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March in Nice, Cote D'Azur?

Amy

100+ Posts
We are considering grabbing a France sale flight for a short early Spring trip. Nice and area hasn't been on my radar at all, but it was suggested as a potential location for a getaway this time of year.

We were thinking 7-10 days or so on the ground. We like architecture and interesting neighborhoods, the sea, food and markets, art and museums. We'd stay in an apartment rental in Nice, or perhaps a smaller base. I'd welcome any suggestions as to location or specific rentals. We'd also do some daytrips to other locations. I understand that transportation is good in the area, but we might rent a car for some of our stay for more flexibility and options.

Anyone with experiences in the area, recommendations, resources?
Thanks!
 

Cameron

500+ Posts
Great choice, Amy!

I've been multiple times in the spring, and once in March. The weather was perfect (high 60s-70s and sunny).

I have stayed in Nice and Mougins (hills), but we loved Antibes so much that became our regular base.

  • Nice is larger, more vibrant. Antibes is small and laid-back.
  • Both are on the same train line. Nice has better bus options, a tram for the city (and I think it now runs to the airport).
  • Antibes has better beaches (sand, not pebbles) and IMHO, better coastal walks.
  • Nice has more restaurants than Antibes; both have great markets.
  • Both have an Old Town.

I lobbied a lot for @Pauline to stay there and she reported back: https://www.sloweurope.com/community/threads/antibes-on-the-cote-dazur.1547/

Here are some of those threads where options and things to do were discussed:

https://www.sloweurope.com/community/threads/planning-a-trip-to-menton-or-antibes-provence.1412/#post-8409

https://www.sloweurope.com/community/threads/a-few-nights-in-nice.1301/#post-7765
 

scottw

10+ Posts
We spent a week in Nice a couple of years ago, and came very close to booking a 3-week trip there this coming Christmas (Rome won out due to cheaper flights). We would have considered Antibes for the reasons Cameron mentioned, but you can't go wrong either way. Whichever you stay in, make sure to check out the other.

Other day trips would be Monaco, Eze, Menton, Gourdon, and Grasse. We visited Cannes but were "done" after a couple of hours.

An advantage of renting a car would be the opportunity to drive the middle and upper Corniches for spectacular views -- I believe the bus and train stay closer to sea level.
 

Amy

100+ Posts
Thanks for the replies so far! I've begun to look at rentals and set up a Google map to help in planning. We're rather torn between staying in Nice (and yes, we do love cities) or in the calmer environment of Antibes. I'm finding that many apartments are already booked for March, but did find a few possibilities.

I'm rather taken with this place in Nice: https://www.nicepebbles.com/nice-france-apartment/rentals/329/
In Antibes, this place recommend by Cameron is available. It is larger than needed, but the price is very reasonable. https://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p410013#summary
 

Cameron

500+ Posts
I love Maison Gioanni! Fond memories. It looks like it has been updated with a new sofa in the living room and added shower plumbing to that second bath. We booked it, planning for my stepson and his girlfriend (now wife) to join us, but they cancelled. Though larger than we needed, my husband and I kept the rental. There is no harbor/water view, but the balcony overlooks at children's park at the Gendarme barracks, so it was peaceful most of the time, but busy with children in the late afternoons.

We had a rental car during that stay, but didn't have a reserved space, so we had to move it around a lot. If you decide to stay there with a car, you'll have to figure out a parking scheme. The subsequent times that we stayed in Antibes, we didn't rent a car for the duration. We rented one for a day (from an agency up at the train station) to drive the Grand Corniche and villages.

For the hill towns, you'll need a car. When we stayed in Mougins (not enough there to warrant as a base, but good food), we also day tripped to Gourdon, Grasse, Tourettes-sur-Loop, Biot, Haute Cagnes, SP Vence, St. Tropez and a few more. You could also day trip to those from Nice or Antibes.

When based in Nice, we trained/bused to Villa Ephrussi, Menton, Beaulieu. On one of our trips based in Antibes, we also trained to Villefrance-sur-Mer, always Nice, and other villages.

Many people dislike Cannes, but having been twice during the Film Festival, it was fun and entertaining. The best thing to do there is to take the ferry out to the Lerins -- Île Sainte-Marguerite is great for strolling and picnicking.

