A relaxing day in Nice

Our last day in Nice was a fairly relaxing one. We slept in, I almost missed breakfast and though we had originally planned to go visit another city, Boyfriend has such blisters on his feet that we opted for a quiet day at the beach instead.

He sat down reading, while I went into the sea. The water was heavenly. The rocks did hurt my feet, but luckily I had learned from my mistakes on my last visit, and I was wearing special water shoes so I could actually walk. I could really recommend buying these if you’re visiting the city and want to spent some time on the beach.

I spent quite some time in the water. It was so warm and nice and I could float a bit. Oh can I go back again?

We stayed here for an hour or two, swimming, enjoying the sun and eating the slightly melted macaroons we bought the previous day. For lunch, we had ice cream, because, why not? Fenocchio for me and bubblewaffle ice cream for Boyfriend. It was all so so yummy!

We went shopping in the afternoon. We left the old city and ventured into the newer parts where all the cool kids hang out. There were some really cool shops, like the Pimkie, an amazing clothes store you’ll only find in France and Pylones, which sold all kinds of cute stuff. I bought a perfume vaporizer and, for some reason, got a free toothbrush when I signed up for the newsletter. Score!

We had dinner at Chez Juliette, a cute little place that we had walked by a couple of times before. The napkin rings had flowers, and so did the menu. The menu also had a note: please don’t steal them. It probably happened more than once… Anyway, we had a classic French dinner and there was an accordion player right next to us, to give it even more of a French vibe.

Boyfriend had the onion soup for starters, then we both had the coq au vin as a main course and we ended with a crème brûlée pour moi and some kind of pear with chocolate for the boyfriend. It was all very yummy.

We ended the night on a high as we heard fireworks when we walked back to the hotel. Now, we’ve heard the canon go off at noon every day, but this was different and we weren’t quite sure what we heard until we were done climbing the hill where the hotel lay. Fireworks! The city celebrated its 77th year of freedom and the coordinated fireworks were absolutely beautiful. We could watch from our hotel room and it was absolutely stunning!

Female Pop-Art, Nana’s and the color blue in Musée Mamac

There are many museums in Nice and with the museum pass you can visit all the big ones within 3 days. There were a couple we wanted to visit. We had already visited Palais Lascaris, a museum of musical instruments and today we wanted to do something different, so we went to Mamac: Musée d’art Moderne et d’art Contemporain. A museum for modern and postmodern artwork.

Continue reading “Female Pop-Art, Nana’s and the color blue in Musée Mamac”

Exploring Castle Hill

Castle hill or Colline du Chateau is another one of the highlights of Nice. It is where everyone takes the iconic photo of the city and the sea, seen from above. The view truly is spectacular. We had wanted to visit Castle Hill on our first trip to Nice, but we accidentally got locked in at night, so that was no fun. On our second trip, we decided to visit it in the morning to make sure that didn’t happen again…

Castle Hill is easy to find. You can walk to the top of the hill from two directions: the regular entrance is near the eastern end of the promenade, there’s also an elevator here. You can also choose to go up at the harbor. We had decided to walk the 3658977231 steps up (don’t ask me why) to this magnificent, iconic view of Nice.

We had lunch on top of the hill, and just relaxed. It’s the perfect setting to get away from the bustling city centre or the crowded beach. There’s a park and you can get lunch and icecream up the hill so it’s lovely for a quiet afternoon. There were quite some people, but everyone kept their own, mostly it was just locals enjoying the sun. We saw a woman doing tai-chi, a man balancing on a rope, children on tiny bicycles and people lounging in hammocks.

You can walk around the park for some awesome views. Like I said before, the one from the sea and the city is iconic, but make sure to walk around, as the view from the other side, the harbor, is just as beautiful.

There were a lot of Greek influences on castle hill, which I really appreciated, such as the artwork you see here: Heureux qui comme Ulysse a fait un beau voyage: happy are those who, like Ulysses, make a great journey. I couldn’t agree more!

There were also some cool looking stairs depicting different scenes of Ulysses’ journey. Nice used to be a Greek city, named after Nike, goddess of victory. The park at castle hill was renovated in 1960 and the city decided to add these mosaics as a wink to the Greek heritage. When walking on these stairs, you’ll get a quick summary of Homer’s Odyssey in 13 images, with scenes depicted such as Polyphemus the Cyclops, Circe and the Sirens.

There’s no castle anymore at Castle Hill, only some ruins. I did find this beautiful building, that doesn’t appear to have a function anymore, besides being an amazing backdrop for pictures.

