April 12, 2012 – I didn’t want to celebrate my birthday but since it was my last 20’s birthday, I made a last-minute decision to have a memorable, without involving the word “party”, birthday. Thus, I decided to travel – a relaxing travel. Initially wanted to go to Chianti, Italy but the CHF 800 return flight almost gave me a heart attack (as I said, it was a last-minute decision and it was during the Easter holiday). When I chose Nice instead, I had 2 things in mind: the Mediterranean Sea and shopping!
Nice is located at the “southeasternmost” part of France. It is actually in the heart of the French Riviera. For me, Nice is like the combination of Barcelona and Paris, only smaller and with fewer people. Nice is also 45ish minute bus ride to Cannes and Monaco.
Geneva to Nice
A return flight from Geneva to Nice costs me a total of CHF 181.00 via Swiss. I always prefer Swiss over Easyjet for 2 things: convenience and their chocolate (I love their chocolate!). The flight takes an hour. The landing in Nice is my favorite part because we started descending over the sea to the point that it gave me the feeling that we were going to touch down on the sea.
I had Clarion Grand Hotel Aston for my accommodation in Nice. It is a 4-star beautiful hotel with the perfect location.
From the airport, I took the airport bus (line 98) which took me close to my hotel. I think I paid EUR 4 or 5 for a ticket but it’s a 1 day pass that allowed me to use any of the Ligne d’azur transportation unlimitedly on that day– this included the public buses and trams. One can easily spot bus 98 upon exiting from the airport (I arrived at terminal 1 – I think).
Note: You can buy the ticket directly from the driver or at the ticket booth, which is just outside the airport next to the exit door. I preferred buying it at the ticket booth than from the driver because I got to ask some questions to the person in the ticket booth.
TIP: I always make it a point to visit the Tourism section at the airport to get a map, ask the best way to go to my hotel, and some brochures.
Warning: I went in Nice to pamper myself (hey, it was my birthday! I had every excuse!). Therefore, my itinerary might not be a budget-friendly one and it included less “touristy visits”.
I checked in my hotel at around 11.30ish. I decided to visit their Tourism Office again, which is located at Promenade des Angles, since I’ll be passing by it anyway on my way to the restaurant I wanted to check out.
Jardin albert 1er and Monument du Centenaire
But before passing by the Tourism Office, I made a quick stop at the Jardin albert 1er (to reposition myself in the map).
Jardin Albert 1er is one of Nice’s oldest gardens. I also took photos of the Monument du Centenaire, a monument that
commemorates the inclusion of Nice as part of France in 1860. The monument was built in 1893 and is considered as one of the most remarkable 20th century architectural complexes.
Lunch at Kesuke Matsushima Restaurant
Walking towards Kesuke Matsushima Restaurant allowed me to have a quick glance at Place Masséna. I had a perfect lunch at Kesuke Matsushima and probably one of my favorite restaurant discoveries in Europe.
After having lunch, I checked out Place Masséna. Place Masséna was built in 1840s and said to be Nice’s primary attraction (I have no idea why). One thing I noticed are the sitting statues at Place Masséna. Apparently, these statues, entitled “The Conversation in Nice”, were created by a Spanish artist Jaume Plensa and they represent the 7 continents (well, they looked transparent-ish and creepy to me though).
I returned to my hotel to freshen up then I decided to check out the Old Town.
In the Old Town, I came across the following:
Palais de Justice – Built from 1890 – 1892.
Cours Saleya – Actually a pedestrian area in the center of the Old Town. This is where one can find the famous flower and vegetable market of Nice. It was nice walking along Cours Saleya and checking out the flowers but I didn’t linger longer as I expected I would be. To be honest, it was, for me, just a common flower market.
Eglise Notre Dame de l’Annonciation– I love to check out churches in Europe for its frescos. I’m not sure about the background of this chapel since I just happened to pass by it but I enjoyed looking at its frescos. Other churches that I checked out were the Church of St. Martin and St. Augustin and the Cathedral of St. Reparate.
After a long walk around the Old Town, I decided to do some wave watching first before proceeding to the castle. If found this place that gives you a comfortable front row seat to a nice view of the Mediterranean Sea and the Nice shore line. This place has actually some symbols that remind me of John Carter.
Castle Hill (Colline du Chateau)
2 important things to note about the Castle Hill: 1. You won’t see a castle (you’ll see the remains of a castle, not an actual castle); 2. Don’t be a hero, take the lift! It’s a steep 200 (can be more) steps! The lift I took was just across the John Carter-like plaza.
The Castle Hill’s history is said to go way back in the ancient Greek. As mentioned, visitors will only find the ruins of the castle. I don’t exactly know the story of the castle but it was supposed to go all the way back during the ancient Greek. Aside from the castle ruins, I also enjoyed the botanical garden and (most especially) the panoramic view. I love taking panoramic shots. I love having an overview of a place. This was the perfect spot for Nice.
From the top of the Castle Hill, I walked all the way down, which is not so bad and also recommended. Since I walked down, I got to see the man-made waterfalls and the Israelite Cemetery which looked like a castle courtyard.
I actually got lost going down that I ended up at the back entrance of a church were a bunch of sacristans were preparing for a mass. I landed in the Old Town again and I found my way to the Place Garibaldi. In the middle of the square is a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi.
Giuseppe Garibaldi was an Italian general born in Nice. I’m not exactly sure why he’s famous.
After I looked around Place Garibaldi, I jumped in a tram and head back to my hotel.
Dinner at L’Horloge
To end my birthday, I had dinner at one of the famous restaurants in Nice – L’Horloge, which happens to be my hotel’s restaurant. I was treated with a glass of champagne, not because it was my birthday but because of a very slight misunderstanding about the room. Again, it was a fantastic gastronomy experience.
-end of day 1-