8 days Near Nice

Aug 20th, 2019, 05:43 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2019
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8 days Near Nice

Hello, this is my first post and it is a trip report! I have read many over the years and have found useful tips and info and I hope to return the favour.

So, a little about us. We are from the UK, married, early 50's. enjoy walking (not extreme hiking) but can happily cover 8 to 10 miles a day. I enjoy history and art, husband enjoys cars and boats. Our usual travel style is up to 3 weeks at a time either roadtrips in USA or train trips in Europe. I am the planner and we travel independently booking directly with airlines and accommodation.

Having said all that this trip was a little different, 8 days in an area that we have visited many times before. So here goes .....

Day 1

Uneventful flight from our local airport. We flew Jet2, arrived In Nice on time. We try not to rent a car in Europe and use public transport where possible. The new tram now runs from Nice airport to Nice centre but we travelled just 1 stop to the Grand Arenas stop - the tram is free for this short trip. We then walked to Nice St Augustine train station - a bit of a schlep to be honest over busy roads but well sign posted with temporary yellow signs. There is still a lot of construction going on and I hope this is to integrate the tram and train station. We had to use the machine to get our train tickets to Villefranche Sur Mer (VSM). The machines are easy to use, you make your choices on the screen by turning a wheel. We saw many young people assuming the screen was a touch screen! You can use a credit card or cash to pay but the machines only accept coins not notes. Tickets bought, we validated them in the yellow machines and we got on the next train, 20 minutes later we were in VSM.

We have stayed here many times at the lovely Welcome Hotel, we settled in and went out for dinner. We ate at Le Serre, on Rue de Mer. This is a family run restaurant offering good value food, it is not fine dining but offers comfort food with friendly efficient service which suited us on our first night. We wandered around a bit after dinner noting the changes to the village since our last trip 4 years ago. Being British we finished our evening at Abacaxi ice cream parlour because the lady there makes a good cup of tea!

Day 2

Our rate at the Welcome did not include breakfast, you could buy it but at 20 Euros each we thought it was not good value and so we walked straight across the road to the Coffee Ship at the port. It was 8 Euros each for brioche, fresh juice and coffee. We ended up eating breakfast there each morning except for Day 4, which turned into the morning of no breakfast for me! We had decided to visit Nice today - I have to admit Nice is not my favourite place along this stretch of coast line but we wanted to visit the flower market. Now, we were staying at the seafront of VSM but the actual village spreads up and up and up the hillside and to get to the main road where the buses are is a bit of a hike in 30 degree heat. There is a helpful little bus (Number 80) that runs from the seafront up to the main road and then further up to the Col de Villefranche and on to Nice Riquier. We got off at the main road near the tourist information centre and crossed over to wait for the next bus to Nice. We bought our ticket for 1.5 Euros each on the first bus and could then use them on the next bus (Number 81) - as long as we transferred within 74 minutes.

We arrived in Nice 10 minutes later and got off at the port because once again there is a lot of construction and the bus did not go any further! We walked through the Old Town to the flower market and on to the Promenade des Anglais. We were near the citadel and as we have never visited before we decided to investigate. We used the free lift rather than climb the steps and soon were at the top. It was worth it for the views from the top but to be honest I wouldn't go out of my way to visit again. There was a cafe but this only accepted cash. We began to walk down back to the port to catch the bus back to VSM. This is where things began to fall apart. Did I mention there was construction - the main road down to the port was closed so we had to double back which added about 30 minutes to our walk and when we reached the port we had to walk in blazing sunshine with no shade to where we had got off the bus. Now in my experience, where you get off a bus is usually quite close to where you get on for the return journey - but oh no - did I mention there was construction - the bus stops had all been moved - we followed various hand written signs and walked around the block a few times and eventually found a bus stop which had a piece of paper attached to it which had 81 scrawled on it. We thought this may be out stop and waited.. a Number 81 bus arrived... hooray .. it did not stop ... boo. It was VERY full. After 10 minutes another 81 bus arrived ... this one stopped, we got on paid 1.5 Euros each and were soon back in VSM. This time we walked back down the hill to the hotel.

Phew! I didn't expect this to be so long and take me so long.. I will continue with the rest of the report later..

Next up Fireworks and Ferraris in Monte Carlo.
Chris21 is offline  
Aug 20th, 2019, 08:15 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
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Enjoying your report! I had the same problem with bus stops in Istanbul once - wandered around the same block multiple times until I finally spotted it!
vickiebypass is offline  
Aug 20th, 2019, 10:29 AM
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As promised day 2 continued....

