Friday, May 25, 2007

Trip Report: 48 Hours in Nice

Our friend SZL, wife of JT's best man, was scheduled to be in Nice in May for a conference. We've known this for a while. What we didn't know until recently was that she was going to get to Nice a few days before our conference started. And that her friend E would also be there.

Clearly, we needed to make the sacrifice and go to the south of France to hang out with her.

We got up at 3:30 Saturday morning to catch a taxi to catch a train to get us to the airport by 5:15 for our 6:30 flight. and by 10 a.m. we were in Nice. A bus ride later, we dropped our stuff off at the airport and met up with S and E at a cafe. All at once, we remembered what we loved about France: the cafes! The boulangeries! The crepes! And here it all was, with the added bonus of the Mediterranean, and friends.

After some lunch in Old Nice, we headed off to the train station. The afternoon's adventure would be a trip to Monaco, a 19-minute train ride away. The entire area of Monaco is 485 acres, with a population around 32,000. Our rough guide to Monaco joked that they must scrub the buildings to keep everything looking so shiny. Man, they aren't kidding.

The ladies in front of the casino in Monte Carlo.

Monaco was getting itself ready for the Monaco Grand Prix, which is going on this weekend. (I didn't know anything about this; apparently it's a Formula One race through the streets of Monte Carlo. 77 times.) Also, people were getting the prime docking spots for their yachts. I thought I had seen yachts. Oh my gosh. The trunk space for the jet skis. The furniture. The perfectly fluffed and aligned pillows. Names like, "Just One More Toy." So that was entertaining.

We walked up to the casino, then stopped for a Diet Coke break in a fru-fru shopping mall, where we sat and watched well-dressed people walk by with their well-dressed purse dogs. Then it was off to the other end of the country (ha) to visit the palace and what was the original city of Monaco. We found some dinner in an Italian restaurant, accompanied by some red Sancerre. (YUM) Back to the train, back to Nice. One gelato later, we all collapsed in our respective beds.

Sunday morning, JT and I were determined to visit the famous flower market in Old Nice. It was so lovely! (More pictures here, by the way.) But it was so much more than flowers. Bread! Spices! Fruit and veg!

One of the veg stands. Just to the right of the pole is zucchini -- they sell it with the blossoms still on. We saw fried or sauteed courgette flower on the menu at quite a few places. In fact, I'm pretty sure that people who buy it like that are after the flower, not the fruit.

We decided on some croissants and a focaccia covered in ham for breakfast. After a break for some coffee (and a Diet Coke that cost 3.60 euro), we went in for another round. We caught up with S and E, and started gathering provisions for later consumption. We finally left the market, heading to the water. We then climbed (213 steps, I'm told) a big hill up to Le Chateau, which is really just the remains of a cathedral and some Roman ruins. But there's also a lovely park, where we decided to relax for a while and have the best spread in the universe:

Clockwise, from bottom left: Goat cheese covered in chives, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh cherries, mini chorizo sausages, olives (nicoise, even). Not pictured: The most fabulous crusty baguette. Actually, two of them.

We then wandered over to the cemeteries (still on top of the big hill). They're divided into Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish. I'm not one to visit cemeteries, but this one was absolutely amazing.

By now, we were ready for the beach. So, we meandered back to our hotel(s), changed, and hit the water. In Nice, you have the option of going it on your own, or going to one of the private beaches (which is just a cordoned off area of the same beach) and paying an exorbitant amount of money to sit in a chair. Considering this:

is the surface of the beach, we opted for the exorbitant fee. (10 euro. Each. But by golly, that chair was darn comfy. And it came with an umbrella. And it would have come with a man to bring us fru-fru drinks, except that we smuggled in our own, so we wanted the man to not notice us.) And let me tell ya, after 3 weeks of rain in the UK, the time on the beach was really, really wonderful. All of us even went for a dip, despite the water being a couple of degrees on the wrong side of comfortable, and despite the rocks making it a little tough to walk on.

Random body parts of random people, and also JT in the water.

We stayed on the beach for a little over two hours, then headed back to clean up for dinner. We met up with one of S's colleagues in town for the conference, and headed out to another Italian restaurant. More wine, some salami pizza, linguini, uber-spicy arrabiata, and tiramisu later, we were strolling home talking about how soon we could come back. Or how maybe next year when S comes for her conference, we should just get an apartment and stay for a week.

We left early Monday morning, stopping first a corner boulangerie to load up on croissants and pastries. We got back to Cambridge around 1. Both of us had to leap into work, frantically finishing stories to meet deadlines. I dashed off to class; JT dashed off to London (his adventure is here). Already, it seems so far away. We've talked about how many places there are to go so we probably won't visit many more than once. I think Nice is on the list of places we definitely must go to again.

All of us, near the palace in Monaco. The camera is sitting on top of a cannon, of course.

(The full photo album is here. If the pictures don't have captions, try back again later. I'll get them done eventually.)


Gabe said...

On this extended holiday weekend I've been catching up on your entries. You take amazing pictures! Not only reading but also seeing where you've been is almost as good as being there. :)

KTinDC said...

Aw, thanks. :) We do actually think about what we'll blog while we're traveling, and we assume that we're taking several friends and family members along for the ride. :)