Impressionnant: (French for impressive, awesome, stunning, spectacular, imposing, awe inspiring)
During a change in Covid travel restrictions, when most of European borders were open, we went to the South of France for a week the end of September 2021. It was so awesome that we can’t wait to do it again! The only problem with that is there are still so many other destinations on our bucket list and the constant changes in open/closed borders, it may be a while before we can return.
From Kaiserslautern to Nice
We took the Ice train from Kaiserslautern to Paris, and then a regional (slow ass) train from Paris to Nice. A few words of caution for those considering this destination; 1) these trains do not arrive/depart from the same train station in Paris, and time allotted to get from one to the other is short! 2) don’t attempt this during Paris rush hour! There is a bus to transport passengers from one train station to the other, but with limited time between your arrival/departure in Paris, even a taxi will be pushing those limits!
Although the rules change frequently, at that time we had to show proof of full vaccination to receive a wrist band in the Paris terminal before boarding any trains. The ICE train to Paris was less than two hours from Kaiserslautern, and the regional train from Paris to Nice was about five hours. The regional trip is a long one, but often very scenic. It was fine but Paris is so hectic and maneuvering between terminals at rush hour on the return convinced to fly the next time.
Nice: Lodging, Beaches, Bars & Dining
Arrival in Nice is amazing! Regardless of your choice for lodging, it’s easy to get to there from the train stations. Unless you are physically challenged, you can see most of Nice on foot. Of course, if you have a lot of luggage, a taxi would be preferable. The only areas that would be difficult on foot are the residential areas up in the hills, but the entire waterfront and City Center is extremely walkable.
We stayed at the La Meridian Hotel right on the waterfront and would highly recommend it! There are two casinos within two blocks, tons of shopping right around the corner, and an easy walk to literally hundreds of restaurants/pubs on and off the beach. The La Meridian’s rooftop restaurant is awesome, and the service was impeccable.
If you’re expecting to see sand beaches, you won’t find them here! The beaches are all a combination of large size gravel and stones! In fact, most of the little convenience stores around town sell rubber shoes to help you walk on what they call beaches. People do have chairs on those rocks, and some brave souls lay towels and blankets on top of them, but that would NOT be my preference! I have to say that in that area, a day at the beach is more likely to be dining/drinking at one of the many restaurants with beach-side seating, and there’s a gorgeous promenade that stretches the entire length of Nice’s waterfront. This is a main attraction! You will find walkers, runners, cyclists, skaters and dog-walkers strolling the promenade at all hours of the day – including the middle of the night! It’s safe and literally always has people on it!
The French Riviera (known in French as the Côte d'Azur)
If a sandy beach is what you’re craving, there are sand beaches in Villefranche, about a 15-minute train ride from Nice. Fortunately, in Nice you can easily access all the beachside dining/drinking establishments via the promenade. During our visit, a portion of the promenade was closed off to accommodate the Nice Half Marathon, but it’s such a large pedestrian area that the
area designated for the Marathon didn’t obstruct maneuverability. Fortunately, our room at the La Meridian was perfect to hear Friday evening’s pop concert coming from the outdoor amphitheater a ½ block away, as well as for watching the kickoff of Saturday’s Marathon from our balcony.
It probably goes without saying that the designer shops are abundant in Nice, as are restaurants and bars (many of which are rooftop to take advantage of the views). However, if a good steak is what you’re seeking, the South of France might not be the place to find it. We were there seven days and never found anywhere to get steak. However, there was plenty of seafood and Italian options; when in Nice you are literally a stone’s throw from Italy so you will see a lot of Italian influences everywhere in The South of France.
(Flip thru Photo Gallery of Nice!)
Want to Live/Retire in Nice
We loved exploring the “in-town” real estate, and even inquired about costs. Like most European City Centers, it’s very convenient to get to and from work and play. Aside from the plethora of shops, there’s a farmers’ market in the City Center that’s open daily. You can also buy fresh seafood from many vendors along pedestrian strips inside the City Center. It’s a lot like living in NYC, where permanent residents pay a huge price to live in smaller spaces, shop for groceries more frequently, have become oblivious to the tourists and tourist-driven retailers, and have no nearby green space for their dog. Unfortunately, that last one also results in the need for everyone to pick up after their dog, which doesn’t always occur and forces you to pay more attention to the pavement you’re walking on, than the beautifully architected buildings, monuments and statuary! The biggest advantage of Nice are the exquisite views, palm trees everywhere, AND the 300 days a year of sunshine!!!
This video represents a typical laid back evening on the Promenade in Nice.
My New Favorite! (c'est ce que je préfère!)
There is also a port in Nice, providing lots of day trips, excursions and boat rentals, or just a great view of the gorgeous boats docked there. Travel to other areas in that region is vey easy via car, train and/or boat. On two of our seven days we went to Monaco (a one-hour train ride from Nice)– THAT is where I want to live when I grow up! It’s probably one of the most expensive places in the world to live, but I’d be willing to sell everything and live in a tiny house. By the way, that’s not uncommon for people who want to live in the South of France full time! No, you won’t see a lot of “tiny houses” but there are plenty of tiny apartments! If they haven’t sold off all their belongings, it’s likely because they only live there part-time.
(A quick slideshow of Monaco/Monte Carlo)
Before this trip, Barcelona remained “our favorite” of the European cities we’ve visited, but if given the opportunity to return to only one, it would now be a very difficult decision. We would probably choose Nice just because of its proximity to where we live now; we could drive from our home in 9 ½ hours!
I know Paris tends to be the French destination of choice, but not for us. For military families living in the KMC, you should probably not miss everything Paris has to offer….. once! Since the shopping and dining are abundant in both cities, for us The South of France wins as it relates to climate, scenery, opportunity to chill, and interacting with the French!
BTW, no need to be bi-lingual in this region! Everyone you will encounter speaks English!