A Summer Holiday in Nice, France

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August 28th 2012
Published: September 11th 2012
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People often give me a hard time for the excessive amount of holidays I go on. Especially envious work colleagues, who tend to imagine me chilling at resorts with over-sized cocktails and non-stop massages. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from all my travels, it’s that there’s a huge difference between travelling and having a holiday. Traveling is exhausting! Thankfully this time we had a glorious 5 days of bona-fida holiday ahead of us. It would also be my first trip since turning 31 the week prior, so my aging body needed the rest.

I flew with Hannah after work, though most of our group had already arrived earlier that day. Fortunately I’d checked the weather report for Nice and emerged from the plane wearing shorts and jandals, and even then it didn’t take 2 minutes before I was bathed in sweat. Humidity's a bitch! The walk to our rented beachside apartment was a bit of an eye-opener too. We were just easing into holiday mode by breathing in the fresh sea air when a crazy driver did a mad U-turn at the intersection we were at, nearly crashing into cars and traffic lights. We watched as he sped madly up the road before swerving to a stop, flinging his door open into the passing traffic, and running across the road to smack a woman so hard into the wall that we could actually hear the cracking sound that a head apparently makes when connecting with concrete at high speed. There was another man with the woman, and a police car was magically coming around the corner as well, so we decided not to get involved, which is something that made the wannabe hero in me scream out in anguish. Hopefully it worked out ok! We went on to met our friends Alex, Megan & Kim at the apartment, and after a quick reckie of the beach collapsed into our non-airconditioned beds.

Our plan for the next day was as simple as they come: Go to the beach and explore a little. And that's exactly what we did! It's worth noting that there are some differences to good old NZ beaches here. Most noticeable is the lack of soft sand, which is instead replaced by uncomfortably large pebbles. They're not as bad as they look though, and at least you don't have to worry about washing the sand off when you're done. (Yeah, I still prefer sand beaches!) Secondly, it's appears to be accepted that every beach is a designated nude beach. Sometimes this is a good thing, other times it's more like passing a car accident: you just have to look, but it ain't pretty! Mostly it's topless women I'm referring to, though I also noticed lots of pregnant women, with some openly breastfeeding. Weird. Still, it was a beach, it was sunny, and there was an ocean to cool off in. Good times.

That night we decided to have dinner and drinks back at the apartment. For dinner we went with cold meats and cheeses on bread, and if that sounds boring to you then you just don't know French bakeries! There's a certain Je ne sais Quoi about them - sure, they lack the awesomeness that is a meat pie from any New Zealand bakery, but they more than make up for it by selling bread that makes you feel like angels are frolicking on your tastebuds. Shopping at the supermarket was fun too, with a huge choice of unknown products and brands available to try. Not to mention incredibly cheap but good wine! (We're talking NZ$5 to NZ$10 or so) Unfortunatley we also bought a random liquor mysteriously named '51' to have with our drinking games that night. I don't recommend it, unless you happen to like stale aniseed strained through old socks. Yuck. I'd rather drink orange juice after doing my teeth thanks! Fortunately the corner store was open all hours for us to buy some sub-standard rum from. After saying hello to Marc, our final travel companion, the end result saw us all sitting on our balcony watching the windows in the Radisson Hotel opposite us light up, as unsuspecting guests went about their usual and sometimes naked activities. Actually that's not entirely true - the end result for me was a nice midnight swim at the beach sans clothing, but that's another story!

We hired a car for our next day's activities, and drove to Villafrenche Bay to continue our beaching activities - this time with actual sand! What a beautiful place too. I'm still trying to decide if it was quaint or modern, as the remote village feel of the town is rather contradicted by the luxury yachts and flashy cars that litter the place. Either way, it was a great place to get some serious tanning and swimming on.

We finished the day's outing with a trip to Eze, a nearby medieval village with a hilltop castle, where we climbed the stairwells through quaint little alleyways with shops and cafes, before paying an exhorbitant €5 just to climb the last 20 meters to the top. Fortunately the view made it all worthwhile, and if you're lucky you'll be able to see it for free in my photos!

