Alright everyone, I'm back. And I'm better than ever.
Now, I'm not gonna start every new post with a "sorry I haven't written in a while" apology. John Lennon famously said, "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." Unfortunately for you all, my loyal readers, he was right.
I would like to edit his quote a little bit though and change it to: "Life is what happens to you when Netflix decides to release the third season of House of Cards on Netflix and you're holed-up in your apartment watching the whole thing."
I love television almost as much as I love food and traveling. I watch more television shows than just about everyone I know. I even amaze myself sometimes with the amount of shows I'm able to crank out.
So, it will probably disgust you to know that I finished the new third season of House of Cards in just two days. Yes, I know there are 13 episodes. Yes, I know that equals 13 hours of staring at my computer screen. Yes, I know that staring at a computer screen for that long can cause damage to your eyesight. And, yes, I'm an appalling human being. But, I really hope your reaction is something more like this:
Don't worry though, I'm not giving away any spoilers here. The only thing I will say is that I think this was my least favorite season of House of Cards so far. It's still one of my favorite shows, but I saw this season as much different than the two before it and not as exciting in my opinion.
But anyway, on to the main event. I traveled to Nice, France on Valentine's Day weekend and I loved my time there. I do want to point out though that you all should be profusely thanking me. When the city is called "Nice," pronounced like "niece" but spelled like "nice," you can only imagine how many puns came to my mind. I spared all of you and decided to put the puns away for this one and title this post something a bit more relevant.
You see, for every single weekend trip I have been on so far this semester, it has rained. I'm not sure if it's just my luck or the combination of the luck of all the goons I hang out with combined with mine, but it has been horrible. Luckily, it hasn't ruined our time in any of the cities we've seen, but it has played a major factor.
We monitored the weather in Nice almost every day after we booked our trip, and the forecast just got worse and worse. It went from being beautiful, sunny and in the 60s, to raining one day of our weekend, to eventually pouring the entire weekend. It just got gloomier and gloomier.
My advice: If you want to visit the south of France, with it's beautiful beaches and lavish lifestyle, save it for the summer and don't go in February. Really, don't do it. My friends and I were practical though, we weren't just going to Nice to party and go to the beach, we knew better than that.
No, we wanted to party, go the Montecarlo Casino in Monaco and check out Nice's Carnival (kind of like Mardi Gras in the States). However, as the weather deteriorated, so did our chances of going to the Carnival. One by one, things got canceled, including the main night parade that we wanted to go to.
They still had the whole area set up, though so we swung by. There was a dope ferris wheel, and some drum lines playing music, we made the most of it and still ended up having an awesome time.
But, as always, here's everything you need to know if you want to hit up Nice, France any time in the near future.
what to see
I'm just getting this out of the way first. Yes, I know that neither of these are actually located in Nice. But, I promise Nice is a great place to headquarter yourself and serves as an awesome jumping off point to the rest of the French Riviera.
I'm no billionaire, I don't have a fancy car and I'm terrible at gambling. I used to play poker with my friends in high school, and let's just say that I had to prematurely retire when I never won a single game or dollar. Ok, maybe they stopped inviting me because I sucked, but I digress.
However, I do like pretending that I'm a billionaire, have a fancy car and that I'm the best gambler Montecarlo has ever seen. Fake it till you make it right? So, I bought a blazer. Then I had to buy some pants at the airport because I forgot mine. Then I had to buy a shirt because I forgot that also. Oh, and a new belt too. All of those purchases really cut into my gambling money by the way.
Anyway, it's really easy to get to Monaco from Nice if you take a bus from the port area/yacht central station in Nice. The downside is that the bus takes about 45 minutes to an hour, but if I remember correctly it only costs about 1.50 euros each way.
This day trip is definitely worth doing in my opinion because you get to dress up nice and act like you're James Bond for the day, you get to check out one of the nicest casinos in the world (which only costs 10 euros to enter by the way, worth it in my book) and you get to pretend like you own some of the nicest cars I've ever seen. Check out my new Facebook profile picture with my new rolls:
Just remember, that when the rain starts pouring down immediately when you leave the casino, book it back to the bus stop before all of your new, nice clothes get ruined.
Also, you're technically not allowed to take any photos inside the casino. However, that didn't really stop me.
