La Côte d’Azur: Nice and Monaco

Opéra Plage, Nice

For the three-day weekend, my friend Laureen and I hopped on an hour flight to the beautiful south of France. In search of sunshine and blue waters, we were greeted with pouring rain and thunder… but it finally cleared up for the second half of the trip (as you can see in the photos).

The people we met in Nice said we had picked the right time to visit (despite the unpredictable weather), since once it hits June, tourists flood the city and the population can increase ten times!

For the weekend, Laureen and I stayed in a wonderful Airbnb in central Nice (with a very friendly host, Dani, who spoke Italian, Spanish, French, AND English.) Dani gave us plenty of restaurant and bar recommendations for our weekend.

We were happy to discover that Nice is extremely walkable. In fact, you can even take a two-hour stroll from the airport to the center of town along the boardwalk Promenade des Anglais. The boardwalk runs 7km long and has over 18 different beaches (at least, that’s how many I counted on the map.) It’s all the same beach in my opinion but different sections have different names…

My friend Diana sent over a ton of tips from her last time in Nice, which included a short trek up to the Parc de la Colline du Château. There are quite a bit of stairs, so I don’t recommend it for those with bad knees, but the views are quite breathtaking on a clear day (as you can see above). We stumbled across many different lookout points as well as a waterfall in the park.

Not too far from the boardwalk is a large antique market, which is open at 7am to late afternoon every Monday. There’s also a nice flower market that runs the remaining days of the week. Most of the antique market sold items that were too dusty for me to bother looking at, but I did finally find the perfect chandelier for our Parisian apartment… if only it fit in my suitcase. If anybody here in Paris has come across chandeliers like the one above (ideally antique and cheaper), do let me know!

Another pretty spot to check out in Nice is the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The architecture is quite amazing, and the interior has a beautiful ornate ceiling. It reminded me of the basilica Tyler and I visited for a concert in Lyon. While the dress code wasn’t strict the day we visited, the rules do state that people aren’t allowed to wear shorts and sandals. The cathedral provides head scarves to women visitors.

Next up: Monaco. Did you know Monaco is the 2nd smallest country in the world, after Vatican City? Just 20 minutes away from Nice (tip: the train is faster than the bus and only costs 3EUR), this is definitely a day trip you want to take. All the things I had heard about Monaco turned out to be true: streets are filled with roaring Ferraris and Lamborghinis, women in 4+ inch heels and designer purses fill every cafe, and there are billboard advertisements for the best deals on yacht-parking. It’s quite extravagant.

If you don’t have a fancy Porsche to take you around, make sure you wear good walking shoes and bring a good-sized water bottle. You’ll want to walk up to the Prince’s Palace of Monaco (built in 1191!), which has incredible views of the city.

There’s also a small “bateau bus” that can take you from one side of the port to the other at the cost of 2EUR per person.

After the trek, stop by the famous Cafe de Paris- Monte Carlo for an over-priced cocktail as you bask in the sun and people-watch. Buy a scoop of gelato from the shop next door- it’s one of the best I’ve tasted (though that may change after our Italy vacation this summer.)

The café right next to the Casino Monte Carlo– though again, watch for the dress code. Laureen had small rips in her jeans and they wouldn’t let her enter.

For a hidden photo-op, look for the hidden beach at the back of the Oceanographic Museum. The views of the blue Côte d’Azur waters don’t get much better than this. If we had had more time, I would have wanted to actually visit the museum.

On the train ride back from Monaco, we saw the beautiful Villfranche-sur-Mer from the window and just had to check it out. I immediately thought of it as a place Tyler would enjoy- it’s peaceful, not at all crowded, and has a few restaurants from which you can gaze out into the water. Very romantic.

That ends it for our weekend! It was the first time I went 3 full days only speaking French 🙂 Laureen and I joked that whenever we posted on Instagram, she’d always write her captions in English and I’d write mine in French. We each think things sound more beautiful in the other language… funny how that works.

The next time I’m near the south of France coast, I’d like to visit Cannes and Saint-Tropez.

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