It’s a long weekend break: 4 nights. By travelling out to Nice early this morning, arriving in plenty of time for lunch, and flying home late on Monday, I effectively manage to make it a 5-day trip.
I flew British Airways from Heathrow and booked my hotel – Best Western Plus Hotel Massena – through them too. I knew the location, just off Place Massena, was central from previous trips making it an easy walk to Vieux Nice and the Promenade des Anglais and the sea. Since my last visit to Nice four years ago, there’s now a No.2 tram that runs from right outside the airport – both Terminals 1 and 2 – and brings you right into the city in about 20-30 minutes. Buy a ticket from the machine on the platform before you board; it’s only €1.50.
My room is simple but pleasant with a Juliet balcony opening on to a little courtyard at the back of the hotel so it’s fairly quiet. And although a single room it has a nice big bed! There’s a kettle with cups and coffee and tea, which is always a bonus. The welcome was nice and friendly too.
Luckily, although it was only just past midday I was able to get into my room, but I headed out again fairly quickly in search of a view of the sea and some lunch. My walk took me through the attractive and very large Place Massena.
Place Massena is known as the heart of Nice. When I was there in 2006 it was being completely refurbished and now it’s a beautiful hub of Niçois life. It’s named for Andre Massena, a military commander in the days of Napoleon. The layout was designed by Joseph Vernier in 1843-4. The Italian-style architecture gives reference to the days when Nice was governed by the House of Savoy in Piedmont. It does remind me a little of Turin with its arcades. To one side is the Fontaine du Soleil and the ground is covered in a chequerboard of black and white tiles. It’s a great meeting place and there’s a famous carnival held there every year. Trams run round and across it so it’s likely to be the place you’ll need to find for a trip.
I cut down the road straight ahead of me on the other side of the place – rue de l’Opera – and by chance found myself passing Peixes restaurant. What luck for I’d read a lot about this fish restaurant. Lonely Planet describe it as a ‘chic modern seafood eatery’ and I’d found it recommended in lots of articles online as one of the best places to eat in Nice. It certainly looked inviting and the menu – on a blackboard at the front – very exciting. I couldn’t resist going in. Though busy I was pleased to find they had a table for me. You can’t book.
I was offered a stool at the bar looking over the open kitchen or a small table near the front. I took the table. I ordered a glass of white wine (€4) and it came with the most delicious bread and some anchovy butter. I looked around while I waited for my food and admired the nautical feel to the place; it was bright and sunny and a great place to sit for lunch.
With a table already booked for dinner tonight, I only wanted a light lunch. I chose Salmon Tataki, Ponzu Sauce, Homemade Kimchi, Edamame Beans (€13).
It was wonderful. The salmon merely seared and almost raw – just how I like it. With the kimchi, beans, peanuts and paper thin slices of fresh coconut, it was a perfect and very gorgeous lunch. Not too heavy but certainly plenty to keep me going until suppertime. The menu was so exciting I think I may be going back every day to try more things! And the service was great and friendly too.
Afterwards I walked down to Cours Saleya in the old town where there’s a market every day: food Tuesday-Sunday and a flea market on Mondays. I walked through it to the far end. It was busy and lively.
The huge house straight in front of you at the end is where Matisse rented an apartment for years and painted his famous works of looking at the Mediterranean through open windows.
There are a few archways where you can cut through to the seafront.
I walked eastwards as far as Quai Rauba Capeu for a view back along Nice’s bay – Baie des Anges.
Despite the cloudy sky it was warm and sunny and lovely to look across the town and feel glad to be back in this beautiful city.
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