Help with French Riviera

Old Jun 30th, 2008, 08:57 AM
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Help with French Riviera

My husband and I are considering a trip to France in mid September. We would stay 4 or 5 days in Paris and then travel to the French Riviera and fly home from Nice. I'd like some recommendations about which town we should stay in on the coast. We are in our early 30s and I will be about 5 months pregnant.

Easy beach access is very important to us, but we don't care if the beaches are pebbles - we're used to that after traveling to Greece and Italy during the past two years.

We'd also like to be able to stroll around a town in the evenings and have a variety of restaurant options. We'll probably rent a car or take the bus to visit several towns while we're there.

Any suggestions on the best town to base ourselves in?

Also, is flying the best way to get from Paris to Nice? How long would the train take?

Thanks for the help!
cjsg is offline  
Old Jun 30th, 2008, 09:11 AM
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Not sure that I can offer any specifics about Nice as I will be visiting for the first time the end of September for 1 week and will use Nice as my base. It appears that with only 1 week Nice would be an ideal place to be based as there are plenty to see and do from there. From my research, especially from reading quite a number of threads here on Fodor, Nice would be a great base for several day trips via train or bus i.e., Eze, Antibes, which is a short 20-minute train ride from Nice and Villefranche to name a few. I imagine since you will be renting a car, you can visit more of the surrounding area. I’m renting an apartment which I found through rivierapebbles.

Have a great trip
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Old Jun 30th, 2008, 09:20 AM
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I have really enjoyed our stays in Nice and will recommend this city highly. Excellent restaurants, nice atmosphere, great hotel options, great sights, nice beaches and waterfront boarwalk. It also has great public transportation system. The only thing about Nice that was horrendous is the parking. I recommend you use public transport as much as you can and that rent a car for a day for day trips. The parking fees are outrageous and often the hotel discount is not that great to compensate. I believe train travel Paris-Nice is convenient and easy.
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Old Jun 30th, 2008, 09:21 AM
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My daughter and I spent three nights in Nice in May 2006. It was lovely, and a great base from which to explore.

Probably too much information, but here are my notes:

"Our Hotel le Grimaldi ( 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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Old Jun 30th, 2008, 09:23 AM
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Nice is a great transportation center. You can do without a car and take busses or trains both directions along the coast and north back into the mountains. Lots of good restaurants and the interesting Nicoise cuisine.

However, Nice is a city albeit a charming, laid-back one. You might want something smaller, especially after Paris. Villefrance is just east of Nice, a smallish town with a nice sandy beach. And close to those transportation options in Nice.

I'm sure there will be more suggestions from others more familiar with all the options along the Cote d'Azur.
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Old Jun 30th, 2008, 03:07 PM
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We just got back home yesterday from a 10 day Provence-Cote-d'Azure-Paris trip.

We spent the beach portion of our trip at the Hotel Mimosas in Juan-Les-Pins and couldn't have been more pleased.

Our room was on the 3rd floor and had a small terrace but not one of the large ones we viewed on the 2nd floor which were large enough for dining on. At 115 euros per night though, we were more than satisfied with it. The double bed was a true double, rather than 2 twins squished together, and was very comfortable.

Beach access was very important to us and is a convenient 10-minute walk away. It was clean and sandy. Aside from the beach though, the hotel has a fabulous pool, which is where we ended most evenings before dinner. Don't know about the restaurant options in Juan-les-Pins (though there seemed to be lots of casual dining options on the beachfront) because we had a car and drove over to Antibes most nights, and San Remo one night.

At the end of our stay, it was a quick 30-minute drive to the Nice train station, where we dropped off the rental car and took the TGV to Paris (48 euro per person, booked online in advance), departed at 4:30pm, arrived there at 10:15pm.
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Old Jul 9th, 2008, 10:40 AM
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Nice is nice!
Hub and I stayed there for a week and used it as a base for train travel to Avignon and Arles. Took guided fast day tour to Monaco, Cannes, St. Paul de Vence, Eze and Cannes. We returned to some of those places by train as well. Very easy to get around.
In Nice proper, we loved the area around the flower market for food and strolling.
Good thing you don't mind pebbles-Nice's beach is stones!
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Old Jul 9th, 2008, 11:18 AM
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We spent the beach portion of our trip at the Hotel Mimosas in Juan-Les-Pins and couldn't have been more pleased.

