In the last week before I left for Paris, I decided to head over to Nice for three days. My family had told me it was a beautiful place, and so I decided to splurge a little and head down to the coastal city! It ended up being some of the best days of this trip so far, and Nice one of my favourite cities in France.
To get to Nice, I decided to try something a little different to save money: carpooling. I was nervous at first, because I’d never done it before, and knew it could be potentially dangerous, but it ended up being fine. My car-mates were nice, and generally left me in peace to read Game of Thrones, which was ideal for the five-hour journey. It ended up being great, having someone else with me, because the driver dropped us off very far from the centre, and I had no idea how to get to my hostel. The other passenger showed me which bus to get there, which was fantastic, so I didn’t end up getting too lost.
When I finally arrived, exhausted, at my hostel, I was greeted by the friendly (and slightly crazy) owner, Val, as well as his cat, Victor. Apparently Victor was acting as marketing manager, which amused me to no end, because there is no chance that a cat would actually be productive. The hostel ended up being very clean with fantastic beds and service, and Val showed me some fantastic places to go in Nice.
After popping to the bakery down the road, I decided to go for a stroll along Place Massena, as suggested by Val. Although there wasn’t much for me to do in the shopping centre of Nice, due to a lack of money, it was still gorgeous to wander around.
Place Massena is known for its rose coloured buildings! It’s a very pretty spot.
Vieux Nice was my next destination, again suggested by Val.
Although it’s clustered with souvenir shops and restaurants, Vieux Nice is absolutely incredible to wander around in, and I spent many hours being lost, but content.
I somehow managed to make it up to Place Garibaldi, and from there, I walked up to the Parc du Château for its supposedly beautiful views of the Promenade des Anglais. It was a hard walk to the top, especially because there were no signs, but absolutely worth the hours spent on my feet. (See: Featured photo)
When I headed back into Vieux Nice for dinner, I was exhausted and starving, but truly happy. Anyone walking the streets of Nice that Wednesday would have seen me dancing the streets at 9pm with earphones in, singing along to whatever was playing on my phone at the time. I hadn’t felt that good in a long time.
I ended up going back to Place Rossetti, because I felt obliged to go to a restaurant there after a cute waiter talked with me the first time. I decided to buy some socca (chickpea pancake, a Niçois speciality) with a cured ham, mushroom and tomato salad, and it ended up being absolutely beautiful! It was really nice to buy a proper meal for a change, rather than eat basic things from a bakery as I was so prone to doing. Afterwards, I went to the wonderful Fenocchio for my favourite ever sorbet – mint-chocolate! Before I became lactose intolerant, it was my favourite flavour of ice cream, so you can imagine my excitement when I finally found it in sorbet form.
It was perfect to end the day sitting by the Baie des Anges with an ice-cream cone in hand, watching the sun set over the Côte d’Azur.
I decided to spend my next full day out at the second smallest country in the world: Monaco!
Monaco is a beautiful place, and only a thirty-minute train ride from Nice. The train was flooded with tourists, of course, but I met some pretty cool people, including a friendly couple from South Africa who were on their way to Rome.
In classic Heather fashion, when I arrived at the train station in Monaco I had pretty much no idea where I was. I gawked a bit at the lovely interior, willed myself not to go to the casino which was just nearby, then wandered out of a random exit with the hopes I’d make it to Le Rocher (the old part of Monaco). I did make it, after confusing a poor bus driver with my fantastic mathematics skills (and getting €1 off my day pass) and spent the morning wandering around the beautiful, yet souvenir-shop-ridden town.
It’s a beautiful place. I felt like I could stay here forever.
Le Rocher isn’t too grand, but it does have a lovely royal palace. While there, I watched the changing of the guards (because I missed out on the one in England, although it was a rather poor trade) which was nice, but only involved two men. Looking back, I think I might have missed the real thing.
Afterwards, I strolled on down to the Musée Océanographique de Monaco, as I’d heard raving reviews from my host family about it. Considering the hefty entrance fee, it was rather disappointing – the aquaria in Australia are way better – but the tactile basin was fantastic, because I had the opportunity to pet some adorable sharks, and seeing such beautiful marine life gave me the urge to draw and paint fish once I get home.
I was starting to feel a little faint with hunger (Warning: I might be exaggerating a little here) so I headed down to a café and had a fantastic sandwich, accompanied by the most expensive bottle of water on Earth. I really just wanted a jug of tap water, but mixed my French up and asked for a bottle. I’m still irritated about it, €3 and two-and-a-half months later.
My final destination was easily my favourite (and not just because it was the cheapest): the Jardin Exotique. People think I’m crazy for going there instead of, say, the casino, but that’s because they haven’t seen the beautiful winding paths and incredible panoramic views of the largest cactus and succulent garden in the world.
I spent hours wandering about the gardens. I love it!
I honestly think it is an absolute must-see in Monaco. I’m not that much of a cactus fan, but the sheer number of species in the park was astounding. Everywhere you turned there was something new, bright and colourful. It was like being in a serene, living art gallery.
Does anybody get me now? Anyone?
The same ticket also got you into a tour of a beautiful series of caves that became warmer the further down you explored. Not only was it gorgeous, but also amusing for me, because the tour guide had such a thick accent that I understood more of the French explanations than the English.
After visiting an adorable archaeological museum (also included with my ticket!) I bought some postcards and left Monaco. The day was coming to a close, I’d run out of things to do short of gambling all of my funds away and my stomach was growling. It was time to say goodbye to the beautiful thimble-sized country!
I ended that day just like the prior – a delicious meal in Vieux Nice, followed by mint-chocolate sorbet on the Baie des Anges. However, that night I went out to a fantastic bar called Chez Wayne’s with some entertaining Australian hostel-mates and danced on tables to a brilliant live band. It was a great end to a great trip!
I say that my evening at Wayne’s Place was a great end to the trip because, really, I didn’t do much on my third day in Nice. After two very full-on days, I woke a few hours later than usual, and had nothing planned before catching my train out at 3pm. In hindsight, I probably could have just stuck around Vieux Nice and wandered the streets one last time before grabbing a delicious lunch and heading back to the station, but I decided instead to ask my hostel manager to show me a good place to go. Val pointed out a nice beach, so I made my way over, thinking it wouldn’t be too far, and a nice spot to read and relax.
It was far, and pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Although it was a fairly nice spot, it was really meant for swimming, and I wasn’t doing a whole lot of that. Being the stubborn person that I am, however, I planted my bottom down on the pebbly ground and read for an hour before heading back.
The rest of the afternoon was pretty uneventful, but involved more mint sorbet, saying goodbye to Victor the marketing manager and six hours of travel time. By the time I arrived in Lyon, I felt very satisfied, but was ready to crash in a heap!
Featured photo is of the Baie des Anges from the Parc du Château.