Nice, France

Nice, France Travel Diary

Nice, France… where to begin? During my 2 months in Villefranche-sur-Mer, I went over to Nice a ton of times and absolutely fell in love with the city. I chose to stay in Villefranche because I was there to work, and I wanted more peace and quiet than you get in a large city, but it was perfect to have it pretty much around the corner, a beautiful walk or short bus or train ride away.

I often went over without a plan and just walked around with my camera, taking pictures of anything that caught my eye.

Taking the bus from Villefranche (#15, a quick, scenic and very inexpensive trip), I used to get off at either the Old Port, Place Garibaldi or the last stop at the library, depending on where I wanted to go that day.

It’s a perfect city for walking, very easy, and when you’re too tired to walk, there are trams running all over the city, inexpensive and super easy to use.

There is so much to see and do!

Hanging out on the beach…

A note about the beaches in Nice: they all consist of rocks, not tiny pebbles, and not super comfortable to walk on. And a Portuguese guy I talked to in Cannes, who lives in Nice with his family, said that between the waves and the slippery rocks, it can be quite challenging to get out of the water, especially for kids, and water shoes is a must. The beaches are perfect for chilling out on a sun lounger while admiring the views and sipping rosé though! 🙂

doing watersports…

looking at architecture,

and public art.

Above Left: One sculpture in the public art installation “Conversation à Nice” by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa (who also created “Nomad” in Antibes). There are 7 sculptures in all, representing the 7 continents. They are placed along the tram lines, and at night, they light up in different intervals in various colors, symbolizing communication between societies across the globe.

Above Right: La Tête Carrée Library by Sacha Sosno. It houses seven floors of the Louis Nucéra library administrative offices, and at night, it is illuminated and regularly changes color according to events.

Another favorite place of mine was the Old Port with all the colorful pointus (traditional Provençal fishing boats).

Strolling along Promenade des Anglais is a fabulous way to spend an afternoon! Beautiful architecture on one side,

and beach clubs and that amazing turquoise water on the other.

Whenever I got off the bus at the Old Port, I liked to walk along the docks up the hill, past the Monument aux Morts and around the corner to where the large I LOVE NICE sign sits (did I take a picture of it? Of course not! 😄). From there, you have a beautiful view of the entire Nice beachfront, and the Promenade des Anglais.

When I wanted to shop for organic groceries at Naturalia or Bio, or explore Old Town, I’d get off the bus at Place Garibaldi. Naturalia is right there, Bio a short walk away, and Old Town is right around the corner.

Nice Old Town

Old Town is rustic, cozy, and a bit of a maze. You can spend days exploring the narrow streets, and just when you think you’ve seen them all, you find a new one. My favorite things to do in Old Town was looking at architecture,

and window shopping (or actually shopping).

One of my favorite stores in Nice, Trésors Publics (below), only sells classic products made in France. Each tag has a little image showing where in France the item is from, so cute!

With all the tempting food around, you kind of have to stop for a snack too. Since I was still allergic to most foods while I was there, my snacking was very limited, but I could eat ice cream, and my favorite was the violet flavor from Fenocchio – absolutely delicious!

Another place that comes highly recommended is Le Lavomatique, formerly a laundromat, now a French-style tapas bar. I didn’t try it, but loved the look of their “storefront”, and had to take a picture (below). 🙂

The Cours Saleya street market is also in Old Town, it’s a flower, fruit and vegetable market on Tuesday – Sunday (Marché aux Fleurs) and they sell some other things too, like spices, honey, soaps, and the famous Chez Theresa socca (a chickpea flatbread). The socca is actually made a few minutes away from the market and delivered by bike.

On Mondays, Cours Saleya turns into a flea market with lots of interesting stuff. I had fun browsing and trying to resist adding another vintage camera to my collection!

When I wanted to explore the center of town, I would walk from the library bus stop through the Promenade du Paillon over to Place Massena. The promenade was opened in 2013 and has thousands of trees, shrubs, and plants, as well as a huge reflecting pool which sometimes puffs out a gentle mist, and sometimes shoots fountains of water high into the air. Kids love it!

There are several larger shopping streets leading out from Place Massena, like Avenue Jean Medecin, where you find some of the larger stores like Galeries Lafayette, Fnac, H&M, Zara, and the shopping center Nice Étoile (a mall, really).

Further down the street was the main train station in town, Nice Ville.

I love old train stations and while not the most spectacular one on the planet, I did like Nice Ville, and it feels rather grand when you’re standing on the platform. It was designed by architect Louis-Jules Bouchot for the Chemins de fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée and completed in the mid-1800s.

Is Nice safe?

Back in 1991 when I was studying in Aix-en-Provence, we were told Nice wasn’t safe, and only went through it on the way to and from the airport. I don’t know how true that was, but this time, my Uber driver from the airport said there had been “big changes”, and I walked around by myself all the time, with my camera out and ready for picture-taking, and never once did I feel unsafe.

Nice weather (and sometimes not so nice 😉😄)

Mimosa trees in the rain, Place Garibaldi, Nice, France | Cattie Coyle Photography
Mimosa trees in the rain

Nice supposedly has 300 days of sunshine a year, and it was sunny most of the time I was there, except for a few rainy and chilly days when I first arrived in mid-May. I was spared the winds that can come through though. There are actually 32 different named winds, but the most famous are the Mistral, which can blow up to 115 mph and is said to drive people (and animals) crazy (love the legend behind it), and the Sirocco, which we did experience in 1991, when the streets of Aix-en-Provence all of a sudden had sand from the Sahara on them.

That light again!

Nice also has that amazing Riviera light I keep going on about – bright but still soft and so very beautiful. There’s something about the quality of it that just erases your worries and fills you with joy. Life feels light, easy, and carefree. Henri Matisse said “When I understood that every morning I would see this light again, I couldn’t believe in my happiness… I decided not to leave Nice and I stayed there practically all my life.” I know exactly what he means.

The Prettiest French Riviera Travel Guide Book

If you’re looking for a travel guide to the French Riviera that can also double as a coffee table book, AND makes a great gift, check out “Travels through the French Riviera” by Virginia Johnson. It’s the prettiest travel guide book I’ve ever seen. It’s hardback, with a nice fabric cover, and is filled with great information, plus Virginia’s beautiful watercolor paintings.

If you love a particular image in this post that you don’t see in my store, and would like it as a print, just get in touch and let me know which image it is, and the size you would like. I’m happy to make a custom print when possible.

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