Les Alpes Maritimes - the "Marine Alps"
A great idea for a one day trip -or why not more- is to drive up to the maritime Alps of the French Riviera. It's a nice way to cool down a bit and keep a break from e.g. beachlife or city life. Still you don't have to choose one from the other - you can keep your beaches and nightlife but still get the mountains and tiny villages.
From these little Alps (usually max 1500 m in height) you find a totally different environment, nature, cool fresh air and fantastic scenic roads, small villages and great people. Two good examples, well and easily to be done during one day during daylight are villages called Luceram and Peillon. (Please see my special pages about these villages).
If you want to go further away and higher up, a place called Sospel is highly recommended by many. Just take your map and choose your destination!
It is good to bear in mind when calculating driving times the advancing in narrow mountain roads is many times slower than usual; sometimes you even have to stop to let another car pass by, or the curve might be so tiny that you have to back your car a few times to get on. So don't let the sun go down when in the middle of the mountains unless you are used to it.
- Road Trip
The Nice Observatory
High up above Nice on top of Mont Gros is the Observatory of Nice. Built in1879 by the banker Raphaël Bischoffsheim, its 76 cm refracting telescope was the largest in the world in its day. Charles Garnier (facade of Hotel Carlton Cannes fame) was the architect and Gustave Eiffel (of Paris Eiffel Tower fame) the engineer who designed the main cupola.
Getting to the Observatory requires a boy-scout badges in initiative. Take bus to 1,2 or 10 from central Nice to Nice Riquier, and from there, from opposite the Fly furniture store, the 84 little minibus bus bound for Beaulieu will drop you off at the Observatory
The Observartory can be accessed through entrance gates at the end of a private road off the Chemin Vinaigrier, only on Saturday and Wednesday afternoons at 15.00, when two hour guided tour is available (charge 5 eu). Its all in French, and there is no escape, as you must stay with the group. You will be taken inside the main dome, which will be opened to the sky.
The previous my bathings in France passed in the certain haste, always it was necessary to go somewhere else. Now I was not hurrying up, with periodicity 2-3 times at an hour dived into the sea, made a little swimming on the water area, and fell again on the towel.
When the sun heated my body up to intolerableness, I again immersed it in cool sea water, returning to it the temperature of comfort. So many hours while solar and sea procedures have not ceased to bring the same pleasure already repeated. Then I walked to the quay.
The beach in Nice is fine stone made. There are the beaches belonging to hotels, and there is no easy access. But there are also city beaches with an easy approach of all wishing to be expiated. I walked from our hotel up to the first of such a beach and settled down on the towel. The temperature of air was about thirty, the temperature of water, probably, about 26 degrees.
We visited the factory in Grasse. It was a wonderful experience. We were brief on perfume making and got to sample a few of their new perfumes. We were also given a few samples for free.
The smell of flowers is simply enchanting. We bought some perfumes, soaps, cosmetics
Grasse L’usine historique
20, Bd, Fragonard
Villa Ephrussi, Cap Ferat
Another bus trip, Route 81 from Nice Gare Routiere (not Sundays) , will take you twenty minutes to the magnificent Villa Ile de France of the Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild, on the Cap Ferrat. Open to the public (charges) here you can wander through one of the most beautiful villas in the world, set in seven themed gardens, located in the centre of the peninsula that is home to the most exlusive and private addresses in all Europe.
The balcony of Nice - Gairaut
Unknown to the casual visitor, up in the hills behind Nice is its magnificent "balcony" - Gairaut. Walking along side the two kilometre Canal de Gairaut rewards the adventurous with magnificent views out to sea over the city. Favoured by joggers and walkers, the canal winds around the hillside offering a rare glimpse of the very french Chateau d'Azur perched high above the city. The Canal starts starts at the bus stop "Super Rimiez" (route 25 from Nice Centre) and a short walk nearby, route 15 (Les Roses) via Cimiez. Expect no coaches or fellow tourists - this is deep Nice.
The canal disappears a few hundred yards from the pretty local church, in whose cemetery you will find the family tomb of the notorious mayors of Nice, father and son, Jean and Jacques Medecin, after whom the main street of Nice is named. Shenanigans galore when the mayor fled Nice to South America when charged with corruption.