All in all, my day in Monaco ended up turning out really well. I can forever say that I won 1 euro at the Casino Monte-Carlo. One bet you can make is that I will never gamble there for the rest of my life just so that last sentence can remain a fact. That is, of course, if I end up having a ridiculous disposable income in the future where I can afford to be a regular there. Everyone can dream, right?
- Use the bus and don't leave too late because you want to be able to walk around and really make a whole day of Monaco, especially if its nice out. We only really had time to see the casino because of when we left and because of the rain.
- Walk around and see parts of the track for the Monaco Grand Prix, that's also pretty cool.
- If you're the gambling-type (and have better luck than me), budget around 50 euros to spend (remember there's a 10 euro entry fee). If you can't afford 50, not a problem, try your luck at some of the slots or other smaller games that don't cost as much. You won't spend/lose as much and you still get to say you gambled in the casino. And, by all means, if you want to spend more at the casino I'm not going to judge you.
- DO NOT SPEND MONEY ON ANYTHING ELSE IN MONACO. No food, no drinks, no clothes, no souvenirs. Sorry boys and girls, but I'm telling you, you can't swing it. Eat before you leave and when you get back.
The chateu (Lou casteu)
They're aren't too many huge, historic sites in Nice, but when I visit a city, I really enjoy getting the full view of it from one of the highest points. I just think it really puts things in perspective.
In Nice, the best spot to do this is at the Chateu. Once the spot of the main castle in Nice, it's basically just a park with a small waterfall now, but it still gives you a great view of the city and the coastline. Just take the ramp all the way up to the top and you're good.
- Again, keep an eye on the weather. If it's pouring, be careful on the ramp up (and down), it can get a little slippery. The rain can also partially ruin your view. Also, don't get to close to the waterfall if it's already pouring outside.
- The waterfall is a little underwhelming, but it can still be cool. Definitely worth checking out, especially because it's on the way up to the top anyway.
- The views from the top are still incredible, even if the weather isn't cooperating. Plus, if the weather is crappy, there's a little stand with gifts and postcards that can help you imagine what the view looks like during the summer time.
Downtown/Old Town/port area
Like I said before, not too much else to see in Nice in my opinion, unless you're there for Carnival or to check out the beach. But, the small downtown area, especially the Old Town area, is really cool.
Also, the port is cool because you get to check out all the dope yachts that are parked there. Then you can imagine yourself as the next Wolf of Wall Street. Minus all the drugs, alcohol and eaten pet goldfish. Or, you know, not. Your call.
Old Town is, obviously, the older part of Nice with some old school architecture and smaller streets and pathways. This area is where you'll find the best restaurants, bars and shops.
- Walk around, take it all in. Maybe stop off at a small stand and get a crepe.
- Old Town at night is where all the restaurants and bars are, so definitely check it out.
- The port is cool if you want to take pictures in front of (or on) yachts.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, we were in town for the Nice Carnival. Like Mardi Gras, there's a big parade, people in crazy costumes, beads and all that good stuff. But not for us. While some Carnival events were able to take place during the day, the main night carnival with a big light show was canceled while we were in Nice.
This was a big blow to our trip, but as I briefly went into earlier, we still checked out the carnival area, went on the ferris wheel and danced around and did conga lines to a drum team that was playing. Still a blast if you ask me.
Unfortunately, my computer is telling me that the videos I have of the drummers and stuff are too long/the files are too big. So, I'll just have to leave them out. Use your imagination. It was fun.
- Check the weather before you go. Really, I mean it.
- If you're going for the Carnival, make sure you see all of the parades. There's the day ("Flower") parade and the night ("Light") parade. Catch them both if you can.
- I wouldn't say costumes are completely necessary. Up to you though, depends how festive you want to get.
- I thought the ferris wheel was a bit overpriced, but it was the only thing open, so it was worth doing in that case and you still get some nice views of the city.
Nice is a pretty small city (would we call it a city? Or is it more of a large town? Probably a debate for another post), but they actually have a pretty cool tram system. I again lucked out and ended up scheming to not pay, but be aware that they do have security guards that will hop on at random stops and check tickets. Just make sure you hop off before them, or you could not be delinquent and actually buy a ride for like 1.50 euros.
Anyway, the tram in Nice was only really handy in our case because of the location of our Airbnb and because of the weather. The tram basically goes straight down the main road in Nice, making it really easy to hop on and hop off where you need to.
