Relaxing on The Riviera

Relaxing on The Riviera

After living in #Nice, France for 6 years, I am always asked for recommendations. So finally, here they are! My quick guide to the best addresses on the French Riviera, decadent #massages, #foodanddrink, fantastic #hotels and top tips.


If you fancy a relaxing break away to treat yourself and soak up the sunshine then here are a few of my recommendations. I would stay in Nice as it is central and the best place to commute from. 

Active: if you are feeling active then here are my sea attacking recommendations, and here is a quick summary of some of my favourite spots and rope antics in the mountains. An amazing way to see the coast is to cycle from Nice to Monaco, especially when the sun is coming up, though unfortunately I was too unfit to stop to take photo breaks. I was scared that if I stopped peddling I would not be able to start again.

Visiting the Riviera

My favourite villages to visit are listed below, with a greater focus on Nice (events, markets, restaurants, massages, accommodation, travel tips, etc.) towards the bottom.

A rare storm brewingPromenade des anglais
A rare storm brewing, the view from Promenade des Anglais

Antibes

The most friendly bustling port village, especially lively in the summer, and full of yachties. Go for lunch at the Blue Lady pub or head up to the old covered market. 

Artisan sausages 
Artisan sausages 

Eze

Take the bus and head up to this medieval village perched on the hill for a coffee and marvel at the view, or you can take a walk up the hill, follow the 'Nietzche footpath.' 

(Nietzche came here when he was feeling down, and here, he re-found his motivation to write).

The Nietzche footpath up to Eze
The Nietzche footpath up to Eze

Monaco

Go for lunch, to people watch, and for world class window shopping (in French: lèche-vitrine = window licking).

Check out my tips and recommendations here.

Menton

For the lemon festival in March. The sculptures can be up to 10 metres high.

A Lemon GoatThe Gardens
A Lemon Goat

Saint Paul de Vence

Full of nooks and crannies and art and craft shops, it is a gorgeous little authentic artists’ village.

Cagnes sur Mer

This village is split into three parts: the beach, the town, and the original settlement on the hill behind (which is my favourite bit). Occupied by Greeks and Romans, its very narrow winding lanes and paths are fascinating. 

Note: the streets can be quite steep.

Villefranche-sur-Mer

To make the most of this stunning little village, aim to get up early for breakfast to enjoy the sunrise or come later for the sunset. It is gorgeous.

Villefranche-sur-Mer
Villefranche-sur-Mer

This was the view that enticed me to cycle from Nice to Monaca, and back. You can cycle from the old port of Nice to Fontvieille, Monaco, in one hour. 

You could rent a bike though Vélo Bleu (easy to use self-service bicycle rental system) or, if you are planning a long cycle, it might be better to book with Bim Bim Bikes.

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Villa & Gardens – Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild – A Belle Epoque palace

There are nine magnificent gardens which look out to sea, decorated with mini waterfalls, ornamental ponds, roses, banyan trees, bamboo and many more. The fountains are brought to life with music every 20 minutes. 

Rothschild gardens
Rothschild gardens

The villa itself is also fabulous.

Rothschild Villa 
Rothschild Villa 

A Winter Trip - Lucéram

Winter Break - Nativity

If you are here for a bit of winter sunshine, then a great day-trip from Nice with a car and with or without children is the 'circuit des crèches' in Lucéram 06440. The whole village takes part in making their own nativity scenes. There are an estimated 450 of them to be seen.

They also come in all shapes and sizes, with the smallest fitting into half a nut; the craftsmanship is astounding. 

450 nativity scenes to see
450 nativity scenes to see

Nice

Despite its size, it is very easy to explore. The main street (with tram tracks) is Jean Medecin and is the main shopping street, with Place Massena and the fountains at the end, just before the Promenade des Anglais, and miles of sea and beaches. (Note: it is a pebble beach though.)

Music: Next to Place Massena are some lovely gardens which also host various festivals including Nice Jazz Festival in July.

Nice's brass-bandPromenade des Anglais
Nice's brass-bandPromenade des Anglais

Carnival in February is a definite must! One of the largest in the world complete with 'bataille des fleurs' (flower fights).

