With Valentine’s Day coming up, present ideas are everywhere, but what if this time you want to offer your partner a trip away? I’m sure you’ve all thought of Paris as a romantic escapade, but there are other places in France that are just as good and dreamy as the city of love. Nice, for example, is a city in the South of France, located between Cannes and Monaco on the French Riviera. The weather is lovely at this time of the year and you are right next to the sea. You can get a return to Nice for £70 from Gatwick. To make the most of your travel, I would advise you book a hotel in the centre of Nice, as it is easier to visit the sights.
Once you’ve arrived, you should check out the ‘Promenade des Anglais’ where you can see the Mediterranean Sea and simply admire the landscape. It really is worth the walk, especially when you arrive near the port; you can sit on a stone bench and all you can see is the sea – the view is breath-taking. You can also do this walk at night to see the city lights create a brilliant atmosphere. A priority, though, should stop at ‘Fenocchio’ the best ice cream makers in Nice (the lavender ice cream is my favourite).
One thing I love doing is getting lost in the old parts of Nice; the streets are narrow and the buildings so colourful than you could almost believe you were in Italy, but this is no surprise as Nice has only been French for 160 years, and used to belong to Italy. The Italian influence and background is everywhere in the Nissart culture, from the architecture to the food.
“Le Cour Saleya” is ranked by France’s National Council for the Culinary Arts as being one of the country’s special markets. You stroll by harmonious floral displays, whilst also browsing a food market. It is hard to resist the multi-coloured geraniums, intense mauve fuchsias, dahlias with their anemone-shaped flowers, bright red roses, and tulips. All flowers are from the artisans in the countryside. The market is held every day, from 6am to 5.30pm except Mondays, Sunday afternoons and public holidays. A flea market takes over on Mondays in the Old Town.
If you have the chance, you have to taste a ‘Socca’, a speciality made mainly from chickpea flour, and a ‘Pissaladière’, which is basically an onion pie. In the same area, you could also visit Cathédrale Ste-Réparate which is an architectural gem and honours the city’s patron saint. You could also explore the exuberant Chapelle de la Miséricorde built in 1740, the 17th-century Palais Lascaris, gloomy religious paintings and 18th-century pharmacy. If, after all of this, you want to have a typical coffee at a French café, ‘La Place Garibaldi’ is the best place to go.
Culture-wise, you have tons of museums to visit, such as the Matisse museum, he spent a big part of his life on the French Riviera. It is located on the hill of Cimiez, a very pretty and historical neighbourhood. It used to be a Roman settlement of Cemenelum, before becoming in the late 19th century one of the favourite spots for rich and famous people, especially British aristocrats. Queen Victoria was a regular at the Regina Palace Hotel, which still dominates the hill, even though it is no longer a hotel, hence her statue at the entrance of the neighbourhood. You can visit the Roman amphitheatre and archaeology museum, a neo-Palatine Monastery and an olive-filled park.
For the modern part of Nice, La Place Massena is very pretty and colourful, and if you keep walking straight after the naked statue in the fountain, you end up on the Jean Medecin Avenue where you can do most of your shopping. La Coulée Verte is a big square in the centre of Nice, and with its big green parks, fountains and wooden benches, is lovely to walk in. If you want to have cocktails in a romantic place, I would recommend the rooftop of La Place at night, you can view the whole area whilst sipping drinks with your other half. Of course, if you need your beer at the pub at night, Nice has a lot of English people living there, so there are a few British pubs – my favourite is The Wayne’s in the old town.
If, after all of this, you still have time to spare, you could take the train and visit Cannes, Monaco or even go to San Remo in Italy which is only 30 minutes away!