I couldn’t help myself with this ridiculous title.
While doing a little pre-arrival research on Nice, France I learned that simply looking up ‘Nice restaurants France’ will not return results that are actually usable. This fun language quirk forced me to get creative with my Google searches and resulted in more than a few internet rabbit holes wherein I ended up nowhere near Nice, no matter how nice the attraction appeared to be.
Our recent visit to Nice was our first to the French Riviera, one of those hallowed grounds of travel enthusiasts that spark visions of writing the next great novel from a cottage overlooking the sea and freshly caught fish bought direct from an elderly fisherman’s blue and white boat. And the image isn’t too far off.
The city has a pastel glow, the buildings painted a variety of soft oranges and yellows, and palm trees line the streets. A large city park, complete with a fascinating fountain installation that is completely mesmerizing provides families a wide range of climbing structures, swings, and football pitches as well as ample sitting and walking space. The city is also larger than most tourists will ever see – the Old Quarter, a tightly wound maze of cobblestone streets is buffered by a few tourist-friendly neighborhoods including the Port and a long seaside boardwalk, and then residential areas sprawl back from there, into the hills and beyond the Med.
Nice is also pleasantly devoid of many ‘must see’ attractions, a refreshing change from many European cities we visit that are in themselves an unofficial checklist of things to do. Just what we need when we’re taking a holiday. Instead, there are a few small museums dotted here and there, and lots of wandering to be done, and food to be tasted, and wine to be drank.
In that way, Nice suited us just fine.
For those interested in a few recommendations of things to do and see, we really enjoyed the MAMAC, Nice’s contemporary art museum. During some drizzly Sunday afternoon rain, we also visited Le Théâtre de la Photographie et de l’Image, a small photography museum that was featuring an exhibit of Henri Cartier-Bresson, who was said to have ‘the eye of the century.’ Note that the museum entrance tickets allow entry into multiple museums over a 48-hour period, so when you enter your first museum, just ask about the different schemes to help you decide which ticket to purchase.
On the food side, we did our fair share of sampling, per usual. Ice cream was from Fenocchio, which you can’t miss thanks to the hoards of people and nearly 100 flavors. If you’re not quite ready to sample the cactus flavor, we recommend the coconut and pine nut. We had a lovely dinner at L’Ecurie, hidden down one of the old town’s winding streets. We knew nothing of it when we showed up, and were treated to a lovely meal of salads, pasta, seafood stew and chocolate mousse. Oh, and plenty of red wine.
Nice’s location near the Italian border makes it a well-traveled destination by Itailian tourists and has resulted in a wonderful local cuisine that is French but with plenty of Italian influence. And yes, that mash-up is just as good as it sounds.
One final culinary treat was a ‘socca‘ a local delicacy that makes an appearance usually on Sundays to calm hangovers. I’m not including a photo because it’s decidedly not photogenic, but socca is basically a flatbread made out of chickpea flour, cumin, and water and fried on a griddle. Each big piece is broken up unceremoniously into small pieces and shoved in a cone to eat. It’s naturally gluten-free (yay!), which is good because the large portion of dense plain dough was a little too heavy for my taste, so Drew happily enjoyed a bready snack as we meandered through town.
Nice’s opulence was on display when we were drawn into the local cathedral as a choir’s performance spilled out onto the street, drawing in curious onlookers. Given the density of the old town, the cathedral is tightly packed, and as you near it, you can glimpse a turret or a dome down an alleyway, but it’s not quite as ‘on stage’ as you would think with the title of cathedral. It lacks the prestige of some of it’s larger cousins. But once you’re in, you’re treated to a show of light, stained glass an one of the more intricate ceilings I’ve seen outside of Turkish mosques.