Weekend escape: Nice


Nice was nice.

Justine, Kate (a lovely Melbourne chick who we met at the hostel when we first arrived in Lyon) and I were lucky enough to spend the last weekend of September in Nice, which was so nice! Ha ha ha. Seriously though, it was amazing! One thing I find hard about living in Lyon is that we are hours away from any beach – so to spend a weekend doing pretty much nothing but sunbathing and swimming was bliss.

The main beach itself is nothing special if you compare it with the gorgeous, natural, spacious, sandy beaches of New Zealand – but against the backdrop of rose coloured buildings and the lively buzz of Nice, it has a really cool atmosphere. I spent an hour at dusk by myself, just sitting on the beach people-watching and enjoying the sound of the waves – I literally was in heaven, there is sometimes nothing better than just watching the sea. So mesmerizing! And I love dusk, one of my favourite times of day. It was overcast when I arrived, but at dusk the beach looked gorgeous – especially as the sun was trying to sneak through the clouds. The sea was this amazing turquoise blue as well. The airport of Nice is also situated along the coast, so you can waste many hours just watching the planes take off along the horizon. So peaceful, take me back there!!

I finally dragged myself away to meet the girls, who had spent the afternoon at Monaco (I didn’t make it up that way, but they said it was a tax haven so basically brimming with money and super-yachts). As I was walking along le promenade des anglais (a boardwalk named after the English because they spend so much time holidaying there), I must have had a lost expression on my face because a man and his son offered me their map; turns out they were kiwis from Rotovegas! I made the mistake of asking if they were Australian, which of course didn’t go down too well… I can’t believe I misplaced the accent, considering people ask me if I’m Australian all the time and it really grinds my gears! But they were lovely and it’s always cool to see Kiwis so far from home.

The next day (Saturday), was by far the highlight of the trip. We caught a packed but buzzing bus in the direction of Monaco, but got off a few stops early at a little beach town. It was a clear blue day, not a cloud in the sky, lovely and warm but not too hot – just perfect. We meandered our way past mansions to get to the cutest little beach, Plage Mala, which was about the size of Narrowneck. There was a restaurant there, where people were lazing on deck chairs or sitting around in outdoor booths sipping cocktails – a true resort atmosphere! But we set up home down the other end of the beach and stayed there for a good five hours. We even had a little picnic with ham, cheese and baguette from the markets – so French!

The water itself was also so warm and so clear! I think because the beaches have pebbles it means the water is less murky with sand, because we could see straight to the bottom. So gorgeous!! Justine and I kept saying over and over again how amazing it was – we are both water babies, so it was amazing to be swimming in the Mediterranean Sea in the south of France!! So surreal. It was hard to drag ourselves away but we did just in time, as it started raining pretty much as soon as we’d packed up our stuff; such a dramatic change in weather!

We headed back to the hostel, where we had dinner and cracked open a few bottles of wine. Nothing better than having a few drinks and a good meal when you can still feel the sun on your skin! I love how relaxed and centred I feel after a day at the beach. At dinner there was a table of guys next to us and we couldn’t understand a word they were saying, Kate and I didn’t even think they were speaking French! It was so disheartening because even if our French isn’t perfect, usually we can still follow a conversation. Anyway, turns out they were from Quebec – such a hard French accent to understand! But we all ended up going out together. The boys were intent on finding a cheap pub, but they are pretty rare in Nice because it’s very pricey, so we wasted a good hour walking around aimlessly until we finally ended up back where we’d started! Which was an English bar and it was absolutely packed – it was almost impossible to move! But we managed to have a good dance. The music was hilarious; the French are a bit behind the times, so the playlist consisted of some shockers! Pink Get the Party Started was a huge hit with the locals, Justine and I couldn’t believe our ears!

Kate and some of our Quebec friends

Overall it was a pretty fun night, but cheap wine and broken sleep in the hostel meant that the next day we were pretty miserably hungover. So we spent the morning lying on the main beach, where I nodded off listening to the waves… only to be woken up every once and awhile by the hilarious beach vendors that walk up and down trying to sell you strange stuff like Mexican hats and bad sunglasses. We also made an essential hangover stop at trusty Maccas – which overlooked the sparkling Mediterranean Sea! Such an epic view, made eating MacDonald’s for breakfast seem marginally acceptable.

Nice in a nutshell.

It’s definitely a tourist town, which means it’s expensive and flooded with English-speakers who are trying to speak painful French (parlay-vu-anglay?), so the atmosphere is a strange mix… it’s kind of like France meets England, but instead of being age-old rivals, they embrace each other. Its one town in France where I think it would be safe to assume your waiter speaks English. Which makes sense because for a lot of the local shop owners, tourism is their livelihood.  At first I thought it was bordering on tacky, with it’s blue and white striped deck chairs, the huge casinos dotting the boardwalk, and the huge proportion of older, grey-haired tourists, but it seems to work for this city… it’s got sass!