France is intimidating to me, especially Paris. Everything seems so…. well, French. The best food, the best wine, the best fashion, the best art.
When we were stationed in Italy, we decided to spend a long spring weekend in Nice, France. I figured it would be the epitome of “fancy” since it was the French Riviera after all! Well, yes and no. While you sometimes did feel like you were in the midst of “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” other times it very laid back. I think it is because unlike Paris, many part of Nice are a beachy, artsy town.
Here are some things to do if you only have a few days to enjoy this beautiful French coastline:
- GO TO THE BEACH – they don’t call it the Cote d’Azur (blue coast) for nothing, so go and enjoy the rocky beautiful beach and blue water. We went in the spring so while it was not swim suit weather, it was definitely warm for beach strolls or to spread out a blanket for lunch or just soak up the sun, oh, and must less crowded than the summer. The promenade and shopping area along the water is lovely as well. We found a market nearby, more on that…..
- SHOP FOR FRENCH GOODIES – or just browse and admire them, they are fantastic, the food items, cheese, macarons, I never thought cans of sardines could be so beautiful, lavender soap, custom made perfume, candied fruit and baskets. It’s also a great time to observe street life. This list of Nice markets is a great place to start. We went to the Marche Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya.
- TAKE A DAY TRIP TO MONTE CARLO – the coast is beautiful, we went to both Monte Carlo and Cannes. Monte Carlo was so easy to get to, about a 30 minute train ride. Remember what I said about Nice not being as pretentious as I thought it would be and feeling like a beach town? Well, that’s not the case for Monte Carolo! It is fancy! but it’s a great treat to feel like you are part of the elite just walking around admiring the Ferrari dealership and the yachts. We were there when they were setting up for the Monaco Grand Prix and got to see part of the course. Definitely go see the Monte Carlo Casino. We had an expensive coffee at an outdoor cafe next to the Casino, a nice treat. The Casino, built in 1863, is the setting for James Bond’s “Casino Royale” movie. We also went to the aquarium. Built in 1910 by Prince Albert, it was surprisingly good!
- TAKE A DAY TRIP TO CANNES – unlike the rocky beaches of Nice, Cannes beaches were sandy. A bit farther of a train ride than Monte Carlo, it’s still an easy day trip. Most famous for the Cannes Film Festival, there is also a lot of film festival related things to see. My favorite are the painted walls of Cannes. Starting in 2002 the City of Cannes began painting large murals on the sides of building based on film related themes, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Marilyn Monroe and many more. Walk around and see how many you can find.