Here is an altitude view of Côte d’Azur. It probably is the best airplane picture I have taken.
Below lies Nice. Enchanting, captivating, quiet, magical and mysterious, under a sparkling carpet of lights, from here Nice is probably at its best. Back in the days when Côte d’Azur was my dream destination, I pictured it somewhat like that.
The real Nice, however, is far from all that. If a notion of mass tourism is applied to the South of France, Nice is the most touristic of all the coastline cities: airport taxi at 35 EUR (not to mention the buses) provides quiet an easy access to everyone lured by the glamour of Côte d’Azur. Proximity to the airport and, relatively to the next door Cannes and Monaco, high population and some historical heritage, attracts crowds and all that comes with them: construction boom of experimental architecture of 80s-90s, multilingual restaurants with long menu in pictures and high density on the narrow pebble beach stripe. That’s not to say that Nice is not worth its fame: the sea is still there and it captures imagination (and hearts) as soon as the plane lands on what seems to be from the window a water surface. Personally, I prefer small cities like Menton close to the Italian border or Eze village on the way to Monaco but occasionally give in to the allure of Nice or Cannes.
I have offered a brief version of this weekend in my post on learning from travelling to 37 countries and living in 9 as an example of creativity, resistance to cold and dedication to fun. What happened is Louveteau and I have planned a perfect weekend at the sea: booked a suit at Le Meridien with the view, packed our swimwear, bought some sun lotion and took the first morning flight to Nice. What we found was rain, Iron Man competition under our windows from as early as 7 am and a refreshing cold sea water at the moments when the sun was taking over.
However, we have decided that all that is still not a reason not to enjoy the weekend and resorted to enjoying seafood, birds watching and strolling along the pebble beach. We even went for a long swim, once. And planned our next big trip (not surprisingly, to a sunny place). In the end, it turned out to be a great weekend, so I am sharing it with you for inspiration in case you are also freezing somewhere under the summer sun.
Our version of bird watching (slash seagull feeding). We did not plan for that. The first seagull came to our terrace and gave us a meaningful look. We followed the hint and left food enough for the entire seagull family (and then some smaller competition).
Nice still has great food, you just need to know where to look. Food options in Nice are infinite, and many are tourist traps (a multi-language menu multiple-page menu with pictures is a usual sign of a tourist trap). There are, of course, gems, and I am offering two.
We found Emilie’s Cookies and Coffee Shop on a Saturday early morning soon after arrival. Tempted by a New York chalkboard design (usually alluring to a brunch), we went in and could not be happier. Besides, obviously, all possible kinds of cookies and bakery, the place offers scrambled eggs, smoothies, brunches and when it’s all over, books in English. And we spent a half of what a usual French riviera breakfast normally costs.
Boccaccio is one of the best known Nice restaurants, if not the most famous one. With its several halls and a big terrace, it is quiet a big institution for a city like Nice, but it does not feel this way, because the rooms are separated from each other and each has cozy corners. I love this place for its seafood, always fresh and generously served (spaghetti with mussels is a must and seafood tapas is my heart warm recommendation). The scenery is also great. With its dime lights, white table cloth, silver tableware, and space between tables allowing for some intimacy and personal conversations, Boccaccio is beyond time. I can easily picture it being exactly the same fifty years ago.
Le Meridien itself also has a good rooftop restaurant, where I would recommend to pass during the day mostly for the view, almost as good as the one from our room (and their fancy take on French cuisine also deserves attention).
The main attraction of Nice though is still the sea, even when it is cold.