I knew when I came to Europe I wanted to go to Nice. I have seen so many movies that have taken place there and loved it from just a brief glimpse of it. When I booked this trip to the French Riviera I knew I could really embrace Nice and the rest of the beautiful attributes this region had to offer. Shortly before leaving for Nice, the weather forecast had nothing but rain in store for us for the weekend. The three of us had actually debated on cancelling the trip, but figured it would be better to go see Nice in the rain than to not see it at all. It was the best decision ever.
My flight with EasyJet was far more enjoyable than any flight I have taken with RyanAir. I fell asleep on the plane before take-off and didn’t wake, not even for a minute until we landed. And the flight from Rome to Nice was only an hour. Short and painless, and no hassle. We arrived in Nice and I instantly felt welcomed. Directions to our hostel were very spelled out and easy to follow. Upon our arrival we noticed we were just off set Massena Place, a landmark that came highly recommended by almost everyone who has ever been to Nice. And I could see why, there were beautiful statues and plenty of room to stroll and not to mention various restaurants and retail locations that stopped us in our tracks. We flew in separately from our tour group who took a bus, so we had some time to kill before they arrived. We found a cute restaurant by the name of Cassa Missa, and had a huge menu. Nice being extremely close to Italy, there is plenty of Italian influence as far as cuisine and culture; that part of France was actually apart of Italy once upon a time. I got a salmon stuffed ravioli with cream sauce, and it was delicious! Now, we are in the French Riviera…it was a little expensive. But oh my it was worth it, they gave you a boatload of food to the point where you are almost stuck in your seat.
Our hostel was pretty nice, I really enjoyed myself there. Like most parts of this trip, it was contrasted perfectly with a combination of every trip I have been on since in Europe. It reminded me of the Hostel I stood at in Barcelona as far as who were staying there, and along with the meals they cooked for us, and then it reminded me of the Pink Palace in Greece due to the full service bar and Happy Hour. Nice itself reminded me of Florence and Porto put together. The city was small and relaxing, with so many tucked away shops and places to eat, whether it be dinner or desserts, or clothing or jewelry. It was quaint, yet packed with culture. This is precisely what I envisioned Europe to be.
The next morning, we had a walking tour of Nice at 11am. It was very brief, but it really showed us the way around the city so much so that we didn’t even need a map while we were there. We went down to the pebble stone beach and saw all of the gorgeous rocks that blanketed the shoreline and of course the crystal blue water. As someone who has never been to a tropical island before, this was my first time seeing water this blue. It was absolutely beautiful. Our tour continued and he showed us some ancient monuments as well as the open fish and flower markets, both of which the biggest in France! We were then taken into the home of a Royal French Family which has been turned into a museum, this beautiful structure had the entire group in shock of how beautiful someone’s home was. We all herded at the bottom of the steps and listened to our tour guide, at the end of the steps on a post was a hand crafted stone knob that everyone was fascinated by. Before heading up the stairs our tour guide said “and it is believed if you touch this stone if gives you fertility!” as you can imagine everyone’s hands flew off the knob immediately! The tour concluded here, and now that we saw the immediate surroundings of Massena , my two friends and I decided to venture off on our own and explore this beautiful city!
The cascades were visible from every end of the city, we decided to go and find them! But first we all wanted to get some lunch; is it bizarre that some of the bext sushi I have had was in France? We saw a very highly recommended sushi place and decided why not! Of course, it’s the French Riviera, everything was a little bit more pricey but the food was delicious! And for the first time I have ever seen they had a dessert sushi roll, with Nutella and strawberries wrapped in a crepe!
Setting up the mountain of Nice to the cascades was a lengthy, but leisurely process! We found the entrance at the foot of the mountain, and started making our way up. With each platform we looked out into the horizon and saw the beautiful scenery start to emerge piece by piece, and before we knew it we were at the top. And all of the little bits and pieces of scenery seemed like particles of dust compared to the macro view of Nice! Yes all of these pictures are necessary!
