June 2005 - France's Herve Faure and Holland’s Mariska Kramer won the Nice round of the biggest endurance event on earth: Triathlon. Swim 2.4 miles for starters, cycle 112 miles for main course, and for dessert, run 26.2 miles! Even thinking about it left me exhausted and in need of a lie down.
I completed the London Marathon myself in under four hours, but that was in 1992 - an altogether more aerodynamic NiceLife - before I had the waistline extension and additional chins fitted. The mind boggles at the level of fitness required to do all three in a row.
This years Nice round was played out in over 30 degrees of sweltering heat. And the reward, for most, a T-shirt for completing it. Further heats in Monaco and around the globe, culminating in the World Triathlon Championship finals in Hawaii.
Ironman competitors featured among my fellow travellers on the return flight from Nice. I am suprised they didn't walk the thousand miles to England backwards carrying an anvil under each arm and then swim the Channel. This kind of fitness is not an afterthought or a fashion accessory like a trip to the gym - it's a way of life. They have my admiration.
Go ski-ing from Nice
The ski bus from Nice to either Isola 2000 or Auron is a great way for anyone who can already ski and is flexible as to when they want to travel to cheaply have a day ski-ing from Nice. The ski bus runs at weekends and during the school holidays.
The bus leaves the Nice Gare Routiere (Bus station) at 0730 and returns at around 1900 in the evening. The drive to Isola takes around 1.45-2 hours. For 27 euros the bus ticket also includes a ski pass.
Now the downside….firstly the bus is often cancelled if less than 20 people are travelling, so you need to be flexible with dates. The bus is usually not confirmed as going until the afternoon before hand. The 2nd problem was that I don’t really think Isola and the ski-bus is a good option for 1st time skiers (such as me!). The bus dropped us off in a car park and to get to the ski school I was told I would have to take 2 ski lifts and ski to it…..if I could have done that I wouldn’t haven’t needed lessons! The bus driver was kind enough to drive us up further in the ski resort than he normally went so we could be closer to the ski school. As it turned out all ski lessons were fully booked anyway! As we didn’t know which days the ski bus would run we could not book lessons in advance, and they wouldn’t take ski lesson bookings over the phone anyway..!
Equipment: Most people travelled in their ski gear. There are plenty of places at the resort to hire all the equipment needed for ski-ing. There are a couple of ski shops where you can get a discount if you show your ski-bus ticket.
- Skiing and Boarding
- Road Trip
learning to sail in Nice
Learn to sail a Hobie Cat (a type of Catamaran for 1- 4 people) in Nice. We did a course this Summer 2004 and it was great fun and made a change from lying on a beach all day. You still get just as brown but without the boredom factor plus you get a bit fitter and see some wonderful views of the coastline along Nice.
Also, you do get a proper qualification at the end which is a nice incentive too. We had never sailed before but by the end of the week we had picked up the basics and improved our French a bit.
We were part of a group of about twelve people, mostly international students from the ABC Language School in Nice.
The courses run throughout the Summer, either five mornings or afternoons each week. The cost is 115 euros per adult. Our daughter completed the children's course, sailing a tiny 'optimist' boat. This was 100 eros for the five afternoons.
Equipment: For all contact and location details see my 'Learning to sail in Nice' page on my external site www.allaboutNice.com.
The Sailing School is on the far side of the Port on boulevard Franck Pilatte right next door to La Reserve Public Beach and the Club Nautique de Nice.
Most of the students wore swimwear and that is all you need. I wore running shorts and a t-shirt, a hat and sunglasses too but you may lose them in the sea. A waterproof camera is essential. I'm so glad we took one, we have some great phtos. You will definitely need waterproof suncream. I use P20, it stays on all day on one application and is waterproof.
You can change and leave your stuff safely in the reception area. Bring some water too. There is a snack van on the road right by the entrance to the club so you won't starve.
