When France is between 1 and 2 hours away by air, it is entirely possible to explore it over a weekend period. So with a cheap flight, we did just that. Although the weather wasn’t as hot as I was hoping for (16 degrees the high, and quite chilly after sunset), so if you are travelling in the winter months, pack a coat!
Where we went
You’ll fly to Nice most likely as the gateway to the Cote D’Azur. Flights are relatively inexpensive and from London Gatwick it took 2 hours.
Nice is nestled amongst the south coast of France, and has beautiful beaches, clear blue waters and fair food and drink.
Transport to the city– We were a little overwhelmed with the options of transport into the city. You can pay €6 each way per person for an express fare (bus 99 or 98), or you can purchase a single journey on a local bus for €1.50. This bus is only available from terminal one, and so you will have to get a shuttle across.
There is a train station, but this is a little walk away.
We ended up buying a multi ticket booklet for €10 and lasts 10 journeys, that have to be completed in 75 minutes, and used on buses and trams. It can be used by multiple people also.
Just make sure you use it – we had a few journeys left over at the end of our trip, as we tended to walk everywhere.
Accommodation – can be inexpensive from hostels to high end hotels. We booked into a hotel a little out of the main drag, and it was a lot cheaper.
What to do –
Quite a walk up many steps and a bit of an incline. Castle hill gives you unobstructed views of the city. It is really lovely at the top, and if you’re lucky – you can capture some epic sunsets.
I was a little underwhelmed with the beach. I was expecting a long stretch of golden sand, but it was all pebbles (just like on the south coast of England). However, it was consistantly busy, and locals seemed to flock there to relax and even swim.
The prom in Nice is just lovely. It is a little like our prom in sunny sussex, but with an added exotic flare. I think the palm trees helped us feel that we were somewhere miles away.
The prom runs for miles, and we walked pretty much all of it. On our last day, we had eaten, and had done all the exploring we wanted to, so decided to walk the 5 or so miles to the airport. It felt longer than we thought, but it was so nice to stop and see different parts of the city as we went.
The old town
Nice has a small old town, with little cobbled streets. It is quite vibrant too, with a number of colourful buildings. We spent part of our time just wondering around, looking in the cute local shops, cafes and chocolate shops (for the macaroons!)
Monte-Carlo is one of the few places that I have felt genuinely poor. There, and Abu Dhabi.
From 3 million euro superyachts, with their own helicopter landing pad, to 300K cars, and versace stores selling €2,000 handbags. I felt so out of place.
Despite this, it was a pretty little mini nation (and my 49th country). The main reason we visited was to let my husband have his fix of the F1, and letting him (and me) walk the street circuit.
He was in his element, and telling me of the stories of previous races he had seen on TV (because lets face it, who can actually afford a ticket to the F1 in Monaco?).
Getting to Monte-Carlo from Nice is fairly straight forward. You can get a train in 20 minutes for €4 or so, or the bus 100 takes 45 minutes and is €1.50 each way (you won’t be able to use your multi-ticket for this journey).
We took the bus option, which was a good leisurely journey. Sit on the right hand side as you travel there from Nice, for great views of the coastline.
Musée du Vieux Monaco
If you are looking for great views of the city, then have a wander up to the Musée du Vieux. Again, there are a number of steps, but the climb is worth it, with spectacular views of the harbour.
On arrival at our hotel in Nice, we were informed about a few day trips we could do in the area.
One place that was pointed out was Eze, which is on route to Monte-Carlo. After a quick google, and seeing some stunning images, we were in.
We were told of a bus number and location. However, upon getting to said location, there was no bus. We made it to the train station, and staff there had no idea of the bus number.
In the end, we paid around €10 for the both of of us to return by train. Only to realise that the bus number was 82, not 84 and departed from towards the harbour in Nice, not where we were told. Furthermore, we could have also used our multi bus ticket.
When we arrived into Eze station, we realised there was approximately an hour and a half walk to get into the main village, as it is up a long and winding hill. So we ended up jumping on bus 84 and using one of our bus journeys.
The village is small and quaint, and the main area you will want to explore is up toward the botanical garden.
Signposts will guide you toward the general direction of the gardens. However, when you enter the village on the hill, that is where is gets confusing.
Many parts of it were like a ghost town, as it was off season. Therefore, very little shops or cafes open, but it was still very pretty.
There were a number of signs pointing us toward the “panoramic view” which when you travel with a photographer is essential.
However, it was not that easy. We seemed to go around in circles for a long time. Up and down steps, and through small alleyways.
In the end, we realised that some of the panoramic views were gained via the restaurants, which were closed for the season.
So we decided to take a trip up to the botanical gardens. Where we were informed that at this time of year, this would be the only panoramic view we could get.
So we paid the €4 (each) entry fee and took a wander around. It was pretty, but we didn’t choose quite the correct time to visit, as the view was obstructed by the glaring sun. However, after the hike up it was lovely to stop and take in the views.