Nice is really nice!

Long the playground for the European elite, Nice is still a viable and affordable destination for the everyday vacationer. 

The gem of the Cote d’Azur, easily accessed via international flights, train schedules or economical bus service, awaits your exploration.

Location is everything if you wish to have easy walking access to the city’s attractions. Many use the Promenade des Anglais as a base search for choosing their hotel. 

This is a beautiful seaside boulevard stretching from the airport to the Old Town. Cyclists, baby strollers and skateboarders all vie for their patch of ground and the auto traffic can be ridiculously congested and moving at a snail’s pace during the day. 

Never leave your airport transfer to the last minute. 

The beaches in Nice are beautiful, but they are not free. Although there is no charge to access the sand for a walk along the water’s edge, you are not able to lay a towel or chair as all beaches along the “Prom” are private. 

Sitting at the assorted beach clubs range from $20-$35EUR per person for the day.

The Promenade is most recently infamous as the site of the horrible Bastille Day attack, which left 86 people dead. July 14 marks the one-year anniversary and memorial to those who perished.

The public transit system is very inexpensive. You can buy day passes or longer durations for unlimited access to the bus system. 

Of course, the best way to really immerse yourself in Nice is to walk. 

Based on my recent visit, I would advise staying within the boundaries of Boulevard Gambetta, Victor Hugo Blvd and Old Town. Lots of hotels available within this circumference at varying tariffs.

Old Town or Vieux Nice is a lovely place to get lost in and amongst the dark narrow winding alleyways. The layout has barely changed since the 1700s and is now jammed with delis, restaurants, boutiques and bars. 

The centrepiece is the Saleya Market featuring an extensive food market offering wonderful local produce, cheeses, meats as well as the incredibly fragrant flower market. 

It is here that you find the daunting uphill access to the Castle Hill (La Colline du Chateaux). The climb is so worth the amazing vista of the city and coastline of the Bay of Angels. 

Although there is a vast assortment of restaurants in Old Town, I would not recommend eating dinner here.  Seating is “cheek to jowl” and the setting is very touristy. It is, however, a great place to come back to for late night entertainment and aperitif. 

Check out the many live music venues or simply sit with a yummy gelato and enjoy the people watching.

The Place de Massena is located at the entrance to Old Town. A large square at the confluence of the monorail station it is also the gateway to the Rue Massena. 

A wide boulevard stretching for four km — this is your shopping mecca. Trendy restaurants, boutiques and galleries make this a terrific “strolling” avenue.  Go a couple blocks in either direction of the Rue Massena to find unique and memorable dining options. 

I found a wonderful little tapas wine bar that I can highly recommend — La Clef d’Or (The Gold Key). 

Nice is the perfect destination for the art lover (Chagall & Matisse), foodie and wine connoisseur and history buff. Plan for at least a three-day stay and you’ll but scratch the surface but those days will leave you with star-filled eyes and a pensive desire to return.


Driving in France

I am certain I would travel regardless of my profession.

However due to my diligence to ever expand my knowledge and experience, I make note of my surroundings and adventures during every vacation to later better advise my clients. 

The realities of driving in France is one for the record books.

I would be the first to advocate the spontaneity and versatility that a self-drive holiday can offer, however the realities and constraints that driving in France entails is one that should be considered prior to arranging a rental car.

The country is criss-crossed with a highway system ranging from six-lane high speed freeways to national four -lane routes and then a series of agricultural and departmental secondary road accesses. 

The freeways are denoted by the letter A and give the quickest most direct access however they also are subject to many tolls. 

At $3EUR and above per stop, these charges can quickly add up over the course of a holiday. For example, the drive from Paris to Aix en Provence can be as expensive as $100EUR one way.

Both the freeways and national highways are subject to intense volume delays as well, which can add a debilitating and frustrating aspect to the drive. 

Photo radar is another liability to be cognizant of.

Many clients choose to upgrade the size of the vehicle to accommodate luggage and/or have extra power on the freeway. This is another factor to re-consider. 

Parking is a premium pretty much anywhere you go. Underground parking access is incredibly narrow and stalls are teeny-weeny. Above ground parking is haphazard at best and vehicles are literally jammed in with but centimetres to spare. 

Few hotels include free parking and rates range from $3EUR/hour to $20EUR/day. Again, a cost to factor in.  Smaller cars give you access to the twisting winding roads of the glorious scenic routes such as the Route des Cretes.

The road less travelled is slower, but leads you to the most interesting sites.

My suggestion would be to incorporate the incredibly efficient transit system into your travel plans. Trains are comfortable and air-conditioned and are cost effective if booked in advance or travelled during off peak hours.  Utilize this service to travel distances or 400 km or more. 

The national bus service is excellent and very inexpensive. Frequency of service is fantastic and comfort is premium. The bus from Aix en Provence to Nice was two-hours at a cost of $22EUR roundtrip. 

