A Long Weekend in and around Nice
‘Easter weekend is coming up soon’ I mutter to myself ‘Where shall we go to escape this damp and cold weather?’. ‘I know’, I exclaim loudly. ‘Nice will surely be nice?’.
This, my readers, is the kind of foolishness which lands one in equally damp and cold weather far from the comforts of home! But I was not to know that till later. Let me add the disclaimer than a couple of days is not enough to see anything much in a region which offers a lot of possibilities. But this is all we have. I am determined to enjoy whatever we do manage to see.
I find ourselves a moderately priced hotel with private parking on the internet. We intend to drive. This is not the best option for short holidays for far too much time is spent on the road. But I am remembering an astounding drive along a coastline from our last trip 28 years ago and hence the car.
On the morn of Easter Friday, we leave home at a very reasonable time. We are taking a familiar path through the Saint Bernard tunnel which will get us into Italy, heading towards Genova and then driving along the coast to Nice.
The snowy landscape of Switzerland looks gorgeous as we drive to the pass.
Unfortunately, it is soon apparent that we are not going to enjoy the wonderful scenery around us. The clouds are low and we are soon driving through a haze. This fog lasts until we descend from the Alps into the plains of Italy. We are determined to make good time so we don’t stop often. Still it is 5pm before we reach our hotel. It is a small one with a lovely open outdoor area and parking, a surprising little oasis in a congested area of the city.
We head straight to the Tourist Office where we book ourselves in for the Saturday morning walking tour of the old city. Then we wander down along the promenade to the old city. At the Marché aux Fleurs, the last of the daily flower market stalls are still there.
As we sit with a drink next to the market and people-watch, a sense of well-being descends upon me. ‘How pleasant this is!’ I tell myself. ‘This is quite the place to throw away the winter gloom!’,
We then wander aimlessly for a while, have dinner at a wood-fired pizza place (very pedestrian) and finally make our way back to the hotel, admiring the lights of Place Masséna.
Saturday morning dawns as miserable as can be. We dress warmly, get our rain gear on and head to the Tourist Office well in time for the walking tour.
‘We’ll have the tour only if at least 5 people come’ says our guide-to-be, obviously hoping that they would not! ‘It’s all very well for you!’, she tells us later, ‘You’re used to the rain! I am from Nice, this is unusual for us..’, She is not in luck. Enough people turn up for a group in French as well as a group in English.
We start with a bit of history and then walk to the old city. At Rue St François de Paule, we admire the Beau Rivage building, the Opera House and the Baroque façade of the Église St François de Paule. But it is the confiserie, once patronised by Queen Victoria, which gets a lot of aahs and oohs from our group! I want to come back later for some treats but get distracted and never make it.
The Marché aux Fleurs is very busy. The guide tells us about the Palais de Justice and the Chapelle de La Miséricorde. The yellow house at the right end of the picture above was where Matisse stayed for 10 years, we hear.
Next we walk along the old winding lanes to the Cathédrale St Réparate. We hear the story of the boat which arrives with the body of the saint. We hear a similar story in Monaco on Monday. ‘So many bodies floating hither and thither on the Med? What a ghoulish traffic jam!’ I think irreverently.
Our guide, who is bent upon finding covered areas to tour in, takes us next to the Palais Lascaris. It is a lovely old house with some nice furnishings to admire (free entrance). The collection of musical instruments on display is very interesting.
Our last stop is Place Garibaldi, a beautiful and expansive square. Here we say goodbye to our guide and set out by ourselves.
Our guide has recommended Socca D’Or, a little place in Rue Bonaparte just off Place Garibaldi. We want to try the local speciality, a savoury pancake made of ground chickpeas. My husband and I share a portion which turns out to be greasy but delicious. It awakens our appetite. Spotting a likely looking restaurant (Pourquoipas) in the same street, we pop in. The food is excellent and host very welcoming. I also enjoy a nice conversation with a couple of ladies in the next table. Whoever says that the French are not a friendly lot? I’ve always found them to be genial!
After lunch I want to walk back to the Rue Droite where we saw Palais Lascaris. The street has a number of lovely galleries which I enjoy peering into. I also enjoy browsing through a few shops.
