As January is not beach weather, prices were extremely low--the train was 70€ round trip from Paris, and we stayed in a hotel room two blocks away from the beach for only 16€/person/night! I completely recommend doing this--you can always return for a day or two to take advantage of the beaches!
Immediately after arriving at our hotel, we changed into nice outfits suitable for Monte Carlo that night and set off to explore Èze and Monte Carlo (Monaco). As Èze is between Nice and Monte Carlo, we stopped there first, thinking we could roam the town until the next train two hours later. Wrong. Apparently, it's a one-hour hike up the cliffs to get to town, which we didn't learn until 20 minutes in. Major fail. We looked so silly wearing our dresses and tights and lipstick while hiking, but it was such a fun experience! We made our way down and hung out along the beach until the next train arrived. Next time I'm on the French Riviera, I'm going to make sure I'm dressed to hike, because I really want to see this petite village!
Monte Carlo was something else. It felt just like France, except cleaner and quieter. Not to mention that everything was much more expensive. After eating dinner at the famed Café de Paris (pasta was 13€--reasonable enough), we headed over to the Monte Carlo Casino (followed by the Casino Café de Paris) pour faire les jeux--my first time ever gambling! Rachel showed me the ropes and taught me how to play roulette, which is my new favorite table game. I lost 10€ that night, but oh well--it was all in good fun.
We dedicated the next day, our only full day during this quick weekend getaway, to exploring Nice. Breakfast on the beach was magical, especially since it was in the 50s and sunny. Seriously, it was so difficult to get up and leave our chaises. If you're in Nice and looking to relax on the beach with a croissant, Blue Beach is the place to go.
As we meandered into town, I noticed just how many orange trees there are in Nice. Oranges must have been in season, because the trees were filled with the bright fruits, making Nice feel that much more tropical.
Next up was the Cours Saleya market. We spent maybe two hours there, and it's not even that big! The stands are filled with fresh olives, Provençal kitchen goods, lavender sachets, and even kumquat trees. We got to taste socca, a traditional Niçois dish that is essentially a crêpe made of chickpea powder, and Rachel picked up two canvas paintings, which the artists proudly displayed to the crowd. Since it hadn't been long since breakfast, Rachel and I split an amazing herb-filled ciabatta for lunch, which we ate on a bench at Place Masséna, and I bit into the crispiest, juiciest apple I've ever had.
Obviously, we had to walk off the (very few) calories we consumed, so we headed up to Castle Hill. Let me tell you, this was quite a hike, but at least we weren't climbing up cliffs again! Once we reached the top, we could see the entire city, the port, the sea, and even the snow-capped Alps.
As if we hadn't exercised enough, we bought one-day memberships to the city's bike-share program and biked down the Promenade des Anglais to get a glass of wine on the beach. We ended up drinking at the same place where we had breakfast, but the atmosphere was just that good!
We biked a bit more up and down the beach, taking in the sunset, before stopping for dinner and trying our luck at the Casino Palais Méditerranée. Chance was on my side that night, because I won 22€!
Have any of you visited the French Riviera before? I'm already counting down until when I can return, whether it be in January (again) or July.