Dinner was an exciting event in itself. We headed into the old town of Nice to search for a restaurant we could all agree on. The place was abuzz with people, and all the outdoor seating and music gave it an awesome vibe. We'd left it quite late however, so probably couldn't appreciate it fully with our high hunger levels and falling energy levels. Just when we couldn't wait any longer, we jumped into the closest restaurant as we realised that the rumbles we'd been hearing weren't our stomachs, but rather a violent thunderstorm that had been threatening us all night. All of a sudden the heavens opened and chaos reigned. Lights dimmed as lightening crashed down around us;
What a Shot!What a Shot!What a Shot!

At the world's sharpest racecourse hairpin bend, Monte Carlo
Shade covers suddenly became rain shelters that doubled as rain enhancers as gales of wind flipped pools of water everywhere; People in outside seating rushed madly to get out of the rain, waiters tried madly to seat them all, and pretty much everyone on the street shuffled inside random restaurants. Despite my hunger I actually quite enjoyed the experience! It's been a while since I've experienced a good thunderstorm. Anyway, we eventually found a table in the outside seating area that wasn't getting too wet, and ate a civilized dinner while watching the storm around us. Apparently it's quite a normal affair, and it was business as usual in about 30 minutes or so. The best thing about it was the effect it had on the humidity, which was all but gone when it subsided. Brilliant!

Our next few days would mostly be spent gaping at the possessions of stupidly rich people. In all honesty it felt more like we were visiting a "rich zoo", where tourists of all classes come to take pictures of unobtainable wealth.

We drove to St Tropez, a little town further down the coast, and walked around the mostly designer store laiden streets, stopping for stupidly expensive yet underwhelming drinks at the House of Dior. We oohed and ahhed at all the amazing superyachts in the harbour, and perused the intriguingly expensive shops. We visited a beach club where the car park was littered with Aston Martins, Lambos, Bentleys, Ferraris, and more. It was €30 per person just to rent a beach lounger there, so we opted for the cheaper sofas by the bar with all the other plebs. The drinks menu had champagne for €20,000. I got a beer. Hot fashion models would walk past intermittently, trying to pry as much gold from real customers with their tempting wares. The service sure was shit for such an expensive place, but then perhaps they could smell our peasant odour from a mile away. We didn't stay too long before returning to our comfort zone: on a towel, on the beach.

Monte Carlo was next. One of the smallest countries in the world, it was but a short train ride from our apartment in Nice. The rich zoo metaphor continued big time here, as you can imagine. Clean streets with even flashier cars, and amazing luxury yachts filling the harbour (Including Lady Moura, the 25th largest personal yacht in the world!). We followed the Monte Carlo race track up towards the pièce de résistance of snobbery: The Monte Carlo Casino. The buildings are amazing, for sure, but it's the whole scene that makes your wallet want to shrivel out of existence, as all of a sudden your financial worth seems wholly inadequate. As expected it was abound with Rolls Royces, Bentleys and limited edition Porches, along with the more common Lambos and Ferraris. The only thing that could be described as tacky would be the hundreds of tourists like us, all snapping at the scene with expensive cameras that were probably worth less than forgotten pocket change in a typical sofa at the Monte Carlo Hotel. We checked out the casino, and for all its opulence (despite most of it being accessible only to high-rollers), the thing I remember most is the toilet seat that cleaned itself by spinning around under an automatic washing device. Cool.

As we'd seen our share of wealth, our last day of holiday was spent checking out some glamour in Cannes, just down the road from Nice. You've probably heard of the Cannes Festival, the exclusive event that all the big moviestars go to once a year to indulge in the fruits of their craft. It feels like the Hollywood of Europe with all the famous hand prints in the pavements, though as far as I know they don't actually make movies here. We got our picture on the star-trodden red carpet and spent the rest of the day on yet another sandy beach to eke out as much sun as we possibly could. We also managed one last French picnic on the pebbled shoreline by our apartment, before admitting our holiday had ended and rushing madly to the airport in our beach clothes.

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