We head back to Rue du Château and climb slowly up the hill to the Colline du Château. At the top we find a bench and sit for a long while admiring the stunning views.
As always, I am fascinated by the rooftops.
Eventually we walk down towards the port.
We walk towards the lighthouse watching with interest a ferry which draws in. The boats look lovely but a wind is blowing and I am feeling cold. I want to get back to somewhere warm. But instead, we buy ourselves some ice cream from Fenocchio, an ice cream parlour in the Cathedral square. They have so many flavours that it is hard to choose! I am flagging soon and not interested in any dinner. My husband grabs a Turkish sandwich and we head back to the hotel.
Sunday dawns much more pleasant though it is not much warmer. We have a leisurely breakfast and set off towards out first stop, the hilltop village of Mougins where Picasso spent many years. It is a quiet little place with a few nice galleries. We buy some lovely postcards of paintings by a local artist. If you are short on time, I do not recommend this as a stop.
Grasse seems to be not too far out and on an impulse, we decide to check-out what it is like. I am not much taken by what I see and decide not to stop. However we are lured by strategically placed advertisements to visit one of the perfume houses and emerge with multiple bottles of perfume, for ourselves and as gifts.
We head next to Cannes, not too far away. We park right beside the festival hall. We are very ready for lunch. The promenade has more restaurants than we can count. We randomly wander into one and are not disappointed.
Given the shortage of time, we decide to take the petit-train tour. It is a good way to get an overall idea of a place but I dislike it so! I would much rather walk. However, our ages are telling on us and the all day walking yesterday has left my knees a bit sore and so a petit-train it has to be.
‘Lose 10 kilos and get fit!’ I mutter to myself as I look longingly at the many missed photo ops and manage to take some hideous shots of beautiful buildings. If you enjoy photography, don’t take the petit-train!
We do get to stop at the top of the hill for some panoramic shots.
After the tour, we spend a short while on the promenade. I notice that the beach is much nicer than the rocky one in Nice.
Our last stop for the day is St Paul de Vence. This is another hilltop village, a village perché as it is called.
There are a group of men playing Pétanque in the village. We sit and watch them awhile but cannot really figure out the rules.
This is a truly charming village filled with many beautiful galleries. Both my husband and I declare it as our favourite stop for the day.
I am charmed by the beautiful stone houses and tiny squares.
I am much taken by this beautiful vase I see in a gallery and now it sits proudly on my table!
t is almost eight o’clock and we are tired. If I had known what I know now, I would have chosen only two destinations for the day, Cannes and St Paul. I would have been happy with more time at both. Well, one lives and learns…
We go out to a late dinner at a restaurant not too far from our hotel and sleep the sleep of the exhausted.
Monday morning starts looking dull but improves on acquaintance. After checking out, we drive out to Èze by the Moyenne Corniche. This is a spectacular ride and I am enthralled by the beauty of the Mediterranean.
There are a number of vantage points along the road. A strong recommendation for photo enthusiasts.
Èze is another village perché, a beautifully preserved medieval village. It is a bit of a climb from the parking lot. I find very many charming corners which please me..
There is a little church and some lovely views from the top. But it is cold and windy and we do not have the time to linger. We head out towards Monaco for another short visit.
Much as I like walking around to discover places by myself, the short time makes the choice of a petit-train tour a sensible one. Monaco is small and one can explore it easily on foot, given the time. It has a nice promenade, some grand old buildings and a few lovely looking gardens.
At the end of the 30 min tour, we walk back to the Cathedral and then to the palace square. I was here last in 1985, sick as a dog from carrying my daughter who is 27 now. Seeing the ghost of my young self standing beside me, I declare ‘You, my dear, may be younger, slimmer, prettier and have stronger knees but at least I am not throwing up at every street corner!’. With a grunt of satisfaction, I move away.
There are many vistas to admire but it is past 1:30 pm and we have a long drive back home.
Our drive is uneventful except for the traffic we get stuck in near Genova in Italy and then again near Aigle in Switzerland. We reach home much later than we estimated. My poor husband had a 8am meeting on Tuesday morning but I sleep in, waking late to browse through my many photos and reliving our holiday yet once more. In spite of the weather throwing a damper, it has been a good holiday.