-the world as I see it
“Au revoir Marseille”, I said as the bus pulled out of the St. Charles Station and made its way eastward, heading towards the most beautiful city on the French Riviera – Nice. The Marseille-Nice journey by bus takes about three hours and costs 30 euro. If you take the train, your journey is reduced by half an hour but it costs more (could be a couple of euros extra to almost double the amount you pay for the bus). We reached Nice at 11:30 am and made our way to our hostel, which was just a five-minute walk from the bus stop. We had booked a 4 night stay at the Paradis Hotel, situated in a chic locality in Nice, very close to the coastline. As we had reached before the check-in time, the friendly receptionist directed us to the locker room where we dropped off our backpacks. We then went walked up to the coast and sat on the chairs placed on the pavement, overlooking the sea.
One look at the coastline of Nice, and you can sense that this upscale city makes for a perfect getaway. The coastline of Nice is dotted with resorts, that cater to all the moneybags. But no worries, even if you’re there on a shoestring budget or you have the ‘spend and God will send policy’, Nice proves to be a fantastic holiday destination.When you’re in the Cote d’Azur, Nice is a great place to set up base camp as it is well-connected by means of an easily affordable network of buses. Be it the glitz and glam of Monaco and Cannes, the charm of medieval villages like Eze, Biot and St. Paul de Vence or the calm of Antibes and the likes -you can experience it all as bus trips to each of these captivating destinations cost you 2 euros to get there and back.
Half an hour later, we went back to our hotel, checked in to our room and freshened up. The receptionist handed us a map of the city and told us that the best thing that we could do for the evening would be to visit the Castle Hill, the site that housed the original city of Nice. The hill separates the old town from the port of Nice. So we decided to take a stroll around the old town, then proceed to the hill after which we would walk down to the port and wind up our day with a walk along the seafront. *Rumble, rumble , roar* was that thunder? No – borborygmus was the culprit. My tummy was signalling to me that it was in desperate need of supplies. We spotted a subway and my friend and I parcelled a footlong each, to savour under the warm sun shining down on the beach.
There are three things that I love doing on a beach – splashing about in the water, building sand castles and watching the water wash away whatever I write/draw in the sand. I couldn’t do any of the above here because I wasn’t in the mood for a polar bear swim, and the beaches at Nice are shingly, so the amount of time you spend there is directly proportional to the number of dents you will have in your butt. I plopped myself on the pebbles and gobbled up my sub. After fifteen minutes of sun soaking, we made our way to the old town. Somewhere along the promenade, the fragrance of fresh flowers greeted our nostrils as we simultaneously took in the plethora of colours at the Cours Saley flower market. A couple of blocks later, we spotted the entrance to the Lou Casteau – the Castle Hill.
Though at one point this fortified location played an instrumental role in defence, after the castle was destroyed in the late 17th century, the city expanded and the hill was repurposed as a tourist attraction and a recreational spot. The viewing terrace here offering breath-taking panoramic views of Nice, has rightly earned the nickname -‘the cradle of the sun.’ The many-tiered park is like paradise for kids. Archaeological remains of ancient Nice are on display in a fenced-in location on the premises. The Cemetery Colline du Chateau which sits right next to the park, is almost like a sanctuary and has this aura of peace about it . The cascade located high up on the hill is the crowning jewel of the Lou Casteu complex.
On descending the hill, we walked down to the port. If you plan to embark on a journey to the islands of Corsica and Sardinia, you can hop into one of the ferries here 😉
In some of the novels that I have read, I had come across characters who used to go to the South of France to recuperate from their illness. The fresh and crisp air, the sea breeze, the mild temperatures, the green vegetation – Nice has all the elements required to ensure that its inhabitants enjoy a good quality of life. I must warn you that you could get bitten by the love bug here though as you are sure to be bowled over by the place.
After watching the sunset, we decided to call it a night and went back to our hostel, making a pit-stop at the Christmas market in the main square. The Christmas market here was the best one that I had been to in the South of France -it was bigger, livelier, had more stalls, more goodies and handicrafts than all its counterparts in the other cities. I spent the next two days seeing places outside of Nice, but made sure that I had enough time to visit the Russian Cathedral on the last day of my stay, before I boarded the train to Grenoble. Unfortunately for me, the Cathedral is closed on Mondays and I had to be satisfied with whatever little I could see of the church through the gate grills. The Cathedral of St. Nicholas was reopened to the public only since the 1st of July 2012 after the ownership dispute between the Government in Russia and the Nice Russian Orthodox Cultural Federation was resolved. It also celebrated its 100th anniversary of consecration on the 17th of December last year.
Well folks, that was Nice as I saw it 🙂