We woke up last Sunday morning and boarded a train to Nice. The train takes about 17 minutes (I think) all together to get you to Nice-ville from Antibes. Traveling friends, this is the mode I recommend. I think it was 8 euro, but well worth it (vs. the 2 euro bus that takes an hour).
Similar to Antibes, we arrived in Nice around 11am or so and started our exploring at the train station (first photo below). While I’m sure Nice is typically bustling with excitement, Sunday had a little extra umpfh as Nice hosted the Northern Ireland/Poland Euro 2016 soccer game (Poland won). This brought a couple of things: great sightings of soccer fans being really nice to each other (I’ve never seen super opposing teams take photos for each other, shake hands, and talk zero trash), lots of green, red, and white walking around, loud soccer chants for hours, as well as free public transit all day (came in handy a couple times). It adds an extra energy that’s hard to forget – kinda makes our visit to the city feel extra special, as that will (probably) never happen again.
The second photo above is of a large fountain, which unfortunately was not turned on (not sure why), third photo is the Opera House (I couldn’t get a good angle, but it’s a really gorgeous building), the fourth is a photo of a statue of Apollo in the center of a place (I thought this area was really gorgeous with the pink/greeny-blue/gold buildings), as well as a church we passed on our walk to the coast.
We had our backpacks with us (other recommendations – maybe only stay in 1 city or travel with a car…it got REAL hot with the packs all day), and stopped a couple of times along the “English Promenade” to enjoy the beach views and breeze (middle photo below). I’d wager maybe 4-5 times on this visit I wished we had swimsuits to change into, as the water was extremely inviting and the temperatures high (il fait chaud quand le soleil brille…). I mean, look how clear and blue the water is. Positively gorgeous.
After we relaxed a bit with the breezes on our backs we ventured toward a cafe for some Niçoise salads (of course Jim omitted the eggs). Afterward, we hiked up to Ascenseur du Château (second photo on the left). It was a bit of a hike up there, but the panoramic views were amazing. One the one side you could see the Promenade and beaches, the other the port/boats. Once up at the top there was a cafe, a cemetery, lots of places to relax, and even a children’s playground. We were not expecting any of those (nor do they mention any of that in the books). If you head to Nice, this is a must-do.
After maybe two hours up there, we decided we’d beat the heat and head over to one of the two art museums in Nice: Henri Matisse or Marc Chagall. Based on the description in our guidebook, we settled on Marc Chagall, as it said it was the largest collection of his work anywhere in the world (sounds like reason enough to go to us). If/when we go back to Nice, we’ll hit up the Matisse museum. For those of you interested in going, it’s also a bit of a hike (on foot) to get to the Chagall museum from the beach. We took public transportation most of the way, then climbed the rest (it might’ve been better with buses or a car), but the museum itself is very nice with a courtyard and cafe outside. Quite tranquil, really.
Shamefully, I wasn’t terribly familiar with Chagall’s work. I remember the speech from Notting Hill where Julia Roberts gives Hugh Grant an original Chagall painting (though that doesn’t make it into the ‘I’m just a girl’ speech, oddly enough), though they do pay it justice elsewhere in the film (see here). Aside from that movie, I’d seen some pieces here and there in art books, but it had never really left much of an impression.
That is until last Sunday. I am now quite the fan. His painting is so vibrant, so interesting and full of life. I fell in love in the first room and became more entranced with each room we entered. We were lucky to see large and small paintings, sketches for opera houses (see the finished/real thing here), an amazing & huge mosaic, as well as a short film with sketches detailing his costume & set design for various ballets and operas (some of which was Stravinsky…how perfect). The movement in his work is really something special, something I recommend seeing in person. I can’t wait to see more of his work as we travel through France. We ended up purchasing this print, as we think it’s probably Nice, and they didn’t have print versions of some of the more Hasidic paintings I really liked.
On our way back to a main drag for some gelato, I got a little surprise on my head/backpack – pigeon poop. That’s right, just what any traveler wants when visiting a city where public restrooms are at a minimum, we have no hotel room, AND we’re preparing to board a plane. Luckily, I had a wet nap from earlier (thanks, HOP!) and was able to do some quick cleanup before we got to the airport. They say it’s good luck, so I’m going to say that’s why we had such delicious gelato not even 20 minutes later. I suppose that makes it OK.
Overall, I recommend Nice, just be a little wary of the pigeons.
PS – I impressed our cab-driver with my number knowledge. I’m going to wear that gold star for at least a week.