Having been to Paris, and seen the tourist side of France, I wished to have a more romantic, authentic French experience. The French Riviera seemed to be the perfect spot to relax and feel the old charm of the French aristocracy. From the moment the plane starts the descent into Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport, the beautiful coastline comes into view. Nice made me feel like a modern Princess of Monaco just being surrounded by its splendor. Images of fabulous movie stars and royalty are associated with the French Riviera, and I couldn’t wait to saunter about the boulevards.
We only had one full day to explore the French town. So instead of a strict schedule of museum hopping and monument viewing, we decided on an urban hike and set out at a relaxed pace walking towards the shoreline. First stop of the day was a quaint bakery to get my go-to travel breakfast: a cappuccino and a croissant. The bakery itself was almost a gallery, with beautiful, decadent pastries lining the glass shelves.
Once fueled up, Katta and I continued our walk following the refreshing ocean breeze. We somehow ended up strolling down Rue Paradis. Paradise isn’t an exaggeration for a street lined with Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Hugo Boss. Katta had to physically yank me away from the Chanel display that was causing me to drool.
We soon found ourselves staring out at the ocean. Like something out of an old movie, the muted warm colors of the buildings melt into the waters of the French Riviera. The crystal blue waves gently crash into the 50 shades of grey pebble beach. La Grande Chaise Bleue seems to perfectly blend into waters behind the sculpture installation.
The next stop on our urban hike was Vielle Vile (Old Town). A market day had brought tourist and natives alike into the bustling Cité du Parc. The stalls had a vast variety of products on display, but they all had a central theme: lavender. The smell is infectious. One deep breath in and I was in utter relaxation. Who knew you could make some many things with lavender? From soaps to lavender-filled, little teddy bears, the market was a sea of light purple. Katta and I weaved our way past spice stalls and through meandering tourist. We verged left into one of the small, winding streets of Vielle Vile and followed signs for Castle Hill.
Our fabulously charming Airbnb host said the view from Castle Hill was one of the best in the world. He wasn’t wrong but he didn’t tell us what a hike it would be to get up the mountain. Katta and I had to make several breaks to rest our young, but athletically damaged, bodies along the way. Our flowy, floral dress didn’t seem like the appropriate attire for marching up the hill but it made for great pictures. Castle Hill seems to have everything beautiful in this world: a cemetery, a waterfall, ruins, and a view looking out over the entirety of Nice.
Once we had made it to the very top of the ancient chateau, I couldn’t tell what took my breath away: the view or the hike up the mountain. A french accordion cover of Despacito played as I swirled around in my flowy, floral dress. The descent back down to the beach was refreshing. The trail we followed took us down the face of a cliff facing the sea. Cacti were poking at us from the edges of the trail. Katta and I made our way down to the beach and settled into the stones for a quick break from walking.
Dozing in and out of sleep on the warm stones, hearing the waves crash ten feet away, I thought Nice is a little slice of paradise.