Ah yes, the French Riviera. Just the mention of the name conjures up images of sun-washed beaches framed by gorgeous mountains, thoroughly-tanned locals, vacationing celebrities and high-rollers, and a seemingly endless supply of sunshine. All of these stereotypes are, in fact, quite true, but alas, my intention of spending 5 days lying on the beach like a sack of potatoes was foiled by the lack of sandy beaches where I was staying (see pictures below) — though they are available if you don’t mind a short train ride. Regardless, the Cote d’Azur region of France is still one of the most beautiful places that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, and given the relative proximity to a plethora of sites, towns, and points of interest, it is also a day-trippers dream. I made Nice my home base for exploring the region, so we’ll go ahead and start there:
And while we’re still on Nice, there are a few dishes that are specific to this area that you must sample if you’re spending any amount of time here. The first is a beach-snack called Socca. Essentially, it is just a chickpea-and-olive-oil batter that is then baked in the oven in a large, flat disc about the thickness of an avergae crepe. And at a little over $2 per order, it makes for a great between-meal nosh.
Another specialty specific to Nice itself is the Salad Nicoise. Essentially a green salad with tomatoes, olives, and a hard-boiled egg, then topped with a sizable portion of tuna (and sometimes anchioves, too). Though this creation isn’t the most inspired or creative offering ever put together, something about the balance of vegetables and protein makes for a satisfying meal:
Another attraction in the Old Town section of Nice is the Flower Market that takes place every morning aside from Mondays. Though there were flowers present, it seemed to me to be more of fruit and vegetable market than a flower market, but then again, I’m also much more biased to the edible side of life:
Eze and Monaco:
As mentioned above, when exploring the Cote d’Azur, there are quite a few options in front of you as far as day trips. When I was growing tired of Nice after a few days, the first trip I put together was a dual trip to the medieval hillside village of Eze, followed up by a quick jaunt over to Monaco (the uber-rich sovereignty that is technically the 2nd smallest conutry in the world by population). And considering that the bus rides only cost 1 euro per leg and last only 20 minutes, there is plenty of time left for exploring and plenty of money left for food and drinks.
I ran out of time (as usual) before I was able to explore a few of the other cities in the area, but a few other great day trips include Cannes (where they hold the film festival each year), Antibes, St Paul de Vence, and St. Tropez. Instead of these, however, I took the opportunity to knock off another extreme sport from my “to-do” list: that of canyoning — as, much to my mother’s dismay, I’ve previously checked off sky-diving, bungee-jumping, white water rafting, motorcylces, etc.
The sport of canyoning has been described as white water rafting without the raft, though from my recent experience, it involves quite a bit more rappelling down waterfalls, sliding down blind chutes within the river, and cliff diving into fast-moving pools of water — so all in all, a great time was had. I wasn’t able to bring my non-waterproof and non-shockproof camera, so all I have at the moment to show you is the opening picture of our group decked out in our wetsuits, but I’m hoping that a few of the others who bought special cameras will forward along a few more pictures, of which I’ll subsequently post:
And as a final activity before heading across the border to Italy, with all of the recent talk about Macarons, I simply had to jump on the opportunity to take a Macaron cooking class — so hopefully I’ll be able to produce some Pistachio-Vera-quality treats myself when I return. Here are a few of the highlights:
Post-Nice, I’m off to get some fresh air and to clear my city-clogged head while hiking in the Cinque Terre National Park just southeast across the border into Italy. I’ll be back with another post soon!