- Study Abroad
- Family Travel
- Sailing and Boating
get your skates on
For about 3 weeks in December as part of the Nice's 'Village de Noel' or Christmas Village, part of the main central square, Place Massena, is converted into an outdoor ice-skating rink.
We were here in December before the French school holidays began, so the daughter had the ice-rink to herself. It was lovely watching her in the winter sunshine.
The ice-rink is surrounded by the Christmas Village (wooden huts!) selling gifts, foods and drinks. Across the road, there is a walkway of white Christams trees and a Big Wheel. For more details about the Christmas Village in Nice, please see my tip in Local Customs.
I think the ice-skating rink will taken up at the end of December but I am sure the Big Wheel will stay in place until the famous Nice Carnival is over (end of February)
So, you will need to get your skates on (sorry) if you want to have a go. If you don't make it, you don't have to wait until next December as there is a huge indoor ice-skating rink or 'Patinoire' at the Jean Bouin Palais de Sports Centre, by the Acropolis Exhibition Centre, just north of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.
Equipment: If you are in time to try the outdoor rink at Place Massena, skates can be hired (5 euros) just opposite the rink and there are four 1 - 1 1/2 hour sessions a day when the public can use the rink.
Warm clothes are a good idea plus gloves; in fact there are notices saying that gloves must be worn.
If you go to the indoor rink by the Acropolis (I've not been yet) then www.wguides.com gives the following details:
"Located right in the centre of town, this Olympic ice-skating rink is open throughout the week. You can rent a range of skates (from EUR2.75): classic skates for beginners or hockey skates for those in search of speed and thrills. Once kitted out, step out onto the ice, try to keep your balance and above all, avoid crashing into anybody! Entry EUR3.15-EUR4.30. Snack bar and paying car park available."
- Family Travel
- Adventure Travel
Local Rugby team
RNCA (Rugby Nice Cote d'Azur) is a great team and hopefully they will be joining the French Top 14.
Kid and pet-friendly, lots of anglophones too (if you are afraid of not speaking French), you have no excuse not to come.
Tickets can be bought at the entrance (less than 10 €).
Equipment: If it's windy or cold, dress warmly.
If it rains, don't forget your raincoat/umbrella.
Seats are not clean, so bring something to sit on.
- Travel with Pets
- Family Travel
Power-assisted para-flying thingumy
Don't know its proper name, if it has one, but what bloody fantastic way to fly.
Sort of one man parachute-assisted microlite with a small rear-mounted propellor and an upright pilot--seat.
He came sailing over the Chateau, virtually silent , in a gravity-defying slow glide, and gently rolled around the sky over the beach and out to sea. All in all must have been up in the air fifteen or more minutes. And I want to know where I can get one because I want one too. However I suspect this one was home-built.
OCG Nice - Le Foot a Nice
Pushing leather since 1904, OGC Nice - originally the Gymnastic Club of Nice, the red and blacks have a strong local following. Evidenced by the tooting of horns all Saturday afternoon after a big match at Le Ray Stadium in North Nice.The biggest rivalry is when Nice play Marseilles, grudge match celebre for the crown of the Cote d'Azur.
Other towns on the Riviera could take a leaf out their book. How about a St Tropez Wanderers, limbering up in their flipflops and thong-displaying shorts? (Whole team currently suspended for failing a random drugs test - recreational variety.)
Or Dynamo de Cannes . Shorts all bulging with wads of Euro's as they attempt to bribe the opposing team to put up a speculative off-plan sales apartment building behind their goalmouth.
I confess to have no interest in any sport whatsoever. A failing that has freed up countless Saturday afternoons, and left at least 30% of brain cells available for matters of greater import.. Cricket? Chirrup, chirrup! Rugby? For oddballs. Tennis? Love all. Snooker? Too energegetic!
A ten miute walk out of the centre to the Football stadium. We saw a game against Toulouse, a 1-0 home win. OGC? that's Olmpic Gymnastic Club!
Noisy and entertaining crowd singing mostly Italian songs, Forza Nizza!
