Deaf Travel13th October 2013

Getting away to Nice

A Winter break in Nice is the perfect fillip to recharge those batteries

by Simon Deacy OBE

Sitting here on the luxurious seats of Nice's Lido Plage, taking in the sights, sounds and smells, you could mistakenly believe that the South of France is the exclusive domain of the rich and famous. Nice is a magical place, vibrant and highly cosmopolitan, it attracts people from all over the world, at all times of the year, and it can be reassuringly expensive. However, it doesn't have to be. It is a place of contrasts, fashion, of exuberance and tradition. It has loads to offer and if you can go for the Battle of the Flowers in February, you get to see the wonderful French eccentricity.

​​We decided to use our February break to do a little research, to enjoy some of the beachside luxury we hanker after during the cold, wet winter nights, and to look at some affordable options to stay here. Even sitting here in the abject luxury of wicker chairs on the beach at the top class Lido Plage, you have choices. Enjoy a coffee for €3 or a glass of bubbly for €15, the experience and the ambience are the same. With the warm wintry sunshine exposing the glorious colours that attracted hordes of the world's best artists, a €6 experience can be worth hundreds if the sun serves to re-charge your batteries, as it does for me.

Strolling along the 5 miles of Nice’s infamous promenade the Palais De Anglais, you quickly see why living in Nice is so good for your health. The promenade is teaming with people of all shapes, sizes and ages, all playing their part in promenade life. Power walkers, joggers, and serious runners mingle seamlessly with the cyclists and roller bladders hurtling along the dedicated cycle track. 80-year old power walkers, craggy on the outside but lithe and energetic, stride along determinedly, slowing down, and in some cases even turning back the ageing process. Stop to look at a restaurant menu and you are faced with a wide range of healthy eating options. It is so much easier to eat out, and eat healthy, here in the South of France.

The flower market in old Nice is a must, even if it's just to take in the hustle and bustle. I delight at the fruit stalls which brim with the brightest coloured produce, wonderfully fresh as though it has just been picked. There’s no need to test for freshness here, each piece looks like a product of a labour of love. Smells and aromas seem to change every step, as you move from a flower stall, to spices, peppers, oils, bread and soaps. The French residents shop here, so you know it's good value, and the market is central to Nice life. The flowers look wonderful, and the surrounding streets are dotted with residents carrying bouquets back to loved ones.

Shopping in Nice rivals the best shopping locations anywhere in the world. From Hermes to discount boutiques,Nice has it all. And you don't have to go to the best shops to see what's on offer. Beautiful ladies and gentlemen, with clothes expertly blended stroll aimlessly, turning the streets of Nice into one long catwalk. Unlike shopping centres in the UK, you will find very few empty shops here, and the shopping streets are always busy. Many of the retailers entice you in with fantastic looking shop windows, and perhaps that, along with top class service, is central to their success. Shopping is an experience!

So we know Nice offers expensive and caters for teems of wealthy guests, but what about those with more realistic budgets. Even in Nice there are places to stay for less than €40 a night. Nice has many of these hostel type rooms, providing clean and tidy, if somewhat basic facilities, that are suitable for couples and families. Located in the centre of Nice many of these hostels are ideally located to give ready access to all that Nice has to offer.

Moving around in Nice can be good value too. Public transport is plentiful with trains, buses and the trams ferrying people all over the city. They work hard here to make it affordable with a typical €4 daily bus ticket allowing you to use the buses as often as you like. A fantastic way to get around is by taking advantage of the Velo Bleu bike hire, which is dotted every couple of hundred metres all over Nice. You can pick up these bikes, and drop them off, at any of the bike stations and the most it will cost is €1 a day. If you hire for more than a day it gets even cheaper!.

Self-catering opportunities range from €10,000 a week for a luxury villa to city flats and apartments at a fraction of that cost. Nice is riddled with small Casino food halls amongst others and if you fancy cooking, a meal for four will cost you less than €10.

The 5 miles of pebble beach provide a wonderful play area for children and even in the Spring weeks there are hardy souls braving the wonderfully blue and safe bathing waters of the Med. Packing a bottle of water and some home made baguettes make for a really cheap day all year round. In the evenings, it's great to go out and enjoy the al fresco culture that exists along the whole of the Cote D’zur. In the winter, this can entail snuggling up to a gas heater, but by early Spring, the evening temperature is usually very comfortable.

The types of restaurant range from high-brow and expensive to corner cafes, creperies, and snack bars where a family of four can eat out for less than €30 if you don't go mad on alcoholic beverages. The great thing about the Nice culture is that anything goes when it comes to eating. Restaurants accept that some people don't have lots to spend and they treat customers who order one course and tap water, the same as the ones who order bottle after bottle of Champagne.

As a destination for a four day break, Nice is just fantastic, and with good planning and a disciplined purse, it can also be fantastic value for money. We'll be returning as soon as possible.

Article by Simon Deacy OBE

posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Deaf Travel

13th October 2013