Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Nice Diaries: Day 2: Tuesday 11th September 2012

Up early for a very busy day ahead.  You never forget you're in France, particularly at breakfast time, when you are presented with the traditional croissant and crusty roll :)  Pain au Chocolat was also in the equation today. 

It's a beautiful, sunny morning with the temperature in the mid to high 20s.  Nice in September is the perfect place to be, and today it's all about shopping.  But not too much shopping though, as we're travelling with hand luggage only.  (By the way, I bought one of those cabin-sized "World's Lightest Luggage" cases for this holiday and I would definitely recommend them for travelling on short breaks for up to three nights). 

There are subtle little changes here and there - a newsagent's and a sports shop which we used to frequent have now been closed down and replaced by other businesses. 

Record shops are still a must for us on holiday, even if these seem to be sadly dying out in most places.  At least Nice still has the Virgin Megastore and FNAC, both at opposite ends of the Avenue Jean Medecin, the city's main shopping street.  After a big chunk of the morning spent in both stores, I emerged with 2 DVDs - the new Calogero live DVD and the production of the Cleopatre musical starring Sofia Essaidi.  I bought the soundtrack album from it four years ago.  I'm a bit of a sucker for these French musicals.  Faithful travelling companion meanwhile got a couple of CDs, however just for a big change I didn't get any this time round as nothing really floated my boat.  I've been out of the loop with French music for the last 3 years or so and need to do a lot of catch-up! 

The weather gets warmer and I'm starting to get tired.  Time for lunch.  Let's go to the Old Town!  You can walk from new Nice to Vieux Nice if you want to, but the tram service is very frequent during the day so it was really handy to jump on a tram on the Avenue and take it all the way to Place Garibaldi.  Tickets are 1 euro per journey, buy them at the ticket machine at the tram stop and remember to validate the ticket once on board.  You can also buy an all-day unlimited travel ticket for 4 euros, which I would recommend if you want to see a lot of the city in a short space of time.  One thing I'll say is that the tram is a very popular way to get around however it's always very packed too, so if you're using this mode of transport be prepared for standing room only, and keep your eye on your handbags, wallets and purses. (Having said that, we still found Nice a very safe city by day and night).

Above:  the newly renovated Place Garibaldi.

Parts of Nice still resemble a building site, currently turning the area around the bus station into a new green space.  A lot of building/renovation work has taken place in Nice over the past few years - significantly on the new tramway and the renovation of Place Massena.  Last time we were in Nice, Place Garibaldi was also being renovated but this work is now complete.  But there are more exciting developments to come in Nice - check out this feature for more info.

Anyway, Place Garibaldi looks majestic, and is the gateway to Vieux Nice, the old town, which has a very distinctive character and boasts all the multi-coloured buildings and architecture which Nice is famous for.  Time for some exploration before lunch.  There are lots of winding side streets like this one:

Apart from the feast for the eyes, Vieux Nice also presents far too many choices of where to eat!  I was particularly attracted to one restaurant which offered an "assiette" mixed plate of Nicoise specialities like socca, pissaladiere and farcis.  Ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes on Tuesday's lunch....

I was able to eat most of it, although there was a little bit of indistinguishable minced-meat stuff mixed into the pakora-type thing at the top so I left this.  Otherwise = wonderful :)))

After dinner we did more exploring, down to Cours Saleya which is just wall-to-wall bars and restaurants, still a lot of them specialising in seafood if that's your kind of thing.  Through a little gate/tunnel and you're at the top end of the promenade with what looks like a synchronised parade of white cars!  

Hand luggage or no hand luggage, a trip to Molinard perfume shop was a must, for a small bottle of their own-brand perfume which will fit just nicely into my see-through bag.  The area round the Opera is filled with some more upmarket restaurants and shops.  You would probably need a bank loan for some of the choccies and macarons in Maison Auer ....

By late afternoon I'm really struggling and a stop for a cool orange juice is very welcome indeed.  However, I'm not firing on all cylinders and on the way back to the hotel I end up having a bit of a freak fall, which probably wouldn't have happened if I wasn't so tired.  Not too much damage done, apart from a few bruises, a couple of cuts and a huge dose of embarrassment :(  Oh, and a very sore, bruised knee which, as bruises do, got more obvious as the week went on.  Just as well that I only wear cropped jeans/trousers and not shorts!

Despite my distress it didn't put me off enjoying another fine evening in Nice.  After the overwhelming amount of hot guys spotted in town on my first night, it was inevitable that it wouldn't be quite so good tonight.  Still good though :)  Ditto for faithful travelling companion, who remains very impressed by the female population of Nice. 

Tonight we headed back up to the old town and dined at a North African restaurant, which is another thing we love about holidays in France.  This one had a distinct Tunisian influence.  We'd never tried brick a l'oeuf before, so that was another one to cross off the list.  It looks like a big crispy omelette and tasted pretty good, however I didn't know that it was filled with runny egg and tuna.  Both of which I would cross the street to avoid.  The crispy bits were nice though, and the rest of it was donated to faithful travelling companion.  I should really have done my research.  Here's a pic of the brick:

The main course was a more familiar vegetable couscous and you can't miss the opportunity to try a bottle of Tunisian wine either, well can you?

After our meal we went back through the old town where a few of the bars and restaurants were surprisingly closed.  Not sure if this was because it's a Tuesday, or the time of year, or what reason.  Anyway we hung out in a bar which was showing the France v Belarus match, and then headed back on a tram. 

You'll be glad to know that those colourful works of art are still there in Place Massena...

We didn't go straight back to the hotel - it was time for a midnight walk down the seafront on yet another warm, calm evening.

This is the area of the promenade across the road from the Casino Ruhl, Mercure hotel and Palais de la Mediterranee.  In the centre of the picture is one of the "shelters" which in the daytime is a good place to grab a seat and people-watch, or look at the sea, or count the number of planes flying in and out of Nice airport down at the end of the prom :)

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