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

Feathery Postcards: a trip to Avifauna

When our trip to Nice was cut short, we decided to plan some other activities in what was left of our vacation. As a child, I had visited the bird-zoo Avifauna a couple of times and I wanted to visit once more. What better time than during our vacation?

Avifauna is a bird-zoo with big cages and enclosures you can walk around in. The birds have lots and lots of space and can fly around inside their enclosures. The park is in Alphen-aan-de-rijn in The Netherlands, some 40 minutes from Amsterdam.

There was a birdshow where loads of birds would fly around in the open air. When it was time for them to come out, the zookeepers opened their cages and the birds could choose if they wanted to fly around or not. It was lovely to see.

The zookeepers had a hard time getting one particular bird out of a tree, (which was almost as fun to watch as the show). But all of the birds stayed close and eventually they went back into their homes.

There isn’t that much to say about the park, except for that it’s lovely if you like birds. It’s a great way to see and learn a little more of them. This blogpost will be more of a postcard showcase with the pictures I took.

Besides loads of bird species, such as penguins, parrots, storks and ostriches, there were a couple of other animals we found in the park. One of them my favourite: a red panda! Aren’t these adorable? There were also lemurs that were in this enclosure you could walk around in, and some of them got really close.

One of my favourite parts is the Lori Landing, which is another enclosure visitors can walk around in. Inside there are many, many lorikeets flying around. If you want, you can buy a cup of nectar at the entrace, as it’s the favourite food of the lorikeets. They’re not shy at all when they come at you to get some nectar!

It was super adorable and we couldn’t stop taking pictures. The birds are so gentle, though they will bite if they feel the need to defend themselves – or if your cup of nectar is empty…

This really is one of the zoos in the Netherlands that I like best. If you like birds, this is definitely one you should visit!

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.

A nice Beach Day in Nice

Girl overlooking the blue cote d'azur in Nice, France

The roadtrip continued when we left Dijon. Destination: Nice. I was so happy driving. The clouds slowly disappeared, the vegetation changed and the temperature didn’t seem to stop rising. We were driving south and we were so excited!

The drive from Dijon to Nice took another 6 hours but it’s one of the most beautiful trips I’ve ever made. Driving past fields of lavender (quickly opening the window to let the amazing smell fill the car), the alps but also the sea already visible in the distance. It was amazing! Driving inside the city is quite hectic and finding a parking space is even worse, but we made it out in one piece. We arrived around four so we didn’t wanna do too much on our first day, and decided to spend some time at the beach I’ve been dreaming about for years!

Our first hotel, Villa Saint Hubert was beautiful and spacious, though not very much in the city center. We had to walk through the city to get to the beach, but with a city as beautiful as this one, we were glad to. We saw lots of impressive buildings, such as Gare du Sud, the train station, but also a church that looked a lot like the Notre Dame in Paris: The Notre Dame de Nice, though without the rows of tourists waiting in line to get inside.

Next we walked through the shopping area with loads of amazing looking stores I wanna come back for. Instead, we walked on until we reached Place Massena, one of Nice’s well known squares. It has statues of men sitting on high poles that light up in different colors at night. I still remember these from when I first came to the city some ten years ago. It was one of the few things I remembered. It was supposed to be a temporary art piece, but it’s still there. It’s called Conversation in Nice. The seven statues depict the seven continents and the colors symbolize the conversation.

Place Massena is also where most gatherings are held in the city. When we crossed it again at night. there was also something happening, but it was too crowded too see what it was, and because of covid, we didn’t want to get too close.

When you’re walking towards the sea, you’ll find another artwork, namely La Fontaine du soleil: the fountain of the sun. The statue of Apollo in the middle immediately draws the attention but around it you will also see Earth, Mars, Venus, Mercury and Saturn surrounding him. The fountain really reminded me of the fountains found at Piazza Navona in Rome.

Palmtrees and sea in Nice, France

Only just a little bit further and we were on the Promenade des Anglais, another Nice highlight. The promenade is a 7 kilometer walkway from the airport to the docks and was built in 1820. There were a lot of beggars in the city and some of the English expats thought it would be a good idea to give them some work and so they built the promenade. Nowadays it’s one of the highlights of the city. It’s a beautiful walk along the côte d’azur and also a great place for skaters.

