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Do we really not have a thread on Nice?

magdelena, aka, Thérèse, aka, my mother-in-law and Tatie, aka, Francine, aka, Thérèse's sister, are born-and-bred Niçoises, and are always eager to help out any of my friends (i.e., our members) who are traveling to Nice.

Although I'm going this autumn, I haven't been back in 6-7 years now (they've been coming to visit me), but I'm going to begin extensive French travel again soon, and I'll be keeping everyone <<au courant>>.

A couple days ago, Thérèse wrote me and told me about the new La Promenade du Paillon - the following piece is well-worth reading if you're going to Nice:

Nov 13, 2013 - "A Walk around Central Nice: the New Promenade du Paillon and the Colline du Château" by kevinhin on french-riviera-blog.com

And make sure to watch this (government propaganda) video of the grand opening which is mentioned in the piece above.

So as you can see, the Promenade du Paillon really isn't a place to "see" so much as a place to "be."

A second "place to be," Place Masséna (the main square in Nice), has also been renovated:

"Place Masséna" on expedia.com - Expedia has a couple short guides of Nice's tourist attractions (again, mainly "places to be" and not "places to see"): Vieux Nice (Old Town), Colline du Château (Castle Hill). And, of course, don't forget about Promenade des Anglais - the three main "hangouts" in Nice are 1) Promenade des Anglais, 2) Place Masséna, and 3) Promenade du Paillon.

In terms of restaurants, the Michelin 2016 Guide now has four starred restaurants in Nice: three one-stars, none of which I've frequented, as they're all relatively newly starred: L'Aromate, Flaveur, and JAN (South African!). Then, there's the perennial two-star Chantecler at the legendary Hotel Negresco which every single person who has ever been to Nice has seen (it's the large, domed building right on the Promenade des Anglais, with the equally legendary gentleman hailing cabs, wearing a hat with a feather in it, and blowing a whistle - you can't miss it!). Chantecler burns through chefs, and there's even a new one now since the last time I checked (it used to be Alain Llorca; now it's Jean-Denis Rieubland), but you're here more for the atmosphere than the cooking, to be honest - it's almost a caricature of fanciness, but in a lovable way. There are also five "Bib Gourmand" restaurnants in 2016: Bistrot d'Antoine, Comptoir du Marché, La Merenda, Bar des Oiseaux, and Olive et Artichaut.

If anyone needs help with Nice, I'll be more than happy to assist you - just ask right here.

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On 7/10/2016 at 0:20 PM, DonRocks said:

Do we really not have a thread on Nice?

magdelena, aka, Thérèse, aka, my mother-in-law and Tatie, aka, Francine, aka, Thérèse's sister, are born-and-bred Niçoises, and are always eager to help out any of my friends (i.e., our members) who are traveling to Nice.

This sucks.

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I just went back and stayed with magdelena for the first time in far too long. Nice has changed a great deal since I've last been in 2011 - they've finished a tramway downtown, and also completed a "Coulée Verte" (Green Path), which leads from the Promenade des Anglais up to the "Vielle Ville" (Old Town).

My suggested walk - one of several - is to start out at "Jardin Albert 1er" (bottom-left of the map), wind your way northeast up the Coulée Verte - it's almost all pedestrians - making the "Musée d'Art Moderne" (right-center of the map) your destination - it's about a 20-minute, leisurely stroll, with plenty of time for pictures, sightseeing, etc. (you'll want to take your time and see all the neat things to see). Then when you reach that area, cut over to where it says "Nice Chapelle du Saint-Sépulchre," and get lost winding your way through "Vieux Nice" (Old Town), heading back the way you came. 

Right around where you'll first cut over into Old Town, there's a legendary restaurant / carryout called Chez René Socca which you should locate on your GPS. Now, this place isn't a great restaurant - you stand in line, and order when you get to the front, and if you want to eat inside, you walk across the alley with your food, and grab a table (it will be obvious). However, they have *all* the classic "Nissarte" dishes: First and foremost, Socca, and this is *the* place to get Socca - it's as good as anywhere in town. But they also have halfway-decent renditions of other dishes that you'll only find in Nice: Pissaladière (a square of "pizza" made with caramelized onions, olives, and anchovies), Tourte de Blettes (a savory-sweet pastry made with (believe it or not) *Swiss Chard*, raisins, and powdered sugar on top, somewhat mediocre Pan Bagnat (a Salade Nicoise on a bun), and Poivrons Farcis (stuffed peppers). If there are two of you, go ahead and pig out, and get all five of them, so you can see what these dishes are like - other than the Socca, these aren't *the* best representations of the dishes, but they're okay, and you can try them all during one meal - you'll be absolutely *stuffed*, and won't be able to finish, but your bill will only be about $20-30, and little "ballons" of rosé are about $5 at the tables across the alleyway. 

