NICE, FRANCE: “It is hot, the sun is shining, the windows of my bedroom are wide open – and those of my soul” the author Anton Chekhov wrote when in Nice. August is the month of maximum warmth – and the month when the French are on holiday and find the time to soak up the sun in this vibrant city on the French Riviera. But beyond the beach, the old town and the touristic areas there is art, food and the more secret part of Nice. The Port Lympia area is worth a visit – even a place to stay for a week.
This city is the capital of Côte d’Azur and often dismissed as being for the rich and the old. Recently it has been transformed into a vibrant, cultural city. But it’s still difficult to drag yourself from the majestic seafront, the Promenade des Anglais, the old town with its splendid pastel palaces and the labyrinth of funky bars, restaurants and late-night clubs.
Port Lympia. Place Garibaldi is an elegant square that makes you think you have crossed over the border into Italy. In the evening grab a table at Café de Turin for some of its celebrated oysters or follow the appetising smells drifts from stalls selling fast food in the narrow streets.
However, head to Port Lympia to find some of this city’s best restaurants, many located east of the port, such as L’Escale, 12 Quai des Docks, serving fresh Moules frites from lunch to late evening. Gaze at mega-yachts while tucking into salad Nicoise or steak-frites.
When going to Corsica via Nice, you ride a high-speed watercraft or a ferry leaving from Port Lympia.
The Beach. Nice is famous for its seafront villas, but you might find the beach too stony. I’m sure you will treat yourself at one of Nice’s 15 private beaches along Promenade de Anglais. The best is, without doubt, at the far eastern point of the beach, the Castel Plage, billed as “a beautiful beach for beautiful people. Pay 10 euro for half a day on a pillowed lounger and enjoy the attention. Lie down and soak up the sunshine, it’s going to be another long winter.
Here to eat. Nice has both the best cuisine and the most affordable prices, but still difficult to avoid the tourist-trap set menus – mostly not very good.
Rather than sitting down at one of the dozens of touristy restaurants lining the square Marchè des Fleurs, head to Lou Nissart (1 rue de L’Operà) for delicious dishes of the day, such as ravioli with fresh seafood, at around 13 euro. A three-course set menu costs 23 euro. Reservations suggested.
For the evening, try L’Escalinada (22 rue Pairolière – www.escalinada.fr in the heart of the baroque old town. Many regular customers, locals and visitors, and the owner, Marco, make everyone feel like his best friend. A three-course menu, a glass of kir and a local tart costs 26 euro. We had the speciality Ribambelle, costs 17 euro, but enough for two, with a selection of appetisers, grilled red peppers, sardines and a local fish.
Restaurant L’escale, 12 Quai des Docks, at The Port has delicious seafood for lunch and late dinner. If you want to dine with the locals this is the place. Their specialty is all kinds of flavoured mussels, served in buckets and chips.
The best of all, the great fish dish that everyone raves about, the combination of many fishes, called bouillabaisse, is a speciality at the tiny restaurant “Only You – Le Millenium”, address: 10 Bd Lech Walesa, few blocks behind the dock. Chef Milanka’s bouillabaisse is a killer, most likely the best along the Cote d’Azur.
Here to stay. You don’t have to check in at the legendary Negresco Hotel to stay near the Promenade de Anglais. Hotel Windsor has double rooms designed by local artist as well as garden, swimming pool and spa. Doubles from 129 euro. www.hotelwindsornice.com
Alternatively, the charming La Villa de Magdalena, five minutes walk from Port Lympia has apartment starting from 462 euro for two persons in three nights. An artist runs this villa, with each apartment unique and a garden with sun and breakfast served. Adresse:1 Avenue du Capitaine Scott, villamagdalena.com
Closest to the port is Kyriad Nice Port Hotel. Clean, simple and inexpensive. I stayed in a well equiped apartment and paid 1.000 euro a week, which is normal price for the high season.
Shopping and Nightlife. Nice is certainly a city of lights and features a vibrant nightlife that includes discos, small pubs and piano bars as well as action at two casinos. Casino du Palais, 15 Promenade des Anglais, and Ruhl Casino at 1 Promenade des Anglais, truly the temple of gambling and entertainment in all its splendour. Open daily from 9am to 4am.
La Bodèguita Del Havana, 14 Rue Chaivain, is a fabulous place to meet locals and catch up on some salsa dancing. Live music every night. During the weekend, make sure to book a table in advance.
The Av Jean Medecin is Nice’s major shopping district and entertainment centre.
Main attraction. Don’t forget to visit the museums and view the collections of renowned artists in Musee Chagall and Musee Matisse. Walk up to Castle Hill for a beautiful view of the city and the bright blue water that gave the Cote d’Azur its name.
Make it Happen!
Touch Down: Nice-Côte d’Azur airport is south-west of the city. Fly by BA.com, BMI, easyJet, Air France, Norwegian Air, SAS and other airlines. Airport express bus to a number of stops in the nearby city
Stay: Hotel to
Eat: My advice:
Play: Riviera Pass: You can buy your French Riviera Pass at the tourist office or book online at this website: www.nicetourisme.com Price 56 euro for 72 hours.
Mini Guide: Getting around: Nice, Antibes and Cannes are linked by a scenic train route that follows the coast. The French Riviera offers sea trips from Cannes, Nice, Monaco and Saint-Tropez for ticket price about the same you’d pay for a day’s parking. www.trans-cote-azur.com