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Nice to??? Riviera/Provence?? 3 Nights - Need Advice Please

Nice to??? Riviera/Provence?? 3 Nights - Need Advice Please

Old Jun 16th, 2006, 09:52 PM
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Nice to??? Riviera/Provence?? 3 Nights - Need Advice Please

Hello!

My husband and I (mid 30's) arrive in Nice August Sunday morning disembarking from a week-long cruise to the Italian and French Rivieras.

We have three nights before we have to leave Nice to return to the states Wednesday morning.

We are inclined to rent a car and travel to Provence, but are also contemplating staying nearby and visiting perhaps Antibes or St. Tropez (St. Tropez is a 1-day port visit during our cruise.)

Our primary goals are experiencing new places, relaxing, dining, and enjoying our surroundings. We do not want to rush from place to place.

We are inclined to avoid staying in Nice as we fear it is too large/commercial (skyscrapers, etc.) We have never been to Provence and would really like to visit this area....visit a market perhaps, enjoy beautiful scenery, visit an old church, relax poolside, outdoor lunches and dinners.....

We are thinking of renting a car (where? - Nice airport?) and driving to a nearby town. St.-Remy????

Fodors boards were SO helpful to us a few years ago when we planned a trip to Paris. We would love some guidance now as we are very overwhelmed and do not have as much time to enjoy research since we have a 1-year old baby (who incidentally will not be travelling with us.)

Please share your thoughts on our time frame, which we cannot change, our method of transportation, and your thoughts on which town to visit in Provence or if we should stay on the coast and visit a place such as St Tropez, Antibes, etc.

Our hotel budget is approximately $250/night, although we can go slightly higher.

Thank you so much for your time and insights!!
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Old Jun 17th, 2006, 08:21 AM
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Guess what? We just returned from 4 days in Provence and 4 days in the Riviera (after a week in Paris) and had an 8am flight out of Nice (on to London and San Francisco) We stayed at several 20-room places we liked very much, cost from $130 - 200. Depends on how much you want to drive and how early your Wed. morning flight out of Nice is. Since you will have seen Riviera, why not go to a hilltop town. Lovely one half hour out of Nice. Also several small towns in Provence, about 2 - 3 hour drive from Nice. Would be glad to give you more info. [email protected]. Calif. time. Busy most of Sunday Father's Day. Since August is very busy, I'd book now! I could not have done this without all the advise of Fodorites and will be happy to share with you.
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Old Jun 17th, 2006, 08:38 AM
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I think you have the wrong impression of Nice. It is a really charming mid-sized city, especially the Vieux Nice (old Nice) area. I didn't notice any skyscrapers.
There's a pedestrian zone of restaurants and shops that goes parallel to the waterside promenade. At night, the city has pretty lights on its hillside and the waterfront palm trees. We stayed there three nights recently, and loved it. Nice is a great location for day-trips, and we could have stayed a couple more nights to see more places from there. My trip report below gives details about the hotel we liked, Le Grimaldi, also names of restaurants and details of day-trips. We especially liked Antibes. And, in August, you can take a boat over to the island of Man in the Iron Mask, from Saint Raphael, I think (it wasn't running when we were there).

"Nice, three nights in May, 2006

We arrived in Nice in the early afternoon on Friday, via train from Santa Margherita Ligure. The trip had been long enough, and was complicated when the Italian train quit one stop before our mid-point destination of Genoa. The conductor walked through and told everyone we’d have to get off the train and catch another one. No explanation given, simply 'get off and go catch another train'.

We had been seated relatively comfortably, with my huge bag safely stashed away, and we only needed to go one more stop to reach Genoa. But, instead, we dragged our luggage off that train and onto the next one, as directed. It was packed, standing room only.

We all stood there about fifteen minutes on that train, when another conductor came in and said yet another train would leave first, and we should get off and catch that one. So we again dutifully picked up all our stuff, and hauled it onto the next standing-room-only train.