After lunch, wander the streets of Old Town, and go shopping, strolling, and picture-taking - make sure to see the Cathedral, and then when you get back, walk along the Promenade des Anglais, which runs along the Baie des Anges (the beach which forms a crescent). It's a great, unhurried way to spend a few hours, and won't be exerting at all. You'll get a great taste of the city by walking along three parallel, *very* different routes: the Green Path, Old Town, and the Promenade along the Beach.

If you only get one thing at Chez René Socca, get one order of Socca to split between two people - if you get it to go, they'll put it in a little cone, and you can eat it while you're strolling - the socca really is good here, and it's made in the traditional fashion.

Screenshot 2016-10-11 at 21.36.57.png

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I just returned from my first trip to Nice and I loved the city. The Coulee Verte was a must see for me. I adored the sculpture, the dancing fountains and the beautiful playgrounds filled with families.

I also enjoyed my first taste of Socca. It was tasty and fun to watch them make and serve. A word of warning. If you go to Chez Rene Socca at noon, be prepared to hear a nearby cannon go off. Needless to say, we weren't ready for that, and nearly jumped out of our skin, but when the locals (one carrying a newborn baby in a pouch) were unfazed, we realized everything was okay!

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Chateau de la Begude is in Valbonne, about 25 km from Nice. It's a good golf resort, and also has a very nice restaurant La Ciste. We had Le Menu du Chateau, a 4-course affair that did a nice job of showcasing creative cooking. The amuse bouche was not the greatest beginning, a somewhat wan crab meat/radish combination that didn't do much for me. My tuna/watermelon dish was fantastic, a mini Stonehenge of perfectly seared tuna wedges, with watermelon 'squiggles' and an interesting but not overpowering fruit sauce. The pig chest (poitrine de cochon) was great, a cube of slow cooked pork belly with nicely caramelized skin. Desserts were good, though not the highlight. Service was smooth and friendly. If you are here, go here. If you are close, it's also worth the trip.  

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Dinner at Paloma in Mougins, France was really spectacular. It's a charming, intensely polished restaurant with some of the best service I've encountered; the service team truly made you feel that you were in the best hands, but were also completely unobtrusive.

Dinner was a multi-course affair, starting with an array of small bites before jumping into a Jose Andres dish (I believe), a direct steal from him (but who cares, really?): foie gras cotton candy. Absolutely a flawless homage (if Andres created the dish, or if somebody else has) and a fun way to move into the menu. The bread service was very good, featuring three nicely flavored butters, and then came a tomato dish that was, in a word, crazy. The menu describes it as "Heirloom Tomatoes with Provence Strawberry: Tomato garnished with a creamy centre and delicately chopped Green Zebra tomato with lemon thyme flavours, accompanied by a carpaccio and little strawberries." But while that technically describes it, this was something like a tomato that had been hulled out, maybe roasted, the inside coated with white chocolate, which was then filled with green tomato and a lemon thyme sauce and serve with delicately sweet strawberries. It was unclear to me how one would even begin to prepare such a dish, and it was heavenly.

The main course is described on the menu as "Brittany Lobster MarinièreLobster medallions preserved with salty butter, accompanied by a lobster sauce with orange and basil flavours and artisanal linguine served with a creamy seafood emulsion." Again, that's right, but it doesn't convey how much of a spectacle this dish was, the seafood emulsion arising out of the cupped plate like a foamy soufflé. Original and delicious.

Speaking of soufflé, in fact the dessert course was an apricot one, served with a nice sorbet. One dessert was enough; too was indulgent but too delicious to say no. The typical 'sweets' finish was nice, and small

This was a really, really good meal; it should be, of course; what was surprising to me was that the tasting menu was only 98 Euros/person--an absolute bargain for food (and a restaurant experience) done this well.

