When most people think of cities in France, more often than not, the first one that comes to mind is Paris. May made the decision to include Nice in our France trip, and I’m glad that she did. Located in the southeast corner of France, it has a population of about 1 million and is really close to the Italy border. In fact, you can find a lot of French and Italian cuisine at many of the restaurants here. It is also a half an hour drive away from the beautiful city-state of Monaco.
You won’t really find sandy beaches in Nice. The one shown below is a long rocky beach stretching along the Promenade des Anglais (English Promenade), which is lined with a few pricey restaurants. If you want sandy beaches, I’m told that Cannes has great ones, and it’s only a 20 minute drive away from Nice.
Below: View of Nice from Mount Boron.
Left: Avenue Jean Medecin; Right: A typical French breakfast: croissants, baguette, coffee, OJ.
Left: The view from our Airbnb apartment, within short walking distance to the beach; Right: Rue Messina is a street lined with dozens of restaurants, most of them are Italian/French. There’s no shortage of pizza and pasta on this street.
Below: Avenue Jean Medecin is the big shopping street in Nice, with stores like Mango, H&M, and Zara, just to name a few.
For our first dinner in Nice, we ventured out to the main dining strip Rue Messina, where there are dozens of Italian-French restaurants to choose from. After browsing a few menus, we settled on La Pizza Cresci, which had a bustling outdoor patio and a decent selection of food to choose from on their menu.
Left: Toasting our arrival in Nice with a bottle of rosé wine; Right: Moules pizza (mussels, tomato, garlic, parsley, oregano). I’m a big fan of mussels but I’d never had them on pizza before. It tasted great!
Below: A Roman pasta dish, Carbonara Tagliatelle (cream sauce, bacon, egg yolk). Traditionally they don’t use cream in pasta dishes in Italy, but it’s quite common outside of Italy. Either way, the pasta was perfectly cooked al dente and the sauce was rich and flavourful.
Left: Escalope de veau pizzaiola (veal escalope with olives, herbs, tomato sauce, capers, garlic, parsley); Right: Crème brûlée. Delicious and decadent.
Our Airbnb host recommended a great Lebanese restaurant called Ya Habibi, which was right across the street from our apartment. The food was very good and flavourful and there was even belly dancing for entertainment. I highly recommend this place.
Left: Moussaka (eggplant and tomato sauce); Right: Lamb kebab
Left: Flaky meat filo; Right: Hummus
Rick and I were really craving Vietnamese food, but we were a little wary just because our standards are quite high for Vietnamese food and we’re also very spoiled with great Vietnamese back home in Vancouver. So I did a little bit of research and found a place in Nice called Bong Lai, which had some decent online reviews, so we decided to check it out. While it was pricey by Vancouver standards (60€ or $80 CAD for 3 people, for a meal which would’ve costed around $35-$40 in Vancouver), it didn’t disappoint. The dishes were very well prepared, and the ingredients used were all very fresh. I would give it an 8/10 by Vancouver standards. In Vancouver, my go-to pho places are Cafe Xu Hue (on Kingsway/Nanaimo), Lam Hoa Quan (34th/Victoria), and Song Huong (1st/Nanaimo).
Below: Minced grilled pork on vermicelli
Left: Beef pho had a pretty decent broth; Right: Appetizer sampler (fried spring rolls, fried pork and shrimp wontons, shrimp tails, seafood and veggie spring rolls)
Left: Shrimp and pork salad rolls; Right: Tapioca and mango pudding
Located at the seafront locale of Nice along Cours Saleya street, which is marked by array of restaurants and shops, Marche aux Fleurs is a wonderful flower market open every day of the year.
Èze is located on the outskirts of Nice and is a short 15 minute drive away. What’s most interesting about it is the medieval village that is located on a hilltop which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. The village today is home to many stores, restaurants, galleries and even a hotel. The drive from Nice to Èze and Monaco is breathtaking if you take the seaside route and mountainous roads. The sea extends out as far as the eye can see. It’s much more scenic than the drive from Vancouver to Whistler via the Sea to Sky Highway.
We stumbled upon a great crêperie in the village called Le Cactus. If you’re ever here, I highly recommend checking it out. The crepes that we ordered were delicious. Shown below is the La Fermiere (smoked ham, cheese, mushrooms, and cream) and the Le Jardin (egg, cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, pineapple).
From Èze, if you are to drive along the mountain road for another 15 minutes, you will hit the lovely sovereign city-state of Monaco. Bordered by France on 3 sides, with one side bordering the Mediterranean Sea, it’s a tiny city of roughly 36,000, and is only 2 square km. However their GDP is about $4.7 billion, making their GDP per capita about $132,000. Given these kind of numbers, it’s not surprising that so many people in this city are filthy rich. I couldn’t believe the number of exotic cars that I saw driving around on the streets.
The Prince’s Palace of Monaco was built in the 12th century and has a long and dramatic history of being bombarded and besieged by many foreign powers over many centuries. However it remains the residence of the current Prince of Monaco, Prince Albert II. The views of the city from the palace grounds are spectacular.
Battles were fought here many centuries ago, but today fake cannons line the palace walls on this one side, which overlooks Fontvielle Harbor.
Port Hercule seen below. There is a ridiculous number of yachts in this city. I’m assuming that everyone who owns a yacht here also owns a supercar.
The Opéra de Monte-Carlo is an opera house, which is part of the Monte Carlo Casino.
The Monte Carlo Casino was a big attraction, but unfortunately because cameras weren’t allowed inside, I could only get a picture of the exterior. It’s not the biggest casino compared to what you may find in Las Vegas, but the attention to detail and architecture was world class.
We only spent 2 nights in Nice-Monaco, but we’re glad that we did. That’s a decent amount of time to see all the major sights and experience the French culture there. I’m glad that we went there since we got to experience some Italian dining without actually going to Italy. If you’re looking for a change of pace from the hustle and bustle of a big metropolitan city like Paris, then Nice-Monaco is a great destination. On that note, we’re on to our next stop. Paris! Stay tuned!