Another highlight from Castle Hill is the waterfall. Google castle hill and you will immediately find pictures of this beautiful waterfall. Thing is, it’s artificial and they had turned it off when we were there. Even without the water, it was still really beautiful.

If you’re visiting Nice, Castle Hill should definitely be on your list to visit. The view is amazing and it’s the perfect place to get some rest and to freshen up your knowledge of your Greek classics.

Day one: Nachos, Palais Lascaris and Gnocchi

When visiting a southern city in summer, it’s always a good idea to have some options of things to do in the afternoon, when it gets too hot to be outside. The Spanish have invented the siësta, which is something that I love to do, but if you want to do some more exploring of the city you’re in, visiting a museum in the hotter hours of the day is a great alternative. Or maybe even the better option. So when we had explored Vieux Nice and the sun was shining brightly, we decided to get lunch and then visit Palais Lascaris, a museum of musical instruments.

Continue reading “Day one: Nachos, Palais Lascaris and Gnocchi”

Returning to Nice: A guide to Vieille Ville

As I’ve been looking forward to revisiting Nice for years, and our last trip was cut short, I knew I had to get back at the end of summer. It feels kinda silly to visit a city again within a month, but we just felt we hadn’t seen everything we wanted. So we planned another weekend away. We left the Netherlands Thursday night by plane (more info on plane versus roadtrip in a later blogpost) and came back Monday morning, so we would have three more days in this beautiful city.

We started Friday morning by sleeping in. We agreed that this weekend away would be a chill one, one to get some rest as well as seeing some more highlights of Nice. We stayed at Le petit palais which is one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever stayed in, not too far from the city center and with a bed that was superduper comfortable. Our relaxing weekend away was off to a good start!

So after the amazing breakfast buffet, we set out to the city. The only plans for today were Vieux Nice and Museum Lascaris when it got too warm. It was August, after all, and the south of France can get quite hot in the summer months.

Vieux Nice or Vieille Ville

One of the highlights of the city that we didn’t get to the first time around, is Vieux Nice, or Old Nice. It’s the oldest part of the city and also the most bustling. I really loved the atmosphere here. There are all kinds of boutiques and restaurants. It kinda reminded me of the hippie markets on Ibiza.

Speaking of markets, these you’ll also find in the old city. If you want some provençal souvenirs, this is the place to be. Vendors sell everything from soap to bags of lavender, but if you’re in the mood for some fruit or if you wanna buy flowers, you’ll also find them here. You’ll find the market every day except Mondays, and from mid-May to mid-September there’s an artisan market at Cours Saleya where vendors sell jewelry, notebooks and other handmade items.

Besides the markets, there are some other great places in Vieux Nice that are definitely worth a visit. First stop? Fenocchio!

Fenocchio is Nice’s number one place to get ice cream. You haven’t been to Nice if you haven’t tried one of their more original flavors. We didn’t have time to check it out last time, so we had to visit on our first day back. Normally I’m a picky eater and don’t really like to try new things. I’m like an opposite foodie. But this I wanted to try! I had two flavours, namely Tomato/Basil and Rosemary, while boyfriend opted for the more ‘normal’ flavours: Lemon and Orange. Other ‘strange’ flavours the store offers are olive, rhubarb, avocado, cactus and beer. I really liked the rosemary icecream. It was very fresh and perfect for a summer’s day. The tomato/basil was… interesting. It kinda tasted like gazpacho ice cream. I didn’t really like it, though it wasn’t really gross or anything. Just, not really my thing. I’m glad I tried it, though!

Later this trip, we went back and I tried Green apple (which I didn’t really like) and vanilla. The vanilla was super yummy, as were the lemon and orange boyfriend had the first time. So even if you’re not craving weird flavours, you could also try Fenocchio for your regulars, as they are really good too!

And if you’re stopping at Fenocchio, get some macaroons at the place next door. Angea has the best macaroons in town. In fact, these were the best I ever had! The store also has some yummy looking frozen yoghurt if that’s your thing!

If you’ve had enough weird flavours or regular icecream, you can also find Bubble waffles in Old Nice! Walk towards Roberto 1er (mind, the pictures on google streetview are old, so it looks a little different) where you can eat bubble waffles with nutella and bueno’s!

Shopping

If you want to do some shopping in Old Nice, there are so many places you can go. It’s a true shopping valhalla and I absolutely loved just browsing the streets, do some window shopping and look at trinkets in the storefronts. Some stores I really loved were Savonnerie, which is located right next to Angea. The store sells soaps, bathbombs and other luxury products that look like cupcakes. All of it looked so beautiful and yummy and it smelled amazing! I bought a bathbomb that I tried out later that night and it turned the entire bath pink and smelling like roses and candy. Best of all: it didn’t leave any residue in the tub like Lush’s always do!