The sea so blue, I had to spent some time there! Already wearing my swimsuit, I sat down at the beach and let the waves roll over my legs, The water wasn’t even that warm yet but it was so lovely as the sun was shining fiercely. I didn’t go into the water, however. The pebbled beach really hurt my feet, so next time, I’m bringing some footwear!

We spent quite some time, just sitting there, enjoying the sun and the sea. This is what I had been longing for all those years and I loved every second of it. Even the stones that kept hitting my legs with every wave…

Girl in bikini overlooking the blue cote d'azur in Nice, France

After a while we got hungry so we decided to walk further, see what we would ran into. We didn’t really have a plan, only a couple of places we’d wanted to visit. And we still had another day after this one, so we weren’t in a hurry.

We walked the promenade towards the docks, keeping the sea in sight and walking past enormous hotels and some instagram spots such as the #Ilovenice statue. Me too, statue, me too!

Car statue with mountains in the background, Nice, France

It was a beautiful walk around Castle Hill, where we would go the next day. We wanted to enjoy the sea as long as possible so we only turned when we reached the docks, because we did want to stay in the city center to get something to eat.

We eventually ended up at Place Garibaldi, which is another square in Nice that you can’t really miss. There were some restaurants and we eventually sat down at Cafe de la place Garibaldi where I was very proud of myself to order a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in French, which resulted in a confused look by the waiter because who orders only a glass and not a bottle in France?

Anyway the wine was really good and the food was to die for. I had a pasta with creamcheese sauce, some mushrooms, corned beef and pistacchio’s and boyfriend had a vegetarian risotto. It was all so so yummy!

An afternoon in Dijon

Bonjour! Ever since covid hit, I’ve been aching to visiting France again. More specifically: Nice, in the south of France or The côte d’azur. Because boyfriend didn’t feel quite safe going by plane yet, we opted for a roadtrip. But as the road from the Netherlands to Nice is quite a long one (as we would see on our way back, when we drove 12.000 kilometers in 15 hours) we had booked an hotel in Dijon for our first night, to divide the drive in two.

We had booked a very nice apartment but because of a death in the family, we had to cancel this one and improvise real quick. We decided to go a day earlier and whilst driving we booked our hotel for that night. The apartment wasn’t available for this date so we picked one of cheapest hotel rooms that was still available for that night, but did look for one that was clean and not too far away from the city center. We ended up at Hotel Restaurant Du Stade which was nothing fancy but good enough and clean.

After driving for six hours, taking turns, crossing the Belgian border, then Luxembourgh and then France, without having to go through customs or having to prove we didn’t have covid, we finally arrived in Dijon in the afternoon.

Dijon is such a beautiful medieval city! After checking in, we immediately set out to explore. Lots of houses had these beautiful front yards and balconies filled with plants. It was raining, but we didn’t care much, for we finally arrived and the city we walked in was looking amazing.

The city center is one you cannot stop taking pictures of. There are churches and shops everywhere, small coblestoned streets and interesting architecture. It truly had the charm of a small French town.

We didn’t really have any plans. We had only planned to stay for a day and even as our plans changed and we drove to France a day early, we would still leave for Nice the next. So we decided to just walk around, take in the beautiful buildings and find some place to eat.

Highlights

There are numerous churches in the city. The most impressive one I saw was the Église Notre Dame which was impressive because it had so many gargoyles! The tower can be seen from afar and is looking pretty good in the back of the pictures. The church was built in the 13th century and is now considered a landmark.

Besides the Notre Dame, Dijon also has it’s own Arc de Triomphe, or La Porte Guillaume which was built in the 18th century as an tribute to Prince de Condé, the gouvernour of Burgundy. The arc changed names a couple of times. It started out as Porte de Conde, then became Porte de la liberté during the French Revolution until it got the name it now carries, a reference to Guillaume de Volpiano, an Italian reformist abbot (and apparently also a composer).

Dijon also has a park with a gorgeous fountain, called Darcy Square which is a lovely spot to take pictures or have a picnic, or just walk around in. It’s quiet in here, and though the center isn’t too crowded, there are quite some people about, so if you want some quiet time, I’d definitely recommend visiting this park.

There are doubtless more highlights to this beautiful city that we didn’t really have time for. But even if you don’t have the time to explore much, walking through this city is already a highlight. It has such amazing architecture. One of the things I really liked was the quest for owls.

