Ah, Nice … the pearl of the Riviera, the heart of the Cote d’Azur. The beautiful city perched on the edge of the glistening blue Mediterranean. The playground for the rich and famous … well at least near to them … and loads of loud tourists! All mixed with an incredible array of bright, happy colors; in the blue-green sea, in the pink and yellow buildings, in the multi-colored boats, in the clothes, in the blue sky, everywhere.
1. A Beach … in Nice vs. Australia. Hmm…
The sea is beautiful and I love the way it changes colors to a range of brilliant blues and turquoises. It really does sparkle like diamonds in the sun.
But seriously, to call it a beach is going a bit far. It is rocks and stones at the edge of the water. And people sit on these big stones sunbathing. Seems crazy to me. A real beach has soft, comfortable sand, not rocks, to lay on.
In Australia, we have many magnificent beaches with long stretches of white or golden sand, so I have some high standards and criteria for what makes a good beach. La Plage Nice does not fit that criteria I’m afraid … but it is in Europe so people flock to it like crazy and it totally overflows in summer with a multitude of tourists. Those Europeans were already flocking to the beach in May and excitedly going in for a swim … when it was only 20C! They asked if I was going in for a swim … but oh no, it was still way too cold for me to go in the water. I’m an Aussie!
2. Seaside dining is a lovely experience
The bars and restaurants along the seaside (almost said beach then, whoops) are pretty cool and it is lovely sitting in them looking out at the water. Unfortunately, you have to look across the main road along the sea – the Promenade des Anglais (Walk of the English) and Quai des Etats-Unis (Quay of United States) to see it. Still, it’s very nice, although probably the most expensive bars in Nice … except for the restaurants that open up right on the “beach” from Beau Rivage to Oasis Beach for the summer season. I tried one of those restaurants before I left and it was expensive, very average at best and the service was really crap. So beware.
3. People watching on Promenade des Anglais is an amusing pastime.
Whilst sitting at the bars or the seats on the promenade, it is lots of fun watching the walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers, skate-boarders, segwayers and sometimes performers, making their way along the promenade, especially when it is not super crowded. The outfits I saw were very entertaining too. Some crazy ones for sure, some very elegant. One guy was wearing 2 totally different coloured running shoes – one grey and one orange. It looked like they were made that way. Is that a new trend or something?
4. Fashion is a feast!
Elegant outfits are a lovely French habit. I saw some beautifully dressed women and men in gorgeous designer looking outfits that were so different. I loved that because I love unusual clothing that also looks stylish and chic – not just unusual for the sake of being different. Although I saw a lot of those too, looking very crazy.
It is awesome that fashion is not just a female thing here too. French men dress up and look fabulous too. Some people and they could be any age, just looked so tres chic. I wanted to take photos, but I was too self-conscious. The other thing that I loved about classy French fashion is that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Look at these gorgeous boots I bought for 100 Euro, marked down from 250. How fab is that?
5. Phénoménal Architecture
I do love the Belle Epoch architecture in Nice which continues to enchant me.
It really is extremely pretty and ornate and colorful. It is almost all the buildings in the central district that are decorated so beautifully.
Entering these buildings, even the not so fancy ones, immediately transports you to an old and luxurious period. The entrances are paved with marble floors, steps and walls, with big wooden doors with brass fittings and decorative plaster and lights. I loved the ones with little old fancy metal elevators that are just big enough for, like, 2 people. It seriously is a delight to walk around the streets of Nice. I usually had my eyes moving from side to side of the street, with my face looking upwards at the 4 and 5 story buildings.
6. Watch out … dog caca and odious smells everywhere!!
One can’t exactly relax and walk in Nice without paying extreme attention to what you step on. Rather than looking at the superb architecture, you need to walk with your face downwards looking at the pavement. This is a necessity to avoid the copious instances of caca (shit) and piss from dogs everywhere!!! And I mean everywhere!