Another store that I loved was Nirvana, which had beautiful clothing, bags and amazing jewelry. Lastly: we found an art gallery that had the most beautiful pieces. I wanted to take it all home with me, but I couldn’t, because we only had hand luggage this time around. I’ll definitely come back to buy a couple of these pieces, or maybe I’ll order some online. The gallery was called WeMood.

Vieux Nice is definitely worth a visit when you’re traveling to Nice. It’s so quaint and charming, with gorgeous architecture, amazing restaurants and lovely shops. I really enjoyed spending some time here!

Numbers of Nice

I am someone who likes to make lists. Lists are comforting, orderly, and provide a nice, alternative way of recounting experiences. While there are a lot of posts about the lovely city of Nice to come, in this post I want to summarize our stay in this wonderful city on the Côte d’Azur, in the form of a list.

Number of people seen in the streets with a baguette under their arms: 5

Number of cats we’ve seen: 2
Number of cats petted: 1
Number of times we saw tiny dogs: 27
Mosquito bites: 12

Number of old harps we’ve seen: 12
Number of old harps we’ve played: 0
Number of times we heared a canon being fired: 3

Number of acrobatic street performers: 4
Number of musical street performers: 6

Number of wedding parties we’ve seen: 4

Books bought: 1
Bookmarks bought: 1
Bookmarks gifted from Boyfriend: 1

Number of times I marveled at how blue the ocean is: 5.232
Times I went into said ocean: 3

Estimated number of breakfast items boyfriend consumed at the hotel’s buffet: 28
Times I wanted to get macarons: 5
Times I got macarons: 1
Weirdest icecream flavour I’ve tried: tomato with basil

Number of times people asked to see our pass sanitaire: 4
Number of times people should have asked to see our pass sanitaire but didn’t: 3


Distance walked: 18.8 kilometres (11.7 miles)
Pictures taken: 331
Videos filmed: 41

Nice Guide for Ordinary Travelers

Wanderlust Wonderland brings you: a travel guide for ordinary travelers, with must-sees, tips and tricks and the most delicious food, for ordinary travelers, like you and me.

I fell in love with Nice the first time I was there. Only fifteen years old on a schooltrip I didn’t even want to be on. But the blue sea stole my heart and I’ve been longing to go back ever since. It’s a beautiful, luxurious place that will steal the heart of every traveler.

When to go

Whatever you do, do NOT go in peak season. In summer the place is crowded and it’s too warm to do anything. Avoid visiting in July or August but go in spring or autumn. It will still be warm and it will be way less crowded.

In february/march the annual Carnaval is held and the city will be very crowded then too. It’s one of the highlights of the city so it’s a good reason for visiting. If you’re not interested, however, avoid these months too or check the website to see when exactly the carnaval is being held.

The same goes for the Tour de France in June/July which somethings goes through the city. Check the website to see if the cyclists go through Nice or not and plan your trip accordingly.

Highlights

  • The Promenade des Anglais is one you can’t miss. It’s one of the highlights but also the main road alongside the beach. Take a walk on the Promenade, smell the sea and take a picture with the #Ilovenice sign if you want to be a true tourist
  • The beach itself has to be on your list as well.
  • Nice has several museums that are worth a visit, most highlighted one is Musée Matisse where you can learn more about the artist’s life and work
  • The old city center, or Vieux Nice is another place you can’t miss

Must do

  • Explore Cimiez hill and spend some quiet time in the Monastery gardens
  • Relax and enjoy your time in the city. Visit a bakery in the morning and buy all sorts of yummy buns, bread and macarons and enjoy a lovely picnic or breakfast while looking out to sea
  • Take your time, wander around and get lost. The city is not in a hurry, so why should you be?
  • See Nice at night and see how it lights up

Must eat

  • Eat the best icecream at Fenocchio
  • Have dinner at Cafe de la Place Garibaldi
  • You’re in France so you should enjoy the food! Try macarons, baguettes, croissants and all the other delicacies France is famous for. And don’t forget the wine!
  • What better place to try Salade Niçoise than in the city it came from?