Chris21 is offline  
Aug 20th, 2019, 10:41 AM
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This is great Chris.

Weve just booked 8 days in Nice for late Octobe with EasyJet. cChesper than the train from Manchester to London for us.

Just dont know where to stay, looking at Villefranche Sur Mer.
BritishCaicos is online now  
Aug 20th, 2019, 04:15 PM
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Following you on your trip... well be in Nice next May!
Trophywife007 is offline  
Aug 21st, 2019, 01:36 AM
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A photo from a charming street looking out at the sea from VSM is the wallpaper on my phone - from a trip 2 years ago. Lovely place. Im a Nice fan - but maybe not with the construction, ha ha. Looking forward to more. Thanks for posting.
YankyGal is offline  
Aug 21st, 2019, 07:19 AM
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OK I'll try again .. I fell foul of the only post twice in 24 hours for newbies rule...
Day 2 continued

We had arrived back from Nice later than planned so we had a quick shower and change and were out again for dinner before catching the train to Monte Carlo for the International Firework Competition.

We ate at Le Serre again as we knew the service would be quick, and it was! We arrived in Monte Carlo about half an hour before the 9.30pm start of the display. The train fare was about 13 Euros return for 2 of us.
We walked down to the port - past all the beautiful yachts - and sat on the edge of the quay. The fireworks were stunning and the whole display lasted about 30 minutes.

As we walked up to Casino Square I lost count of the number of Ferraris, Aston Martins, Rolls Royces, Bentleys and other super cars - however this was to be surpassed when we returned later in the week.

I am always conflicted when I visit Monte Carlo ... the extravagant displays of wealth make me uncomfortable ... but on the other hand it is interesting to see and my husband LOVES the cars.

We caught the last train back at 11.45pm. Make sure not to miss this as the next one is not till 5.00am. I suppose you could always spend your time in the Casino but that could end up being very expensive!!

As a side note - travelling by train and walking to and from the stations around midnight felt very safe. I would not travel by train at that time at home.

Day 3

Beach day -- we had breakfast at the Coffee Ship again - got our beach gear together and headed off to the beach. It is about a 10 minute walk from the Welcome Hotel to the beach. Now, it is not the best beach in the world, it is not sandy but rather gritty and stony however it does shelve gently into the sea and the sea is generally calm. Since we last visited a beach club has opened which does take up a large portion of the beach. In my opinion it was expensive 50 Euros+ for 2 of us for the day. In contrast we spent a grand total of 8 Euros on a ham and tomato baguette and a bottle of water from the snack shop just past the new beach club.

VSM is a popular port for cruise ships and the week we were there 5 came in. We did not find the influx of extra people a problem at all but it was noticeable that the beach was more busy on those days.

We spent about 4 hours at the beach and enjoyed swimming in the warm water - not an experience we get much in the UK.

We got ready for dinner and as we had no reservations we set out to look for somewhere. We walked up the stairs from the seafront on to Rue de Poilu. We settled on Cave Nature which shares a square off the lane with Les Garcons restaurant.

It is a sharing plate, tapas style restaurant. We enjoyed what we had and the food was tasty and well prepared but felt it was expensive for the amount of food we received. The service was friendly and efficient and they had a good wine list.

After dinner we wandered the streets people watching for and went to our favourite cafe for our nightly cup of tea!!

Next ... Day 4 .. it rained!!
Chris21 is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2019, 06:22 AM
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Day 4

We awoke to heavy rain. We had planned to visit Antibes and weren't about to let the rain put us off. We went without breakfast, planning to eat in Antibes, well one of us did!

The train takes about 40 minutes from VSM as it stops at every station but this did allow time for the rain to stop and the skies to brighten. We made our way from the station down to the port and then to the old town, settling into a cafe for breakfast. We ordered from a waiter, who did not appear happy in his work, and soon our drinks and my husbands breakfast arrived ... my food did not arrive .. we asked the happy waiter and he disappeared into the cafe .. he came out saying that the 'machine' had broken but food would soon arrive .. it did not. We waited a bit longer but still no food so we left. I had a little of my husbands food and a drink so I was not too hungry. This was our first disappointment of the trip, soon to be followed by the second. My husband loves looking at the mega-yachts that are often moored at Antibes, so we set off to the harbour only to find it all locked up at the far side where the biggest yachts are. Another French speaking couple were also trying to look at the boats and told us the security guard said they were closed on Mondays. So far our trip to Antibes had been less than satisfactory... still at least the sun had come out now.

