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Carnival ~ Carnaval! Nice & French Riviera in Feb (Menton, Eze, Antibes)

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Mar 19th, 2016, 12:39 PM
  #41
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My pictures of Cimiez Monastery and Gardens, Matisse Museum, Archeological Museum and Les Amoureux

https://niceisnicefeb2016.shutterfly.com/pictures/334
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Mar 20th, 2016, 11:33 AM
  #42
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FRIDAY - VENTIMIGLIA (VENTIMILLE)

Quite a bit of rain was forecast to approach from the Atlantic coast today. We had nothing planned for the day but were feeling spontaneous. We wouldn’t go west towards the rain for any of the flower festivals we had read about, so we decided to head as far east as the train would take us: into Italy.

Ventimiglia is the Italian border town which is the last stop on the regional train coastal route. Not many people necessarily recommend going there – at least I don’t believe it would be at the top of the list from Nice - but today was the day of the famous Friday Market so why not! I can always visit a market! It was huge, spread out along the Mediterranean, and had everything from pasta and sausage to scarves and leather gloves…and everything in between as expected! (So now you got an idea of what I bought!) Typical European market, not necessarily a bargain, but fun and bigger than most I have seen. If I would be staying in Nice and going to Ventimiglia (Ventimille in French), I would do so on a Friday because why not hit the market?! We loved seeing all the locals on the train with their shopping/utility carts! There are some serious French shoppers out there – don’t get in their way! We wandered around the outdoor sections, ignored all else to do in that town, hit the indoor vegetable market, bought cannoli – tasty but too bad it was on the soggy side (didn’t I just say this was Italy?! What’s up with the mediocre cannoli!), and just strolled and relaxed. The old town perched on the hill across the river was colorful and a beautiful backdrop to one end of the market. We had a late pasta lunch at an average (ie touristy) place on the water (sawdust bread?! Really??! In Italy??!!! Geez!) and headed back to “Nizza”.

So I’ll tell you about the place I wanted to go to for lunch but didn’t, because supposedly (1) it closes at 2:30 to reopen at dinnertime, and we were hungry at 3:00 (of course) and (2) I read that it’sa so popular that you MUST have reservations – not good for our spur-of-the moment trip. Pasta and Basta in the Old Town serving up enormous portions of all fresh pasta. Great Tripadvisor reviews. If anyone tries it, let me know!
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Mar 20th, 2016, 02:10 PM
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Hi Kwren, Have so enjoyed your trip report. My husband and I have a BA companion ticket we have to use by the start date of March 6, 2017 (which means in order to use it, we have to book now). After reading your report we are thinking about going to Nice for Carnaval. We used to live in New Orleans, so it would be interesting to experience it somewhere else. I looked at the dates for 2017 and they are February 10-26. We would only go for 4-5 days, 6 nights, so in your opinion, is it better to go the first w/e or the next? I looked at the schedule for this year and it looks like the second week is the same as the first. Is that correct?
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Mar 20th, 2016, 03:59 PM
  #44
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Hi topeater - thanks for the compliment. It's so nice to write a trip report and influence someone to go to that place!!! That is what keeps me going with my trip reports!

You are right that most of the events in Nice were repeated throughout the 2 weeks. The Corso illumine (Nighttime parade) was the parade I would recommend because it was unlike anything I have ever witnessed. The daytime Flower Parade (Bataille de Fleurs) was also beautiful. If you go to the Flower Parade and pay for seats, I would recommend sitting lower down in the stands because people were catching and leaving with full armloads of flowers. We sat up high and it was too far for the flowers to reach us. I would have loved to take an armload of flowers back to the hotel with us. If you pay for a standing spot, get there early or you will be behind the crowds.

If you like this sort of thing, there is a lunch on the large ferris wheel (this year it was on the last Friday - called Vira la Roda) that we didn't hear about until too late. It just sounded like something that we would have enjoyed, but in the end, it was rained out. I also think I would have liked to see, if it hadn't been rained out that is, the closing festivities and burning of the main 2 floats. That was supposed to happen the last night, a Sunday, so maybe wouldn't fit into your schedule.

