This was the element of my 26th birthday earlier this April. I was told on a Friday evening to pack light for a quick trip the next morning down to somewhere nice.
Nice it was.
I was all set for a little adventure. As soon as I got comfortable on the airplane and about to disembark, he broke the second surprise, “Now my part is done. Yours begins here.” Little did I know, I was brought onto the plane to another country and nothing was planned on the itinerary. I can be quite a rigid character when it comes to travel planning; I like to know where I go, when I go and how to get from point A to B. My first thought was, “One night in Nice? Good luck with that.”
With less than 48 hours in Nice and completely foreign to Côte d’Azur, I turned to TripAdvisor (no brainer) and the (thankfully) English-speaking hotel concierge. At the end of it, turns out one night in Nice was indeed enough, to skim through the highlights anyway, sunbathing is out of the question. For those looking to spend the weekend away in a sunny laid back place, French Riviera is only 2 hours from London.
Day 1 ✈ Nice ▸ Vieille Ville (Old Town) ▸ Éze Village ▸ Place Massena
Accommodation ▸ Ajoupa Apart’hotel, approx 80 Euros a night, excellent location at Place Massena
Day 2 ▸ Monaco ▸ Palais du Prince ▸ Monte Carlo ▸ Nice ▸ Castle Hill ▸ Promenade ✈ London
1. VIELLE VILLE (OLD TOWN)
Similar to its Spanish counterparts, the Old Town is made up of narrow aisles cheerfully lit by colourful blocks of old façades, each with an interesting feature. A perfect place for a stroll and to people-watch.
Nice’s quintessential street food, Socca – a chickpea pancake cooked on a huge stove. It tastes like a thinner and flat version of potato waffles. Some locals eat it with salt and pepper. I loved it.
Fenocchio, the ice-cream and gelato vendor has a hundred flavours to entice your taste buds.
From the classic pistachio to the downright bizarre flavours like cactus, I opted for something in the middle – fig. 2 Euros per scoop, and no trying simply because everyone in town goes here.
2. ÉZE VILLAGE
When in Nice, don’t give this a miss. Éze in one of the most enchanting places I have seen; a hill paved with cobbled grounds and walls. It feels as though I have stepped into a town of fine artisans back in the medieval times.
From Nice, hop on the local bus 82 for under 2 Euros per trip and it will take you right up to Éze in 20 minutes. The only snag I found that a lot of fellow travellers have in common was locating the bus stop. After rounds of excusez moi s’il vout plâit with the locals, I found out that the bus stop was relocated to off Place Garibaldi (I’ll pinpoint on a map later where the bus to Monaco also departs from). I was led to wrong locations and tracked further down to a rather hidden bus stop for the 82 right in front of Fjord food cafe along Rue François Guisol. Anticipate up to 2 hours wait for the bus to arrive, it really doesn’t come often.
One tip during your way up to Éze, sit on the right side of the vehicle. The scenic drive on the east coast was beautiful and calming, overlooking the mediterranean ocean and the houses sprawled over the hills.
There’s little cafes, perfume shops, gift shops, art galleries and a botanic garden up in Eze village
A top notch 5 star hotel that sits on the hill with a postcard perfect view of the Mediterranean sea
3. PLACE MASSENA
In the middle of the city square in between the Promenade and Old Town, Place Massena is always buzzing with tourists and local street performers. Tonnes of restaurants along Rue Massena but beware of tourist traps.
When in Nice, it is worth taking time off to visit the one and only Monaco; a sovereign state that lives in a bubble of glamour and extravagance, popularly associated with high-flying middle-aged men with Porches and private yacht as accessories, and also a place to fulfil a Formula 1 fanatic’s dreams. If you’re going to have a cup of coffee, be sure to pay 10 Euros and expect little to no change.
45 minutes away from Nice, you can hop on bus 100 (Nice – Menton) for under 2 Euros per trip from Avenue Saint-Sébastien just off Place Garibaldi as pinpointed above. If I’m not mistaken, this is also where you can find bus 82 that takes you to directly Eze village. Check the timetable here.
A flower and food market beneath Palais du Prince
5. PALAIS DU PRINCE (PRINCE’S PALACE)
5 minutes hike up towards the Prince’s Palace for this extravagant view of Monaco
6. MONTE CARLO
The one and only Monte Carlo square where you will find Bentleys, Ferraris and Lamborghinis parked at the casino entrance. Casinos are free to enter.
7. CASTLE HILL
4 hours was good enough to have a taste of Monaco. Back to Nice on bus 100 and through the Old Town is the pathway up to the Castle Hill, a family friendly recreational spot with a breath-taking view not to be missed. It can be quite a tough climb, so if you’re not up for some exercise, there’s a free elevator service.
Old Town path leading up to the Castle Hill
On the way up to the Castle Hill is the cemetery for notables
After a morning rush back from Monaco, my final moments were spent retiring to this breath-taking view.
Lugging my mini suitcase along the Promenade marks the finalé of the trip. The Promenade stretches a long way, packed and full of life with beach goers and exhilarated tourists. I kissed goodbye to Nice and boarded the local bus 200 towards the airport.
One night in Nice wasn’t mission impossible after all. A little shameful that I had to rush through such a tranquil and beautiful town that deserves time for appreciation. French Riviera, this will not be au revoir forever.