Nice and Monaco

I'm sorry to say, this is another old post from the summer. The continuation of my two week trip to Europe, left me with a weekend to myself, to find some new adventures. I was coming from Copenhagen, and needed to end up in Toulouse, but it was up to me to decide where to stay in between. I settled on Nice, in the south of France on the Mediterranean, as it was a place I had not been before, and it looked like fun.

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Nice and Monaco

A short visit in the south of France

I flew from Copenhagen to Nice of Friday morning, which had me into Nice in the early afternoon. I had rented through AirBnB, and the owner was kind enough to let me in a bit earlier than was planned, which got my weekend off to an excellent start. I didn't have a lot of time, as my flight back to Toulouse was Sunday afternoon, but I had a little bit of time and planned to make the most of it. I had rented a small flat a couple of blocks from the beach. It ended up being the perfect location and size to hang out for the weekend.

After getting settled in, I grabbed my camera and headed out to wander the town a little bit. The beach was literally two blocks, so I headed there first. While I had been warned about the beaches, it was still a little odd to see this perfect blue water, but have the beaches be made of pebbles. And not small ones either. I walked out onto of of the public parts, and while it looks really nice, it really isn't very comfortable. It really explains the beach clubs, and the lounge chairs for rent.

A look out across one of the private beach clubs, over the blue waters of the bay.

A look out across one of the private beach clubs, over the blue waters of the bay.

I walked up along the beach for a while, checking out all the sites and the buildings along the promenade. At the far end of the beach is one of the more famous landmarks in the city, the Colline du Château, or Castle Hill. Today, Castle Hill is used as a park, but it was originally used for military purposes. Built at the top of a hill, it stood overlooking the bay of Nice from the 11th century to the 18th century.  It's the most famous public garden in Nice, and a "must see" place for the numerous tourists who visit the city. It offers many amazing panoramas, and provides a beautiful view all day long from sunrise to sundown, highlighting various landscapes depending on where one looks: the Harbor at sunrise, the Promenade des Anglais at sundown. That's why Castle Hill is called "the cradle of the sun".

I made the climb up the hill, and the view was amazing. Along the way I also saw one of the many cliff diving spots, with lots of people showing off their skills making the jump into the warm waters of the Baie des Anges. The view from the top was spectacular, providing views out over the bay, down into one of the many marinas, and back over the city. There is also a pretty nice (and I assume man-made) waterfall at the top, and the spray and mist from the waterfall provided a cool down after the climb in the heat of the day.

After getting all hot and sweaty climbing the hill and exploring the park, I headed back down to my flat and got changed to head down to the beach. I wanted to go for a swim, and experience this rocky beach. The swim was great, the pebbles not so much, but it was still a great way to end the day as the sun was starting to go down.

After heading back to the hotel and getting showered and cleaned up, I had dinner at the restaurant under the building I was staying in. It was a Moroccan restaurant, and I had an excellent meal with some nice wine. After that, I headed into the main, older part of the city to explore. There were lots of small parks, winding alleys and bars to experience, and I made a full evening of it, taking in the sites. It wasn't too late a night, as I had a busy day planned for Saturday, and I wanted to make an early start of it.

As Monaco is only a 30 minute train ride from Nice, it was a major factor in me deciding to head to this part of the world. The Monaco Grand Prix Formula 1 race had just taken place a few weeks before, and it was a city I had always wanted to experience.

One of my first views out across Monaco - it's a beautiful city.

One of my first views out across Monaco - it's a beautiful city.

Casino de Monte-Carloin Monaco

Casino de Monte-Carloin Monaco

I was up at a reasonable time, and caught a train from Nice that got me into Monaco around 9:30 a.m. It was still pretty early, and I didn't really have a plan for what I wanted to do. I wanted to experience the city a little bit, and so I started walking. I ended up heading up the hills (and there are many of them...), and ended up seeing signs for the Jardin Exotique de Monaco, a botanical garden located on a cliffside in Monaco. In addition to the beautiful gardens, there is a series of caves that were found during the construction in 1916. The grotto was opened to the public in 1950, and I had to wait for a specialized guide to take me though (more on that later). Evidence of prehistoric human inhabitants has been found in the cave, and there is also a museum of Prehistoric Anthropology within the Exotic Garden displaying many of those prehistoric remains.

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The garden wasn't quite open when I arrived, so I waited a bit and was one of the first to enter (followed quickly by a tour bus full of older people). I wandered the gardens for a bit, enjoying the solitude and the amazing variety of plants. Eventually I ended up at the cave entrance where I rested for a bit and waited for my tour guide. The tour was in French (as expected), and as such I wasn't able to pick up as much as I would have liked. As expected, there has been a lot of human-caused damage to the caves, but they are still beautiful and worth a look.

The views from the gardens were also pretty amazing. After wrapping that up, I headed down toward the water, as I had decide to go for a walk along a seaside path that I had read about.

A panoramic view from the gardens

I headed down the hill towards the ocean, and a small beach I had seen. As it turned out, it also ended up being the start of the trail that I wanted to take. The trail was really cool, a paved path that weaved its way along the coast. It passed along small beaches, past some beautiful houses and some great little restaurants along the way. Eventually I ended up at the beach that was my destination, where there was a couple of cool "beach clubs" and a nice little beach. I had some lunch, went for a swim and enjoyed the early afternoon. Before too long, I headed back towards the city.

The walk back along the path was really nice, but hot. By the time I got back to the end of the path, I needed another swim. This beach wasn't as nice, but I went for a swim anyway. After that, I used Uber to take a ride back into the city, to check out the famous casino.

Sadly, I was not allowed in as I had running shoes on. Seems there's a dress code. So instead of going into the casino, I hung out outside on the patio and had a very expensive beer. 

Even though the Formula 1 race has been over for a couple of weeks, there was still a lot of indication of the race. They were still taking down some of the barriers around the city course, and the paint for the curbs was still on the iconic hill turn. There were lots of people taking pictures, and posing on the road (when there were no cars coming). I walked around the city for a little while, before making my way back to the train station, and catching a train back to Nice. It was a fun day, and well worth the time spent.

After taking the train back to Nice, I went back to the flat and relaxed for a bit. I went back down to the beach, and went for a swim, then headed back home to get showered and changed. Saturday night, was more time exploring, having some dinner and checking out the night life in Nice. It wasn't a late night, but ti was fun.

Sunday I slept in, and lounged for a while. I went back to the beach for a last swim, and enjoyed the sunshine. Around lunch time I head tohead back, get packed up and check out. The airport wasn't far, but it ended up being quite busy and so took longer than it should have. The flight back to Toulouse was pretty uneventful, and I was settled back in at a decent time, ready to tackle the week.