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5 hours ago, seanvtaylor said:

Dinner at Paloma in Mougins, France was really spectacular.

You’re probably no longer in Mougins, but back when Le Moulin de Mougins had three stars, the chef opened a second, less formal, less expensive restaurant called L’Amandier de Mougins (the Amandier was right in the middle of the restaurant) - sort of like Nougatine compared with Jean-Georges, but this was better (it might have had one Michelin Star). Anyway, the meal was absolutely delightful, and was under 100 € per person, with drinks, wine, dessert - the full Monty. Only a country with a restaurant culture like France could pull off having meals like this, perfectly executed, at these prices, and somehow have the restaurants ‘available yet sold out’ every single night. It’s an attitude something like, ‘What’s the most we can do for our customers and still only charge 100€?’ as opposed to ‘What’s the least we can do for our customers and still get them to pay 100€?’

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Folks -

If the world doesn't end, and/or if air travel is still allowed, I'm planning on visiting my daughter and spending 5 and a half days in Nice, France and surrounding area in late March/early April.

If anyone has any tips, suggestions or info on great places to visit, great places to eat, or any local favorites/delicacies, I'd love to hear about them. 

The plan is to use Nice as the home base and explore the Cote d'Auzr and maybe venture inland to a vineyard or maybe to Verdon Gorge or Grasse.  I'm not looking to do any high end, fine dining (unless you tell me that's a huge mistake!), but would love to hear about any local favorites that are not tourist traps(!), but are more mom and pop type places. 

Also, any advice on places to hit/avoid would be great.  Along the coast I was planning to hit the towns of (maybe) Menton, Monaco, Eze, Villefrance-sur-Mer, Cap Ferat, Antibes, Cannes, and (maybe) Saint Tropez. 

So basically I'm looking for tips and advice...…"Skip Saint Tropez and do Cannes" or "Do Cap Ferat or Antibes, but not both" or "Hit museum X if you can only do one"

Also, I'm not planning on having a car (unless it's essential to get to some amazing spot that I must see!) and it's my first time there, so everything will be new.

Thanks!!

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Thanks Don and hahahah!

Planning on staying in an Airb&B in the old town of Nice, unless I hear otherwise!  Haven't booked anything yet.  (No, I don't know what I'm waiting for!!)

As far as the car goes, I'd rent one if necessary.  For the coastal towns, my limited understanding is it's super easy to travel by train.  When looking at heading inland to a vineyard or a hike, etc, my plan was to join a small tour group.  I figured the ease of having a guide/driver would be worth the convivence of not having to do the legwork on research and planning.  But on the other hand, I'd happily rent a car if that made more sense or got me to some awesome place.

No on the Chase card.  ;-(

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I've always hired a car, and think you would need one for Grasse. I would budget a car for a least 2 days.
There are great coastal views between Nice and Monaco, and from the palace in Monaco. There are three roads you can take. Highest = fastest/interstate. Middle = most scenic. Lowest along seashore thru town centers = slowest. 
 
You're travelling in low season so driving will be fine. High season coastal driving both east and west of Nice is a nightmare.
Ventimiglia, just over the Italian border is worth a trip. Take the middle road (corniche) to Vent and come back the coastal taking in Monaco.
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44 minutes ago, Count Bobulescu said:
Ventimiglia, just over the Italian border is worth a trip. Take the middle road (corniche) to Vent and come back the coastal taking in Monaco.

Thanks CB!  I've heard the Friday market it not to be missed.

And back to your initial comment, when you say, "I've always hired a car", does that mean you rented one or hired a driver?

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1 hour ago, Bart said:

Thanks CB!  I've heard the Friday market it not to be missed.

And back to your initial comment, when you say, "I've always hired a car", does that mean you rented one or hired a driver?

 
Rental, I drive. Sixt is a budget priced and flexible rental company. Locations at airports railways & downtown. 
I've been to Antibes and St. Tropez forty years ago. All I remember about them is expensive boutiques and bad traffic.
Here are two full day trips I would take, one by car, one by train.
By car, go 10 miles beyond Ventimiglia to San Remo. I've not been, only because I ran out of time. Then work your way back.
By train, to Marseilles, (2 hours), then 20 miles north to Aix. Afternoon back in Marseilles, old town/port.
Old town/port in Nice is right beside the road to Italy. 
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We took a similar trip last fall, using Nice as our home base and exploring the surrounding area. If you plan to stroll Nice's Promenade des Anglais, look for Chez Felix's sandwich stand and grab a delicious Pan Bagnat. I loved the Chagall and Matisse museums there.

