Let me preface this by saying that our opinion of Nice was affected by a few things: the weather (ominous), the comparatively more stunning little towns we saw driving from Florence to Nice, our cheap hotel (you get what you pay for), and the somewhat violent mugging we witnessed while pulling up to our hotel near Nice's port. That is not to say we are complaining, that we are trying to scare you away from visiting Nice, or that Nice is a particularly dangerous city. We've talked to a lot of people that love Nice, and by no means did we hate it. But travel blogs often neglect the less than perfect parts of travel, and/or fail to explain what external factors likely influenced their opinion of a place. These are things I have no aspiration of doing around here.
So. You've been prefaced.
After checking into our hotel we set out to explore the city, walking from our hotel in the Port area of Nice (which is actually really lovely, and has a cool local vibe) along the promenade that stretches the entire length of the city's coast. The beach below this promenade is rocky, but that doesn't deter sunbathers who are, appropriately for France, mostly topless (which I think is so cool and brave). Then we wandered through the Old Town, which was pretty, but also very busy and very touristy (and what's with the weird run-down take-out joints that dot its waterfront real estate?) We grabbed a baguette to snack on next to the sea, attempting to avoid being gouged by the overpriced fare at Old Town's restaurants.
After lunch we ended up in the city's main square, Plaza Massena. It's black and white chequered tiles are a dizzying optical illusion, and it's bustling with life. If you're visiting Nice this was my top pick of places to see. It has plenty of benches to lounge around on, and makes for good people watching. (FYI: the large park (Coulee Verte) that traverses this space is currently entirely under construction, with a completion date of September 2013.)
Then we set out to find dinner. We accidentally happened upon one of the city's most popular local (touristy) cafes: Chez Rene Socca bar. There was a long line stretching outside of the restaurant - always a good sign - so we queued up for some socca and deep fried zucchini flowers (€13 for our whole meal, including drinks!) You order at the window, are served your food hot and fresh, pay, and find a wooden table to eat at. The restaurant is actually housed in two separate buildings - food on one side, bar on the other. Once you sit, a bar staff member takes your drink order and delivers your beverage, which you pay for at your table. All a bit complicated, but a neat experience nonetheless.
Socca is a salty, chickpea pancake that comes in giant portions. It has the consistency of a very thick crepe, and could use some kind of sauce to pump up the flavour, but as far as local specialities go it gets an A+ from me. And deep fried zucchini flowers? Can't go wrong.
After dinner we braved the ominous dark clouds that blanketed the city and sat in a park (this one - which has mist sprays that cool the whole place down - how cool is that?) to play a round of Monopoly on our phones. A year or two ago I would never have sat in a park to play a game on my iPhone with so many museums and galleries and statues and squares and sights to see. But whether it's because I'm becoming more of a seasoned traveller, or because we committed to only a few hours of sightseeing in each city during our road trip, lately we feel less pressured to do and see absolutely everything each city has to offer. It's totally liberating. It's the way, I suspect, the best travel is supposed to be.
So. Despite the bad weather, the mugging, the less-than-lovely hotel, and the slightly rough and tumble urban feeling of Nice, finding this kind of release from the need to fill our travel plates made me really like this city. Nice is pretty nice, after all.
BY THE NUMBERS
date: september 2
distance travelled: 261 km/162 mi
distance travelled to date: 802 km/498 mi
slept at: Kyriad Nice Port - €66/night
parked at: the hotel - €10/night