Thursday, May 22, 2008

rekindling Nice memories

my most memorable travel of last year has got to be the trip to Nice (pronounced as ‘nis’), which is located at the Southern part of France, set beautifully in the Mediterranean Coast and nestled on the Cote d’ Azur (French Riviera). what made the trip quite interesting is the fact that i didn’t go alone – the husband was with me! yipee!!

Nice was actually our pit stop before heading to our actual destination, as it is the city with the nearest international airport. we landed on a weekday morning, welcomed by the loveliest weather we’ve experienced in years. the sun was bright, and the wind gently breezed on our faces. hmmm, great weather for me who just loves walking!

we stayed at Hotel Ibis in Promenade de Anglais, which is just a kilometer from the airport. it was a small hotel, next to a neighborhood park, and a stone’s throw away from the bus stop. we chose Hotel Ibis mainly because it’s affordable (we only needed to stay there for a night anyway), it’s accessible, it has free wifi connection, and is at least a familiar chain of budget hotels that provided us the basics we needed. we took the bus to get to our hotel because buses in Nice are tourist friendly – there’s enough room for your luggage, and people don’t mind your big stuff at all!

a view from the top

we had breakfast at the hotel – coffee with their famous croissants! after checking-in, we took a short nap before taking a tour of the place. we asked for a map from the concierge, and armed with our point and shoot cameras, we went about with our ‘tourist activities’.

our first stop was at the Gare de Nice SNCF train station, where the Tourist Information Office was located. we asked for directions on how to get to the Russian Cathedral and other tourist attractions, and also asked for additional maps (my gosh, how many maps does a couple really need in a small town like Nice?!? LOL!). after taking a few photos here and there, we had a late lunch at one of the cafés we’ve spotted next to the train station. feeling reenergized, we marched our way to the Russian Cathedral to check it out.

Gare de Nice SNCF

The Russian Cathedral

next, we took a bus to bring us to Galeries Lafayette. this popular shopping store in France is situated in the Place Massena, so that made it more of a famous landmark in Nice. the plaza was buzzing with tourists, and we were overwhelmed with all the beautiful shops and cafés in all directions. there were performers in the plaza, and our favorite was the guy who played fantastic piano music. his pieces were so lively that people started to come up to him to watch him play. after that, we walked a little further to appreciate the grand fountain.

feeling thirsty from our walk-about, we went to the Cours Saleya Market or better known as the ‘Flower Market’ for a little ‘merienda’ stop. this tiny street is a market place by day, and transforms into a big area for al fresco dining at night. we had refreshments at one of the quaint coffee shops where we had a chance to rest our feet. in half an hour, we found ourselves walking again to explore the Vieux Nice (Old Nice). a bit more walking led us to the beach side, more commonly known as Quais Etats Unis, where we settled on a bench and just watched people of all ages walk, jog and bike along the strip. time seemed to be slow in Nice, so it was no wonder a lot of people prefer to retire there because of its relaxing atmosphere. we also took good note of the following things we liked about Nice:

- it is a dog-friendly environment. everywhere you go, you’ll find dogs freely roaming around with their masters, and they are allowed to enter every establishment in town.
- people are relaxed and very patient. cars don’t go speeding, and they give way to pedestrians – all the time! no honking either.
- food is served fresh. when you check out a restaurant, try to ask for their catch of the day - guaranteed yummy-ness!
- compared to other European cities, shopping in Nice is a lot cheaper. food and drinks doesn’t cost that much, too.

here are some other pictures we took that afternoon:

Quais Etats Unis

trying to see Cannes from afar

locals doing some fishing

the flower market at sundown

that evening, when the sun finally had set, we chose a restaurant amongst the enticing array of establishments in the flower market. we picked a quiet corner and had a lovely meal where i tasted the most palatable pasta with the freshest shrimps in the world! after dinner, we took a cab to head back to our hotel at half past 9:00 in the evening.

the unfortgettable pasta...yummy!!

the next morning, we woke up early as Ryan promised me that we'd take pictures of us together because we'll carry with us our tripod. he also assured me that we will go hike up the stairs to get to Le Chateau so we can see the view from up there. we went about the same route that we took the day earlier, and had a chance to see more of the plaza as there weren't much people roaming in the area. we also went to see the street filled with luxurious shops, and took an interesting visit at the flower market by day.

i have to give credit to my husband who did some research about the place, as he highly insisted that we go and see the flower market. i wasn’t too keen on going to a market place while on holiday as i found the idea quite boring. but boy, was i so wrong! when we got to the flower market, i felt so giddy excited like a child discovering the joys of a bouncy castle! the tiny road was filled with make-shift stalls selling all sorts of stuff: fresh flowers and plants on nice flower pots, varieties of olives, fresh fish, beautiful vegetables of extraordinary colors that made them appear so ‘unreal’, bon bons of different shapes and sizes, soaps made of minerals found only in Nice, candles, wax and other household items that could pass as souvenirs. it was such a delightful morning seeing all the locals and tourists buy their goods in such high spirits.

after that trip to the market, we went our way to see the Le Chateau. the hike was all worth the effort especially when we saw the view from the top. we had a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea and the Notre Dame du port. the sun glistened in the water quite beautifully that it had a calming effect on us. we stayed there for about half an hour before going back to the hotel to check out and catch a cab to get us to our next stop – Monte Carlo in the principality of Monaco!

view of the Old Town and the Promenade de Anglais

overlooking the Mediterranean Sea

atop the Le Chateau

Notre Dame du Port

stories of our visit to the land of the Grimaldi Family Dynasty coming soon, so stay tuned!


Pat said...

i like this post!! i love Nice! too bad lang we didn't go there this time around. our hotel then was near the cote d'azur and i couldn't help but think that our beaches are so much nicer. and the women go topless. ayayay!

Gracie said...

thank you, pat! yah, our beaches in Pinas are much nicer compared to theirs...their shoreline is not good for walking. and the topless women, hay naku, nagkalat sila!!