We stayed at des Mimosas in 2004. We loved the place, except we didn't think the beds or pillows were very comfortable (if they've been upgraded, then it would be perfect). You can read reviews on TripAdvisor. The pool is wonderful, as are the grounds. Every day we would get up late, pick up pastries and fruit at a local store (5 minute walk) and eat our own "breakfast" -- I would get a capuccino from the front desk. We spent our days at the lovely pool, then late afternoon, we'd dress and go somewhere - we visited Juans les Pins, Antibes, Monte Carlo, Cannes, and St. Tropez (a much longer drive) -- we obviously had a car). On the way back to Nice airport, we took a detour to the small hill town of Biot and loved that, too!

I would go back to Juans les Pins/Antibes in a minute - loved it. It's a great "beach town" -- nice beach, very lively center in the evenings. We were with three kids - then aged, 17, 19 and 20 - but there were couples and families and groups of men and women at the hotel. It's a very "comfortable" hotel - not 5* - more like a big inn. There are pictures on TripAdvisor that give you an excellent idea of what it's like. It's in a quiet residential area which is nice.
Old Jul 9th, 2008, 11:56 AM
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Other than our last night on the Côte d'Azur when we stayed in a hotel in Nice (near the airport for a very early flight home), we spent our week in St. Jean Cap Ferrat (in an apartment). As beautiful as it was, I'm not sure I'd recommend it for someone in your condition - even though the walk to the beach was only 10 minutes or so, it was all downhill (and then all uphill going back). Villefranch sur Mer has gotten a lot of recommendations from Fodorites, but I'm not sure there's much of a beach. Beaulieu sur Mer is also great (just east of St. Jean Cap Ferrat), as is Antibes.

Getting to Nice from Paris - we took the TGV. I doubt it takes much more time (if any) than by air, and it's a nice trip.

Have a great trip!

knoxvillecouple is offline  
Old Jul 9th, 2008, 11:58 AM
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Beaulieu sur Mer is also great (just east of St. Jean Cap Ferrat)

And there's a McDonald's there, right on the beach - what more could you ask
Old Jul 9th, 2008, 01:42 PM
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We were in Nice last September, and loved it. As for a pleasant beach town, I would recommend Sainte Maxime. We spent a few nights here, and it was just perfect - very nice beaches, good restaurants, not as crowded as St Tropez.
Nice itself has a nice enough beach, even though it's pebbles. There is so much to see and do in Nice and the surrounding area. Sainte Maxime is close to St. Tropez, and has long stretches of wide, sandy beach.
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Old Jul 11th, 2008, 02:31 AM
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Beaulieu sur Mer is also great (just east of St. Jean Cap Ferrat)

And there's a McDonald's there, right on the beach - what more could you ask

Yes, Beaulieu is great but THERE IS NO MC DONALD's right on the beach. Fortunatly for us...
Eze is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2008, 08:47 AM
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I knew we had eaten at one (hard to admit, but true), but I did have the town wrong -- it was (note the past tense?) Cagnes-sur-Mer.

From the Riviera Times:

"McDonalds to be McDemolished

Mayor in Cagnes-sur-Mer wants beach back

The McDonalds fast food restaurant situated on the beach at Cagnes-sur-Mer was named as illegal yesterday and is to be demolished.

The ruling, which was ordered by a magistrate, comes after eight years of investigation in to why the American giant was allowed in the first place. In 1996, when the restaurant was originally built, the old Mayor Madame Sauvaigo was still in office. Since the current Mayor Louis Nègre came in to power, problems have arisen, the main being that the premises took up 450 square metres of beach.

Unless the ruling is overturned, the ‘golden arches’ will be gone in a matter of weeks."

Old Sep 3rd, 2008, 05:47 PM
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