Tips

  • Remember, the beach in Nice doesn’t have sand, it has pebbles. And if you’re not used to them, they will hurt your feet (and legs and knees). If you wanna go for a swim, bring watershoes or buy them somewhere in the city.
  • If you’re venturing out at night, check to see opening times before you walk through fences. They might very well be closed and then you’ll be locked in…

The Traveling Bookworm

  • Virginia Johnson – Travels through the French riviera
  • Jo Thomas – Escape to the French Farmhouse
  • Emma Donoghue – Akin

Scaredy Cat and the closed gates of Nice

Our last day in Nice was another adventure for Scaredy cat, or rather grumpy cat, when we got locked in three times in one day! Our first day, we had explored the seaside and our second day, we spent at Cimiez Hill before heading towards our second hotel. When booking our vacation, we had planned to stay in Nice for four days and I had found this beautiful apartment that looked out over the sea. I fell instantly in love with it and we arranged our week so that we could stay there.

Two days before we would leave for France, I got a phonecall: my grandfather had died. Now I wasn’t close with him but I still wanted to attend the funeral, to support my father. Only problem was, the funeral would be on saturday, and we would leave Nice on Sunday.

So we had to change our plans. I still wanted to go, because that day we also had our covid tests and I didn’t want to have a stick pushed up my nose for nothing. So we quickly decided to leave a day early, which would be the following morning, and stay in Nice until Friday morning and then drive back in one go. Plans were changed, we had to change dates for our catsitter and of course had to change the hotels – which we did in the car driving towards Dijon. The beautiful hotel we booked wasn’t available a day earlier, but I didn’t want to cancel it, so we decided to stay in two different hotels in the city. The first hotel, Villa Saint Hubert was fine. It was spacious and clean and we could have stayed there the two nights we spent at Nice, but I had fallen in love with the pictures of our second hotel. Which wasn’t a hotel as much as an apartment that was rented out. It was gorgeous, had everything we needed – I forgot to take pictures of anything else than the view – and the view was magnificent.

My heart still cries a bit for the lost vacation. It was supposed to be a relaxing trip where we would explore the city, do some swimming and lounge and read in our beautiful apartment. Instead, it was kind of a hectic trip. Booking hotels while we were already driving towards them, walking 25 kilometers in a day to be able to see as much as possible in the day and a half we had now instead of the four days we should have had.

Anyway, after exploring Cimiez Hill, we went to the apartment, checked in and rested a bit before we wanted to explore again. We had already walked far, our feet were tired and a heavy sunburn was coming up. I was also feeling sad we had to leave already the next day.

After taking a hundred pictures of the apartment’s view, we decided to visit Vieille Nice, the old city center, and grab something to eat.

Locked gate number one

Which is when we got locked in the first time. One of the differences between France and the Netherlands is that France has hills and mountains, while The Netherlands, as we would say, is as flat as a penny. We went downstairs and found the door locked. Of course we had been given keys but whatever we tried, we weren’t able to open the door. The key simply didn’t fit. We tried and tried but it wouldn’t bulge. Then, while Boyfriend was calling the landlord, I walked up a flight of stairs and saw another door that led outside. We tried the key and it fit perfectly. Apparently, if you’re in a city that’s on a hill, an apartment can have front doors on multiple levels. Who would have thought. We felt very dumb…

When we were finally free, we saw a bunch of cats so naturally we had to pet them. So far we hadn’t seen a lot of street cats in the city, but someone left cat food and water out for them, so of course they got together here. It made up for us feeling dumb and being locked inside.

Locked gate number two

We walked the city and Boyfriend really wanted to go up Castle hill in the city center. The night before it had been closed already so we took our chances now. We walked up the 3654821156672 sets of stairs (rough estimate) for a beautiful scenic view over the city. I was already tired from our walk in the morning, but as we would leave tomorrow, I wanted to see as much as possible, so we pressed on. When we were finally at the top, we rested for a bit, drinking some water before exploring a little further. But then a guard came and said the hill would close, so we had to leave. No sign of the beautiful waterfall I had seen on pictures, but alas, the view had been beautiful so we walked down again. Feet hurting and all.

The guard had pointed us to where we should go, back to where we came from, but when we got back at the gate, it was closed…

That guard had closed the gate before we had the time to walk down and go through it. And we were so close too! But the gate itself was also on a hill and it was too high too climb over it. There was a sign at the front saying it would close after 9 pm (that of course, we only noticed now), but there wasn’t a phone number or anything we could have done to let someone know we were still inside. Lucky for us, some people that lived in the city saw we were locked in and came to help. They didn’t have a key, of course, but they knew another way we would be able to go outside. Guess what? It was all the way up again. I really had had it at that point and I just wanted to sit down and not move anymore, but of course we couldn’t stay here.