In Monaco, we had a delightful lunch at Cafe de Paris, next to the Monte Carlo casino. It is the perfect spot for people (and car!) watching, and I enjoyed my French onion soup.  After lunch, we drove to Hotel Napoleon in Menton. The exquisite Exotic Botanical Garden of Val Rahmeh is around the corner from the hotel, and there are a couple of Jean Cocteau museums nearby. Port Garavan offered fresh local fish in an outdoor dining room. Mirazur is a fine-dining option nearby, with sweeping views of the sea.

In Cannes, Hotel Martinez is a stunning spot. La Palme D'Or is their three-star restaurant, with a lovely open-air dining room facing the sea. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch there. After lunch we drove to La Bastide Saint-Antoine, an exquisite inn owned by chef Jacques Chibois, in Grasse. If you don't dine or stay there, it is worth a trip to buy a bottle of his olive oil, available in the hotel's boutique.

Our next destination was the spectacular Canyon du Verdon, which I highly recommend seeing. In Moustiers Sainte-Marie, we stumbled upon a wonderful mom-and-pop place to dine, Le Relais. The grilled lamb chops, ratatouille and dorade were outstanding.

The drive from Moustiers to Marseilles was long, but lovely. We drove through miles and miles of lavender fields and happened upon Couleurs Paysannes, a co-op grocery store where we bought picnic supplies for the car. Our adventure ended in Marseilles. I highly recommend Restaurant Michel for bouillabaisse when you are there. Le Petit Nice in Marseilles is a beautiful inn by the sea, where you can enjoy fine-dining at its best. If you are going to treat yourself to one high-end meal, this is the place to go. The octopus dish I enjoyed there was one of the best things I have ever eaten.

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On 2/28/2020 at 1:44 PM, DIShGo said:

We took a similar trip last fall, using Nice as our home base and exploring the surrounding area. If you plan to stroll Nice's Promenade des Anglais, look for Chez Felix's sandwich stand and grab a delicious Pan Bagnat. I loved the Chagall and Matisse museums there.
...
In Monaco, we had a delightful lunch at Cafe de Paris, next to the Monte Carlo casino. It is the perfect spot for people (and car!) watching, and I enjoyed my French onion soup.  After lunch, we drove to Hotel Napoleon in Menton. The exquisite Exotic Botanical Garden of Val Rahmeh is around the corner from the hotel, and there are a couple of Jean Cocteau museums nearby.
...
Our next destination was the spectacular Canyon du Verdon, which I highly recommend seeing. In Moustiers Sainte-Marie, we stumbled upon a wonderful mom-and-pop place to dine, Le Relais. The grilled lamb chops, ratatouille and dorade were outstanding.

A couple of important additions to this: As of Dec, 2019, the entire tramway is open in Nice - it's a best-case scenario in terms of traversing the city: clean, efficient, and pretty much perfect. The bus system is equally impressive: clean, efficient, and pretty much perfect. Also, if you take a bus to a stop near the tram, you have 90 minutes to get on the tram using your bus ticket for free. I urge you to buy a 10- or 20-Euro card to avoid fumbling around with 1 Euro 50 each time you ride these.

Real life scenario: Staying up in the hills of Saint Antoine-Ginestière, whenever we went downtown, we walked a block to the "La Croix" bus stop, rode 17 minutes to the "Magnan" bus stop, walked half a block to the Magnan tram stop (a distinct thing, but very nearby), and took the tram three stops to the Massena tram stop in the heart of town.  When we got off at the Magnan bus stop, we detoured to Chez Felix for a Pan Bagnat before getting on the tram (Chez Felix is right around there (do note that this tiny restaurant isn't open 12 months per year (we easily made it to the tram within the 90-minute time limit))). Doorstep-to-doorstep (not including lunch) was 30-40 minutes; using a car for this would have been a nightmare.

ChezFelix.jpgChezFelix2.jpg <--- If it's nice out, you can walk one block and eat on a bench overlooking the Mediterranean.