Finally, it departed and we arrived in Genoa. Luckily for us, our train out of Genoa was late, too, so we were able to catch it. (It reminded me of Rick Steves’ saying that Italy is like a tangled plate of spaghetti: it’s a mess, but we love it anyway.)

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."

 
Old Jun 17th, 2006, 09:26 AM
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First, before you get scolded by someone for terminology, the Riviera IS part of Provence and Nice is also part of the Riviera.

Second, I agree with Maureen, you have the wrong impression of Nice. While it is a city, it's very charming, has an active market, Cours Saleya, and it is not filled with skyscrapers. It does have some taller buildings (hotels mostly), but it's also got lots of charm, good restaurants, museums. What it doesn't have is a sandy beach. It's rocky.

Third, I think St. Tropez is much too far from Nice for 3 days.

There is no one right or wrong answer about where to stay. It's somewhat dependent on what you want to do and perhaps whether you want to rent a car. If you stay in Nice, you really don't need a car and can easily visit other towns along the coast like Antibes, Cap Ferrat, etc. by train---a much easier way to get around in August. There's also quite enough to keep you busy in Nice if, as you say, you don't want to go from place to place. There's lots of info on good hotels there right here.

If you'd rather be in a smaller town, Villefranche might be a good option. It's very close to Nice and the airport, also has a train station and you could stay there with or without a car. I've stayed at the Hotel Welcome but it doesn't have a pool. It's got charm but not fancy. There is a beach. There are a few other hotel options. http://www.welcomehotel.com/anglais/index.htm
Beaulieu & Cap Ferrat are nearby.
You MUST go to Villa Ephrussi in Beaulieu. http://www.culturespaces.com/www.cul...ussi/index.htm

If you don't care about being near the coast, there are many options within a half hour or so from Nice airport in the hills. You don't need to drive 2-3 hrs. away. Some of these towns are Tourettes sur Loup, Colles Sur Loup, Vence, St. Paul de Vence, Eze, Biot.

Le Hameau in St. Paul de Vence is a Fodorites' favorite. http://www.le-hameau.com/spw/lehamea...meau_00.htmlLa Colombe D'Or, also in St. Paul, is wonderful but perhaps above your budget. http://www.la-colombe-dor.com/ (website is very unimpressive)
Both have pools and lots of charm. La Colombe D'Or is quite famous, has an amazing art collection and is a destination restaurant. YOu may hear that St. Paul is very touristy, but both these places have a "separateness" that allows you to escape.

Le Mas du Soleil in Tourettes sur Loup is also very popular on this board and looks lovely. http://www.masdusoleil.com/
Vence is a market town and within a short drive of both St. Paul and Tourette sur Loup. The Bastide des Oliviers is in Vence and also supposed to be lovely.
http://www.bastideauxoliviers.com/welcome.htm

There's was a good post that I took note of about a year ago by poster annemg about MAS SAMARCANDE in the hills above Cannes. While most of us are not fans of Cannes, it's not that far from Nice, it has nice sandy beaches and is central to other towns and this place looks and sounds great. Here's the website
www.stpaulweb.com/samarcande
The only thing that would worry me is I know Golf Juan does have a lot of highrise apt. buildings and I don't know where this is relative to those.

provencebeyond.com is a good website for the area. The towns along the coast are known as alpes maritimes while the hill towns are called Haute- alpes.

Hope I haven't overloaded you with info. It's a lovely part of the world.



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Old Jun 17th, 2006, 11:05 AM
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<Our primary goals are experiencing new places, relaxing, dining, and enjoying our surroundings. We do not want to rush from place to place. >

The short answer to your question ;-) is stay in Nice and take the day trips you refer to (although it is a bit of a drive to St Tropez especially if you have already called in there.)

Go up to Monaco as well. Save Provence for another trip.
 
Old Jun 17th, 2006, 12:21 PM
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We were just in this area and I do realize that some consider the Riviera part of Provence, some do not.