Putting one foot in front of the other, we stumbled back up the hill again, towards the other side where we would find the car entrance to the hill. I was exhausted but finally we made it to the other side. We did see a beautiful sunset, but I was too annoyed to appreciate it much. Luckily Boyfriend took some pictures.

When we finally arrived at the opposite side, we saw another gate. I felt my hope sinking and my annoyance rising, for it looked closed as well. When we got closer, we discovered that it was, indeed, locked, but there was a door at the side that opened when we pushed it. We were back at the docks.

At this point, we were tired and hungry and the blisters on our feet were far from happy. We googled sushi restaurants nearby, found a place, stumbled towards it, and found it closed. I just wanted something quick at this point, it was getting late and I wasn’t in the mood for a fancy dinner. There were no fastfood restaurants in the area and after looking and looking we found a bar that had fish and chips and nachos. We went in, sat down and only then noticed why it was so loud inside: there was a pubquiz going on. All around us, drunken people speaking loudly and I was in no mood, so I left again. We decided to just go back to the apartment and order something.

Locked gate number three

We stumbled further and of course, the apartment was on a hill too. After what seemed like hours, we finally saw the gate to the area the apartment was in. I sighed in relief. Boyfriend punched in the code and then… nothing happened.

We had been given the code to open the car gate. The row of cars in front of the gate should have been clear enough. Apparently the car gate locked after some time. And we didn’t have the code for pedestrians. I could have cried at this point, it all felt so ridiculous. Our last day in Nice and it was such a disaster! We tried calling the landlord again but it was too late and the company had closed off. There was nothing we could do.

Boyfriend tried to climb the fence and he sat on top of it when a man walked towards us. Of course, this day wasn’t crappy enough and we had to get arrested for breaking and entering too. We tried to explain, Parlez vous anglais, I asked, do you speak English? And the man said Non.

In my best French I tried to explain while boyfriend still sat on the top of the fence. Nous louons un apartment mais nous n’avons pas le code… I stumbled and I have no idea if I made sense and if he understood. But he shrugged, typed in the code and opened the gate for us. I have never been more grateful.

Exploring Cimiez Hill

On our first (and only) full day in Nice we set out to explore. Our previous day we had spent at the beach, but today we wanted to explore the city a bit more. So after the traditional croissant and jus d’orange for breakfast, we set out to Cimiez, one of the less touristic places of the city.

The sun was already shining fiercely and the area looked like the Mediterranean should look like: colorful houses, palm trees everywhere, as well as cicada’s and tiny lizards.

We came across some interesting buildings on our way to Cimiez hill, such as Eglise Saint Jean d’arc. This art nouveau church was built between 1926 and 1933 and though it got a lot of critique when it first opened, nowadays people call it meringue. It’s a unique building and unlike any church I’ve seen before. I was kinda curious as to what it would look like on the inside, but there was a funeral starting as we came by, so we’ll save it for a later visit.

We also saw the Régina Palace which was built to accommodate Queen Victoria and her staff as she visited the city each winter. Queen Victoria wasn’t the only royalty that came to the south of France for a little bit of sun in the winter. There are a lot of luxury apartments on Cimiez hill that used to be the winter palaces of other European kings and queens.

Cimiez Hill has a couple of highlights and the first one we came across, was Les Arènes: the ruins of a roman amphitheater. It wasn’t as impressive as the ruins we had seen in Rome last year, but it was a bit unexpected to see them in this Mediterranean setting.

Another highlight of Cimiez hill is Musée Matisse. The museum opened in 1963 and though it doesn’t have Matisse’ most famous artwork (like Red Studio and Dance, which you can find in New York’s Museum of Modern Art), it does depict his life and you can learn a lot about his life and his progress as an artist. Matisse lived in the city for a part of his life, staying in the Régina Palace. We didn’t have time to visit the museum, but one of the books I read about the area has a lot of insightful information about it, so it feels like I did visit it.

After being in the sun for quite a bit, we got some ice cream and walked further until we ran into the Cimiez Monastery. It looked truly impressive, but we were even more impressed by the monastery gardens.

Nice can be a very crowded city, especially in summer when tourists seem to flock here. Even now, just before the summer vacation, the beach was filled with people sunbathing. The monastery gardens, however, were quiet. There were only a couple of other people in there. It’s not one of the main attractions, so it keeps its peace and quiet.

You can easily spend an afternoon here, basking in the sun. Don’t forget to bring some water and sunscreen, and your camera, as you’ll have a magnificent view over the city from the hill.