As I had mentioned in a previous post, F and I made arrangements to travel a lot this year. Nice was our first stop on the EasyJet travel express. We arrived on a late Friday afternoon and got back to Geneva on Sunday night. We could have easily rented a car to get there, since it wouldn’t have been anymore than about two hours driving but we chose a 45-minute plane ride because… Why not?
Of course, I had only heard the best of Nice and now it’s my turn to add to the many praises. First off, the moment I noticed palm trees from the plane window, I knew we had made the right choice. No matter where I am palm trees always give me a sense of home. And although we are deep into winter (I use the term winter loosely since this year it has barely snowed here), I felt a very strong Miami vibe as we made our way to our hotel. The main boardwalk, the Promenade des Anglais, was so reminiscent to me of Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive.
We saw a lot in those two days, ate a lot (perhaps too much) and made our way into little nooks and crannies in the area. Yet, there were a few things that stood out to me that I think everyone should enjoy and strive to do when they visit Nice.
1. Try socca.
Also farinata (Italy), fainâ (Genoa), or cecina (Tuscany). A relic of the strong Italian influence in the area, socca is a flatbread made of garbanzo (or chick pea) beans, crispy on one side but rich and creamy on the other. You sprinkle some black pepper on top, couple it with some wine and you’re all set! Before arriving in Nice I had read that the place to go for socca was Chez Pipo. I admit that it was as good as people had made it out to be – and very, very affordable. One word of caution: Plan accordingly to make sure that you have socca as a snack or as the appetizer to a real meal elsewhere. You won’t find much variety at Chez Pipo, just really good socca. Don’t do like we did and have two dinners (followed by a food coma).
2. Take a day trip to Monte Carlo.
Sure, Monte Carlo (Monaco) is not actually in Nice but it is just 20 minutes away by train. The ride is lovely as the train tracks run along the Côte d’Azur coast. We passed on the castle (since it was closed) and went straight to the Musée Océanographique. Who doesn’t love a good museum/aquarium? The highlight for me was this small pool they had on the second floor where you could actually pet baby sharks. There was a feisty little one that kept jumping out of the water as if saying, “Pet me! Pet me!” Adorably terrifying. The view from the terrace was also magnificent: the skyline, the sea… After relaxing with the fish, F dragged me to the famous Monte Carlo Casino, were we lost €15 (it would’ve been €20 but I took some precautions and only put €5 into the slot machine). As we were walking out, past the blackjack tables, we saw a man with a wad of €200 bills, shuffling through them to place his bet (Man, oh man…). Two cappuccinos later we were back on the train and back in Nice.
3. Check out Musée Matisse.
A lovely place to spend a rainy Sunday, as we did, and the entrance is free! Matisse moved to Nice late in his career and now rests at the local cemetery. His home was later turned into the museum. The museum doesn’t hold his most famous works but I would say the collection is quite varied and gives you some insight into his life at different stages. The highlight for me was The Racaille Chair, which hangs behind the actual chair itself – a sight to behold. If you’re an art lover, don’t stop there – Nice has many other museums to be enjoyed such as the Musée Marc Chagall (if you’re don’t mind shelling out some cash), the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Musée d’Art Modern et d’Art Contemporain.
4. Have “French comfort food” at Le Démodé.
You can find this cozy restaurant hidden in the Old Town (Vieille Ville). F spotted it and as always, he chose right. Honestly, if you go to a restaurant and order lamb kidneys by mistake and like them, that is a great sign. What happened, in a nutshell, was that I saw the man sitting across from me eating some sort of meat that looked appetizing so I asked the waitress what he was having. She replied in her very fast, fluent French and although I didn’t understand I told her that I would have that (it had to be meat and it had to be good – right?). The moment she walked away F turns to me and asks, “Are you really going to eat kidneys?” I have no regrets. And don’t be alarmed: they did have non-entrail options.
5. Go to the beach!
Unfortunately we didn’t visit Nice in the summer so we couldn’t take advantage of their beaches but this is definitely something to look into for future trips. Apparently there are public and private beaches to be enjoyed all along the coastline. It may be worth to do some more day trips if its warmer. Cannes and Saint Tropez are not too far off.
I leave you with the following (hilarious) translation fail: