In June 2007 we finally found the apartment we wanted to buy!
This had been a long process which at times had seemed a pipe dream destined to fail. We had a very precise budget with no room for manoeuvre. Our money came from our joint inheritances and we wanted to put this money into something our parents would have appreciated (and also to stop me gradually just spending it).
After a bleak and chilly winter in 2005 here in Brighton we longed to see some sunshine and blue skies and had spent a few days in Malaga city, which was brilliant and which we loved. So the first location in our search for a foreign pied a terre was this beautiful city. We even spent two terms going to Spanish evening classes in order that we could at least greet and thank people and order food and drink. However try as we might we found our lack (to put it mildly) of fluency was a big drawback. We found that we could come up with French phrases from our school-days more readily than recently learned Spanish ones.
Early in December 2006 air fares to Malaga were really high and we discovered by chance that flights to Nice were much more reasonable and moreover there was a good deal on at the Hotel Beau Rivage which was where Matisse had lived and painted…surely a good sign! We booked 5 days.
I was completely amazed by the flight along the Esterel coast and descent into Nice airport. Over the glowing pink and red of the Esterel hills, ever lower and lower over the bright blue sea, hugging the bays and islands of the Mediterranean, we seemed to hover just above the waves until suddenly there was the airport looking like a pancake jutting out into the beautiful sea.
Through customs and onto the bus and we were once again close to the sparkling sea and palm trees of Nice. So exciting!
We dropped our bags off at the hotel and wandered down to the beach. Here we took our coats off and sat on the pebbles against the wall on Castel beach, feeling the warm sun relaxing our chilly English bodies.
For the next few days we delighted in the colours, tastes, smells and pace of life in Nice.
Over Christmas we discussed going back to Nice in order re-learn the French we’d forgotten from schooldays. After some research on the part of my husband in February 2007 we were on our way to Nice to study for 4 weeks at the Azur Lingua language school.
The colours of Nice are the terracotta, yellow ochre and olive green of the buildings and the turquoise and azure blue of the sea
The smells of Nice are garlic, fresh herbs, fish, daube, cheese, coffee, newly baked baguettes …
The sounds of Nice are the rush of the waves over the pebbles, the friendly voices of the people, the mixture of languages and the niçois accent.
One of the great things about Nice is how close the airport is to the city – just a 15 – 20 minute bus ride direct into the centre along the palm-tree-lined Promenade des Anglais.
On your flight out of Nice the airport is a pleasant place to await your flight. If you have time before going through security go along to the upper level by the KLM desk and go up the very long escalator (or in the lift) to the top floor where you’ll find several cafes and a bar – with a wonderful view of the arriving and departing planes.
I love maps and always like to carry one with me to spot new routes and short-cuts which often turn out to be long-cuts because of the interesting places I come across!
You can get free maps of Nice from the tourist information offices next to the Gare SNCF and on the Promenade des Anglais next to the Casino Ruhl.
If you want to download a map in advance (giving you the fun of planning your days and doing some virtual exploring) go here for a straightforward map of the town centre including the Old Town – you can enlarge it so that you can really get to see all the little streets!
For a google map click here and print a copy to have handy on the plane so you can spot places along the coast as you fly into Nice!
Getting from the airport into Nice couldn’t be easier! As you leave the arrivals building you can see the bus stops lined up on the other side of the roadway. Buses 98 and 99 are the dedicated airport buses and for 4 euros take you swiftly into Nice in about 20 minutes. (See below for advice about tickets.)
On leaving the airport you immediately feel part of Nice as you drive right next to the blue and turquoise sea, the palm trees and the sweep of the bay…
Which bus?Bus 98 takes you to the Gare Routière (bus station) and 99 to the Gare SNCF (main train station on Ave Thiers).
Both buses go along the Promenade des Anglais until reaching Boulevard Gambetta where the 99 turns left and continues along Gambetta with a request stop just before the Jardins Alsace-Lorraine, for which you need to ring the bell, before arriving at the train station.
Bus 98 continues along the Promenade forking left by the Jardin Albert Premier with its landmark Big Wheel and a handy stop for the beginning of the Old Town at Rue St François de Paule. Continuing to the terminus at the Gare Routière gives you easy access to the rest of the Old Town.
Tickets: You can buy your ticket from the driver on the bus but it’s very handy to get “un pass sept jours” from the kiosk outside the terminal building along to the right before crossing the roadway to the bus. A single ticket is 4 euros and a 7-day pass is 15 euros and gives you unlimited travel on buses and the tram. We always go for the 7 jours as we’ll be returning to the airport by bus and plan to use the bus or tram while in Nice – it’s very convenient to have a ticket in advance as you can bypass the queue of people waiting to pay the driver. (You have to validate your pass in the ticket reader each time you get on the bus or tram.)
Flying into Nice is great. The most common route is flying over the pink Esterel rocks, looking down on the harbours, beaches, islands and the blue sea. Spotting Cannes, Antibes, Villeneuve-Loubet, the hippodrome, Cros de Cagnes. Getting lower and lower till it feels like you’re skimming the waves…