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The Third Time is a Charm in Nice

Our main reason for heading into France was to attend our visa appointment at the Prefecture in Nice. That said, we lived in Nice for more than two months last year and we were looking forward to visiting some of our old haunts. We toyed with the idea of staying in and exploring another part of town but finally settled on a place in roughly the same neighborhood as we did before.

Impressions of Nice

The last time we lived in Nice, it was October and November. This time we visited in September. We could feel the fall chill in the morning but the afternoons were warm and pleasant. It seemed the summer rush was over and it was mostly locals out on the street during the day and in the evening. The entire town seemed much more lively than it did the previous year, but that was before the vaccines. See our descriptions in Making Our Way from Nice to Miami. Now about 80% of the population is vaccinated and no one seemed to have an issue with masks indoors.

On this visit, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Nice. Last year we passed this hotel for two weeks as we walked to our language school, so we were familiar with the neighborhood. We are really comfortable in Nice. It is familiar, by the sea with a lively old town giving us a peaceful, easy feeling. But we could still feel winter and the rainy season approaching and we know we just can’t stay here or anywhere else in Europe in the winter unless we are skiing.

Last year, because of not having a car and the lockdown, there were a bunch of things that we were unable to see in and out of town. We wound up staying a full week because we had two appointments at the prefecture, so we decided to do the exploring that we couldn’t do last year.

Matisse Museum

The Matisse Museum is located next to a park and the Roman ruins/archeological museum in the Cimiez part of town. As we were walking to the museum, there was a group of people dressed in gladiator garb, fighting inside the Roman colosseum. It was fun to watch. It seemed that everything in town was more lively than last year.

The museum, located in a 17th-century mansion, seemed to have more information on Henri Matisse’s son Pierre, who was an art dealer, than on Henri. The special exhibit on Pierre seemed much larger than the permanent collection of Henri Matisse’s works. I thought the most interesting part of the museum was the historical context of Matisse’s work along with many of his contemporaries. Pierre ran a gallery in New York and discovered and collected the works of many other artists including Calder, Miró, and Dubuffet.

Nice Operetta

As we were walking through town, we saw signs for an Operetta playing in the Nice Opera House in the old town. We went to the opera last year to watch a rehearsal but we never actually saw a full production there. So, of course, we bought tickets to see a production of Andalousie at the opera house. We decided on a box close to the front on one side of the stage. Mike got a big kick out of making a joke about the Muppets scene with the two old hecklers in a theatre box. He posted a picture with his joke on Instagram, but I don’t think too many people got the reference. Regardless, he had fun.

Since the operetta was a story set in Andalucía, Spain, and sung in French, I didn’t understand the specifics of the story. But the gist was about a young man who left his town and his love to become a matador. After much angst, he returned to his hometown and rekindled his relationship with his first love. But, like all operettas, it was funny with a nice mix of conversation and singing.

Aix-en-Provence

We decided to make a day trip to Aix-en-Provence since Mike hadn’t been there and I hadn’t been there for many years. We were going to stay there on our way back to Barcelona, but since we had to stay in Nice longer than we had planned, a day trip was the best we could do. It turned out to be just the right amount of time because there wasn’t really much to see. I’m sure in the summer, the fields are full and there are open-air markets in town, but in September there wasn’t much going on. The town is small and pretty with a lovely clock tower gate. Still, it wasn’t like the Provence we were expecting.

Antibes

The last time we were in Nice, multiple people told us that we should go to Antibes because it was so cute. The town is also pretty close to Nice so we made a day of driving the Antibes and Cannes. Antibes was a fishing village and a small port with fishing boats still remaining. Today, the most interesting thing about Antibes is its art scene. There is a large structure near the port that seemed to be part of an old wall, similar to one in Nice. In the building are a series of galleries and atelier spaces. Opposite the building is a lineup of cafes, so we decided to take a seat, have a drink, and watch the people.

It turned out that we were in front of a glass shop where the artist was busy making a beautiful fish out of glass. The first was specifically for an event happening that week. We saw a group of people in chefs jackets with the Petanque team on the back. It took us quite a while to realize that it wasn’t a cooking competition but a Petanque competition with teams of chefs. I know it sounds complicated but it was fun to watch all of the picture taking and then the team sat down at one of the cafés for a meal.

We typically evaluate places based on whether or not we would want to stay there for more than a week in the future. Antibes just wasn’t big enough or interesting enough to clear that bar, but unlike the rocky beach in Nice, Antibes does have sandy beaches. That was a point in its favor.

Cannes/Point Croisette

On the drive to Cannes, we passed through a lovely peninsula town called Pointe Croisette, or “Palm Beach.” This area, which is basically part of Cannes, had a lovely view of the bay, a park along the water, and a very upscale marina, fronted by nice-looking apartment buildings. Definitely, an area that I would consider living in. We wandered along the beach and ogled the superyachts then checked the apartment prices in the area. They weren’t nearly as bad as I expected, from 200k € to more than 500k €, pretty reasonable considering the area.

Then we drove into Cannes, which looks similar to Nice along the water with big fancy hotels fronting the bay. The entire town looks nice and very well kept. There also seemed to be lots of good places to eat. The town was generally large enough to have interesting things to do, which is one of our criteria for a longer stay. Overall, we really liked the Cannes area, which was a bit of a surprise.

Monaco/Cap d’Ail

Our official address in the south of France is actually at our friend’s house in Cap d’Ail, which is literally on the border with Monaco. In fact, you have to drive in and out of Monaco to get to their house. In the past, we had always met them out for a meal but we wanted to see their kids so we met at their apartment this time. After playing with the kids a bit and seeing their grandfather again, we headed to Monaco for dinner.

Both our friend and her husband work in Monaco but as you can imagine it is more affordable in France. Besides, they have a lovely view of the Monaco soccer stadium, the marina, and the Mediterranean Sea from their apartment. Interestingly, there was a championship soccer match going on that night and we could hear the crowd but not in time with the TV broadcast. It is always fun and frustrating when you can hear a game live and watch it on TV at the same time.

The drive from Nice to Monaco is spectacular as you wind around the side of the mountain, past Eze, and houses hanging on the hills. If you have never done that drive, I would highly recommend it.

Good Eats in Nice

One of the things we were most looking forward to on our return to Nice, was visiting some of our favorite restaurants. I will note that at all of the restaurants we were asked for our EU Covid vaccine QR code either before or as we were seated. One of the advantages of writing this blog is that it forces us to keep a record of experiences, especially our favorite restaurants. So, before making any reservations, we consulted last year’s A Little Food P*rn from Nice article for all of the places we wanted to revisit.

Last year, we went to Les Sens for our first nice dinner out. Since it went so well before, we decided we should do the same again. As expected, we had a lovely meal with attentive service.

Our next dinner reservation was at Lou Pistou in the old town, another of our favorites. We were very happy that they were able to reopen but they told us they had been closed for six months, from last November to June of this year. This is a tiny restaurant run by a gay couple where one of them is the cook and the other runs the front of the house. It seems like really hard work but the food is lovely and the experience is fun and lively.

Mike met some other nomads at another restaurant we had been to before, La Maison de Marie. I wasn’t feeling well so I skipped the dinner but I heard it was as good as before.

In addition to these restaurants, we tried a few new ones L’Horage at the Aston and a Swiss restaurant nearby.

Where in Nice would you want to visit?

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