Seriously, it seems like you can’t be a Nicoise person (ie resident of Nice) unless you have a little dog … and some of them are so little they look like rats. They take these little 4-legged shitting machines everywhere they go – into restaurants and cafes, on public transport, in their handbags and they walk them on the streets. So, of course, the dogs shit wherever they need and the owners just leave it there, even if it is right in the middle of the path. They don’t try to get the dog to go in the gutter or anything sensible like that and there is no grass around except in the few parks. They are supposed to clean it up, but no-one does.
I just don’t understand it. The French are so stylish and chic in themselves, most of them anyway, and even with the outfits their dogs wear, but they are happy to walk through dog shit and past smelly piss everywhere. It’s worse when it’s warm with no rain. OMG!!
Mind you, not all the pissy smells I smelt were from dogs. Some were distinctly human. French men also seem to feel it is their right to piss wherever they are. They just flop it out and let it flow anywhere. I saw that many, many times. They really don’t care who can see them.
Little alleyways were sometimes repulsively overwhelming. Smells in Nice were often very obnoxious and one of the things I really didn’t like. Walking along the main shopping street, Avenue Jean Medecin, one night and I was walking over these grates in the path. Well, wafting up from those grates was the odious aroma of sewerage. Delightful? Not!
7. The web of tiny alleys in the unique Old Town of Nice <3
The old town, La Vieille Ville, is a fascinating honeycomb of lovely old buildings from centuries past in the middle ages with many narrow alleyways going in every direction. I often got lost wandering through these little alleys because it was so difficult to keep my sense of direction. No such thing as town planning on a grid system in the middle ages.
The old city is full of bars, cute little restaurants and some rather sweet little boutique shops, as well as, of course, many touristy shops. Also, the port was a beauty…
8. Oh the French markets – fabulous food everywhere
It was a challenge to find the good and well-priced restaurants in the Old Town. Though, this was a challenge I accepted with both determination and stamina – to test as many restaurants as I could. I found some lovely little restaurants with gourmet menus for great prices. That is one thing I sure love about France – the ready availability of really good food.
The Marche de Fleur (Flower Market) was fabulous for amazing fresh food that you bought directly from the producer in most cases. The flowers were lovely at the market too.
Oh, the cheeses had me salivating, trying to decide what I wanted; fresh chevre either hard or soft, a creamy, almost runny Roquefort, or a smelly but to die for brie de Meaux. And the pates and terrines had me salivating. So hard to choose which one I wanted. Actually, I couldn’t just stop at one.
Combine all that with a cheeky bottle of rosé, a fresh baguette and some fresh basil and avocado and I was in French heaven. Oh, the wine, especially the rosé – good cheap wine, wine everywhere, and plenty of drops to drink lol.
Not so good for my body though, especially with my fructose malabsorption … but we all have to make sacrifices sometimes, huh. My digestive system had to make sacrifices for my taste buds … for a little while anyway.
Of course, I cannot forget the delicious chocolate chauds (hot chocolate). They kept me going in the winter months. So yummy.
9. Ice cream, ice cream everywhere …YUM!
Speaking of good food, ice-cream is also very popular, with many ice-creameries in the old town. Another challenge I accepted was to find the best one … once the weather warmed up of course. In my considered opinion, it was Fenocchio’s with their incredible range of strange and amazing flavors (or parfums in French). There was chili, ginger, avocado, watermelon and many others as well as the old faithfuls.
My 3 faves were pannacotta with caramel, salted caramel and nougat. Soooo yummy!
10. Location! Location! Location! Noise! Noise Noise! 😉
La Vieille Ville was a great place to be staying, giving me easy walking access to all these restaurants, bars and the seaside. I loved that side of it. What I didn’t like, at all, was that it is also filled with many nightclubs, especially in the block where I was staying. There were like 5 different nightclubs in the block around my apartment, that closed at 2, 3, 4 or 5 am on Thursday to Sunday nights.
