A return to Nice? Yes Yes Yes Please! The drive from Milan to Nimes would have taken us about 7 hours, and Nice is conveniently the half way mark.
Thanks to the Priceline Negotiator, we were able to book a hotel in the heart of Nice for way less than the average rate. Hotels don't like to have empty rooms, so chances are good that they would accept a low bid. Read all about the the benefits and drawbacks of Priceline Negotiator in our Preparing for a Road trip post.
We got especially lucky, and the hotel that accepted our bid, Apogia Hotel, had a parking garage (for a fee). It is not easy to find hotels with parkings in the Nice old town, and public parking for a day is pretty expensive. The awesome thing about this was that because the hotel was walking distance to everything, we asked if we could keep the car in the garage after checking out and they had no issues with this. We had to pay for parking just once.
We arrived in Nice around dinner time, and after checking in headed out to find a place for dinner. We were especially in the mood for some sushi, and were able to find a Sushi Shop relatively close to the hotel.
I used to go to Sushi Shop in New York City and thought it was interesting that the staff spoke French and had French accents. The quality of sushi and the roll varieties are tough to beat. Think of having mint leaves in your sushi roll. Mmmm! Well, Sushi Shop is actually owned by Joel Robuchon, a French chef and restaurant owner. I was excited to try out the restaurant in it's home land :)
They don't exactly offer anything else from sushi and sashimi, but we hoped this would encourage the kids to try some sushi. We also ordered a bowl of rice and miso soup, two things we know our kids love and eat.
Much to our surprise (and delight), both kids loved the salmon, and were actually not big fans of the cucumber roll we got as a backup in case they didn't want the fish. They both had a few pieces of salmon and asked for more. They preferred the fish "naked" instead of in a roll, that's something we'll have to work on :).
Vieux Nice at Night
After dinner, we walked through the streets of Vieux Nice. The streets of Nice look very different during the day vs the night. At night, most shops are closed, but the restaurant scene makes up for that. Tables and chairs line the streets for al fresco dining, there is no shortage of music and chatter, and if you are lucky you will run into a couple of accordion players serenading the crowds.
Colline du Château Overlook
We started off Day 62 (August 23rd), the last day of our road trip, by walking all the way to the top of the Le Chateau Hill. We are so glad we had the opportunity to hike up and walk through this serene park and see the incredible panoramic views of Nice.
On the way, we encountered a beautiful man made waterfall dating back to the medieval times. The cool thing about this waterfall is that it is so high up that it is actually visible from the beach (we saw this last time we were in Nice, and was one of the inspirations for making the hike up this time).
Despite the name, there is actually no chateau at the top of the hill, it was destroyed around 1706. But the chateau is not the reason why you should climb up... It is all about the view.
Travel Tip: The hike up the hill is very pleasant, but it is steep. There are three alternatives:
1) You can walk near the eastern end of the Quai des Etats-Unis, and you will find the steps leading up the hill to the Parc du Chateau. This might save you time as it is more direct, but be warned there are a lot of stairs. It is best to use these steps to head down, after your visit, as it brings you right by the beach.
2) There is also a lift (an ascenseur), right below the stairs, for those who don't want to or are not able to walk all that way.
3) You can ride up on the touristy Petit Train de Nice. I do not know if you can actually get out at any point during the train tour. I would personally not recommend this option because it is really great to take your time and enjoy the views at your own pace.
The views from the very top of the hill are quite remarkable. If you don't have time to do much in Nice, you should definitely put this on your list. You'll be glad you did.
If you are visiting with young kids, like us, you will also be glad to find a wonderfully maintained playground at the top (Yes still no swings...we are back in France remember?)
This was definitely one of the best playgrounds we have encountered in France. The kids had a blast playing here, and were only happy to leave because we were heading down to the beach.
Plage Beau Rivage
We went to the Beau Rivage Public beach this time, just to try something new. I had read some reviews that this beach has a less steep "drop-off" for getting in and out of the water, and it has bathrooms (50 cents per use!). I am not sure if the drop off was really any different than the Ponchette Beach, but it was good to try a new location regardless. It is also right next to the water sports section so we got to watch a lot of people parasail.
Marche Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya
After the beach I was finally able to check out the famous flower market, Marche Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya. What a feast for the eyes. This is another spot I would strongly recommend to visit while in Nice. They even sell baby lemon trees :) I want one!
As we walked through the flower market, our eyes were drawn to people's plates eating at restaurants in the same square. The Atmosphere Cafe had a special whole grilled fish on their daily menu, and it looked so delicious.
The service was a mix of great and terrible. The older lady (possibly the hostess), knew English very well and was very polite and receptive. She just seemed to know that the comfort of parents at a restaurant is closely correlated to the happiness of their kids. As a parent, I appreciated this, and I am sure so did all the other parents with young children who were sitting near us. Our waitress, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. Asides from the service, the food was great, and we enjoyed eating our fancy lunch outside right next to the flower market.
Little Artists in Nice
On our walk back to the hotel, we purposely walked through the same narrow streets of the old town. It was a completely different scene from the night before, with the shops open and the tourists walking around.
We came upon an art shop where an artist was working on a painting outside in the street. We stopped to watch him do his magic, and suddenly something unexpected happened: He invited Kian to join him and paint! He showed him how to move the brush, and then let him just paint away. Of course seeing this, Hannah wanted a turn, and he gladly invited her to the canvas next.
His name is Jose Curti. He owns an atelier(workshop) in the heart of the Old town of Nice. Find out more about his interesting life story and see some of his artwork here.
That was a great experience, and the kids really enjoyed being able to contribute just a tiny bit to an up and coming masterpiece.