Socca and Canyoning in the Cote d’Azur

Nice, France:

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:

The coastline in Nice (and yes, the airplanes landing nearby really do fly right overhead)

A sculpture in a park just west of Place Massena

The sun setting over the port of Nice

The Monument aux Morts, wedged into a hillsides (at the top of which is Place du Chateau) dividing the main beaches from the port

Place Gautier

The tangled streets of the Old Town section of Nice, just off of the coastline

The grains of sand on the beaches in Nice were a little larger than I had expected, making it a bit uncomfortable to simply throw a towel down and lay out. If you were willing to spend a few euro’s, there are private beaches alternating with the public sections in which you could rent a chair, otherwise, you’ll best bet is to take a train to the Cap d’Ail beach just southeast of Nice

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.

Socca being portioned out – each large disc can serve roughly 5-6 people

A finished portion of Socca can be seen on the bottom right, alongside a few other tasty treats I had to try. After putting in this order, however, the server brought out two plates, two sets of silverware, and two wine glasses, assuming that there must be a second person waiting to help me out based on the amount of food ordered. Apparently he hasn’t been keeping up with my blog…

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:

Though not specific to Nice, I can’t get enough of these mini-croissants stuffed with a variety of flavors. Seen here, a chocolate, pistachio, and lemon croissant

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:

The Flower Market in action

Various flavors and blends of salt

Varieties of cauliflower up for sale, including the fractal-patterned Romanesco Broccoli

Dried Mushrooms

Various dried and ground spices and herbs (including, of course, the still omni-present Herbs de Provence)

With the plentiful sunshine in the area, citrus fruits look absolutely amazing

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.

The town of Eze as seen from across the valley

The tangle of streets within the walls can be a bit confusing, but the scenary is nice regardless

If you can find your way to the top (hint: always take whatever path heads uphill), you’ll first have to wander through a garden of cactii and aloe plants (which, unfortunately cost 5 euro)…

…but you’ll be treated to a great view out over the Mediterranean

Before heading out of town, I had to try another regional specialty: Stuffed Vegetables

Then it was on to the stylish city/country of Monaco

If you happen to have a multi-million dollar yacht sitting around, the Monaco harbor seems to be THE place to park it

No visit to Monaco would be complete without swinging by the world-famous Monte Carlo casino, seen at the end of the lane over the fountains

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:

This was our group shortly before sustaining massive, life-threatening injuries (just kidding, we all made it out alive – ha ha)

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:

Our chef/instructor showing us some initial basics. And as you can see, I was the only guy in the class, but that is a situation that I’m certainly not going to complain about

Me piping some of the almond meal and egg white batter onto the cookie sheet — though I promise that the uneven dollops already on the tray were there before I started…honest…

Macarons drying before going into the oven — this is a necessary step to create the outer skin on the top of the macaron

The finished product — not half-bad, if I do say so myself

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!

About andrewamiet

I'm a 29 (now 31) year-old former desk jockey who is now making my way around the world, experiencing all of the sights, sounds, tastes, people, and culture that the world has to offer.

14 Responses to “Socca and Canyoning in the Cote d’Azur”

  1. Good thing you did not tell your mother what “canyoning” really was! So
    glad you had the opportunity to check off another death defying feat on your
    bucket list. You look terrific and the blog continues to be awesome! Be
    safe and have fun in Italy.

  2. Damn, see now I want to learn how to make macarons! LOL

  3. Awesome pics and food!! Way too much fun.

  4. wow…definitely can’t find that broccoli at Kroger! Also can’t stare at it too long without getting dizzy…

  5. Hope you get that beach you’ve been looking for soon, brother. Loving this blog. Keep posting photos including yourself, those are my favorite.

    Golf with this guys Saturday morning, we miss ya!

  6. The hillside town of Eaz?

  7. I am taking a very similar journey very soon and I only hope I can take photos as appealing and interesting as yours!

  8. Amazing sceneries!!! of course its the cote-d’azure..

  9. I want the recipe!!! For any of it!!! Yum

  10. There were hot chicks in your group.

  11. Hi Andrew, where did you take the macaron cooking class? We are in Nice now and that looks like fun!

    • The class wasn’t anything formal, but was actually offered by a chef who was passing through at the hostel I stayed at. It was called “Villa Saint Exupery,” and they offered it every Sunday, though I’m not sure if they’ll still have it available as an option. Best of luck, though, and have fun in Nice!

  12. Very nice place !!!
    If you want informations about the canyoning in France, you can visit my website:
    Canyoning in the Verdon
    See you next time,

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