Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Nice Diaries: Day 1: Monday 10th September 2012

Finally getting round to posting this at long last!

Firstly a little explanation: due to our personal circumstances this year we had to leave it very late to book our summer trip, and also had to book a shorter one for three nights only, from Monday 10th September for three nights, returning on Thursday 13th September.  So with it all being very last-minute it was a very easy decision to make - to return to somewhere we've visited before, which didn't require too much planning or research, and which we could also reach easily with direct flights.  One destination ticked all the boxes - Nice.  Result!

The first time we visited Nice was in 2003, then in 2005 and most recently in 2008.  Which suggests that it might be a rather good place to repeatedly visit!  Yes I'm biased, but I completely love the place and I don't think there will ever come a time when I tire of it. 

So what is just so wonderful about Nice?  Well, the location for starters.  It's a big city with good transport links to lots of other great places on the Cote D'Azur.  In previous years we've independently travelled by bus to Villefranche and by train to Cannes and Monaco, in addition to organised bus tours to Ventimiglia, (just over the Italian border), Monaco, Eze and Saint Paul de Vence.  But you don't even have to leave the city as there is so much to see and do.  As our time in Nice was limited this time round, we decided not to go too far away but just hang out in the city and slow the pace down. 

After what has been a completely disastrous non-event of a summer weather-wise, it was somewhat disorientating to arrive at 8.00 pm into a beautiful, sunny evening in Nice.  As usual, on arrival at the airport, get the no.98 bus (4 euros) which takes you right along the seafront and beyond, dropping tourists off along the way.   Sunbathers, dog-walkers and people strolling along the prom on a beautiful evening, people eating's another world, but with a reassuring familiarity that you're "coming home" in a way. 

This time we were booked into a very centrally located hotel, just a couple of minutes walk from the Promenade des Anglais and also very close to our favourite part of the city: the Rue Massena and the surrounding streets which are packed with a great choice of eateries.  OK, so it's mainly aimed at the tourists, but the food is still very good quality nonetheless. 

Aah yes, the food. Now that is one of the best reasons for coming to Nice.  If you love pasta and pizza as I do, then you will be in heaven.  Unlike Italy though, pasta is served as a main course here rather than as a 'primi piatti'.  So let's have a starter then.  How about that traditional French favourite, soupe a l'oignon?


Although there aren't so many obviously visible signs of the worldwide recession in Nice (there aren't so many vacant shop premises for example) the most noticeable thing is that the prices have been hiked up.  Not quite to Norwegian levels (!) but that little bowl of soup cost 10 euros.  I always thought the cost of eating out was lower in Nice than it was in Paris - don't know what it's like in Paris now, as I haven't been there for a few years, but it's certainly become much more pricey to eat out in Nice.

But we've saved up our euros and we are on holiday after all!  Needless to say we order a bottle of the local Provence red to accompany our dinner. 

Now I am a creature of habit, so the one ritual I must do on my first night in Nice is to have some spaghetti au pistou, which is basically spaghetti swimming in olive oil and basil....

I'd forgotten how fabulous it was to be able to sit outdoors at 10.00 pm in September wearing a short-sleeved top and not even needing a cardigan.  How good would it be if we could have that kind of climate and culture?  

After dinner we go for a stroll round some familiar haunts and take a quick walk down the seafront.  No sign of the Michael Jackson impersonator this time though.  

Faithful travelling companion also has a little holiday ritual too - a bottle of Pelforth Brune beer in our favourite little bar which, conveniently, is really handy for our hotel  so we don't have too far to walk home :)

Although we only arrived in Nice at 8.00 pm, we certainly made the most of our first night there.  As ever, the place is packed with tourists from all over the world and a cosmopolitan mix of locals.  And two people from Scotland who are very happy to be back!

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