When Corinne first came to my apartment, she said look out your window that place is going to be going nuts until late at night. She was right!
Now call me old and boring, but I hated being woken up in the early hours of the morning every weekend by angry drunk men in the streets below my room who yelled and fought for hours it seemed.
On the good side, I stayed in a beautiful old apartment that was so typically French and beautiful.
My bedroom was huge, as you can see from the picture. I spent a lot of time in there getting this website set up and writing these blogs. I was so lucky it felt good to be in my room. What I didn’t like was the 86 big steps I had to walk up and down each day, at least twice usually. Whilst I guess it was good exercise, it didn’t feel so good for my dodgy knees. The lady I stayed with didn’t speak much English so we could not talk much, even at the end as my French was still quite lacking. She was mostly nice but a bit of a clean control freak and I was always scared of doing something wrong or leaving something out of place. I felt quite stressed by that, even though I too am very clean, but hey, better to stay with a clean freak than a messy person.
11. Getting around Nice … on public transport …
Well … that was both good and bad.
The train, tram and even the bus systems were good and ran well … except when there was la greve (a strike), of which there are many in France. The train system was on a 4 month long strike of working 3 days then taking 2 days off every week from March to July … because the President wants to privatise the system, I think. It was crazy. If I wanted to catch a train I had to check first if they were running.
That said, I caught a TGV (fast train) from Nice to Paris and back and managed to get each way without too many delays. On the way back to Nice we were delayed for 30 minutes because the train “hit some wildlife”. Not sure what it was, but must have been bigger than a rabbit I reckon. It all worked quite smoothly apart from that delay, but I don’t think I will do a 5½ hour train trip each way again. Maybe look into flights next time I think.
I had some funny experiences on the trams though.
Soon after my arrival I got on a tram and sat next to a lady who, at the next stop, got up and walked over to another seat away from me. I thought “I just showered so I’m sure I don’t smell.” I guess I will never know why.
Then there was the day it was pouring with rain (actually there were many days like that) and the trams were very crowded. I was wet and trying to get in but there was a guy standing in the doorway who wouldn’t move. So I just pushed my way in. He then proceeded to yell and swear at me in French for a good 10 minutes or so. I had my back to him and was certainly not going to turn around and look at him. I did notice that the French people often love to yell at people.
The way they parked their cars in Nice was often very amusing. I was like “really?”. It seemed to me they just parked wherever and however they liked; double-parked and blocked the street, over a pedestrian crossing, in the intersection, up a wall. Whatever seemed to be the way to go.
12. Flirty French Men 🙂
On the I love side of French men, they do like a good flirt and are not afraid to do so any chance they get. As I might be a bit of a flirt myself (just a little, hehe), this did go down well with me and I could appreciate it most of the time, especially when they were very sexy.
Like the young bar manager at my favorite bar who started flirting with me in a very lovely way. He was so sexy so that was fun. It seemed more than a professional flirt (according to my friends) and it continued each time I went back there. Gave me a big ego buzz to feel that attraction. I even got a big hug from him at the end of my farewell drinks and he said to come back and see him. Oooh yeh ☺ I will do that for sure.
13. Nice is in close proximity to other beautiful cities.
One of the other things that is great about Nice is the French Riviera itself and being able to go out of town and visit gorgeous little old villages so easily. And of course, Monaco and Cannes for the film festival – which we happened to visit on a day of pissing down rain so we saw no-one exciting.
All in all…
Now I’m not in Nice right now, I miss it and France and all the things I loved very much. Nice is not my favorite place in France and not where I will settle down permanently, but I was enjoying it and loving France and made some fabulous new friends there.
I plan to be back there in early September to start up a new business venture with my gorgeous Australian/French friend Nathalie, and I can’t wait to be back. Watch this space as it is a very exciting new business concept especially for expat women. I will share as soon as we are launching.