Carnival in Nice
Carnival in Nice

Le Chateau (the hill, east of Nice): its name can be misleading as there are just ruins which remain, but it is a must visit for the stunning views it offers. Walk up from the Promenade des Anglais, then go down the other side to explore the antique markets and the port.

The Negresso (cover image): You cannot fail to notice this building (from 1913) with its striking Neoclassical architecture and pink dome on the seafront. If your bank balance is greater than mine, then stay there and please show me your pictures. If not, then at least go for a coffee or a cocktail and explore as far as you can.

Opera: 4-6 Rue Saint Francois de Paule, 06300 Nice

For the culture vultures among you, then I would recommend trying to see some ballet, theatre or opera. For the schedule of shows, here is their calendar.

Nice Opera
Nice Opera

Massages in Nice

Tropique Nice Herboristerie et Institut Bio Bespoke and value for money

10 Boulevard Joseph Garnier, Nice – Tuesdays to Saturdays 9h-19h – Book in advance 0493840233

If you fancy a more bespoke experience, then this is a hidden gem. It is a small boutique, but its owner is absolutely charming and full of knowledge and enthusiasm with regards to the herbal essences and aromatherapy treatments which are right for you. You will come out feeling refreshed, relaxed and healthy. A relaxing massage with essential oils from your head to your toes, for 1 hour is 65 €.

Elegance – Gontard School - Value for money

47 Rue Hotel des Postes, Nice

This is a massage and beauty school, which has been running since 1969. If you want a professional and great massage without breaking the bank, then I would definitely recommend coming here.

from  $71

Deep Tissue Massage

Food & Drink
 Nice, France
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Deep Nature – Spa & Thalasso – Treat yourself

from  $133

Hotel Boscolo Exedra Nice

 12 Boulevard Victor Hugo, Nice, France

Hotel L’Exedra, 12 Victor Hugo, Nice

If you really want to treat yourself then this is the place for you. They have an extensive range of massages, and thanks to some generous friends I was treated to a whole body massage which was fabulous. 

from  $137.85

Hotel Boscolo Exedra Nice

 12 Boulevard Victor Hugo, Nice, France
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Though I did not do it, their Spa appears sublime.

from  $147

Relaxing Massage

Food & Drink
 Nice, France
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Parasailing and Flyboard Experience

Food

The main local delicacies of the region include:

Socca - A type of hot and crispy chickpea pancake. It is the quintessential street food of Nice, baked over hot coals on enormous steel platters.

Salad Niçoise - A salad which includes boiled potatoes, green beans, boiled egg, anchovies and tuna.

Pissaladière - A type of pizza; the dough is usually a bread dough thicker than that of the classic Margherita pizza, and the traditional topping consists of caramelised onions, olives, garlic and anchovies.

Pan-bagnat - A sandwich which is composed of pain de campagne (whole wheat bread formed in a circle, although white bread is also sometimes used), and a salad filing; composed mainly of raw vegetables, hard boiled eggs, anchovies and/or tuna, and olive oil (never mayonnaise). Sometimes balsamic vinegar, ground pepper, and salt will also be added.

Farcis -  Vegetables like tomatoes, aubergine, and courgette, are hollowed out and stuffed with ground meat, garlic, and bread crumbs. They are baked and served hot or cold. 

Ratatouille - This is also a regional speciality. It is a ratatouille is a vegetable casserole consisting of tomatoes, onions, courgettes, aubergines, peppers, herbs and garlic.

Tarte TropézienneSt Tropez’s signature cake, a sandwich cake; a round, flat-topped sugar-coated brioche filled with an unctuous, orange-flower flavoured cream. The cake was created by Alexandre Micka, a Polish baker who settled on the seaside village in 1955, though it was Brigitte Bardot who christened the cake the 'Tarte Tropézienne.'

If you are spoilt for choice for dessert, the French have ingeniously created the ‘café gourmand’ which is a coffee (expresso) served with a bite size selection of different desserts. A reason in itself to stay in France.

If you fancy sharing a snack, many restaurants offer an ‘Assiette de charcuterie’ (meat platter)/fromage (cheese).