Scuba dive from Nice
For 37 euros we tried our first scuba dive, a ‘Bapteme’. Children have to be 8 or older. There are two dives a day, 9:00 and 14:30, each trip lasts about three hours.
The cost includes the boat trip past the Cap of Nice towards Villefranche, instruction and all equipment, practise and a half-hour accompanied dive. Our instructor, Richard, went carefully went through all the safety procedures and signals etc until he was confident we knew what to do.
Once ready, but without the tanks and weights, you jump in and practise breathing just below the surface of the sea with regulators and air attached to the boat so there is no chance you can either dive or drift away. When deemed ready, the harness, weights and tank is put on you by the instructor, another practise, then off you go.
The pressure hurt my ears a bit and I found the whole experience a bit unnerving, I had to concentrate hard on keeping relaxed and I never really felt completely comfortable. My instructor held my hand throughout the dive (very romantic - a fishy ‘brief encounter’) and led me around to points of interest – an octopus hiding in a rock, various fish, starfish etc. The chap who dived with my husband didn’t hold HIS hand; he just gripped him by his harness.
I was really pleased I'd had a go at scuba diving but not tempted enough to book a 5-day course which would have been the next step requiring a medical certificate. My daughter chickened out of her deep dive after about five minutes down there but I thought she did very well, considering how scared I felt and she was very nifty with the scuba when practising just below the surface of the sea. I am sure it will be something she will try again another time. She got a certificate at the end of the dive.
The website gives you the full range of diving options, prices, contact, map directions etc. and the office is located on Quai Lunel by the booking office for 'trans cote d’azur' boat trips.
Equipment: Swimsuit and towel are what you are told to bring. I would arrive with your swimwear on, under your clothes, as you get changed on deck in front of everyone.
An underwater camera would have been handy, husband left ours back in UK so in bad books although it would have been easy enough to buy a disposable underwater camera if we had been more organised.
I would also bring suncream, sunglasses and a bottle of water. A comb wouldn't go amiss afterwards when you are drying and changing. A beach bag to stash your clothes.
- Diving and Snorkeling
- Family Travel
The Promenade des Anglais is just made for in-line skating. A wide tarmac strip dedicated to skaters runs the 5km length of the prom out to the Airport. . You can also hire the requisite saftey pads for knees and elbows, though more experienced skaters will think you look a bit of a pussy. Its difficult to look cool padded like an ice hockey goalkeeper. You might want to don shades, and instead make a note of the address of the St Roch Hospital Accident and Emergency Department.
Nice hosts several competitive skating events, and a spectacular evening skate "Nice en Roller" in the summer
Equipment: You can hire skates by the hour, but bring your own shades.
Two legs good, two wheels better!
No other nation is quite as barmy about cycling as the French. The Tour de France has the entire nation gripped (despite being won by an American for the last four years in a row). Paris - Nice 2005 is one of the biggest races, after the big one. Held in the second week of March, it too was won by an American, Bobby Julich .
Against a pure blue sky, the Men in Lycra hurtled from the Prom pursued by a pack of photographers on big motorcycles, cheered on by young and old cycling groupies similarly decked out in logos, spandex and shades. The Promenade was festooned with logos of obscure companies that make space technology derived titanium mudguards, performance-enhancing energy drinks, or Bleu Azur radio station.
Competitive cyclists in their brightly coloured jerseys sped off like a swarm of bees pursuing their queen, around the Port and off uphill towards Villefranche and the dizzy heights of Eze, winding its way back to the finishing line in Nice. The champions greeted by national TV cameras and thousands of journalists from Top Velo! or Quel Mudguard? .
That evening the cycling media circus packed up shop, and headed back to Paris to file their copy and their expenses. Upturned cycles were loaded onto roof racks, and the spandex folded away, whilst diaries were marked up for the next competitive event on the cycling calendar.
