Sunday 2 June 2019
We’ve skipped out the wedding as that requires too much thought and too many words for a quick blog on our travels! However it was a ridiculous, amazing wonderful and exhausting 3 days of the best time with all our friends and families.
Sadly though, I somehow picked up a bug – was it stress? Was it something more? Either way, the honeymoon did not quite begin quite as romantically as planned, with me dosed up on Imodium and it was agreed that hungover Declan would be a safer driver that day to get to Nice!
Despite my hopes that the car would be far emptier without all the wedding stuff, we still had next to no space left and had to play tetris as we packed up to leave!
And then, we were off – leaving behind our friends a family among the vineyards of the Languedoc for unknown European adventures.
The original plan had been to stop at Aix en Provence for lunch, but given the state of both of us, we decided to just focus on getting to our first accommodation the quickest way possible.
So, no stops for wine or pretty drives along the coast, but when we did see the Cote D’Azur eventually, it looked stunning, sparkling in the sunlight.
It turns out the folks in Nice drive a bit like Italians (unsurprising given the location) and park a bit like Parisians – so generally awful all round! Either way, traffic was mental, and we were incredibly glad that our Air B&B hosts had safe underground parking we could use – as all the cars in the street looked pretty bashed up.
We were staying in a rooftop apartment in the “Libération” part of town – the perfect spot for speciality foods and wines, good bars etc. Funnily enough though, I wasn’t too up for that! Both of us were up for a bit of a stroll though to stretch our legs after a 4-hour journey, and see some of the beautiful city (I’d been twice before, but Dec never). So we walked down to Vieux Nice, the oldest part of town, to have Franco-Italian riviera speciality: Socca – Farinata in Italian. It’s a chickpea pancake with various different toppings, and we visited one of the best institutions in town for it – Chez Pipo.
After filling up, we took a stroll around town, visiting the port, then walking along the coastline to the famous Promenade des Anglais, where it felt a bit like Italy again, as everyone was out for a Sunday evening passegiata after dinner. We got some stunning views of the Baie des Anges and then wound our way back home for bed and a good rest.
Monday 3 June 2019
Neither of us were up for doing anything too heavy-going, and the point of these first 2 days had been to relax, so we decided a trip to the seaside would be good. I walked down the road to the local boulangerie for pastries and bread (choco-amande croissant, anyone?) and then we made our way over to the train station. A little bit of confusion (which train – regional? TGV? Which ticket kiosk?!) later, and we boarded a regional train to Antibes. I know that Nice does have beaches, but if you want to do Nice comfortably you have to pay quite a lot for a sun lounger, or else risk the rocks of the public beach!
The train ride was pretty wonderful actually, hugging the coastline the whole way, and in just 20 minutes we had disembarked at Antibes, strolling awestruck past the med’s largest yacht port, with some of the world’s most impressive superyachts. We pitched up on the small beach a short walk away, and finally, we were able to properly relax…
At least for an hour, before Dec got bored and made us decamp for an explore around the historic town. Frustratingly, lots is shut on a Monday in France, so my plan for the local speciality of pissaladière went out the window. We found a decent café for lunch though, serving enormous salads and cheap pichets of rose wine. I even felt well enough to have a glass by this point!. We spent a good hour just exploring the place and its cute and historic buildings and winding roads. Inevitably we found a wine shop, where Dec was able to get his fill of Provencal rose for us to take back.
Arriving back in Nice mid afternoon, we were able to de-sand ourselves and leave behind the many bottles of rose before heading off to explore more of Nice. We wanted to catch sunset on the hill top park above the old town, so had a few hours to meander in the streets of the old town first, find a decent ice-cream, and a pretty cool historic bar, which seemed to only attract locals, despite its location in the heart of the old town.
Despite the guarantees of our B&B hosts, sunset on the hilltop is not possible in June, as the park is locked up at 8pm, with gendarmerie patrolling and kicking everyone out. So we caught the golden hour-almost sunset, and then had to return to town. We had a reservation at Acchiardo, a much talked about restaurant with a proper niçoise menu. I was still feeling pretty rough annoyingly, so suddenly the thought of a big meal was the last thing I wanted, and Dec wasn’t hugely hungry either, probably due to the hot weather. Acchiardo really is worth reserving for (there were queues outside!), and the vibe inside was great, with super friendly waiting staff, and a good mix of larger groups, couples, locals and tourists.
We decided to share 1 starter and 1 main as we were so un-hungry, but actually, it was more than enough anyway!
Our starter was a mix of local and regional specialities, including (finally!) pissaladiere, panisse from Marseille, various vegetables “farcis”, a frittata, lots of niçoise olives and salad. For the main, we kept it local, and had beef stew with ravioli. It turns out that ravioli isn’t that Italian, and that lots of places like to claim ravioli as their own! This was one of those occasions. The dish was delicious, but incredibly rich. We really loved the meal and wished we could have gone under happier circumstances!
By the time we left, I was feeling pretty grim indeed sadly, so we did like the locals and caught the tram home. Got to love a city with trams!
Tuesday 4th June 2019
Crossing the Border
So as feared, my Imodium had worn off, and my bug came back with a vengeance through the night. Needless to say, I was not up for much in the morning, and my original plan of hitting up the local market at Libération did not occur. Instead I caught up on sleep while Dec paid it a visit – and confirmed that it was indeed an awesome typical French market, with ridiculously fresh fruit and vegetables.
We had to hit the road again, leave the B&B and the security of a nearby toilet, to get to Lago Maggiore in Italy. Another 4 hours on the road was suddenly the most terrifying prospect.
Dec had really wanted to do the coastal route along the riviera, stopping in at Monaco before joining the motorway, but needs must, and we eventually hit the road around 1pm, sticking to motorways and ensuring regular service stations.
We actually only stopped once, and you could immediately tell we had crossed into Italy. The service station had a proper coffee bar, where Dec duly took an afternoon espresso, standing at the bar for a mere 30 seconds to knock it back!
Thankfully the route itself wasn’t too bad – the motorway cut through the mountains above the sea, so even though it wasn’t the coastal road, we got some pretty epic views.
It was odd to leave France, but crossing into Italy, it felt like we were really leaving the wedding behind, and that now, we were definitely, no doubt about it, on our honeymoon!