I’m having one of those weeks where I keep pinching myself because life feels so surreal. Traveling with your best friend is always fun, but when you’re her +1 on a free trip to Nice, it’s just sublime.
We arrived Sunday afternoon and checked into Le Negresco, one of Nice’s most famous hotels. It’s absolutely breathtaking both inside and out. It sits facing the Mediterranean, with its iconic dome is easy to spot from almost anywhere along The Promenade des Anglais (so named for all the English people who spend/spent their winters there). Every morning (ok today it was afternoon) we awake in the lap of luxury and peer out at the sparkling blue waters that have earned the moniker “Cote d’Azur” (azure means blue in French).
We’ve spent a lot of time meandering through the streets, exploring the city and tasting nearly every bakery and gelato shop we encounter.
We’ve done some wonderful excursions as well. My favorite so far has been the evening we spent in Monaco. It’s about 45 minutes by car or bus up the coastline, and you might miss the border without a keen eye.
We stopped first at The Rock, where the palace is. Austere from the outside, the interior is nothing short of magnificent. With rooms decorated in styles of all the famous Henry’s and frescos that date back centuries, every nook and cranny holds a rich story. Tragically, we were not permitted to take photographs. However just outside the palace offered some amazing views of Monte Carlo.
The famous Monte Carlo yacht show began the day after our visit, so we got to see the bay full of the most amazing and extravagant boats in the world. Known for it’s opulence, extreme wealth, and decadent luxury, Monte Carlo certainly lives up to its reputation. A small principality, they have some fascinating policies around taxes and residence. Anyone who stays in the country for at least 6 months and 1 day is exempt from paying taxes. They are also guaranteed employment (if they lose a job, the government will find them a new one). However real estate is ungodly expensive. While the glamour alone is enough to draw me in for a visit, the best thing about Monaco is the safety. With an abundance of police (both uniformed and plain clothed) you can feel quite secure.
After touring the palace and chapel at The Rock, we continued to Monte Carlo where we traveled part of the route for the famous grand prix. We had a lovely dinner al fresco at the Cafe de Paris, next to the famous Casino, then snuck over there for a look around and some casual gambling.
My longtime readers will know that I’ve spent quite a bit of time in casinos and am well-versed in the etiquette and culture. That said, the casino was one of the most disappointing “attractions” I’ve ever visited in my life. There’s a 17 euro (about $20) entrance fee, which we only learned afterwards is supposed to afford you a free cocktail. Of course, the painfully rude staff does not inform you of this upon entrance. What you see when you walk in is two very beautiful rooms. The first has one craps table, maybe two blackjack tables, and a bar area with some seating. The second room has about 20 slot machines. It is nearly silent, and the glamorous cars parked out front clearly didn’t belong to the everyday folk who were seated at the (mostly empty) tables. If not for the lovely decor, the place would be nothing short of melancholy. Most of the building is private salons where they whisk away high rollers to gamble in secrecy. All this to say – if you’re ever there, don’t waste your time and money by entering. We concurred that the Monte Carlo in Vegas is superior to the real one (and that’s really saying something, because it’s not that nice!) I snapped a forbidden photo so you can see the interior and know that you’re not missing anything.
Yesterday, we traveled down to Cannes and visited Ile Saint-Honorat, which I wrote about here. After quick naps and an INCREDIBLE dinner at Safari (get the pesto pasta – best I’ve ever had!) we headed out for a night on the town. We stopped first at a place called “The American Bar” for some after dinner drinks. Then we went next door for some raucous karaoke with about 100 delightfully hammered Dutch soccer fans. Soon we were all arm in arm, essentially moshing to “Cotton Eyed Joe” (pause for processing – weird, right!?). We sang and danced until the bar closed and we were thrust upon the streets to navigate our way home. Suffice to say it was an epic evening I won’t soon forget.
We are completely smitten with Nice, but our departure is bittersweet. We are heading to one of my favorite places in the world- Paris. I’ll be sure to share more stories and photos soon!