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Nice City Breaks

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Nice - French for fantastic

What does your mind conjure up when you think of Nice? Chi chi film stars, palm tree lined boulevards, oh so private hotels?  You'd be right on all three counts and you can add in glamour, summer heat and Gallic passion for the finer things in life. The French Riviera and its ménage à trois of Nice, Cannes and Monaco are the perfect location for a European city break; and even better, romantic weekend breaks!

Nice is as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. You can park yourself on the beach and eat the delicious local snack (called socca), dining out at night, or you lash it up with tours, gastronomic delights and clubs for the rich and famous.

Nice is swish, but it's fun. Nice is cool, but the locals are friendly. Nice is glamour on a stick but it's rustic in the back alleys. It's a cosmopolitan city of some 350,000 with an absolutely charming old town and a clutch of quite excellent museums and galleries. A couple of notable museums to look out for include those containing significant works by Marc Chagall, Matisse and the original Campbell's Soup Can by Andy Warhol.

The Niçoise take food seriously so you'll find plenty of restaurants - but be wary of the places close to tourist hotspots.

If you have an arty side, Nice is delightful; the colours of the deep blue (azure!) coast and the green hills drew in many of the world's most famous artists. The colours are bright and fabulous.

Eating out in Nice - cheap, expensive and everything in between

Nice is tourist nirvana - beaches, beautiful people and sunshine - and it does attract the Euro jetset types, so restaurants can be pricey. Best bets are Promenade de Anglais and the Vieux Nice neighbourhood.

The budget options - try Nicca Socca at 5 rue Ste-Reparate. They do fab pizza and the chick pea paste fried in olive oil snack called socca. Quite good value considering how popular it is. If you're vegetarian you'll often despair in France but not at La Zucca Magica at 4 bis quai Papacino. They specialise in vegetarian food and the menu is done with love!

Mid price options - at 1 rue Maurice Jaubert is Albert's Bar. The name is a touch misleading as the food is glorious. Mostly because it's so fresh. Apparently there's not a freezer on the premises so everything is delivered and consumed daily. The varied menu is seasonal. Lou Pilha Leva at 10 rue du Collet is very popular and very good. This is classic Niçoise food - fresh, plenty of seafood and lots of salads.

Splurge - on the Promenade de Anglais right in the middle of the action sits the utterly charming Hotel Palais de la Mediterranee, a white art deco triumph of taste restored in 2004. Inside is the equally renowned gourmet restaurant. If you're in Nice for a romantic getaway in the south of France, your brownie points will be immeasurably enriched with a dining experience here. Fresh, formal (but not stuffy), and oh so chic.

What to wear, when to go

Nice is a summer time frolic, although it does get hot, hot, hot. It'll be dry and sunny most of the summer and only a little wet during the very mild winters. Autumn is a pleasant 20-24C and can get rainy towards October. Winter is mild with temps around the 11-17C mark. Spring can be wet but fines up towards June.

Life's a beach in Nice

Are you in Nice to see or be seen? Chances are you'll do both at the beach. But be wary; you can park your backside on a cushion or chair for upwards of 10€ - or find a 'free' beach. Either way, it's rocky so bring something cushy for the tushy.

Colline du Chateau - is easy to reach via zig zag path or lift and the views from on high are to die for. You'll see Nice laid out before you and up and down the Cote d'Azure. Castle Hill  has a playground, clean air, history and great views - all for free!

The Old Town - wandering through the Old Town of Nice is fun for so many reasons. There's a quirky or upmarket boutique around every corner, some of the boulangeries are simply exquisite and the cobblestoned streets are charming. The coastal architecture is simple and clean and the flower market is full of colour and noise. At night the place comes alive with restaurants and bars. Be warned; it's touristy and pricey.

Musee National Message Biblique Marc Chagall - this tiny gallery houses some of Chagall's finest work. There's a cafe and a theatre shows film of Chagall's paintings, his techniques and his life.

Promenade des Anglais - get your walking shoes on and make like a local by walking the promenade. You can take a seat and watch the world go by, eat an ice cream and soak up the atmosphere. At night buskers come out of hiding and entertain all. There's a great view of the bay and your walk is punctuated by magnificent hotels and casinos. You're in a movie!

Cathedrale Orthodoxe Russe St-Nicolas a Nice - what a classic Russian cathedral is doing in Nice we'll never know. Well actually, it was built in the early 20th century in honour of the son of Czar Nicholas II, who died in Nice after failing to recover from tuberculosis. This grand onion-domed building is bright and colourful and worth the effort to find it. (It's on Av Nicolas II 06000.)

The must see - is the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art on Promenade des Arts. Andy Warhol, Yyves Klein, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Indiana all have work displayed here and the terrace viewing area is also a standout - the views are magnificent. You'll recognise the Warhol work, and you may be familiar with the Roy Lichtenstein stuff and just didn't know it!


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