Friday, May 11, 2007

A "Nice" Beginning (France)

We decided to take a taxi to our youth hostel in Nice, because it was a bit out of town, but it wasn't easy finding a taxi who would agree to take us. Apparently there was a big football game up near the hostel, and therefore lots of traffic. Eventually we found a driver who'd forgotten about the game, so we made it in the end.

If you like youth hostels, and are ever in Nice, Villa St Exupery is a great place to stay, even if it is a bit out of town. It was a converted monastry, with ensuited dorms and private rooms, and everything you could possibly need. They had a good breakfast selection, they offered a couple of dinner options, they had a bar with beers for €1, free internet access, and they provided so much detailed tourist information that it made everything so easy.

The next morning, despite the recommended bus line not running (much to the confusion of locals and tourists alike), we eventually made it into Nice's old town to kick off our one day in the French Riviera. We explored the fabulous markets, and picked up some cheese, some terrine and some fruit for a picnic lunch, which we ate by the beach. The ocean there really does live up to its name - the Côte D'Azur - we've never seen water so many different shades of blue. But we can't really understand why anyone would want to sunbathe or even walk on those horrible expanses of pebbles that Europe calls beaches!

The afternoon was spent in Monaco, and then it was back to Nice for dinner. After wandering through the streets filled with amazing delis, cheese shops, spice stores, bakeries, wine 'caves' and restaurants, we found that night's Lonely Planet dinner recommendation, which really did look like something "straight out of an impressionist painting". We were obviously too early, because we found the owner and his family/staff sitting around having dinner in the middle of the restaurant. They were very welcoming, but we left them to it and came back half an hour later for a fantastic meal of traditional French home-cooking. Getting home after dinner, we discovered that Nice has a fantastic night bus service, complete with on-bus security guards, and little old nannas who help you figure out when to get off for your stop.

The next morning we were up again at the crack of dawn to catch the train to Marseilles. A girl from the youth hostel drove us to the station in the hostel van. Unfortunately for her, she must have been chanelling Karina's skills in a crowded parking lot, and managed to scrape the side of another car on the way out of the hostel. Oops. We're glad we cancelled our car hire for the south of France!