Public transit within the cities themselves is also an easy and effective manner of discovery. Rent your car for specific areas and perhaps for a day at a time to explore specific scenic routes or to discover hidden treasures such as Les Baux-de-Provence or the exhilarating Mont Ventoux route made famous by the Tour de France.

The iconic history, culture and cuisine of France is yours to discover in what ever way suits you best.

Paris in springtime

Paris has not disappointed; it is truly a city for romantics 

It’s been a whirlwind three-day exploration, which has not allowed for an in-depth view of all this city must offer, but has given me a wonderful sense of the 18 arrondissements that make up the inner core of Paris.

My arrival into Charles De Gaulle airport was a definite eye opener. 

Note to self: never book tight connections in this airport. 

The Customs Hall was an unorganized melee of confusion and the subsequent luggage retrieval was an archaic straight-line conveyor belt which had people standing four deep trying to catch a glimpse of their bags.

 Thankfully, it’s been all golden since.

My hotel, the Ibis Bastille Opera is in the 11th arrondissement, a lively, trendy area full of great shopping, eclectic restaurants and a huge assortment of clubs ranging from live jazz to EDM. 

If you are a walker, Paris is an easy city to navigate. The arrondissements blend seamlessly, but each displays its own special ambiance.

La Marais — small winding alleyways full of sidewalk cafes, street art and unique boutique shops. Visit the House of Chanel and browse in the local galleries.

The Latin Quartier — pays tribute to its Roman history and architecture with the Place du Pantheon. The historical centre of the beginnings of Paris, this district is also home to St Germain and its exquisite dining options. According to our local guide, this area truly offers the best in fine dining.

Champs Elysees — high-end shopping, five-star Michelin restaurants, deluxe hotels. Exotics cars speed along the boulevard between the Arc de Triomphe and La Place du Concorde. The place to catch a glimpse of the rich or famous.

Louvre/Opera — high density traffic area. Close to all the major sites and attractions but seriously congested with both walking and vehicle traffic. Home to most of the large chain hotels such as the Westin.  

There are many different options as far as touring the city goes. The Hop on Hop off bus, Paris Visite tours, but I prefer small group tours. 

I can highly endorse Urban Adventures as an excellent source for informative and immersive options. They are a division of Intrepid Travel and offer day tours in cities all over the world. The local guides give both historical as well as insightful views of specific areas of the city. 

I did the Bohemian in Paris tour. 

We had a group of 11 and spent four hours wandering through the Latin Quartier learning the legacy of Hausman, sampling specialty pastries, sharing plates of charcuterie and ending with a rousing game of petanque (bocce) with some of the locals. 

It was truly a memorable experience.

Paris is for those of us looking to embrace life to the fullest: great wine, food, art, architecture. 

It has beautiful parklands, glamorous shopping, endless visual candy. Sit along the banks of the River Seine with a bottle of your favourite wine, a baguette and some cheese and live like a Parisienne for a day or two. 

Bring your favourite person and fall in love all over again in the City of Lights.


Leaving on a jet plane

I’m leaving for France later this week. I’m spending three nights in Paris and then heading to Aix en Provence to connect with a girlfriend and explore the south of France. 

I’m excited and hopeful about my upcoming adventure, but it’s surprising how fearful others are when I tell them of my plans.

“Omigosh, aren’t you scared to go to Paris?”

“You’re not going to go to the Eiffel Tower, are you?”

Those are just some of the comments I’ve fielded from friends and family. 

Sadly, it seems that the latest rash of terrorist attacks have had their desired effect on some of the population. 

The definition of terrorism is:

  • the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
  • the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.

These fearsome acts of violence create a physiological response in which individuals doubt their safety, and the randomness of the attacks create a sense of impending chaos. 

Terrorism feeds off the fear of chance. People change their routines to create a sense of control and in that moment, play right into the desired effect of the terrorism — to instil fear and effect change through intimidation.

The media sensationalizes these events and in effect gives them an “other worldliness” power over the general population. 

Britons and Parisiennes are described as “cowed and afraid” by some of the North American press when, in fact, they are the complete opposite. 

These misleading and “hyped” headlines create the exact kind of fear mongering that the terrorist’s want. The reality is that the average Londoner and Parisian are going about their business as usual and are resolute in their defiance to not submit to coercion. 

My hats go off to them.

This kind of news coverage entices these unstable, young men to commit their so called “attacks." That brief 15 minutes of fame which allow them to go down in the flames of notoriety. 

What if the news coverage only talked about the victims? 

Did background searches and extensive reports on their friends and family.

Covered the noble and heroic efforts of the police and rescue response teams. 

If there wasn't any mention of the names or backgrounds of the perpetrators and no mention of any affiliations or ideology, their worldwide stage would disappear.

Travel and wanderlust is a personal and intimate experience. I for one would never deliberately put myself in harms way. Travel to Afghanistan or Syria will have to wait for the time being, however my belief is that “when it’s your time, it’s your time."  

Therefore, I look forward to my current and future travels with expectation, wonder and joy. 

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About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy by email.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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