I don't think you can go wrong with either Nice or Antibes. It's more about how much activity you prefer. The Nice apartment has a good harbor view, which I love.
 

Cameron

500+ Posts
The Gioanni balcony is long and narrow, but fine for two to dine. There is a bistro table and two chairs. The French doors open to the balcony, so you feel like you’re dining or sitting on a covered porch. Other than children’s laughter, it’s a quiet street due to controlled traffic from the narrow cobblestone streets around the corner. You get sky and sunshine. It’s an easy flight of stairs, one floor up, so to Americans it’s the 2nd floor. To French, the first floor.
 

Amy

100+ Posts
Last night we grabbed flights, and I've booked the Nice apartment! We'll be there for 11 days, long enough to enjoy the area and still relax. We will likely rent a car for part of the stay, since the garage near the apartment has a good weekly rate. We're very excited to get back to France for an advance taste of spring in an area new to us.

Thanks for the advice; and any other specific recommendations would be appreciated.
 

jonathan

100+ Posts
That apartment looks great. I remember AiP/Parigi saying that the Vieux-Port was her favourite location for a base. You're very close to the bus route from Nice along through Villefranche to Beaulieu and beyond: get off the bus at the top of the Cap-Ferrat peninsula, and you can walk down to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, an absolute must-see in the area, as I'm sure you've already spotted! More details from me, and others, in Pauline's Nice Thread from 18 months ago.
 
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Amy

100+ Posts
Yesterday I paid the balance for our little apartment in Nice, so am starting more detailed planning. We will have a car for the last seven days of our 11 day stay, (very cheap through Auto Europe!)and I booked into the garage at the View-Port at a good price.

So, I'd love specific ideas for our time! I am gathering information on the many art museums on the area, and figuring out the public transportation. If anyone has tips on those items, restaurant recommendations, out-of-the-way places to visit, whatever, I'd be very appreciative.
Thanks!
 

Cameron

500+ Posts
When based in Nice, we trained/bused to Villa Ephrussi, Menton, Beaulieu. On one of our trips based in Antibes, we also trained to Villefrance-sur-Mer, always Nice, and other villages.

Many people dislike Cannes, but having been twice during the Film Festival, it was fun and entertaining. The best thing to do there is to take the ferry out to the Lerins -- Île Sainte-Marguerite is great for strolling and picnicking.
As mentioned up the thread, it's easy to train to most villages along the coast.

If you've not been to Villa Ephrussi, I highly recommend it. If you go on the bus in the morning and finish around noon, then it's an easy downhill walk to either Villefrance-sur-Mer, or the harbor on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat for lunch. For our trip, we went to SJCF for lunch at the harbor, then walked the coastal path.

On a separate trip, we trained to lunch in VFSM, then walked uphill, past villa, Nelle Côte (where the Rolling Stones stayed to create Exile on Main Street) to Villa Ephrussi.

In Antibes (train there), the Provençal Market is great. If you like Picasso, then visit the art museum and stroll the Old Town.

If the weather is great, and nature is your thing, and the ferries are running, then train to Cannes with a picnic lunch from the market. Take the ferry to Île Sainte-Marguerite for a quiet and contemplative walk on the shady paths around the island.

All for now...I need to look up information.
 
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Chris

500+ Posts
Eze, also easily accessible by bus from Nice, is touristy, but worth it for the absolutely magnificent views from the top. The Maeght Foundation is wonderful but the most difficult art museum to reach without a car (the bus ride from Nice to the nearest bus stop in St. Paul de Vence is about an hour). I recommend all the others, especially the Picasso Museum in Antibes. There is a Bonnard museum I still want to see, but it's always been closed when I've been in the area. I completely agree with Cameron about the Antibes market.
 
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Roz

500+ Posts
Cameron mentioned the Villa Ephrussi. We never got there, but we loved the nearby Villa Kerylos, a reconstruction of an ancient Greek villa.

When you have your car, do try to get to the Maeght Foundation -- a wonderful museum, although I confess that we were less impressed the second time we went there. We had the feeling with the Maeght, and the MOMA in Nice, that although they have great collections, the maintenance had fallen on hard times.

A book that was recommended to me years ago on Slow Trav is Artists and their Museums on the Riviera. It's out of print, but you can get a used copy cheaply on Amazon, and it has great info, much of which is timeless.