We walked back to the old town to the market where we found a bar to cheer ourselves up in. Now this is where our day began to improve. I went in to the bar to order a soft drink and an Aperol, the bar tender looked horrified and called on a colleague to make the Aperol. She hurried over and I am afraid I made a wrong assumption, she looked like Olive from On the Buses ( 1970's British sitcom - very un-pc - would not be made today), however she took such care to mix the drinks and slice the fruit and was actually delightful and made a fine Aperol.

With a spring in our step we spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon wandering around the small, winding streets of old Antibes, window shopping and people watching. We returned to VSM at 4ish.

We ate dinner that night at Les Garcons, next to Cave Nature, where we ate the previous night. Again we had no reservation but arriving before 7.30pm meant we were seated and promptly served. The food and service here were good, I would recommend it.

Day 5

Beach day - see Day 3

Tonight we walked around to the Darse area. You follow the path above the Wilson car park and it brings you to the working port area -The Darse- . There is a small hotel there and 4 restuarants, as well as a branch of the University of Paris and a zoological research centre. It is also where James Bond was chased on his motorbike in Never Say Never Again.

We ate at the Club be la Mer which is an unusual looking building right on the port. It has an outdoor covered patio where we sat. The menu is quite basic but always has fish specials which we had and they were delicious. It is quite an odd set up here, no other tourists the night we were there but lots of locals who seemed to know each other and all the staff. We were made to feel very welcome and in fact we ate there again later in the week.

We walked back to VSM and went to our cafe for a cup of tea, by now the lady know what we want and so we just sit and she brings it over!!
Chris21 is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2019, 06:58 AM
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I’m enjoying your report Chris21. 7 of us going next June. Hope all that construction is done by that time. Last time we stayed in Villefranche and loved it but not always pleasant waiting for the bus. Staying in Nice this time.
Micheline is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2019, 12:00 PM
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Day 6

Funny you should mention it not being pleasant waiting for the bus Micheline , today we had some 'interesting' bus experiences.

We were going to Eze, Now as previously mentioned we have visited this area several times and we have tried to visit Eze 3 times but only been successful once. Today we were determined to succeed. We had breakfast at the Coffee Ship and then caught the little Number 80 bus to take us to the Col de Villefranche to transfer to the bus to Eze. Except the little bus went a different way to every other time we have been on it. It took us up to the main road and then went back down to the Darse.. A fellow passenger could sense our confusion and assured us the bus would eventually take us to our destination - he said he had lived there for 20 years and did not understand the bus routes!

We did indeed arrive at the Col de Villefranche and found the bus stop to Eze. We had to wait 20 minutes according to the timetable and we did, the bus approached on time and drove straight past!! It was too full to take on any more passengers! The next bus was not for 30 minutes. We took the decision to get on the next bus wherever it was going. So we waited... and waited... and waited until 2 buses came at once!! My husband stopped the first one which was going to Beaulieu Sur Mer and I stopped the second one which was going to Eze. There was just room on the Eze bus for 2 to squeeze on - so we did.

The journey is spectacular with some fabulous views and after 15 minutes we arrived at the bottom of the village. We wandered up the steep streets and steps, enjoying the shops. At the top of the village there are the cactus gardens 6 Euros entrance fee. It is worth the entrance fee for the views. We must have spent about 40 minutes there and left to find some lunch.

We found ourselves at the Chevre d'Or hotel. We went in just to have a look around and somehow found ourselves on the glorious outdoor dining terrace. A waiter approached and I heard my husband asking if they had a table for 2 .. they did!! So we were ushered to a table with a fabulous view and presented with a menu on an i-pad. We were in no way dressed for such a beautiful restaurant but we were not made to feel uncomfortable and were treated to a lunch of divine food and impeccable service. It was a splurge but so worth it.

After lunch we made our way back down the village and found the return bus stop. This time we got on the first bus that came, got a seat on the left hand side, for the views and arrived back at Col de Villefranche in 15 minutes. We transferred to the little Number 80 bus intending to get off at the stop outside the Welcome Hotel but surprise, surprise the bus terminated higher up in the village so we had to walk down.