Beyond this is the strange swiss chalet perched above a waterfall, the Cascade de Gairaut, where the waters of the river Vesubie once flowed. It is maintained by the French water Companie General des Eaux, whose headquaters is based in a magnificent science fiction/art deco building at Les Roses.
A great adventurous half day,but not for the faint-hearted!
Escape to the perched village
Touet sur Var is within an hours train journey from Nice. It's a wonderous place to village to marvel at structures hugging the cliffs. The inhabitants are incredibly friendly. However, the most amazing thing is that there is a well marked path which you can take right into the mountains up a seemingly impossible cliff. The views down the Gorges du Cians, in the Roudoule valley, are breathtaking. The other amazing thing is the train journey on the Chemins de fer en Provence line. The station is situated some 300 metres to the north of the main SNCF in Nice.
Menton - the garden of the Mediterranean
With the Italian border only a kilometre away, this is the Riviera's most Italian town. And with the Mediterranean's most favourable climate all year round, Menton has been a magnet for grand Victorian garden designers. Lemon trees and exotic palms grace the many public parks, whilst more formal laid out classical gardens are hidden away in private - some of which are accessible to visitors by arrangement with the tourist office, though often only in the months of June and July. Watch out for the "Jours de Patrimonie" in late September which gets you in to places normally closed to the public.
Just across the border is the magnificent Giardini Bottanici Hanbury set around the superbly located Villa Hanbury, whilst on the Menton-Garavan hillside there is the awe-inspiring Jardin Les Colombiers. Other delights include the Jean Cocteau' decorated Salle de Marriages and Cocteau museum. The cemeteries are a treasure trove of the last century history.
For more, see myMenton pages
The prime of Cote d'Azur ...
Watching from the castle hill in Nice, almost every day the sea is absolutely azure coloured. The water is really the reason why this is the Cote d'Azur. Along the coast at the cape that ends the castle hill, sharp rocks descend straight down into the Mediterrenean Sea. Climbing over the wall and laying down on the rocks one can hardly imagine that one is in the fufth largest town in France. Here, the only sound that reaches you is the breaking of waves. Surrounding you are the blue blue sea and natural rocks with some strange salt loving plants.
Church of Saint Francois-ne Paule
Very impressive facade that is the most attractive scene in this street leading away from Cours Selaya and is named after this church. The name says that Francois actually was born as Paule, but was renamed afterwards.
Chapel of Sainte-Rita or church of Saint-Giaume
This small chapel is devoted oficially to Saint Giaume, but is known by the citizens of Nice as the Sainte-Rita church. She is the patron Saint of hopeless causes. The church was restructured in the 17th century on the place where an older church was dedicated to Saint Giaume (same as Saint Jacques, but pronounciated in Nicois dialect).
The cathedral of Sainte-Reparate
Dominating over the central Place Rosetti, the cathedral of Sainte-Reparate is a very beautiful church with a high tower that is significantly present. this in contrast to many other churches, of which the towers can hardly be seen in the narrow alleys and streets of the Nocoise old town centre. This 17th century cathedral is especially interesting as it has a close bound to the town itself. Representing the patriot saint of Nice: Sainte-Reparate, that died very young as a martyr. The old belltower was added in the 18th century. Also interesting is the charming gateway full with fine decorations. Inside the main attractions are the altar and choir balcony that are completely made of fine marble stone.
Cemetery along the castle hill
You can actually call it a tourist attraction. The cemetery of Nice between the old centre and the castle hill is ancient and full of monumental gravestones and small burrying houses. Statues in amazing forms and made with gret artistic accuracy almost fill the terrain like a museum of arts.
Church of Saint-Jacques (Jacob)
The full name of this church is Eglise du Gesu Saint-Jacques le Majeur (= the Great) and it's facade surprises you when walking through the narrow streets of the old town of Nice. this is a Jezuiet church, a religious group that appeared during the contra-reformation and was inspirated by creating a dazzling beauty that would show the importance and power of the Roman Catholic church. The simple 17th century baroque style outside does not match the indeed spectacular overwhelming beauty inside. Gold, silver, albaster, marble and a huge collection of wall and ceiling ffresco's paintings, will make you dizzy from finding out where to look first.
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