What started out as a train ride through the dirty outskirts of Paris quickly turned into rolling hills and small villages tucked up against mountains, green fields and white houses with red roofs. Before I knew it though, I looked out the window to see steeper hills and cliffs, with houses and villages build right into the faces, overlooking valleys and the Mediterranean Sea. Greenery turned from crops to palm trees, and houses from white to hues of pink and yellow. We had made it to the coast.
I didn’t appreciate when I bought my ticket that we would be making five stops along the way to Nice—and because of the stops instead of making for Nice in a straight line, we basically went straight south from Paris and then for the last hour made our way along the coast. Between my jet lag and lack of sleep, I thought I would spend the first half of the journey being productive with things like blogging and eating and, okay, also watching TV on my computer, and then spend the last half sleeping. That, however, was changed when I became too engrossed with looking out the window to bother thinking about any sleep I might want to store in my system for later. Maybe this calls for a second day in a row of making the delicious mistake of coffee in the late afternoon and not sleeping at night in order to stay awake until night comes period. I’ll keep you updated.
Looking back on it, I’m not sure we had a real reason for choosing Nice as a destination on our France adventure. It was on the opposite side of the country from Paris, it would be warmer, it was next to the Mediterranean Sea, it would be big enough to get by with a mash of French, English and pointing at things, and it would be far enough from my final destination that it wouldn’t be likely to come up as an easy weekend travel plan while I am in pastry school. These things were probably all considered, but at the same time I think neither of us knew much at all about the city. Nice just vaguely seemed like a good all around idea.
Well, upon arrival I think we both deemed it the best decision we made with our planning.
Nice is beautiful. It is structured quite similarly to Annecy, in that it has an old town and a newer section of town, which are both surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea on one side and a sprawling suburban/residential section on the other side. With around 350,000 people, Nice is the 5th largest city in France, and because of its location–along with its huge port, airport and large train station–it has an incredibly high amount of foreigners touring and living in the area.
Excited by the prospect of walking along the beach (which to my surprise was completely comprised of small, incredibly smooth stones) even though it was around 60 degrees, Kelly and I dumped our belongings off in our new hotel room and all but ran out of the building to the water. Which was conveniently located immediately across the intersection outside the doors of the hotel!
After some walking along the beach and taking a bunch of pictures, we headed over to the old part of town. It was only about a half mile walk from our hotel to the edge of the old part of town, which was super convenient, but even if we hadn’t been so close Nice seems to have a great public transportation system.
As we wandered, taking the city in for the first time and as I took a picture of literally every alley we passed by (much to Kelly’s chagrin), we also realized that we hadn’t had a proper lunch and were starving.
We spotted a delicious looking pasta place and wandered over to a waitress folding napkins.
“Two people, for eating?” I haltingly stated/asked, hoping she would point us to a table and give us menus. (And FYI I did say “for eating” in French because at restaurants I am constantly asked if I am there to eat or for coffee, since my idea of “dinner time” is not the French idea of “dinner time” but rather is the time of day when you should be drinking coffee or wine).
The waitress shook her head, and at first I was terribly confused, but then she apologized and said they were closed for their midday break, and we would have to come back when they reopened at 6:30.
It was only 5:00pm. We hadn’t eaten lunch and now we were told that we would have to wait another hour and a half?! I personally didn’t think I could wait that long, since my stomach seemed determined to eat itself if I didn’t ingest anything new, so instead of wandering around and waiting, we went in search of a place that was still open.
We ended up at a rather large restaurant facing one of the main square areas–which I’m guessing was open mainly to target tourist traffic. Everyone who works in Nice seems to speak a good deal of English, and they also seem to have radar that tells them where a person has come from before you even open your mouth. Partially relieved, partially annoyed I didn’t have to drudge up more French from the depths of my brain, Kelly and I ordered our (very early) dinner in English, and were soon happily devouring our food. I have discovered that pizza reine is my new favorite pizza variety–covered as it is with loads of ham, mushrooms and mozzarella.
After dinner we wandered around just long enough to settle our food and make room for gelato–and then returned to the same square in the old town for some of the best gelato I have ever put in my mouth. Seriously. It was so beautiful. There were probably 50 flavors to choose from, but my eyes and stomach were drawn to salted caramel. It was perfect…and it also helped that it was served to me by a smiling, adorable French boy, and we ate it as we strolled through town people watching and observing the fantastic architecture.
Because Kelly and I are secretly old people disguised by the bodies of youth, we returned to our hotel room by 7:30pm. Between it getting dark though and our tiring day of travel, it was for the best that we went back and rested up, as the next two days were absolutely filled with adventures!
Check back soon to read more about Kelly’s and my adventures in Nice, France! Thanks for reading!