A film we watched before our last trip to Nice was Renoir (link to Amazon Prime video). Much of it was filmed in Renoir's house in Cagnes-Sur-Mer, now a museum. We really wanted to visit there, but unfortunately we couldn't manage it. You probably would want to drive there.

Here's a link to an album with photos of the restaurants where we ate during our 2014 visit to Nice. It's a great city, and the tram is terrific. I hope they have gotten farther along on the tram expansion though, since it was very hard to drive in town, with so many streets torn up. Mike got so fed up with the traffic that we returned our car early and just got around on public transportation. (That's why we never got up to Cagnes-sur-Mer, since it seemed too much of a trek by train or bus.)
 
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Cameron

500+ Posts
When you have your car -- 30 minutes west of Nice, Mougins is a nice place for lunch in the old town, at the top of the hill. It's probably as far west as you'd want to go.

Vieux Mougins is filled with restaurants, but I've not been in the last five years, so I hesitate to recommend which one. It used to be considered a foodie village. During our stay with Mougins as a base, we tried all of them and were never disappointed. They have a Museum of Classical Art, which may be of interest.

We visited Tourettes-sur-Loop (violets), Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Biot, Grasse, Gourdon during that stay, when we had a car. In Biot, they have an "elevator" parking lot where they stack the cars due to limited parking. It worked well for us.

We drove to Saint Tropez, but I don't feel it's that much of a draw unless you're hiking the coastal path, as we did. We also went to Frejus, but by the time we got there, we were too tired of being in the car to take the time for the Roman monuments.
 
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Marta

10+ Posts
I just saw that you are going to Nice. You will love it. You can get by without a car but if you have one, there are many of the hill towns that you can visit. I second many of the villages suggested such as Beaulieu with Villa Rothschild and Villa Kerylos. There are several small chapels related to Jean Cocteau along the coast (Villefranche sur Mer, Menton). I loved Vence - the Chapelle du Rosaire by Matisse is wonderful as is the small chapel by Chagall. Do explore the small hilltop villages in the 'hinterland'. Peillon is a beautiful small car-free village. We stayed at the Auberge de la Madone and the food is good. We hiked from the village to a couple of the other villages near by (Peille, St. Martin de Peille). You can just explore a bit by hiking up from steps from the village out into the olive orchards for beautiful vistas back to the village. There is also an unusual painted chappell - Chapelle des Penitents Blancs. You will need to ask around to find out where to get the key (if there is anyone around). If you do go - beware of the road into the village. Very Very narrow (watch those curves) and small amount of parking but I loved it).

We also loved St Agnes. There is a 'not for the faint of heart' drive up from Menton to Sainte Agnes. You can also drive from Sainte Agnes to Peillon but do beware.. it is narrow but not as many cliffs. There are other hill top villages - several already mentioned - Gourdon, Grasse, Tourettes-sur-Loop, Biot, Haute Cagnes, SP Vence. Gourdon is fun - they specialize in spiced bread similar to a gingerbread. I also visited Utelle which is a Catholic pilgrimage site. It is also one of the perched village.

You may also be in time for the Fete du Citron in Menton. We spent a week in Menton in the old town and loved it. Some people find Menton a bit touristy but it isn't if you stay away from the seaside. The old town and the cemetery are wonderful. There are also several gardens in the area. You can also go into Italy - we did a day trip to Hanbury Garden just a few miles into Italy and up into the hills to the small village of Apricale.
 

Karen Frerichs

10+ Posts
Amy,

I second (3rd? 4th?) the Villa Rothschild Ephrussi
and the Picasso Musee in Antibes
and Fondation Maeght (agree wth Roz re: sad maintenance )
and the Matisse Chappelle de Rosaire

I also liked the Matisse museum in Nice

if you like Picasso ceramics at all, I loved Vallouris (nice museum, lovely murals in chapel next door, as well as lots of other ceramics)...

http://www.vallauris-golfe-juan.fr/picasso.html?lang=en

Sounds like a wonderful trip!

Karen
 

Amy

100+ Posts
Anyone been there during Nice Carnival? We arrive in time for the last Saturday of parades; one the daytime Flower Parade, the other at night. There seems to be a heavy security plan with cordoned off viewing, and you need to buy tickets for either standing or sitting. I've also read that you can see the gigantic floats driving over and back to the workshops near the Port, but can't find more details on that route.
 

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