- If your hostel, Airbnb, hotel or wherever you're staying (in a ditch perhaps?) is located more centrally, you probably won't need the tram. But good to know about anyway.
what to eat
Ah, my favorite part of any trip. The food. I didn't get too adventurous in Nice, but that's only because I'll be returning to France in a few weeks with my family and I'm saving my adventurous eating for then when I (my parents) can afford to fund my eating escapades. However, I do have a few recommendations and tips.
Also, one advantage to having an Airbnb with a full kitchen is that you can go to the grocery store and actually cook some meals for yourself. My friends and I took this opportunity to make a big "family-style" dinner and a big pre-game breakfast for Monaco.
Also beware, restaurants close relatively early in Nice. Especially during the week. If you want to go out to eat dinner, go at around 6 or 7, not 8 or 9.
pastries and coffee
I've often discussed the European pastry game, which I think is top notch. France however, has a leg up on the competition in my book though because of one simple item. The croissant. It simply can't be beat guys. It's my favorite pastry of all time.
France also has crepes on every corner. Not to mention some of the best coffee in the world because of the French Press technique. Honestly, I don't hate many things, especially in the food and drink department. But, I can tell you that I am definitely not a coffee drinker. I've just never liked the taste.
I've been trying though. I continue to give coffee a chance because I'm in Europe and they drink the stuff like water over here. It's also a much healthier alternative to guzzling red bull or other energy drinks when you need that morning pick-me-up after a night out.
So, if you like coffee and pastries, Nice is no exception to the France Rule (eat and drink as much of both as you like). I look forward to expanding my pastry knowledge and appetite in a few weeks when I'm back.
- When it comes to pastries, you really can't go wrong. I say if you see something in a bakery window that looks good, don't hesitate to give it a try. If you don't like it, chances are you didn't end up spending too much money on it, so it isn't the end of the world.
- You're asking the wrong guy if you want coffee advice. I don't think you can go wrong at most decent-looking restaurants or cafés in France if you ask for a coffee, but I could be completely dead wrong.
Remember, your weekend in Nice is about living it up and balling out. Never lose sight of that. Going to brunch fits right in with that lifestyle. It's also the best meal ever because two meals are better than one.
Nice also has a bunch of great brunch spots in some of the best areas of town. I used this site to find the best brunch spots and we settled on the very first one on that list, Le Coin Quotidien. The restaurant was located in a great part of town, near the main market. It's great for people watching and, if the weather was nicer, sitting outside.
You also can't beat the prices here. For 19.50 euros (a price that hasn't changed at this restaurant since 2002, they claim), you get: a croissant, scrambled eggs, ham, salmon, cheese, a salad and two drinks. Plenty of food for one person I thought.
- Choose any of the brunch spots on that link that I used, and I don't think you'll go wrong because they all looked really good.
- Beware that these places do get crowded, so be time conscious when you go. You might have to be open to waiting a little while to get a table.
As I said before, Nice isn't exactly a huge metropolitan capital. There is a nice little bar scene though, and we were lucky enough to run into some other Maryland kids studying in Nice who gave us the low-down.
Like I pointed out in the "What to See" section, Old Town is where your bars and restaurants are all located. So when night falls, it's time to hit up that area. Beware that this is not party until all hours of the night like Barcelona though, most places close at around 2, so plan accordingly.
We went to Wayne's Bar, which is essentially Nice's version of RJ Bentley's (shout out to my CP peeps). Classic college-type atmosphere and when you head to the back of the bar you can even see a bunch of young French people dancing on picnic tables to Cotton-Eyed Joe.
The only downside to Wayne's is that the drinks are kind of on the expensive side. Other than that, we did venture to an Irish pub that had some cheap drinks and live music, to a salsa bar with cheap margaritas near the Carnival and to some other smaller bars around Old Town.
- If you walk around Old Town long enough, you'll find a few bars worth going into.
- Beware of the drink prices at some places, they may be charging you too much. Don't buy drinks just to buy drinks.
I had a great time in Nice and even though the weather was crappy, my friends and I banded together to make the best of it. And even though we can't all be Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago, we can sure as hell try.
Also, unlike other guides, I actually got all of my best photos into this, so no need for an extra slideshow. If you do want to see more photos or want anymore info on Nice, make sure to check out the Contact tab at the top of the site and send me a shout!