The owl is a good luck charm for the city. Three centuries ago, a small stone owl was carved into the Notre Dame and it is said that if you touch it with your left hand and make a wish, your wish will come true. The figurine doesn’t look too much like an owl anymore, but there are enough owls depicted in the rest of the city to make up for it. The street that it’s in is also called Rue de la Chouette, the owl street. The owl has become the symbol of the city and nowadays you see it everywhere. There’s even a walking tour, le parcours de la chouette, marked by little brass plaques in the sidewalks that will lead you through the city as some sort of scavenger hunt, guiding you to interesting highlights of the city. You can buy a guidebook at the tourist office. We followed the trail for a bit but we didn’t have that much time (and at the time, we weren’t sure what it was) but next time I’ll definitely do the entire trail!

We had walked for quite some time until we decided to get something to eat. We sat down at Caffe Cosi which had a lot of delicacies France is famous for on the menu, like foie gras and escargots. We later only realized that that means that it’s a restaurant aimed at tourists, but we didn’t care at the moment, for we were hungry. The waiter heard us talk and gave us a German menu, but luckily both of us knew enough French to make it through the original menu. We decided that this would be the only touristic restaurant we would eat at. The food wasn’t bad though. We both wanted to try Boeuf Bourguignon and though there was a lot of fat (and it didn’t look too appetizing) it was actually pretty good. For a dessert we shared the Tarte au Citron et Meringuée, another traditional French dish. It was very sour and not really my thing, but Boyfriend seemed to enjoy it.

Our time in the city was way too short. We had a lovely time and there is so much more that I want to see so I’ll be sure to come back here one day!

The Traveling Bookworm in the French Riviera

Whenever I am planning a new trip, I always look for literature from the area I’m visiting. Authors that came from the regions or books that are set within certain cities. This way, I get to know a little of the (literary) history of the city. I have found some great books and new favourite authors this way, and I like to share them with you, so you can also emerge yourself into the literary world of… the French riviera!

Ever since I visited Nice, St. Paul de Vence and the Provence when I was fifteen, I’ve been dreaming of going back there. And it’s finally time! When covid hit, I couldn’t think of any reason why I hadn’t done that: go back. So I made a vow: as soon as it’s possible, I’m going. And now, the borders are opening up, I had a covid test this morning as it’s required and tomorrow morning, we’re going on a roadtrip! First stop is Dijon and the next day, we’re going to Nice! I cannot wait ♥ To make the waiting time a little easier, I’ve been reading books set in the French Riviera. Time for an overview of the best ones!

Non-Fiction

  • Travel guides are useful to discover which exact place you want to visit on your trip. I’ve got a bunch of them, one of them being for Nice. Useful, but not exactly fun to read as the information presented is often dry and dense. For this trip I discovered an alternative travel guide: Travels through the French Riviera by Virginia Johnson. The perfect booktitle for this blogpost, don’t you think? It’s an artist guide and it’s a crossover between travel guide and filled sketchbook. The book focuses on 7 cities, namely: Menton, Nice, Saint-Jena-Cap-Ferrat, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Vence, Antibes and Saint-Tropez. It mentions highlights, the best beaches, restaurants and shops but only a few, and only ones the author was interested in: the ones where famous artists lived and worked. The book also contains beautiful watercolor sketches and maps, which makes it a useful and beautiful book if you want to know more about the area. Especially for artists, as it also mentions shops where you can buy the best paints and what colors to use to depict the French riviera best, but it’s also perfect for those who love beautiful books.
  • Another book that is great if you want to know more about the area and are especially interested in authors that lived there and wrote about it, is The French Riviera by Ted Jones. It focuses on a couple of cities: Hyères, Cannes, Antibes, Nice, Cap Ferrat, Monaco and Menton, but also the back country. I really enjoyed reading it, as an who-lived-where but also who-wrote-what about the cities. Where did they get their inspiration and what were their findings about the riviera. I especially liked reading about authors and books that I have read and others I’ve added to my reading list.
  • A book that directly comes to mind when you’re traveling to Provence, is a year in Provence by Peter Mayle. Some 40 years ago, Mayle moved from England to Provence and chronicled his first year as an expat. The book has become very popular since then. It reads as a story with a little humor here and there and even if it’s more useful to someone who might want to live in the Provence, the book really does transport you to the area.

