Nice Nice Nice

 

Nice - famed for its high-octane glamour during the February Carnival and scorching summer season, its equally spectacular when a little quieter during Spring season.
By Elise Roberts

The recent arrival of the Spring sunshine brings a refreshing optimism and a desire to get out and take a stroll feeling its gentle warmth against your back, and the knowledge that it will inevitably be a few degrees warmer in Europe makes Spring the ideal time for a quick getaway.

Famed for its high-octane glamour during the February Carnival and the scorching Summer season, Nice is often neglected at this time of year, but the reality is that the scenery is spectacularly beautiful in its Spring regeneration, the delightful markets are open all year round, and the roads are refreshingly free from snarling traffic.

Free from the crowds, it is possible to really appreciate quite how beautiful the Côte d?Azur is, its rugged pine-clad coastline providing ample opportunity for walking amongst the medieval villages, and for exploring the areas that generally are just simply too hot and too crowded to appreciate, and Nice?s glamorous hotels, picturesque architecture and interesting quarters make it the ideal base for a relaxing few days. There is a train service that gives access all along the Côte, and is the ideal way to see some of the different villages, although your feet will get you to some of the best quarters of the city, and are without doubt the only way to get around the old town.

The hotel Cap Estel at Eze is the obvious choice for traditional glamour and will certainly be the favourite choice for those wishing to get a flavour of the high life, but Nice also offers some interesting alternatives that reveal its more artisanal heritage, and will be preferred by those who like to get in touch with their more bohemian, artistic side. La Maison du Frene at nearby Vence is a real little gem, and with just 4 bedrooms, you might be lucky to make a reservation during the summer, but again the relaxed Spring season makes this arty and slightly quirky hotel a serious alternative.

Cap Estel at EzeCap Estel at Eze.

The Cours Saleya markets are the number one priority for an early morning excursion, and well worth an early rise for. The traders start at 6.00am, and there is an infectious excitement that comes with watching them set up their stalls and reveal their wares. Generally, what is on display is a mouth-watering selection of fruit, vegetables and flowers ? plumped and ripened in the gentle sunshine and bursting with colour. Freshly baked breads, pastries and snacks are the ideal things to revive you after your early start, and costing just a small amount each, will enable you to visit a number of stalls and absorb the unique atmosphere. The Provencal olives are also something that everyone should sample, and make the ideal souvenir to slot into a corner of your suitcase. A recognised tip is to remember to take small currency with you ? the traders will not appreciate changing big notes. Monday also brings a selection of additional Antique stalls, where you will find some interesting small pieces, pictures and little bits of Art Deco that may just make it home with you, but either way; this is market shopping with a difference and is a gentle escape from the regular Monday routine.

The Cours Sakeya marketsThe Cours Sakeya markets.

Strolling beyond the tents of the Cours Saleya, a few minutes will bring you into the heart of Nice?s old town, a delightful warren of medieval cobbled streets, and narrow alleyways that are populated by shops, bars and restaurants selling freshly baked pastries and local specialities ? Socca is a pancake made from chick-peas and olive oil, as well as the Provencal tarte Pissaladiere and of course the famous Salade Nicoise. An intimate lunch spot is the restaurant Don Camillo, a much-loved staple of the Vieux Nice scene, and recently given a huge boost with the arrival of new chef Marc Laville. Small and contemporary, Don Camillo?s light-filled dining?room is the ideal place to while away a leisurely few hours enjoying his sophisticated dishes including his signature dish of Foie Gras poached in coffee, and chocolate soufflé served with eucalyptus sorbet.

On a fine day, the 100+ steps that lead up to Castle Hill (Colline du Château) make the ideal opportunity for a leisurely after lunch stroll, and the views provided from the top are absolutely breath-taking. Too hot and too crowded to appreciate during the sweltering summer months, the panorama that includes the city, the Alps and the Mediterranean is the stuff of lifetime memories, and the gentle Spring sunshine ensures that the climb is nothing too arduous, but more of a vehicle to work off your lunch.

Renowned for the unique light that hits the picturesque landscape of the Côte, Nice has been a magnet for artists for many years, and the early modernist painters Matisse and Chagall both spent a great deal of time here and are commemorated in various parts of the city. The Musee National Message Biblique Marc Chagall houses the largest collection of Chagall?s Old Testament scenes, and typify his unique ability to capture the light of the Côte d?Azur. Being only a small building and prone to stifling crowds during the summer months, spring is again the ideal time to visit the musee. Chagall lived at nearby Saint Paul de Vence for a period of his life, and a gentle view around the gallery followed by a brief excursion into Vence allows an insight into this stage of Chagall?s life and his time spent of the Côte that is such a strong influence in his work.

Looking for some refreshment and maintaining the artistic vibe, Les Distilleries Ideales is an ideal evening watering hole. A quirky bar with painted murals, exposed brickwork and stained glass, the Distilleries is renowned for its good selection of beers and nightly happy hour. Reminiscent of Puccini?s ?La Bohème? and with a distinctly Victorian feel, it is popular with tourists and locals alike, its outdoor tables packed during the summer months. A simple menu of 3 sharing platters also makes a great snack to enjoy alongside your expanding repertoire of French beers.

Les Distilleries IdealesLes Distilleries Ideales.

Les Promenades des Anglais is the definitive stroll for one evening of your stay, and the absolute place to see and be seen, even during the less frequented Spring season. Started by the early visitors that discovered Nice in the early 18th century, the promenade is one the undisputed things to do in Nice ? and is the ideal opportunity for an aperitif before indulging in some typical French cuisine. Break your stroll at the elegant Grand Hotel Aston and head to the Seven Blue Bar. The best views in Nice can be had from its panoramic terrace, and those lucky enough to arrive in time to catch the sunset over the harbour are offered a real treat, and the stuff of lifetime memories.

Restaurant Le Hussard is a great spot for dinner, its sophisticated and contemporary interior offering a lively, edgy ambience, drawing crowds throughout the year. Overlooking the flower market in old Nice, again the views are particularly special, and whether you chance upon a warm enough evening to sit outside, or whether you crowd into its bustling interior, your evening will be a good one. Be prepared to wait a little as its popularity can make the service a little slow, but relax over a bottle and enjoy a leisurely dinner, soaking up the atmosphere.

Wayne's Bar is a definite cool spot and praised by the locals for its great atmosphere and hip ambience. Start your evening with one its Plats du Jour, and let the hours drift as your enjoy the live music which takes place every night. Flaveur presents fresh, full-flavoured food, prepared simply. High on the Michelin radar, it is owned by 3 friends and manages to fulfil expectations on all fronts ? the décor is elegant but welcoming and the food is beautiful but unpretentious. In an area where there is beauty everywhere you look, the simplicity of good produce is a welcome sight.

A few nights? spent exploring Nice can be a gastronomic delight ? but your love of food can be indulged for a little longer if you add a night at Aviator on your return. Enjoy a simple a la carte meal, or linger over the 5 course Tasting Menu, before unwinding in the luxurious space of your Sky Suite. A Mustang chartered for TAG Farnborough Airport costs just £13,200 for 2 people, based on 2 one ? way flights, and a night at Aviator will cost from £475 based on our Devour package. 3 nights at La Maison du Frene will cost from £392.

Contact Elise for all dining, accommodation and aircraft charter enquiries.