Traipsing along the iconic Promenade des Anglais, on a concrete path built along the coastline, be intrigued by its diversity – joggers, skateboarders, buskers, painters and people who are just sitting by the benches fixating their eyes on the gorgeous seafront. You wonder if these people spend their day away like this, but I will love to have this as my retirement plan any time.
As I made my way into the old settlements of Niçois, I find myself trapped between 4 to 5 storey high historical buildings, along unstable footpaths. Each exit or opening reveals a new side of Vieux Nice (the name of this area of Nice), with interesting shops, restaurants and even a church sitting in the heart of the residential area.
At the end of Promenade des Anglais, Colline du Chateau, or the Castle Hill of Nice, is a must-visit and is situated right beside Hotel Suisse. For a short workout, climb up the Escalier Lesage with a 92-metre ascend, but you could also take the lift that brings you to the top. With a reasonable height gain, you get a gorgeous view of Nice along with the bends of the coastline. This is one photographic moment you can’t miss.
Just 5 minutes’ walk from Vieux Nice, you find yourself in a more modernised part of Nice. It starts with the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum, where angular structures meet curves and circles, hovering atop a busy two-lane road. Trams in the shape of a high-speed rail meander through the city, and it is one of the preferred ways to get around Nice among locals. High street fashion brands find themselves settling down here – the city suddenly feels so young and energetic.
Arriving in Monaco isn’t that difficult, both the SNCF train and bus service 110 takes you here directly from Nice. If you are taking the train, exit the station at the platform level, where you will find the small church of Saint-Devotte, the saint who is believed to have protected Monaco from natural disasters of the sea. Right outside this church along the main road, take local bus numbers 1 and 2 towards Monaco Ville.
This old town that rests above the rock (Le Rocher) is probably one of my favourite hideouts in Monaco. The colourful buildings, painted in pink, orange and red, give a cheerful vibe to the old town, where locals are humble and are always chilling inside small restaurants and souvenir shops.
While you’re there, don’t miss out the opportunity to visit the Prince’s Palace of Monaco which is a functioning facility, with guards protecting the area 24/7. The change of guards’ ceremony at 11:55am everyday sees tourists crowding outside the palace, just like any other tourist attraction.
Another favourite spot of mine is Port Hercule. Either it is towards the Monte-Carlo side or directly below Le Rocher, as long as you will be sitting down somewhere facing the sea, it will be one gorgeous and picturesque view. If you’re coming from the Casino de Monte-Carlo, head to your right along the sidewalk and catch the view of the port, the rock and the Mediterranean Sea – money can’t buy this view for sure.
Sitting approximately 400 metres above sea level on a cliff, Eze is a small artisan village overlooking the beautiful French Mediterranean. Regular bus services travel from Nice and Monaco to Eze in about 30 minutes, so does the SNCF train which stops by at the foot of the hill. While there is only one bus that takes visitors up every hour, I recommend taking on a memorable foot trail up to Eze, absorbing everything that nature has to offer.
The climb starts with an unassuming signage labelled ‘Sentier Nietzsche’, but soon after the path goes literally on a 35-degree elevation the whole way through. Upon reaching Eze, throw yourself into the scented world of Fragonard, a famous perfumery in the South of France. Not only can you make yourself smell better from the tiring hike, their scented products are perfect gifts for friends and family.
The trip to Eze isn’t complete without visiting the medieval chateaus of Eze. The climb up to the castle reminded me of the scenes from Lord Of The Rings, where the characters were moving frantically when the evil forces were attacking. Jardin d’Eze or the exotic garden marks the highest point in Eze, overlooking parts of the French Riviera. For a lazy afternoon, continue along the maze-like footpaths inside the castle and enjoy the artistic vibes that the village has to offer.
I like places with traces of history left around them. But unlike the other 3 locations, Cannes exudes something more modern and glamorous, perhaps due to the influence of its annual Cannes Film Festival which brings international A-listers together every year in the month of May. The streets of Cannes are wider and high street fashion brands bring a youthful vibe to this small city.
Yachts docking at the port of Cannes, people sunbathing on the beach, joggers manoeuvring along the coastline… these scenes seem very déjà vu, as the vibes resemble Nice and Monaco very much. I was not super impressed by the city, but the glitz of the film festival definitely elevated the liveliness of Cannes. The red carpets, the crowd and a life-sized art installation of Cannes at the top of the old chateau made the trip a little bit more interesting.
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