Lou Queernaval was fun, but not as much of a parade as any of the others because I think there were 2 or 3 floats which came out into Place Massena and just sat there, with the frenzy around them, so I wouldn't plan around it. If you are there when it happens to occur, it's free so why not go.

I would definitely make sure that my trip coincided with the Lemon Festival in Menton if at all possible and plan to go at least for the Corso de Fruits (Fruit Parade). I can't find the dates for 2017 yet, but if I do, I'll put them here. If you are on Facebook, the page I watched was called Fête du Citron - Menton. It did seem that the 2 celebrations coincided pretty well though so if you need to book before the dates are released, you will probably be safe.

You can buy tickets for all these events in advance. I was told that if they are rained out, you get your money back, but I do know that one parade was held in the rain so if you buy in advance, take ponchos!

So to decide, I would try to look at the calendars for both Nice and Menton. I would recommend being there for these 3 events - Night Parade, Flower Parade and Lemon Festival Parade in Menton, at a minimum and choose your dates to coincide with them. The Fruit Parades were on Sundays, but I don't know if that will be the same schedule in 2017.

I'm excited for you! It was So. Much. Fun! I'm happy to answer any other questions!
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Mar 22nd, 2016, 09:53 AM
  #45
 
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Thanks Kwren. That information is so helpful. I love the idea of catching an armful of flowers! So much better than cheap beads that we work so hard to catch in New Orleans.

Will keep an eye on the schedule for Lemon Festival.

I was also wondering about your statement regarding staying at the hotel rather than an apartment. Have you stayed at apartments before? Seems like a hotel during a major festival might be more helpful than navigating the festivities alone. Any thoughts?

Again, thanks for all the info.
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Mar 22nd, 2016, 03:15 PM
  #46
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Hi topeater. We have stayed in apartments, have rented houses, as well as staying in hotels on various vacations. I'm sure you have read the pros and cons for all here on Fodors - there are many strong opinions on the subject! I don't believe that there is a one size fits all solution to this question though.

We loved being in a hotel for this trip. You read how convenient this particular hotel was to everything we needed. I found myself asking the people at the desk something almost every day, and we loved the huge breakfast which usually held us until dinner time. Could we have stayed in an apartment? Absolutely! I researched both hotels and apartments to start with and finally found a great rate for this hotel. There was an excellent summer sale which helped too! We didn't have any information on how to navigate all the events though so a hotel was easier for that reason too. You, on the other hand, have a good basis from which to start so you could probably get away with either. You should do whatever feels the most comfortable for you.

Another tip for the Flower Parade. Our exchange student bought the tickets only about a week in advance and there were only seats left in the top couple of rows left online. No good for flower catching! There was also a ticket booth selling tickets that day. I'm imagining that they hold a certain number of tickets to sell that day - but I have no idea if those seats would have been any better than what we got online. I would probably recommend buying seats in advance since you will probably have already decided what to see and when to see it. I had definitely wanted to buy in advance because we knew when we were going to see which parades, but our student wanted to wait, so that's what we did. I wouldn't have known to sit down low for the Flower Parade though. (If you don't care about catching flowers, then it wouldn't matter, but for me, I felt like we missed out on some of the fun.)

There other thing is that we sat opposite the opera house. The Mayor of Nice was sitting down below us, and some initial festivities and announcements went on directly in front of our bleachers. There were tons of flowers being thrown at our bleachers, some by the Mayor himself. I have no idea if as many were thrown to other spectators, and don't know if the Mayor always sits in that spot from year to year. We were in the perfect set of bleachers!