Literature

  • If you’re visiting Cannes, and in particular the famous film festival, a book you must read is The winner stands alone by Paulo Coelho. Coelho’s The alchemist is read by travelers worldwide but his other books are also definitely well worth a read. The winner stands alone describes one day at the Cannes Film Festival and follows multiple characters. All of them, except Igor, pursue the kind of fame the festival is known for. The book is about this fame and the illusion, about manipulated dreams, but also about how to get away with murder.
  • Bonjour Tristesse is a classic and is set in the French Riviera. Françoise Sagan wrote this book when she was only 18 years old. The story describes the summer where main character Cécile is seventeen, as she spends her days lounging in the sun, swimming and living the good life. Her father, who has a different girlfriend every couple of months, decides to invite Anne, an old friend of Cécile’s late mother, despite his current girlfriend Elsa being there with them. (I must admit that I found it funny they were named Anne and Elsa, though this book was written way before Frozen was a thing). Cécile doesn’t dislike Anne, but when her father decides to marry her, Cécile knows her luxurious life will come to an end and she has to put a stop to it. Even though she knows she is in the wrong, and she doesn’t really wanna go through with the plan, she still does. I loved this book because the characters are so well written. You can really see Cécile’s struggles and her dreams, the way she tries to justify her actions even if she herself knows that they’re no good. It’s a short coming of age story about a girl who really doesn’t want to come of age. And who can blame her, as her summer is one we’d probably all long for when we’re traveling to the seaside.
  • It’s funny how most books I’ve read describe the French Riviera as a paradise, with lounging, swimming, good food, alcohol and sex. Ernest Hemingway is no different. He wrote The Garden of Eden, a book about the honeymoon of David and Catherine. But there is trouble in paradise when Catherine shows her true self, as she is getting controlling, jealous and crazy. The book is not a difficult read but there are a lot of layers that I am still trying to unwrap. One of the best books I’ve read by Hemingway so far!

Fiction

  • If you want some great books that are easier to read, one you should pick up is Drawing Lessons by Patricia Sands. It starts a bit depressing when Arianna’s husband gets dementia. The author quickly sketches his sickness and Arianna’s grief. Two years later, the husband is still alive but a shell of his former self and living in a special facility. Arianna needs to find herself again and after her daughter’s insistence, she goes on an artist’s retreat in Provence where she will rediscover the beauty of life and find her artistic spark again. The book is set in Arles, which is were Vincent van Gogh lived for a while and made lots of artwork. The book is about life, art and Provence and is on the one hand a beautiful story about what’s important in life, and on the other hand an informative account of the things Arles and surroundings have to offer, such as bloodless bullfighting, museums, the food, the history of Van Gogh and the Camargue. Though the beginning of the book is somewhat depressing, the greater part is light reading.
  • I liked The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson. It’s historical fiction with mystery and what appear to be ghosts. The book focuses on two storylines, the first being the story of Dom and Eve. Eve falls quickly for this man who is 15 years older than she is, and who hides his past. When he decides to buy an old farmhouse in the French riviera, they start living the idyllic life while fixing up the place, until Eve wants to learn more about Dom’s ex wife and he refuses to answer her. What is he hiding? The second storyline is an older woman, living in the same farm but earlier (not sure how much earlier), who looks back on her life as the ghosts of her past come to haunt her. She especially focuses on her blind sister, who went to work for a perfume factory and became famous. Both of the storylines are detailed and well-written, and make it hard to put the book down. I liked how the stories intertwine at the end.
  • If you love romantic books, you should definitely pick up Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas. The book is about a woman who moves to Provence with her husband and when he decides to move yet again, she decides to stay. She has to make it on her own in a country she doesn’t know and a language she doesn’t speak. It’s a lovely story about finding yourself and standing on your own two legs, set in the beautiful area of the French Riviera.
  • Another great book, set in Nice this time, is Akin by Emma Donoghue. Protagonist Noah, a retired widower of 79, has planned a trip to Nice, where he was born and spent the first couple of years of his life before moving to New York city as a little boy. He never returned but now he wants to go back. But then he receives a call from social services. He turns out to be the closest available relative to his 11 year old great-nephew, whom he has never seen before. After quite a hassle, Noah feels obligated to take care of the boy, and takes him with him to France. There is so much in this book, a historical fiction set in the beautiful area of Nice, one I could really recommend.