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Ideal itinerary for 8 days in French Riviera with Nice as a home base.

Ideal itinerary for 8 days in French Riviera with Nice as a home base.

Mar 3rd, 2007, 09:46 AM
  #1  
Lev
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Join Date: Oct 2003
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Ideal itinerary for 8 days in French Riviera with Nice as a home base.

Hi,
I am planning my trip to Cote d’Azur from May 1-8.
Nice will be my home base and I will have 8 full days to explore Cote d’Azur.
I decided not to rent a car and use public transportation out of Nice.
Here is what I am thinking to cover:
Day 1-2: Nice (including Chagall Museum. Matisse museum will be still closed in May);
Day 3: Monaco;
Day 4: Cannes;
Day 5: Antibes and St..Paul;
Day 6: Hill towns near Venice;
Day 7: Villefranche –Sur- Mer and Cap Ferrat;
Day 8: St-Tropez.

Did I miss anything significant? Can some places be combined in one day?
Would you recommend taking organized tours?
Would you recommend taking a boat to Monaco and St-Tropez as an alternative to train/bus?
Is water warm enough in the beginning of Mat to swim in the sea?
Thanks. Lev.
Lev is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2007, 09:59 AM
  #2  
 
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The itinerary looks pretty good and encompassing of sites that are relatively easy to acess via public transport (Day 6 refers to St. Paul de Vence, right?).

Couple of pointers:
Eze is another popular daytrip from Nice.

I would combine days 3 and 7 and days 4 and 5.

I absolutely love Nice and St. Tropez, so I recommend doing those first in case you want to go back you would have days ahead of you to do it.

In Monaco, go straight to the Cathedral/Royal Palace area. Otherwise, you will be dissapointed (and discourage) of the "concrete jungle" that apppears to be Monaco. If you explore that area first, Monaco will "sit" a lot better with you.

Try the pizza at La Coupoule in Nice.

Do mot miss Monday morning open market at Cours Saleya in Nice.

Have fun! The French Riviera is so amazing and unique! I read about posters going back again and again to Paris and I have to think if they could only be a little more adventurous with France!
Viajero2 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2007, 10:22 AM
  #3  
 
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First of all, I would rent a car for a few days. The Nice Hinterland is extremly interesting & scenic to explore, and you can really only get there by car.

I'm not a big fan of Monaco - too much concrete & congestion. Unless you want to spend a lot of time at the Casino & shop in all the luxury boutiques, I wouldn't think it would take an entire day. Same with Cannes, unless you want to spend some time sunning on the beach.

Venice is in Italy, so I'll assume you mean Vence. St Paul IS a hill town near Vence, so I don't understand why you would make two excursions to this region. It's also an area that you will enjoy a lot more by taking a car than by relying on infrequent public transportation. There are several lovely drives to take in the area immediatly around Vence, if you have a car.

Villefranche sur Mer is a 2 hr visit, IMO. I would take the train there for dinner one night, and explore it before dinner. There are some lovely waterfront restaurats in Villefranche - and none in Nice (except for the beach consessions). Saturday is the only day that there is a late train back to Nice - but you can always take a taxi back.

I'm pretty sure there are boats to St Tropez, but if you hve a car, I would drive there. The freeway to St Tropez is quite scenic, and there are also some very cute villages close by which are worth exploring (Gassin, Ramatuelle, Grimaud). St Tropez gets too crowded for me between 11:30am & 4:30pm, so I would get there before 9:00(leave Nice at 7 or 7:30), explore the cute hill villages around St Trop mid-day, and then return to St Trop if you did not see enough in the morning.

I have a 20+ page itinerary for the Cote d'Azur & Provence that I've sent to over 800 people on this travel forum. E-mail me at [email protected] if you want a copy. It describes ventures into the Nice Hinterland, around Vence, St Tropez, etc. in much more detail.

Stu Dudley
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Mar 3rd, 2007, 10:31 AM
  #4  
 
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Here's a clarification on Viejaro's post.

The Monday morning market on the Cours is an antique & flea market. On other days, it is a food market. On Mondays, almost all shops in Old Nice will be closed.