On our way down, we found a gorgeous garden with just unbelievable stone work complementing them. The great thing about Nice, is that there isn’t too many tourists. In Rome, you can count on at least 3 dozen tourists ruining your gorgeous pictures, but here we got to spread out and really capture the scenery and take SEVERAL pictures! I’m not into nature at all, I hate flowers because I am viciously allergic to pollen and terrified of bee’s, but this was something I really loved and enjoyed about the South of France!
The next day we departed for a day trip to Eze and Monaco…now we’re talking here. Unfortunately this day was the day the rain was supposed to hit the hardest. Thank God for umbrellas! Nothing was going to stop me from seeing and experiencing the French Riviera! Our first stop in Eze was tour of a perfume factory called Fragonard, an exclusively exotic perfumery that creates its own fragrances, soaps, lotions and oils…no imports OR exports, you can only buy it here. Needless to say the tour guide of this factory absolutely hated her job, but the tour was spiced up when we got to sample the scents and choose our favorites. You can definitely tell the exclusiveness in the fragrances because this perfume was strong and perfectly proportionate with different scents. The smell didn’t knock you on the ground due to the pungency, it was noticeable enough that one or two sprays were efficient. A bottle the size of a tic-tac container was 26 euros, again I needed to remind myself was in the French Riviera!
The perfume tour concluded and we still had about an hour or two to kill in Eze, we decided to walk up the mountain to the exotic cacti gardens. It was down-pouring and gross but what were my other options? We get to the gardens and I immediately gratify myself with toughing it out in the rain. The gardens were on different tiers that just layered on-top of another. The scenery along with this exotic layout of cacti and gorgeous plants just blew my mind.
Now it was time to get on the bus to Monaco, this would be the mecca of this gorgeous region we know as the French Riviera. We soon found out why this was considered the playground of the Rich and Famous. Monaco is its own country, like the Vatican. It’s the second smallest country in the world next to the Vatican. It is also one of the most wealthy. With 77,000 per captia, its no wonder why this place looked like royalty. We were present in the palace Grace Kelly stood in, and saw many different monuments relating to previous kings, queens, princes and princesses. We have heard too much about the Monte Carlo Casino, so we found the quickest way there. Walking up to this casino looked like I was going to need a draw bridge to get to it because it looked like a castle! All of the surroundings were so colorful, there were flags and numerous fountains surrounding the casino. I have never been in a casino before, so afoot the nicest casino in the world was definitely going to blow me away. Of course they didn’t allow cell phones or cameras into the establishment, but I don’t think I will be able to erase what I was seeing. It honestly looked like I was walking through a palace where the Queen of England would live. We decided to get a drink, since none of us knew how to gamble. Belini’s seemed appropriate and it was certainly the most delicious drink I have had to date..again forgetting in the French Riviera, MONACO no less, our champagne glass of half juice was 19 euros. At least I can say I had a drink in the Monte Carlo! I pressed my beginners luck on the slot machines, I ended up winning 18 euros off of 10, then lost it again when I tried to win more; maybe I shouldn’t gamble haha!
This rainy day took a lot out of us, and we were unfortunately leaving the next day. We took it easy this night, and went out to dinner to a restaurant we stumbled upon while looking for another restaurant. There was outdoor seating and we saw a mans plate that looked like it was to die for! With no hesitation we walked in and grabbed a table. This was probably the best meal I have had ever since being in Europe. It was provolone baked spaghetti with a tomato sauce with eggplant. And they served you the pasta right in the pan they made it in! we all received ENORMOUS portions and did not stop until our plates were cleaned. I haven’t been this full since Thanksgiving! Holding our stomachs and exclaiming how full we were, the waiter brought us over complementary glasses of Limonchello. Very much needed. We looked over to the door and saw this restaurant was nominated for various awards for several years in a row, this was in fact a good find!
The next day, was our last day…we weren’t happy! The sun was actually out so we took advantage of if and walked on the beach and enjoyed how much more gorgeous the scenery was with the sun out! We sat and had lunch on the beach and was floored by how impeccably blue the water was. We sat there and soaked in the last of trip to the French Riviera.
Next Stop: Capri, Sorrento, Pompeii