Friday afternoon-Arrival in Nice
I arrived in Nice airport after a flight from Los Angeles with a connection in Paris. Nice airport is small but modern and a short taxi ride (15 minutes) from the center of Nice. I stayed at Hotel Suisse, a small boutique hotel overlooking the Baie des Anges. The view from my hotel room was quite special as it overlooked the beautiful sweeping curve of the bay. As an added plus, the hotel was located only five minutes walk from the picturesque Old Town where you can find many shops, art galleries, restaurants, cafes and the famous open-air market on Cours Saleya. It was early November and the weather could not have been better-- warm and sunny with temperatures in the upper 70's and on this late Friday afternoon I went for a leisurely stroll along the sublime Promenade des Anglais.
Saturday- Monaco, Eze and Matisse
On Saturday morning I joined a small minibus tour of Monaco and Eze . Our first stop was at the perched village of Eze and our chauffeur/guide scheduled our arrival just before the tour coaches' invasion. It was before 10 AM and it was a treat to be able to explore the deserted hilly lanes of the popular village. A walk to the top of the village led me to the Jardin Exotique (Botanical Garden ) where in the midst of a beautiful collection of cacti and other mediterranean plant specimen you are rewarded with stupendous views of the Bay of Villefranche.
The tour continued on along the Middle Corniche (coastal road) to Monaco. The tiny Principality's main landmark is the Prince's Palace and at 11:55 AM I got to assist alongside an already packed and expectant crowd the Palace's Changing of the Guard. Besides the Palace you can visit the cathedral where Prince Rainier and Grace of Monaco are buried and for those on a longer visit of the principality, don't miss the pride of Monaco-its Oceanographic Museum (Sea Aquarium). The famous oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau was its director for more than 30 years.
After the old town, we visited Monaco's marina and Port Hercules in the Condamine district which were crowded with multimillion dollar yachts and large cruise ships. And of course we made the obligatory photo op in front of Monte Carlo's famed Belle Epoque Casino.
Since the tour ended back in Nice in the early afternoon, I decided to travel on my own with bus number 15 to Cimiez hill, the residential neighborhood in the north of Nice to visit the Matisse Museum. Henri Matisse lived in Nice from 1917 until his death in 1954. The museum is housed in a 17th century Genoese villa and features the artist's personal collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings and even his color palette. While in Cimiez, I had wished to visit the Chagall museum located down the hill from the Matisse museum but it was closed for renovation until December 2015.
Sunday -Market Cours Saleya and Villa Ephrusi de Rothschild
Early Sunday morning I took a stroll in the open-air market on Cours Saleya where vendors of flowers, vegetables, fruits, cheese, freshly caught fish, and other tantalizing local specialities like pissaladiere and pain bagna crowd to create a feast for the senses.
No less spectacular than the villa, are the surrounding landscaped gardens created at the same time as the villa was built. There are nine gardens each with a different theme- the Spanish garden, Florentine garden, Japanese garden, exotic garden, Provencal garden, stone garden, rose garden and facing the villa is the magnificent French garden designed by Beatrice herself and shaped like the deck of a ship and adorned with ponds and a waterfall.
On returning to Nice in the evening, I watched a glorious sunset over the Mediterranean Sea. This short but fully activity packed break in Nice left me wanting to come back soon to explore more of the treasures of the Riviera.
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