As we followed our local guide on a walking tour of the old town on a sunny February afternoon,I knew I’d made the right decision in choosing Nice for a short spring break. And it was superbly organized by Solos Holidays, with an excellent host, Mary.
Later from our vantage point at the top of the Parc Du Chateaux which is high above the old town of Nice, we gazed out over the rooftops at the sun sparkling on the afternoon sea. Everywhere on this elegant coastline is a celebration of vivid hues, terracotta roofs, and honey coloured buildings, and at this time of year with bright yellow Mimosa out in bloom. Afterwards we strolled along the promenade, with palm trees strung out behind us, and the promise of a few more spring like days to enjoy.
Don’t expect hot temperatures, or constant blue skies in the South of France – not January to March – but it is warmer than in the UK, and winter is shorter! And it can be sunny. The coastline is less crowded than in high summer, when the area is awash with hordes of tourists.
I like this area, and have been here several times, and Nice is ideal for a short break.
I’d also travelled with Solos Holidays before, and enjoyed the idea of being in a group, but with the chance to slip away on my own, if I wanted. There is never any pressure to join in, the choice is yours. We were based in the Novotel Nice Centre – Acropolis, where we all had comfortable rooms – each for our own single use. On the 3 night trip, breakfast was included and one night’s dinner at the hotel.
This time of the year is Carnival time along the Riviera, and this trip was centered on this. The Carnival De Nice is a big, noisy, enthusiastic event that runs for a couple of weeks. We had grandstand tickets at the Place Massena for the Evening Parade of Lights, which was full of colour, music, dance, streamers, and confetti – and complete with a procession of gigantic illuminated floats. The theme was satirical French humour, but it was entertaining and a great atmosphere.
We also had grandstand tickets at the daytime Flower Parade along the seafront – which was a family affair enjoyed by old and young alike. Mimosa sprays were given out to the audience as they took their seats, and a couple of hours later when the 16 flower decked floats made their final route around the circuit, the locals were poised and ready to catch all the tossed blooms as the floats were stripped bare. It’s quite a sight to see people leaving with huge armfuls of locally grown blossoms and flowers as their prized trophies. The attention to detail at the carnival is amazing, and all the attendants and dancers were beautifully made up, and dressed in themes.
Nice is so easy to get around. The city has its own tram service which is clean and at 1.50 Euros a journey, cheaper than buses in the UK. There are 3 rail stations in Nice, and the regional train service is excellent and runs along the coast from the port city of Marseilles in one direction to the Italian Boarder. Famous place names like Cannes, Monte Carlo, Antibes, and Juan- Les- Pins are all on the route, or you can travel over the boarder down to the Italian Riviera – and the likes of San Remo and Diano Marina – where orange trees grow the length of the town streets.
One morning, some of us hopped on the train to Menton further up the coast, which has its own Fete Du Citron (Lemon Festival) – a local park exhibited wonderful giant sculptures made up entirely of oranges and lemons; this year’s theme being Cinecitta, and celebrating famous producers of Italian cinema. The 10 Euro ticket also gained us access to the artisan fair in the town hall. Here stalls sold everything lemon; soaps, perfume, Tarte Au Citron (Lemon Meringue pie to us) Limoncello De Menton – lemon liqueur.
It’s worth mentioning the cuisine in this area is more European than merely French, given the proximity to the Italian Riviera. So expect pasta, and pizza, but do indulge in Salad Nicoise, Croque-Monsieur, and Crepes Sucre (with sugar). The French wine was good, and reasonable.
I enjoyed my few days away with Solos Holidays, with a good group, amazing scenery, and the Carnival atmosphere. You always say you will keep in touch – but who knows – we may all meet again.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Solos Holidays