So now we have a 50% success rate when visiting Eze, 4 attempts and 2 successes.

That evening I think we ate at Le Serre again as we wanted something cheap and cheerful after our splurge at lunch time.

Day 7

Beach day - see Day 3 & Day 5
We ate dinner at La Corderie at the Darse. We enjoyed the food and had good service.
Chris21 is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2019, 07:15 PM
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How lovely that you made the bus to Eze after all that! I haven’t been there yet, but it’s on my list. Glad you had such a wonderful trip.
Iwan2go is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2019, 08:44 AM
Join Date: Mar 2018
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I'm happy that you were able to finally get up to Eze, and had the wonderful splurge meal at the top. That is the downside of the buses and VSM -- they tend to fill up at the early stops and unless someone gets off it can be a challenge.
gooster is offline  
Aug 25th, 2019, 11:39 AM
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I’m typing with an injury but just want to say how much I am enjoying your report, we go back to the Cote d’Azur In April.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Aug 25th, 2019, 11:45 AM
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Your beautiful memories will mean that you will never regret your spur of the moment decision to do a splurge lunch at Chevre d'Or. Good move! We remember our lunch there fondly even if it was more than 30 years ago.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Aug 27th, 2019, 02:16 AM
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Sorry for the delay in completing this report. We took advantage of the glorious weather this weekend in the UK and spent 3 nights in the Yorkshire Dales. A beautiful part of the country and only 2 hours drive from home ... now back to VSM ...

Day 8

Breakfast at the Coffee Ship, then train to Monte Carlo. We just got on the train, it was full to bursting so we stood up balanced precariously next to the door. Fortunately it is only a 15 minutes journey and when we arrived and the doors opened we popped out like a cork out of a bottle!

There are several exits from the station and we took the stairs down from the platform, walked through the marble clad corridors and emerged into the blazing sunshine near the port. It was HOT so we paced ourselves, walked slowly, took advantage of any shade we found and stopped for plenty of refreshment.

Our first stop was the port to look at the beautiful yachts or vulgar displays of wealth depending on your point of view. I just can't get excited by the boats or cars but my husband loves it and so this was his day. We looked at the boats for about an hour then found a nice bar which had plenty of shade and cooling water spraying over the customers. We ordered a drink and enjoyed the shade so much that we ordered an early lunch. It was just pizza but did the job.

Feeling much refreshed we walked up to Casino Square and taking advantage of the lift system we avoided a steep climb, however this was more by accident than planning and I am not sure I could find the lifts again. You can go into the entrance of the Casino to have a look around but to enter the actual gambling rooms you need to pay and there is a strict dress code, I think you may also need some form of identification.

We window shopped, people watched and my husband drooled over the cars. Now as I said cars are not my thing, if it can get me from A to B and is a nice colour that will do. For those who are interested the best car we saw was a Bugatti Chiron, not just 1 or 2 but 3!! Apparently the base price for one of these is
$3 million.

We returned to VSM, this time sitting on a quiet train and after cleaning up we returned to the Club de la Mer at the Darse port for dinner. We had no reservations and so went early - about 7pm - we were seated straight away and the restaurant remained empty till about 7.45pm. Despite the lack of other diners the atmosphere was lively due to the staff who were friendly and were enjoying having a chat. After we arrived they turned away several other people so they must have been fully booked later. We both has sword fish and shared a tarte tatin. It was delicious.

We walked back to VSM to our cafe for our final cup of tea.

Day 9

We went home!
Chris21 is offline  
Aug 27th, 2019, 02:17 AM
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April is a lovely time to visit. We visited at Easter once, warm days but cooler in the evenings. Enjoy your trip.
Chris21 is offline  
Aug 27th, 2019, 06:31 PM
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Thanks Chris 21, great report. I was considering stay at VSM next year, but your problems with the busses is making me reconsider. Anyway, I'm glad you had a good trip.
pgtraveler is offline  
Aug 28th, 2019, 05:24 AM
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British Caicos, we stayed ffive nights in Nice and two in VFM and found that to be perfect for us. Busses to and VFM are definitely a pain. So many just don’t even stop as they are too full. No problem taking the early morning bus to the airport though but we did have to transfer in Nice,
Micheline is offline  
Aug 31st, 2019, 06:43 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 6,244
Great report. Useful information. We’ll be there in the beginning of Nov. and hope the weather is
somewhat warm enough to be outside.
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