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Need Help with Nice Vacation, Please!

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Hi! I will be traveling to Nice with my daughters (ages 2 and 7 months) and mother-in-law for 9 days. I started to do research on Nice and the surrounding areas but am completely overwhelmed by the choices. I want to go into Cannes for the film festival for a day, and my mother-in-law is a big gambler, so she wants to go to Monaco. Other, than that, I'm lost. I would buy a book, but I live in Germany and I do not speak German! Can anyone suggest a couple of places to visit, best days to visit and how to travel there? (We will be based out of Nice for the duration of the trip.) Any advice would be very much appreciated! Thank you, in advance for your help...

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    There is wonderful train service from Nice to most cities/towns along the coast. From Nice to Cannes is just under 30 minutes. Nice to Monaco is 20 minutes. There's also bus service from Nice to St. Jean Cap and Eze, both of which are beautiful towns to explore. And of course, at the opposite end, past Cannes, St. Paul de Vence, a lovely medieval town with gorgeous views which can be reached in about 50 minutes by bus from the center of Nice.

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    I hate to sound like a wet blanket but the traffic into Cannes during the film festival will be crazy and I'm not sure you can attend any of the films. If you're just trying to see some celebs, it does get crazy and crowded.

    The Monaco Grand Prix car race usually takes place around the same time and traffic is really bad. The casino in Monte Carlo is very very dressy. I don't think MIL will want to go. What will you do with the kids? I doubt they allow children in.

    That said, it's a beautiful area, the train service is very good between towns. Do you already have a place booked in Nice to stay? The beaches in Nice are pebbly whereas in Cannes and Juan les Pins they're sandy.

    I'd suggest you buy some books online. Here's one on kids in the South of France
    http://www.amazon.com/Take-Kids-South-France-Cadogan/dp/1860111114

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    You might consider just taking MIL to the casino in Nice rather than heading over to Monte Carlo.

    When are you going? If it's this year, do you already have hotel reservations, I hope?

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    Here are my notes from our three nights in Nice, in May 2006:

    "Our Hotel le Grimaldi (http://www.le-grimaldi.com/) was a short cab ride from the train station. It was 10EUR for myself, my daughter, my gargantuan bag, and her two small ones. We were greeted graciously at the hotel, which immediately struck us as a good find.

    The hotel is actually two Belle Epoque buildings back-to-back. One side is much prettier to enter, as it faces a nice church. The other side is fine, too, but a bit boring. I think the side on rue Grimaldi is the plain one, and the other side on rue Maccarani is prettier.

    The man at the front desk carried my bag to the room, and showed us around. There’s a business center on the ground floor, with free internet use on their two computers, and a free printer to use. (Also wireless in the lobby, I think for a fee.)

    Our room was a ‘classic’, twin-bedded room, which was large enough, had a little balcony, a sparkling tile bath with fluffy bright yellow towels, and nice toiletries. It was 150EUR, plus tax and 10EUR per person if we opted for the hot/cold breakfast buffet. They suggested we check out the buffet (served till 10:30a.m.), and if we were interested the next morning, we could sign on for it. Their deal is that you have to buy it everyday to get the 10EUR rate. Otherwise, per day, it’s 15EUR.

    So the next morning, we were happy to find hot eggs, proscuitto, yoghurts, cereals, cappuccino, assorted croissants, juices, etc. We thought it a good deal and quite convenient, so we enjoyed it each morning.

    For our first dinner, I had brought the name of a restaurant I’d found on Travel Talk, and the front desk agreed it was a good one, a local favorite in old Nice. It’s called Acchiardo, at 38 rue Droite in Vieux Nice. We headed over for their opening at 7p.m., and were very happy with it. Really friendly and attentive service, very quaint and casual atmosphere, with a good menu. I had a steak dinner, which actually included vegetables on the side. My daughter had two different salads. We had bottled water and a half-liter of house red wine. When the bill arrived for 28.50EUR, I thought they’d made a mistake because it was so much less than I’d been accustomed to paying in Venice, Florence and Rome. But, no, it was correct. (We would have maybe eaten there another night, but found out it closes on weekend nights, believe it or not.)

    We walked all over old Nice, then through the pedestian area to the promenade and took that way back to the hotel. It’s such a beautiful walk at night. The Chateau hillside is all lit up, the palm trees are lit, and the waves look so pleasant. It was how we ended each of our Nice nights, with that walk back to the hotel.

    The next day we decided to take the short bus ride on the #81, to visit the Villa and Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild, near Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. (The bus is just 1.30EUR each direction, which you pay in exact change on the bus.)

    It was a nice visit, especially to see the views of the sea down below on both sides of the hillside. I thought the price was a bit steep, at 9.50EUR for an adult, because the Villa isn’t really all that interesting (sorry!), but the gardens are pretty. There’s also a nice little café there, for a light snack or drink or meal, which was a welcome break from all our walking.

    While we were there, a very strong wind came up, which caused quite a bit of white caps in the water below, and chased everyone in from the patio tables. The wind stayed with us for the rest of the day, but wasn’t terribly annoying.

    From the Villa, we did the easy walk down to the port of St. Jean to walk around and check it out. There are nice boats in the little harbor, with cute restaurants and shops. It’s very tiny, so doesn’t take long to walk from end to end of St. Jean. We spent just about an hour and a half there, then caught the #81 back to Nice.

    That evening, we returned to old Nice for dinner. We loved that neighborhood’s little streets, overall atmosphere, and cute shops. We found the Restaurant la Tapenada, 6 rue St. Reparate and had a very nice dinner. It was probably about 60EUR for the two of us, on their fixed price menu, with a bottle of house wine. Very nice little place, with friendly and attentive service. They even let my daughter trade her dessert for a salad. So she had two salads to start, one after the other, and they timed the arrival of our main courses perfectly. We were perfectly happy with our meal there.

    The next day we decided we’d stick to the coast and see Antibes, which is a short 20-minute train ride from Nice. We were glad we’d chosen Antibes, as it’s beautiful. The sea wall makes a nice walk, and the Centre Ville is very charming.

    We wandered its streets, shopped in a tiny clothing boutique, found a little place for omelettes (nothing special, but nice enough), then headed back to Nice by train after about 4 hours total. It was a good choice for a quick day-trip.

    That evening we weren’t very hungry, so opted for the simple Pasta Basta, once again in old Nice. It was a nice meal, although not extraordinary. Good prices and decent service.

    All in all, we were very impressed with Nice and the surrounding area. It’s a very pretty city, with a friendly attitude, sitting on a lovely shore. There are many options for things to do near Nice. We’d considered St. Paul de Vence and Digne, but with the beautiful clear weather, we were drawn to stay at the seaside, and were glad we did."
    :)>-

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