If my calculations are correct, Day 6 is a Sunday and many shops will be closed then - which is a good day to tour the hill villages around Vence (like you planned). Shops in St Paul & Gourdon will be open then, and perhaps some shops in Vence & Tourretes will be open also.

Stu Dudley
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Mar 3rd, 2007, 03:38 PM
  #5  
Lev
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Thank you, Stu for your 20+ page itinerary for the Cote d'Azur & Provence.
Lev.
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Mar 3rd, 2007, 04:59 PM
  #6  
 
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To get into the mountains north of Nice without a car, take the Train des Pignes. It's a small narrow-gauge train that leaves from the Gare du Sud and climbs up into the hills. Entrevaux makes a good turn-around stop.

I'd try to see Eze also.
Mimar is offline  
Mar 4th, 2007, 07:51 AM
  #7  
Lev
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Viajero2 and Mimar mentioned Eze as a popular day trip destination from Nice.
Is it Eze-le-Village - the hill town or Eze-Bord-de-Mer - a beach resort?
Lev is offline  
Mar 4th, 2007, 07:59 AM
  #8  
 
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Eze Village, up high with magnificent views of the coast. You can get there by bus from Nice.
Mimar is offline  
Mar 4th, 2007, 08:25 AM
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My first choice would be to not stay in Nice, a large city. How about Juan-les-Pins?, a nice town about 10 minutes by train from Nice. Nice's beaches are all stones, Juan is nice sand.

You are also butting up against the Cannes film festival. There's not much more there than the festival and very expensive shops.

StuDudley is correct, you will really want to rent a car. You might think of going to Grasse if you're headed to St. Paul de Vence. Sort of the perfume center (producer) of France.

If you're ambitious you can do the above and a quick trip to Monaco. Ditto on what Stu said about Monaco.

Given some of the reccomendations condensing where you want to go, you might think of a home base further west and pick up a bit of Provence at the same time.

I'll be visiting most of the same places around 18 May. I'm setting up HQ in Aix-en Provence, and can easily travel by car to all the places you mentioned in a couple of non-hurried days. I found a flat for 2 for a nice price in the old town.

Driving in that part of France is not difficult, comparable to the U.S., except the drivers are more alert (competent) than U.S. drivers. Check out www.viamichelin.com for help.
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Mar 4th, 2007, 08:55 AM
  #10  
MaureenB
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My daughter and I loved our stay in Nice last May. There are so many day-trips to make from there, and Nice itself was charming. Here's my trip report:

"Nice, three nights in May, 2006

We arrived in Nice in the early afternoon on Friday, via train from Santa Margherita Ligure. Our Hotel le Grimaldi (http://www.le-grimaldi.com/) was a short cab ride from the train station, 10 EUR 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 wi-fi in the lobby, I think for a fee.)

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

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.


It's an easy walk to the train station (w/o luggage) from Le Grimaldi, and a slightly longer walk to the bus station. Easy walk of a few blocks to the grand promenade at seaside, just past the pedestrian zone. Also not far walking to Vieux Nice. The neighborhood felt perfectly safe, and we walked back to the hotel late each night.

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 7 p.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.) We didn't stop to see the Greek Villa, but it's also on that same bus route, near the Ephrussi. You can easily catch the #81 for your return trip to Nice, at any stop along the road.

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 completely 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 four 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."
>-

 
Mar 5th, 2007, 08:05 AM
  #11  
Lev
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 204
Thank you, MaureenB
for your very detailed trip report.
May seems to be a good month for Cote d'Azur.
Did you swim in the sea or water was too cold? We'll be in the Nice area from May 1 to May 8.
Lev.
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Mar 5th, 2007, 09:46 AM
  #12  
 
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I'm going for 4.5 days in July.

I've rented cars down there before but stayed in Nice hotels meaning I paid for the parking.

But looking up some apartment rentals, I see places with free parking but they're way away from the cities.

So I gather residential area so you'd have to hike or drive to get to stores, restaurants, etc.