Make sure you also try the local rosé, daube (beef stew), pastis (though more commonly associated with Marseille - an aniseed-flavoured liqueur), tapenade (an olive dip (traditionally) made of black olives, capers, anchovies, garlic and olive oil. Different variations exist including ones with green olives or sun-dried tomatoes. Make sure you taste them when you go round the market.) and fromage de chèvre (goat's cheese).

Markets in Nice

Vieille Ville, Nice (the old town)

Flowers and food - Cour Saleya (except Mondays and Sunday afternoons)

Fish - Place Saint-François (every day except Mondays)

Books - Place du Palais de Justice

Restaurants in Nice

La Route du Miam; 1 Rue Molière, Nice

Open in the evenings Tuesday to Saturday (inclusive)  Tel: 0033 616363322 

South-West cuisine and the best duck I have ever had. A cosy restaurant with great service and truly delicious food. Go very hungry!

L’Union, 1 Rue Michelet, Nice

Tel: 0033 493846527

Tucked away and frequented by locals. Provençale cuisine.

La Maison de Marie, 5 Rue Massena, Nice

Tel: 0033 4 93 82 15 93 

Very good value for money. Delicious food using truffles, carpaccios, gnocchi, and of course, duck.

They do a starter, dish and dessert formula too.

Culture - Art Gallery - Mamac

The MAMAC; Contemporary Art Museum, Place Yves Klein, Nice

Open every day except Monday. (Note: many commerces in France shut or work half day on Mondays.)

Accommodation in Nice

Villa Saint Exupery Beach - On a budget– Backpacker *

Close to Place Massena, this is a hostel ideally placed near to the old town and the beach. The hostel also hosts excursions and has a very cheap bar.

The hostel hosts excursions, and has a cheap bar.

from  $55.79

Hotel Villa Saint Exupery Beach

 6 Rue Sacha Guitry, Nice, France
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Campanile Nice Centre Acropolis - Mid-Budget ***

from  $88.15

Hotel Campanile Nice Centre - Acropolis

 58 Boulevard Risso, Nice, France
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58 Boulevard Risso, 06300 Nice

Centrally located; a 10 min walk from the Promenade des Anglais (beach).

HI Hotel - Contemporary luxury ****

3 Avenue des Fleurs, Nice

Eco Spa and Beach. They also do a bio brunch and Hamman deal on a Sunday, which is great value for money. They also have a rooftop swimming pool.

from  $78.8

Hi Hotel

 3 Avenue Des Fleurs, Nice, France
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Le Méridien - Treat yourself, traditional luxury ****

 Prom. des Anglais, 06046 Nice

They have a swimming pool and restaurant on the roof overlooking the sea, need I say more? They also have a sauna and a casino with cabaret performances.

from  $216

Hotel Le Méridien

 Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France

Feeling Sociable?

If you are here for a while and fancy meeting up with people of similar interests, then check out:

On va sortir - 'We will go out.' Activities range from meeting for a drink to hiking and more. 

Anglo Info (for anglophones) - If you are here for a long period, this might be handy

Internations - they organize as interesting mix of activities including comedy nights.

Franglish - if you fancy practicing your French, then this is a fun exchange event for native French and English speakers.

Travel Tips

Public transport IS cheap (buses, trains, tram). Taxis are NOT (e.g. 90 Euros from Monaco to Nice).

But DO BE WARNED. The French trains in particular, have a habit of going on strike at least once a month, however, though some trains will be cancelled, the ones which are left in place are sometimes more reliable than normal. To check if your train will be on time (not canceled on short notice) keep an eye on: http://www.sncf.com/ or search ‘horaires & info en temps réel’.

France also has different trains (unlike the UK), TER (regional cheap train), Corail (a bit more expensive, limited stations), TGV (express, more expensive), and some Italian trains (Thello too). Make sure you buy and stamp your ticket (the small yellow machine) beforehand.

NB: Though Nice is safe generally speaking, do watch out for pick-pockets, especially in the summer.

In Case of Emergency

Doctors - 39 Rue Lamartine Nice 06000, Tel; 0033 4 92 47 71 90

Police station - 1 Avenue Maréchal Foch, Nice 06000

Weather

Sunny all year round. Pack your sun-cream.

Bon voyage!

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