We stayed in Le Hameau in St. Paul de Vence and I thought it was outstanding just as Underhill had said. However the poster sounded like they really wanted to get further away from Nice and perhaps experience the more quiet Luberon. How I wish I had another 3 days in any of these areas. Just depends on what the traveller wants.
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Old Jun 17th, 2006, 12:48 PM
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Agree on St Paul de Vence. Beautiful village and a good base. Also a good daytrip from Nice.

It occurs to me if the OP is planning this trip for THIS August, hotel arrangements need to be made ASAP!
 
Old Jun 17th, 2006, 06:34 PM
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Wow! Thank you so much for the wonderful replies!

We are not adverse to renting a car and driving about 2 or 3 hours for two nights. I think we will need to spend the night in Nice the 3rd night for our early am return.

Someone suggested Eze, which I came across last night and am going to investigate as a possibility. I think Eze might be a nice compromise...

I am also going to check out the suggestions everyone has offered, but please feel free to comment on some of the following, which I discovered late last night....

Mas des Carassins - St. Remy - seems to have wonderful reviews here at Fodor's

Crillon de la Brave

Chateau Alpilles - St. Remy

Domaine de Valmouriane - St. Remy

La Pérouse in Nice - seems to have good reviews, website photos are beautiful, but saw some "candid" traveler photos that looked nothing like website photos???

Mas Pomona - Cheval Blanc - great Fodor's reviews

Le Maison a Bournissac - outside St. Remy

Mas des Comtes de Provence - close to St. Remy

Villa Gallici - Aix en Provence

Le Mas des Herbes Blanches - Gordes

Chateau de Mazan

Le Hameau des Baux

Hotel Mas de l'Oulivie

Le Clos du Buis - Bonnieux

Le Mas d'Artigny

La Cabro d'Or - Les Baux

Bastide Saint-Antoine - Grasse - distant sea view???

Hostellerie du Valln de Valrugues - St. Remy

La Bastide de Saint Tropez -country, garden, pool

Hotel Residence de la Pinede - looks wonderful, but probably too expensive for our budget

Chateau de Valmer - near La Croix Valmer village - 100 km from Nice - 15 min. from St. Tropez - country, pool, garden

sister hotel on beach is La Pinede de Plage

Villa Belrose

Les Mas Candille - village of Mougins - 7kms from Cannes

Le Meridian Nice

Château de la Chèvre d´Or - Eze

Thank you again !!

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Old Jun 17th, 2006, 07:07 PM
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I will repost a caution that I mentioned earlier regarding Mas des Carassins.
Author: robjame
Date: 05/28/2006, 09:32 am
I am really going to sound like a grinch with this one. We just spent 6 nights at Mas des Carassins. We wonder if this Fodorite favourite is slipping a little? It opened in 2000 and, frankly, we felt it was in need of a little attention. It is a beautiful setting, well-appointed but there were some things that seemed to be neglected. The gardens were in need of some work, the walls of our room should have had a coat of paint during the off season and there were some repairs needed to the bathroom fixtures. They have opened a second hotel and the three gentlemen who attend the front desk were often absent (we were told they were at the other hotel – as were the dogs which was perhaps more disappointing).
The young lads who waited the tables were friendly and fun but were bumbling and inept. We ate there 3 times due to circumstances and one of the three gentlemen had to help out one night and he was visibly annoyed at the inconvenience.
One of the things that irks me at a top notch place is when they nickel and dime you. Need a map of the area? Sure - €6. Want to use the internet? Gladly - €4 per 15 minutes which is the highest I have seen in France. Local calls – they’re not free. In fact they, too, were bloody expensive.
Perhaps someone else has been there in the past 4 weeks to confirm or disprove our observations.



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Old Jun 17th, 2006, 07:08 PM
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Wow, with a list this long, you will do nothing besides research between now and leaving. Now forget the baby. Recently we spent time in St. Remy, Gordes, and St. Paul de Vence. I'd go to any of the 3 again in a heartbeat, any would make a good base. Have fun deciding
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Old Jun 17th, 2006, 07:12 PM
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St Remy for ease of getting in and out.