Anyone find a good option for parking a car for a week?
scrb is offline  
Mar 5th, 2007, 10:49 AM
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Not picking a fight or anything, but I'm afraid I must disagree with Rastaguy about Juan les Pins. I found it charmless and tacky. Just about the only place in the Cote d'Azure I'd say that about. The beaches on the Cap d'Antibes nearby, on the other hand, are nice.
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Mar 5th, 2007, 11:11 AM
  #14  
 
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Hi Lev,

I visited several years ago for 5 days basing in Cannes. I did not care at all for Cannes, but the very old part of town was somewhat interesting. The best thing we did in Cannes was take a boat over to Ille St. Margherite, the island with the prison where Dumas' "Man in the Iron Mask" was based.

I might suggest a short visit to Grasse to tour the Fragonard perfume company. Very interesting and lovely fragrances. You could combine it with your St. Paul du Vence day.

Have fun!
Dayle is offline  
Mar 5th, 2007, 01:10 PM
  #15  
Lev
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Thank you, Dayle.
Very useful info on Cannes and suggestion to combine a trip to St. Paul du Vence with Grasse.
I have another question that no one answered so far... It is Cote d'Azur, Miditerranean Sea. Did anyone go to beach and swim in the beginning of May or water was too cold to swim?
Lev.
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Mar 5th, 2007, 02:29 PM
  #16  
 
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There will be people on the beach and in the water, but yes, the water will be cold.
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Mar 6th, 2007, 08:34 PM
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Cimbrone.... Who knows? The Cap might be better, I'm going to check it out on my May visit. I hope you have it nailed, because I will definitely visit there.

The point I was trying to make is "look around and see if there's something else in the area than a large city".

I did email Stu D after my last post and received some very helpful information, at least for me.

I was 'attacked' by more than 5 gypsy families while in Nice, and that turned me off. Nothing like Mom holding your finger in a death grip while the children are trying to get anything they can. In Southern France, I have learned to see what's coming and avoid it, as this was a painful lesson learned. Nothing stolen, Just a very sore hand for many days.

I've always used a Le Sport Sac, and the 5 zippered storage compartments keep most folks at bay.

I liked Juan for the nightly stroll, which seems to be de rigeur. Kind of like Van Morrison's song..."the girls go by, dressed up for each other".
Rastaguytoday is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 04:12 AM
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Hi Rastaguy...yes, Juan is a happening place in the evening. Just a little too much neon, not enough mediterranean architecture for me. It was from there that I rented a bicycle and rode around the Cap d'Antibes and saw the Chapel of Garoupe (lovely) and the villas of the ultra-wealthy. The Fitzgerald-Hemingway-Picasso set used to vacation there at the home of their friends the Murphys.

Anyway, if you're looking to avoid Nice, Antibes is a better town, in my opinion, than Juan. Much more mediterranean charm. Nice church and old town. Good markets.
Cimbrone is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 04:24 AM
  #19  
 
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It all depends on your point of view; my kids love Juan les Pins, and we like the restaurants on the beach there. Boutiques are open all night too.
Antibes has much more charm though.

The path along the Cap d'Antibes, starting at Plage de la Garoupe, is nice to walk.

I wouldn't do St Paul de Vence and Antibes on the same day. Antibes and Cannes in a day would be better if you travel by train.
Tulips is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 04:49 AM
  #20  
 
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Don't miss Eze, which is magnificent There is a hotel/resto at the top and the food is wonderful; the view magnificent.
I also recommend the Peynet museum in Antibes...most people go to the Picasso, which is really good but the Peynet is very special. The Russian church is interesting in Nice as is the Negresco Hotel,if they still allow tourists to visit. The Negresco has a Baccarat chandelier that is one of two or three made in the world. Juan is a seaside resort and not very interesting, in my opinion, other than the fact that it is a seaside resort. I did not care much for Cannes but found it worth a short visit. I would visit the aquarium in Monocco and maybe Grace's tomb in the cathedral. St. Paul de Vence is definitely worth a visit. Have lunch outside in the Colombe d'Or...famous art works are there...Picasso sculpture,etc.
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