If you were only going to go to two parades, I will give my opinion. I would recommend the Illuminated Carnaval Parade in Nice because you'll never see anything like that again and the Fruit Parade in Menton. For 3, add the Flower Parade - that one had some of the same floats as the first, but much was different. We saw 4 and I loved them all, but DH thought 3 would have been OK. (The 4th was the Lou Queernaval)

I'm happy to help!
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Mar 25th, 2016, 08:42 AM
  #47
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SATURDAY - AVIGNON

This rainy Saturday we headed by TGV to meet up with our other French student and his family whom we had hosted during the 4 summers from 1999 – 2002. Points of note in Avignon: the train station, intended to evoke the shape of an upturned boat, the cell phone battery charging stations there - plug in and pedal like crazy! - the city walls, Old Town, Palais des Papes, and the lamb curry and orange soufflé glacée dessert at the Lou Mistrau restaurant in the Place de l’Horloge near the palace. Yes, I always seem to come back to the food!

If going by TGV, change trains at the Avignon TGV station and continue on to Avignon Centre for not much more in price. From there it’s a straight shot north to the Palais des Papes, a bit of a hike but still walking distance. We took a taxi, however, since it was raining and it was fun winding through the narrow streets of the Old Town to reach our destination…and my “French son”! Hard to believe we had hosted him the first time when he was 14, went to his wedding, and now he is 31 with 3 kids. If you have never hosted a French exchange student, it’s very enriching and wonderful to have that international connection. Ask me how! It’s only for 20 days in July! (Shameless plug!)

Anyway, if you are going to the Palais des Papes you can pay for that separately or get a discount if you pay for both the Palais and the ‘Pont d’Avignon’, yup – like the song. We skipped the bridge (no pun intended). Rain!
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Mar 25th, 2016, 09:45 AM
  #48
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Here are a dozen pictures of the Ventimiglia markets

https://niceisnicefeb2016.shutterfly.com/pictures/397

And our quick trip to Avignon

https://niceisnicefeb2016.shutterfly.com/pictures/412
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Mar 25th, 2016, 02:25 PM
  #49
 
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I'm drooling over your pictures at the market!

Thanks for all the info regarding the different parades. Sounds like so much fun. Will definitely get tickets ahead of time.
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Mar 25th, 2016, 03:08 PM
  #50
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I'm getting close to the end topeater (!) - our favorite restaurants are yet to come!
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Mar 26th, 2016, 09:06 AM
  #51
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1st of 3 sets of pictures of Menton and the Lemon Festival and Vieille Ville:

https://niceisnicefeb2016.shutterfly.com/pictures/464
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Mar 26th, 2016, 10:14 AM
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WOW! When you said lemon festival, I had no idea. How incredible and fun.
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Mar 27th, 2016, 09:28 AM
  #53
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Vieille Ville Menton

https://niceisnicefeb2016.shutterfly.com/pictures/532
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Mar 27th, 2016, 06:01 PM
  #54
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Probably my favorite set of pictures - the fruit parade!

https://niceisnicefeb2016.shutterfly.com/pictures/594
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Mar 27th, 2016, 06:33 PM
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And probably my favorite set of pictures - the Fruit Parade!

https://niceisnicefeb2016.shutterfly.com/pictures/594
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Mar 28th, 2016, 02:19 PM
  #56
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SUNDAY - MENTON – CORSO DE FRUIT (FRUIT PARADE)

[I already posted the pictures for this section - see above post.]

All the closing Carnaval events in Nice were canceled due to rain today. (The Mediterranean dip, the socca party – whatever that was supposed to be, eat socca non-stop for 2 hours? – the burning of the 2 main floats of the parades – can’t burn wet floats I suppose but wouldn’t that have been a cool sight! and the fireworks), but luckily we had already bought tickets to the Fruit Parade in Menton today. Took the train to Menton, had an apero at a seaside café while watching the rough surf, and found our seats for the festivities. I have to say that this was my favorite parade and it was especially good sitting across from the Opera House because that’s where the Mayor was sitting and there was some extra starting entertainment in front of us!