Gordes, just for amazing location.
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Old Jun 17th, 2006, 07:17 PM
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Yes, they did start another hotel, Mas de las Romarins in Gordes. We recently stayed there. It is just a few feet outside the walled city. The food there is very good. The pool in late May looked like it wasn't yet quite in order, I am sure it is now and has a lovely view of the village. Would definitely recommend it. We were not able to get a view room so we only paid 119 euro. Since it was too cold then to use the pool, that didn't matter to us. We totally enjoyed the place and a very nice lady staffs the front desk, can't remember her name at the moment.
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Old Jun 17th, 2006, 07:19 PM
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I meant "don't forget the baby" while you are having so much fun planning the trip.

Sebina
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Old Jun 17th, 2006, 07:21 PM
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That list is a bit intimidating. I can vouch for Le Meridien in Monaco but not Nice.

I can only rave about a wonderful hotel just south of St Tropez called Le Balli de Suffren.

http://www.avignon-et-provence.com/l...li-de-suffren/

Staying there might enable you to drive down the coast from Nice through some of the villages mentioned here and also take drives into parts of Provence.
 
Old Jun 21st, 2006, 08:51 PM
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Hello! It's me again (OP!) We are back at the drawing board! We originally thought Provence, then Saint Tropez, but now realize that those are just too far for our short stay and that we should stay somewhere closer to Nice. (We are still adverse to Nice.)

Antibes, Cap Ferrat, Beaulieu, Villfranche, Vence, St. Paul de Vence, and Eze all sound like good options. We really need to book a hotel though! We loved the Chevre d'Or, but at almost $700/night, it is out of our budget...

We are inclined to rent a car or taxi. We do not like the bus and feel that a car or taxis would be easier than the train. comments please.

We have Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. We leave very early (7:15am) from Nice airport Wednesday morning.

These are some things we would like to do. Please comment on itinerary/feasibility if you like.

lunch - Eze - Chevre d'Or - Sunday after disemarking and checking into hotel?

lunch Grand Hotel du Cap??

lunch - La Colombe d'Or

visit Villa Ephrussi in Beaulieu

wander around towns, villages, relax, sit by pool or garden

We do not want to do too much or race around. We mostly want to relax, enjoy long lunches, see a few sites.

Thanks so much for your help!! We are still trying to find a hotel!!

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Old Jun 22nd, 2006, 05:47 AM
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Well the things you've picked to do are fantastic. Have you checked prices for any of the places in St. Paul? La Colombe D'Or, Le Hameau, Hotel St. Paul..

Villefranche or Beaulieu would be a bit more central but I don't know what options you'd have with a pool for $250.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2006, 06:05 AM
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Hi Cara,

We have stayed at Les Muscadins in Mougins which is the sister hotel to Les Mas Candille...we loved Mougin and the hotel....Candille is more upscale with a wonderful Shisedo spa....the village is charming with lots of art galleries and good restaurants...Feu Follet is a must.

Try for a lunch or dinner at La Colombe d'Or...if not too hot, sit on the terrace...just magical....these are beautiful places...enjoy!!
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Old Jun 22nd, 2006, 07:05 AM
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Thank you for the excellent replies!

I think we are down to the following as a base hotel, but I am now a bit concerned b/c someone mentioned St. Paul de Vence is not quite as central as some of the other towns...

Hotel Le St Paul - St. Paul de Vence 230e

Le Mas de Pierre - St. Paul de Vence 280e

La Voile d'Or - Cap Ferrat 414e

Le Mas Candille??? too costly??

Villefranche??

Le Metropole - Beaulieu
280e

Thank you once again for your kind assistance!!
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Old Jun 22nd, 2006, 08:29 AM
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Cara,

If you are looking at Mas Candille and think it is too expensive, look at Les Muscadins..try for the "Picasso" room...you can use the pool and facilities at Candille as they are sister hotels....Mougins is a lovely village, small and picturesque..
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Old Jun 22nd, 2006, 08:34 AM
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Cara,

PS...Les Muscadins is advertising 1 Euro = $1.00 for cost...be sure to ask about this if you decide to book...
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