When I worked as an English teacher in a French lycée (high school), I lived in a small town near Saint Tropez called Gassin. Gassin was incredibly lovely, and its 3,000 inhabitants were absolutely charming and more than hospitable to this obviously américaine outsider. I spent my first few weekends there perusing the goods at the local market, strolling through the vineyard near the guesthouse I was renting, and sipping Pastis with my landlady. Pretty soon, my 21-year-old self was ready to get into the city. Given the fact that I had just purchased a Honda Accord for a song (it was “trop grande”- too big- it’s former owner had complained), I had many choices of where to spend the weekend. I opted for the sun and sand…er…rocks of Nice. I was not disappointed. As soon as I returned to Gassin, I started planning my next weekend get-a-way- back to Nice.
Since that first series of visits in 2001, I have been back to Nice on three different occasions. Some things never get old, like the views of the vividly blue Mediterranean while strolling along the Promenade des Anglais, a long wide road that runs the length of the seafront- beginning at the eastern end of Nice by the Jardin Albert I and running westward toward the airport – a long stretch. The zone pietonne (pedestrian zone) along Rue de France and Rue Masséna is quite touristy, but I did find some good eats and fun places to grab a drink and watch the hoards of bronzed tourists pass by. Two of my favorites include La Coupole and Al Barattolo.
Nice’s convenient tramway allows for quick, pleasant and inexpensive trips across the city (the line ends at Pont Michel and Las Planas). I recommend getting off at one of the stops near the striking Place Masséna, with its brick red Italian-style buildings and black and white tiled ground. Nice’s famous Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC) gifted the city a series of sculptural lamps, consisting of male forms extended high above pedestrians’ heads on steel posts. At night, the translucent bodies change color as they are illuminated by blue, green, and red lights.
Near Place Masséna is the district known as Vieux Nice (Old Nice). Also a pedestrian zone, Vieux Nice is defined as the quaint yet energetic web of winding lanes between Cours Saleya and the Albert I Gardens. Here you will find unique boutiques, Italian ice cream, restaurants and wine bars, and artisans selling handmade jewelry and souvenirs. I always stop by Vieux Nice to just soak up the ambiance, satisfy my craving for Fennochio’s Ice Cream , or grab a glass of Pouilly Fuisse Vieille Vignes at one of my favorite Niçois wine bars, Resto Wine Notes.
Nice is a city for wanderers like me. You can’t walk 30 meters without running into a fascinating piece of architecture, a mouthwatering dish, an inviting café, or a spectacular view. This is why I keep coming back for more.
Al Barattolo Italien
18, Rue Masséna, 06000 Nice
Tel : 04 93 55 91 57
Be sure to check out Cheryl Tucker’s Frugal Guide to Fantastic Nice
Written by Jen Westmoreland Bouchard for EuropeUpClose.com