In Menton, the main Cocteau Museum was, is, and will continue to be closed due to flooding, so be sure and check about this.

As you're flying into Nice, your descent will be eastbound paralleling the shore of the Mediterranean. Right before you land, you'll pass by the (otherwise nondescript) town of Villeneuve-Loubet, and will see the remarkable Marina Baie des Anges. It's worth getting a left-side window seat on the plane just to see this, but it's absolutely not worth driving to see - once you've seen it from the plane, you've seen it all. 

If you do make it up to the Gorges of Verdon, be aware that you'll spend half a day driving to view it - lodging and dining will not be your priority if you stay in Moustiers-Sainte Marie; we lucked into a decent little restaurant with Le Relais - that food was a whole heck of a lot better than it could have been.

Whenever I'm in Nice, I spend a few days up in the Alps foothills in a town called Valdeblore - it's a bucolic experience unlike anything else you'll do there.

The previous trip, we had a completely different itinerary, and there's nothing about these places that should stop you from going to Avignon, Aix-en-Provence (a university town, but do purchase and enjoy some calissons (this place is terrific (there's also this amazing confiserie at the old port of Nice where you can take tours (make sure to try a Clémentine Confit))), Vence, the Pont du Gard, Corsica via ferry, etc. - I would only recommend Saint Tropez if you're going to go by helicopter and spend a small fortune. Honestly, Cannes is something of a one-trick pony: You can spend an hour touring where they hold the film festival (where you'll be treated to not-much-more than blown-up photographs of movie stars - I've been there twice, and the last time I went to Cannes I didn't bother going a third time). Other than that, it's a beach town with some upscale properties facing the sea, and I would only stay there if I was staying at a high-end hotel right on the water (you still need to walk across the street).

A few years ago, we stayed at "the humble" Les Messugues in Saint Paul de Vence (about five miles from Vence (see that thing on the map, just north of Vence, called "La Chapelle du Rosaire?" It's a tiny church, and the interior was done by Matisse.)) - it was just wonderful, and because we stayed at Les Messugues, we got to dine at Alain Llorca's main restaurant (at his higher-end hotel) and had a modest three-course, dinner on the balcony for something like 30 Euros - aside from the Matisse Chapel, there's a museum - a really, really important museum - in Saint Paul de Vence called the Maeght Foundation). The walled town of Saint Paul de Vence is worth seeing from inside the ramparts - you can steal a terrific nighttime view of it from the balcony of Llorca's restaurant. When driving from Nice to Vence, notice everyone's point of orientation, the Baou de Saint-Jeannet (which you can hike up if you're feeling ambitious). Èze is worth a drive-thru on the way to Monaco, especially if you show up at Chevre d'Or and ask if you can have breakfast on the terrace (it's a piker's way of enjoying this expensive property for an hour on the cheap). There are dozens of other things I could tell you, but it all takes time.

Look at the moonrise we saw from our hill on the first night - the most incredible I've ever seen by far. This photo was not altered in any way:

Moonrise.JPG

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Thanks Don for all the great tips!!!

Thanks also for the word on Saint Tropez.  I'll skip it.  Monaco, Cannes and Saint Tropez are not my scene at all, but if I'm there, I figured I might as well knock two out of three off the list, even if both visits are very short.

Thanks again.

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4 hours ago, Bart said:

Thanks Don for all the great tips!!!

Thanks also for the word on Saint Tropez.  I'll skip it.  Monaco, Cannes and Saint Tropez are not my scene at all, but if I'm there, I figured I might as well knock two out of three off the list, even if both visits are very short.

Thanks again.

Go to the Monte Carlo Casino (it's a huge public square), have a leisurely lunch at Cafe de Paris (do call for a reservation - if it's nice, ask for a table outside), and go into the Casino and either win or lose 10 Euros in the slot machines - then gape at the exotic cars outside, and peak over and view the yachts in the marina. Also, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco is one if the very best in the world -- you actually walk down and out into the sea, surrounded by aquatic life swimming around you, separated by just a pane of glass - it's amazing.

Don't forget to have breakfast at La Chèvre d'Or on the way to Monaco - plan on breakfast on the way there, and lunch at Cafe de Paris after you've seen the Oceanographic Museum at 2 or 3. I can help you with parking also - it's easy.

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