Whew! After blogging like a fiend over the last few days, I think I’ve finally caught up. April is almost over and my excursion in Europe is almost at an end. In the interest of going out in style, I decided to hop on a train and head to Nice this past weekend.
I couldn’t have picked a better time to go, since it apparently rained in Paris while I was gone. But in the South of France, the weather was as perfect as can be.
Since it’s still the off-season, it was pretty easy to get a cheap hotel close to the Nice-Ville train station. I was also a quick walk from the city center, the Promenade des Anglais by the water, and Old Town.
I loved Nice and could have happily spent another couple of days there. Provence has such a different vibe from the north – more laid back (to be expected in a beach town) and more international, given the number of tourists who flock here. I also enjoyed going to the markets and seeing the fresh flowers, fruit, and things like lavender soap (for much cheaper than they sell at L’Occitane!) I was disappointed that I would have to get on a plane back to the States soon, or else I would have stocked up on all the fresh produce.
After spending Friday wandering around Nice, on Saturday I hopped on the train to Ventimiglia, a town just on the other side of the border in Italy. Supposedly it’s a good day excursion, with markets and of course Italian food. But other than getting one last pizza and gelato in Italy, I was a bit disappointed and decided it really wasn’t worth the trip.
Going back west, I got off at Monte Carlo in Monaco, which is about halfway back to Nice. Now here is where the money’s at (literally!)
I honestly didn’t see a single car there that was cheaper than a BMW. It’s insane how much wealth is situated in this tiny principality!
I came here with one purpose, which was to buy birthday gifts for my two brothers, both fans of Formula One racing. I was hoping to find an F1 store, but if there is one I didn’t see it. I had to settle for the casino store, which had some Grand Prix merchandise. Otherwise, I’m not sure what else there is to do in Monaco other than see the casino, gawk at the palace of the world’s Eurotrashiest royal family, and visit the giant aquarium (which I might have done if I’d had more time). Still, it’s fun to walk around a city where you feel like you’re too poor just to exist.
Since this is, after all, a sailing-oriented blog: on the train ride back, we passed through a small town called Villefranche-sur-Mer, which I noticed was full of anchored sailboats! And what a place to anchor – the harbor appears to be quite protected, and look at the view! (Okay, so the picture below is kind of terrible, but trust me when I say it looks like a great place to stay.) I eagerly texted Chuck and told him that I’d found a place to stay on our hypothetical sailing trip through the Mediterranean that we’ll take someday.
Back in Nice, I tried to treat myself to one last good meal since the region is famous for rose wine and French-Italian fusion, among other things. However, I’d made the mistake of trying one of the restaurants in the market area, which are distinguished by overly pushy waiters. The food was terrible for the price (how does one make something like pasta gorgonzola taste so flavorless?!) and I ended up wishing I’d gone back to Le Romarin, the restaurant I’d eaten at the night before. Fantastic gnocchi (which I discovered originated here in Nice, and not in Italy,) nice waiters, and the prices were half of what I paid at the other place. It was also here where I was introduced to socca. It’s a Provencal specialty that I’d seen everywhere, but since the ingredients didn’t sound all that interesting (basically, it’s chickpea bread) I wasn’t keen on trying it. But since it was on the menu for 2 Euro, I decided to order it – and loved it. I would like to try and make some when I get back home, although I’m not sure that will be possible with our sailboat’s terrible oven.
A great way to pass the weekend! Nice is terrific, I highly recommend it!