I sat on a plane heading back to London recently , next to a Frenchman who was reading, as it happens, "Top Velo". I mean how can anyone find enough things to write about to fill eighty pages about cycling? Every page had a picture of someone - wait for it - on a bicycle. Maybe I'm missing something but bikes are for riding on, not reading about.. Though not if you are French apparently. Can't wait for next months issue, can you?
Equipment: Bicycles and spandex
Ski from Nice - take the skibus to Isola 2000
If you are in Nice during the winter months, you can go skiing for the day in Isola 2000 in the southern French alps, by catching the skibus which leaves the Gare Routiere (bus station) in Nice at 7.30am and returns you back into Nice by about 7pm. There is more information via my ski pages where you will find links to the Isola 2000 website, snow reports and the skibus information site (in french)
The cost in January 2003 was 26 euros (I think it's now 27 euros) and this included the return trip and ski pass - you have to exchange this portion of your ticket at the skipass booths in Isola 2000. We had a great day out and and came back exhilarated and exhausted. The resort itself is fine for beginners and intermediate skiers and very nice for families. I think that experienced skiers may find the resort a bit limited in both size and difficulty.
Equipment: Most of the people on the skibus seemed to be young students and they all seemed to have their own equipment - mostly snow-boards which were stashed in the bus hold. We hired skis from Bruno Sports (the closest hire shop to where the bus parked!) They were quick and helpful. We have our own ski clothes so I don't know if snow-wear can be hired...
You need to book skibus tickets in advance; you can not just turn up in the morning. I sent a cheque to the skibus offices three weeks before we wanted to go and they posted the tickets to me in the UK. The address is on the skibus site- address above. Or, you can buy tickets a few days in advance directly from the Gare Routiere in Nice.
- Skiing and Boarding
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Go inline on the promenade
It's so common to go inline skating in French cities and towns, and here in Nice in particular, in the long stretch of the Nice promenade, some 7 km of level runs.
The promenade actually has a bike path and occasionally motor bikes run along and park themselves near the beach. Inline skaters have a free flow amid the pedestrians as the place is not densed with people all the time.
Wear a pair of sunglasses and a sunshade. One weather tip to note: as wind is so strong from the west, going eastward is a lot smoother and faster.
Equipment: Just an ordinary pair of inlines and smart wear for outdoor sports. No need for protective gear if you are not into extreme running.
- Adventure Travel
Cruise eastward along the promenade to the high point, the beach head, and look over the beautiful harbour of Monaco. By all means go all the way down if you are ready to climb the gradient again. See how strong the wind blows on a well-tanned me up this vantage point.
GET YOUR FEET WET!
If you're like me and want a refreshing reprieve to escape Nice's masses huddled along the Promenade des Anglais, and the ever-present toxic fumes from diesel fueled cars in nonstop traffic, St. Laurent du Var is 5 minutes from Nice and a great place for windsurfing. Other recommended places for windsurfing is Estérel, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and the Lérins Islands.
If you?re into ocean canoe kayaking or rowing, the best places are: Antibes, Mandelieu, St-Laurent-du-Var and Cannes. Rowing at Villefranche sur Mer, Mandelieu, Monaco and Menton.
For motorized water activities (Jet-skiing, Water-skiing, parachute rides, etc) things get a little tricky. The driver of any craft with an engine more powerful than 6CV needs a license. If you have a license from a country outside of France, it should be ok but check this out anyway, just in case!
For scuba diving: contact the Comité Départemental de Plongée (Alpes-Maritimes) Tel: 04 93 61 26 07
Equipment: Equipment rentals (windsurfing, canoes, kayaks and boats) and advice/information are available at one of the many sailing centers (Stations Voiles).
OH. Take note of the flags on the beach! GREEN means it's pretty safe and there's a lifeguard somewhere (hopefully), ORANGE means it's dangerous but there's a lifeguard somewhere (maybe). YELLOW means that the water is POLLUTED so please, definitely ask someone about the flag colors if you're color blind!!!!
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