The parade started with an enormous blast of colorful streamers and confetti right in front of us. Then huge floats all covered with lemons and oranges. Amazing!

Best one? The big lemon-covered Fiat! That was particularly funny because last year I bought a Fiat 500L and ended up retaining a Lemon Law lawyer to get all my money back, which I did accomplish. Maybe you saw my thread about this issue back then. Seeing a giant Fiat covered with lemons served as my world-wide acknowledgement that my Fiat really WAS a lemon! My gosh – they even advertise it. I laughed till I cried!

Fix It Again Tony!

OK let’s get serious!

TIPS: If you are in Menton for the Lemon Festival and leaving for Nice when the crowds leave, (or if you are just exploring the Old Town) you can take the short seaside walk east to the next train station, Menton-Garavan. It was a nice walk along the shore past the boats toward Italy. The train was empty for the first two minutes of the trip, but standing room only once we arrived at the main Menton station and crowds surged in. We got that tip from a fellow passenger one day on the train and we used that station twice to return to Nice, both times getting on to an empty train. They also recommended when going to Menton from Nice, getting off at Carnoles, the station one stop before Menton and taking the pleasant walk along the sea to Menton. We didn’t do that because DH wasn’t feeling that well, but we did watch them get off to do so. Next time!

If you are walking from Menton Centre to the Menton-Garavan station to return to Nice, there are two roads which go off the main drag to the left to get to the station, easily seen on a map. At the corner of the first left street to the station is a tiny bar called the Café Excelsior. If they have their huge umbrella up over the few tiny tables, it’s hard to see the sign, but it’s there. Their hot chocolate was hot and thick like a dessert and amazing. If you have ever had the hot chocolate at Angelina’s in Paris, it was somewhat along those lines. Even better – a very low price! The perfect place to wait for the train as it was less than 5 minutes to the station. Don’t forget to validate your tickets before getting on the train! We did forget and were about to jump off to do so, but the conductor was nice and validated them for us. Whew!
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Mar 28th, 2016, 03:03 PM
  #57
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MONDAY – FLEA MARKET AND PASSE-PLAT

We hung around Nice and mostly shopped today. Galeries Lafayette was a convenient 1 block away from our hotel (!), then we had a Salade Niçoise for lunch – had to do that at least once while in Nice, n’est-ce pas? We watched the Carnaval stands in Place Massena being dismantled for a while then headed off for Old Town and the Cours Saleya, usually the flower market, which we discovered transforms into a huge flea market every Monday. I fell in love with an antique dish suspended by a ring of golden cherubs. It cost a mere 250 Euros so presumably that item is still in Nice. We did notice a heavy police presence here as well as most places we went during this trip due to the recent events in Paris. The French are being especially cautious when there are large crowds of people, but we never felt threatened or in any danger while there.

Dinner was the highlight of the day. We decided to go to Nice’s #1 rated Tripadvisor restaurant tonight. Well worth the trip back to the port and not too expensive. French or English menus are hand-written on large blackboards which are propped up at your table. We asked for one of each! My seared tuna was artfully presented in a way I’ve never seen before along with a scrumptious and smooth sweet potato puree. Heaven! There were about 8 tables, 1 waiter and 1 chef. And everything ran smoothly. They reserve 1 party per table for the entire evening and don’t rush you out which was nice. Got another round of free after dinner drinks to boot. I could get used to this! Reserve in advance and definitely give it a try! It was delicious!

And today's pictures:

https://niceisnicefeb2016.shutterfly.com/pictures/689
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Mar 28th, 2016, 03:58 PM
  #58
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Still love reading all this, thank you! I remember your Fiat fiasco, so can only imagine how funny it would be to see one with lemons all over it, lol! That is just too funny
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Mar 28th, 2016, 04:37 PM
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Thanks mms! I'm still laughing! Almost made it worth having that Fiat!
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Mar 28th, 2016, 04:46 PM
  #60
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kwren--You should take a copy of the lemon fiat float picture to the fiat dealership
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