In what feels like a lifetime ago, we went on a last minute ‘cheapie’ holiday to Nice. I put ‘cheapie’ in inverted commas because a week in the south of France is never going to be cheap. We did, however, have all the lols, drink all the French wine, and eat all the cheese.
Because Nice is the best of both worlds (it’s on the coast so beachy) has great weather (it was 25°C minimum when we were there at the end of September, and it’s also a pretty cool city (cheap Mango and Zara – hurrah!). There were a few things that we found out while were there though, that we could have benefitted from knowing beforehand. Not that it would have changed our trip in any way, but may have saved some time franticly googling stuff. Time which could have been spent drinking more wine and eating more cheese:
The train is an excellent way of getting around and Nice is a good base to see a lot of cool stuff. Our hotel was right near the station which was handy, and the ticket machines there are automated and have English language options. We used the train almost daily to visit Monaco (where the yacht show was on and the red arrows flew over – amazing!) to the east of Nice and Cannes and Antibes to the west. The trains are relatively inexpensive; prices start from about €9 for a single journey. The best tip I can give, which is something I think I ended up asking someone in my very limited French, was that if you buy a ticket from Nice to say, Cannes, but want to stop off a few places on the way back, is that allowed? And the answer is yes. If you buy a return ticket from Nice to anywhere along the coast, you can effectively hop on and hop off betwixt those stops, at no extra cost.
It would only take a quick look at a map, or In fact, any pictures of the Nice sea front to see that the beach is a pebble one and that does not a comfy sunbathing spot make. Because we were there a full week, and there was only so much sightseeing one couple can do. We decided we wanted a couple of ‘beach days’. My advice? If you want to factor in sunbathing days then try and get a hotel with a pool, it will be much much more comfortable. Our hotel didn’t have a pool sadly, so to the pebbles it was, with some tourist towels we bought for €10 each. So failing a hotel with a pool, I would suggest taking something comfortable to sit on, on the beach if your luggage allows, or at the very least your own beach towels to save you having to buy some when you’re there.
Dotted all over the city are a chain of supermarkets called Mono Prix which proved invaluable for us in terms of saving a bit of dough. The larger chains have deli counters where you can get fresh sandwiches for lunch. There’s even one just off the main square where you can buy chilled booze and sit on their tables outside to drink it, which will cost you the third of the price of a glass of wine in a bar. We utilised the one round the corner of our hotel for drinks to have in the room before we went out or pastries/cold coffee to have on the train if we were off out somewhere. It’s just handy to know there’s always somewhere you can get a ham an cheese baguette in the south of France without having to spend £20 on one. I also got a brand-new pair of Havaianas for £15, Bargain!
As mentioned, you’re in southern France, where nothing comes cheap. We’re the kind of people who like to go for a few drinks before dinner and this could prove difficult if you don’t want to pay through the nose for what is essentially average house white wine. The Mono Prix were our saviours here, particularly for pic nic style lunches. We also found (and bear with me here, I’m not a complete philistine I promise) that McDonalds was brilliant for coffee. You could get a pretty decent latte or cappuccino to take on your travels for a fraction of the price of a swanky umbrella fronted café. The ambiance isn’t all that great though of course, so this was pretty much only a take away option. In terms of local cuisine, we found a couple of restaurants that did fixed priced menus which fell at around the €24 mark and included 3 courses. Once place we went to included escargot and rabbit stew which were both amazing and stuff I wouldn’t normally eat at home so I felt very cosmopolitan!
Unbeknownst to us, most restaurants close on a Sundays (and sometimes Mondays too) which meant sadly it was a bottle of wine in the room and then across to the TGI Fridays style sports bar across the road for the second burger of the holiday. To be fair, I think more and more restaurants are starting to open up on a Sunday, so if you have top dollar (or Euro, to spend) then you probably will still be able to find a nice little bistro open. We’re cheapskates though and don’t have top dollar to spare (we spend it all on holidays – go figure) so had we known that most places shut on a Sunday, we would have given the sports bar a miss on the first night. I found this handy blog post since coming home, with a list of restaurants that are open on Sundays and Mondays which is worth checking out before you go.