Tuesday, 14 July 2015
Nice: Water and waffles
We're now up to my two final trips while based in Antibes and without doubt two of the most exciting: Nice and Monaco (the latter on the eve of the Grand Prix!).
All my life I'd heard Nice hyped and it is the second French tourist destination after Paris. So, I was delighted to have the chance to see it myself.
I arrived in the afternoon. My loose plan was to locate the tour bus which I knew existed and which I didn't imagine would be particularly elusive. I also wanted to wander and chill and just soak up the city's vibe.
With these intentions I headed down the first main street I found outside the station and was surprised to see tramlines and a tram: I hadn't known there was a network in Nice and I was impressed. I know from the Montpellier trams how invaluable a resource they are.
"I stopped into a church I passed along the way..." but I didn't pray or pretend to, I just had a good look around. It was smallish but very pretty. I wandered on to a square full of fountains akin to the ones in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester. Children ran in and out of them, shrieking and generally having a great time.
I found a nice café and ordered a waffle with Nutella and whipped cream which was as gorgeous as it sounds. The weather was heavenly. My first impressions of Nice were certainly positive: a lovely, thriving yet chilled city.
I saw the tour bus cruise down the road so idly followed it. The walk took me past a huge and really amazing children's playground.
It was all wood or made to look as such and was nautical-themed with equipment such as a big, hollow whale to climb in and out of, swings hanging from whale tails, a pirate ship, pavilion-type things to sit under shaped like octopuses... I could go on. It was really remarkable.
I couldn't find any tour bus stops so retraced my steps and walked in the other direction from the fountains. Aha! There were the buses.
I bought my ticket and settled on the open upper deck. It was after five o'clock (I know because that meant a special offer on the tickets) and the world was lit by that glorious late-evening sunlight.
We set off and basically retraced my steps so I saw what I'd already seen but this time with a commentary, which was useful.
We then began to climb the hill to look down at the Bay of Nice. And... what a sight. It really does deserve the hype. It was just so, so beautiful - the water so blue and the sunlight on it making it sparkle like silver glitter had been thrown over it.
It's almost dizzying having such intense blue above and below you, the horizon barely visible. That was one of the most emotional and inspirational moments of my Antibes fortnight.
We looked at some of the decadent houses on the hill and then crawled back into town, me still blinded by that moment of beauty. I learnt that Nice has a river but it has been built over. Maybe that's part of why I connected so quickly to this city: I love water.
We climbed another hill which was very nice and leafy and on which we saw the Chagall Museum. On our way back down something must have got into my eye as it started pouring with tears and itching and stinging. I did my best to clean it out but it got so bad I had trouble keeping it open for more than a few seconds at a time.
Fortunately soon after that the bus reached the train station so I could start my return journey. On the train a nice girl gave me more tissues for my eye. I doubt she'll ever see this but thank you!
My eye cleared up a bit as we neared Juan-les-Pins and walking back through the cool dusk to my accommodation was just what it needed to start to mend.
My eye didn't suffer any long-term effects of the Nice trip and I'm so glad I went. Nice exceeded my every expectation and was beautiful and memorable in ways I hadn't anticipated at all. It's such a relaxed city and I cannot wait to return.
Thanks for reading,