had just retired to the south of France after marrying off all her daughters back in England, or something like that. 😛 (I’ve clearly seen a lot of period drama ahaha!)
After our lunch it was time for the main event: a trip to the beach! On our way back to our hostel to change into our swimsuits we thought it would be a good idea to buy hats, but shockingly none of the Zara’s, H&M’s, Pimkie’s, Promod’s, or random swimsuit shops we visited had any reasonably priced straw hats. Luckily we made a last ditch effort in our local Monoprix and found the most adorable straw hat every created, so adorable that we each bought one! It was a real Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants moment, if you substitute hats for jeans and France for Greece. And we actually didn’t have to share. 😉
The Nice beach was definitely a site to behold, I have never seen a more beautiful shade of blue water in my life! Even looking back at the pictures now, it doesn’t seem real! Since it was pretty windy, we chose to sit on the side of the beach that had a lifeguard on duty, and once we set up camp we immediately headed to the water! The temperature was great and there were quite a few waves, so we had a good time frolicking around and ingesting a bit too much saltwater. (Is that why seafood tastes so good? Because it’s pre-seasoned?)
Our timing ended up being perfect, because after we got out of the water some clouds began to appear out of nowhere, and it actually started to drizzle! Walking up and down the Promenade des Anglais, we saw multiple bolts of lightening strike the hills we were climbing earlier in the day. But rather than do the logical thing and seek shelter, we decided that the best thing to do was to go back to the old town and get some ice cream! 😛 Lonely Planet recommended Fenocchio, a family-owned ice cream parlor that opened in 1966. I was so glad we followed their advice, because they had 94 amazing flavors! 😀 I went a little crazy and got the chocolate and ginger, violet, and cactus flavors, but Naomi made the best choice and got maple pecan, which was mind-blowingly delicious.
After our pre-dinner ice cream, we headed back to our hostel to wash off the layer of salt that had accumulated on our bodies and rested for a bit. For dinner we decided to go to a tapas bar in the old town called El Merkado, where we had some delicious croquetas and sangria, before going out to dance at a place called Le Choko near the beach! So despite all the eating we did, I would say that we more than burned it off with all the hill-climbing, ocean-swimming, walking to our hostel-ing, and dancing we managed to squeeze in between!
It was an absolutely amazing day, and our trip was only halfway over! Stay tuned for the story of our second day in Nice, where I defy the Russian Orthodox Church and eat a lot of Salade Niçoise! 😉 À bientôt!