Happy New Year and Bonne Annee everyone!
TC and I drove over to Nice for the new year celebrations, meeting friends from home (Australia) who flew in on the 31st. We were only in town for 2 nights, returning home on the 2nd and will be meeting up with them again on the weekend when they come to stay with us for a few nights.
In order to make the most of our stay, I wanted to book into some good restaurants so I spent an evening browsing through Tripadvisor to make some choices. Unfortunately, I had to spend about an hour on the phone to many restaurants before I could secure some bookings. The problem? Firstly new years eve is very popular for celebratory dinners, so everything seemed to be booked out. Thankfully I found one restaurant that took our booking, Le Grand Balcon. More on that in a minute. The second challenge was to find another recommended restaurant for the next night, new years day, as most of them were closed! Again, I eventually found one, the tiny Cote Marais in old Nice.
So on the 31st it was up early & out the door before sunrise in order to meet our friends’ lunchtime flight. True to the region, it was another beautiful sunny day, so after checking in to our respective hotels, we all headed to the terrace of our hotel (the Hotel Cresp) & got the afternoon started with some chilled champagne while enjoying the views. This is a small, family owned hotel on the 3rd floor of an apartment building in old Nice, right next to the Opera de Nice – an absolutely perfect location. We found this hotel to be good value. The decor might be overdue for refurbishing, but if you are ok with that, it is spotlessly clean and the owners are very friendly and helpful. The major drawcards, of course, being the location and the large outdoor terrace. Our room opened directly onto the terrace, but it is available for use by all hotel guests. This was our view
Once we had all retreated, rested & readied for the night, we met up again for a pre-dinner drink and it was then on to Le Grand Balcon for our celebratory dinner.
Our dinner was quite a lively affair as many restaurants in France put on a special event which includes supplying all of the guests with hats and streamers for the midnight countdown, then there is music and dancing until they all decide to leave. We had a 4 course dinner and stayed for a little dancing, but our friends were suffering from jetlag by midnight so soon headed back to their hotel. Now the food was all good, as was the service at this restaurant, but I did have one complaint. When I phoned the restaurant to book, the reservation was made as if it was just any other night – she took down the number of people, the hour for the reservation and my contact number – done. The next day I got a phone call saying that because it was going to be such a busy night, I would need to provide a credit card to secure the reservation, or come in beforehand with a cash deposit. As we weren’t going to be in Nice until that afternoon, I gave my credit card number and that was it. However, what she didn’t tell me was that there was a special menu for the night at 94€ per person!! If I had known that was the price, I think we would have taken our chances on finding food somewhere else on the night. I should have probably thought ahead and asked, but I do think she should have made sure I knew. These things happen I guess.
By this stage, TC and I were still in a bit of a party mood so we went along the street to the Irish Pub for some more revelry. We met plenty of other lovely people and had a grand time until sometime in the early hours we finally hit the sack. Thankfully new years day means that everyone is expected to sleep in. It was a good day for sleeping in – grey and raining most of the day. We met up with our friends again in the afternoon for coffee and crepes – love those nutella crepes – followed by a bit of a wander around then an afternoon rest before dinner.
Our next dinner involved using google maps on the phone in order to find our way through the narrow streets & laneways further into the old town to find the restaurant. Once there, we found a lovely, cosy, warm atmosphere and delightful waiters. This meal was quite different from the last – much more relaxed and being in a tiny restaurant, it was much more personal. I thought the Cote Marais was a delightful, authentic restaurant and quite good value as they had a 3-course menu for 31€ per person. Our head waiter put great thought into recommending a wine that would go with 3 of our different main courses and we were quite pleased with his recommendation. We were celebrating a birthday this night too, so I thought this was a perfect restaurant for our purposes – four friends lingering over good food and wine for a relaxed but special evening. If you are looking for an authentic experience in Nice, I would definitely recommend Cote Marais – take cash though, they don’t have card facilities!
Wednesday morning we were up early again in order to have a light breakfast – fresh breads with assorted fruit confiture, creamed honey and tea from Le Pain Quotidien (right in front of the Cours Seleya) for 6€ each, perfect – and then meet our guide for a walking food tour of Nice, which started at the famous Hotel Negresco. This was really good fun, the only drawback being that because it was 2nd January, some of the normal venues on the itinerary for this tour were closed, so the tour was shorter than usual. Our wonderful guide, Gustav, improvised and included some extras instead and also gave us a reduced price to suit – I just wish we had been able to do the complete tour as I would have liked it to go on longer. Anyway, what we did was good, very tasty and more importantly to me, Gustav is a veritable font of information about Nice, telling us lots of interesting little facts and answering all of our questions. For example, I never knew that there is a river running right through the centre of Nice – its actually underneath the Place Messina, having been covered over in 1921 order to create more space in the city.
We also got to try some authentic Nicoise food, such as pissaladière (yumm), socca (comme çi comme ça) and tourte de blette (Swiss chard tart – very yummy). I think I might have to try making that tourte, you might not think it from the name, but it was a delicious sweet dessert tart containing swiss chard and pine nuts. We finished our tour up on Castle Hill, which is the big hill separating old Nice from the newer Port, and has spectacular views.
We left Nice that afternoon with more fond memories, and a lovely stash of Cailletier olives and sun-dried tomatoes from the market – one bag of garlic basil olives and another of the chilli variety (with a very nice kick). I think we might be making more trips to this lovely city.
PS sorry for the title of this post – its an Aussie joke!