Promenade du Paillon: Nice’s ‘Coulee Verte’ open at last!

Promenade du PaillonAfter 2 long years of dust, destruction and Coulee Verte controversy, the barriers are gone and the gates have been flung open…and the verdict on the Promenade du Paillon, Nice’s own Central Park: wow!

Expectations were perhaps a little low:  The city is known for its penchant for paving stones and tree chopping, and as the crews frantically worked around the clock the last few weeks, grim sneak peeks saw mud and cement outweighing green by 4 to 1.  So when thousands swarmed in for a ‘first look’ this weekend, ready to carp, the overriding emotion was… surprised delight!  The grass is thick and plentiful, the flowers and foliage off to a good start, the fountains and misters are fun and inviting, the kid’s area is cool, the panorama is amazing, and there are clean, manned public restrooms!   Yes, the park could use a few more chairs, and the fake bird chirps and flower aromas are a little kitchy, but overall it is really terrific.

Even the dreaded iron grills surrounding the park are not imposing, and the opening hours, contrary to early reports, are very reasonable: 7am-9pm in the winter, and until 11pm in the summer.

The Promenade du Paillon will be a wonderful addition to Nice, truly a breath of fresh air!

See related blog posts:  New Name for the Coulee Verte: And the winner is…      The Coulee Verte takes its Toll   and to see what it looked like just 2 years ago…  Tearing Down and Building Up

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Foodie Alert: Cooking School Heaven this weekend in Mougins

Design by J.J. Beltramo, courtesy Nice-Matin

Design by J.J. Beltramo, courtesy Nice-Matin

If you love to cook as much as you love to eat, come to Mougins this weekend where top local chefs are giving hundreds of cooking classes over 2 days, each for less than the price of an appetizer.

Entry to Les Etoiles de Mougins is free, and allows you to meander the picturesque cobblestone streets and enjoy wine tastings, book signings, demonstrations and a panoply of culinary-themed booths.

Etoiles de MouginsBut the real action is in the 10 chef’s tents, where every hour offers a new cooking class, complete with printed recipe for taking notes, and finishing with a tasting. Most of the 45-minute class/tastings are 5€, those that incorporate wine pairings are 10€, and 1-hour classes with the region’s top chefs are 15€.  Find out what’s on the menu, buy your tickets and reserve your seats at the main ticket booth at the entry to the village.  There is free parking with free shuttles to the village.

Les Etoiles de Mougins is so much more than most other local chef’s village events where you just taste… here, for the same price, you are entertained, learn new techniques and tricks, feast on fabulous culinary creations …and come away inspired, clutching a packet of recipes!

Related Blog Post:  In the Kitchen with the Chef: Cooking Classes in Nice

See Related Pages:  Nice’s Top-tier restaurants, Nice’s Best Medium-priced restaurants, Where to Eat on Sunday and Monday in Nice when most restaurants are closed, Local Nice Specialties and where to try them, Food Finds in the Old Town

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Hurry: Winter Nice-Paris TGV tickets on sale for 19€

TGVThis is one of the best deals in France:  Take the train between Nice and Paris for just 19€!

The IDTGV just opened their winter reservations this morning, and if you book now you have a large choice of dates from late December through March.   Nice to Paris for 19€ seems too good to be true, but I’ve used these amazingly cheap tickets and there is no catch.

To see the fare calendar, just click here, put in any date then select ‘flexible’, and you’ll be taken to the monthly calendar showing the lowest fares.    These super-cheap 19€ fares go fast, but as of this writing, half the days were still available in December, and all of January-February-March were wide open.

IDTGV tickets differ from regular TGV tickets in that they only available on-line, you print your ticket at home, they have their own special train cars, and they have a special line to board (so your ticket gets scanned before you get on, as opposed to during your journey in the regular cars.)

The IDTGV site is marketed to hipsters, and the difference is obvious from your first moment on the site… it’s cool, edgy, snappy, easy to use, available in English, and the service includes several innovative marketing twists:  the choice of a quiet car (‘Zen‘) to read or sleep, or a lively car (‘Zap‘) to talk or meet people, and there are lots of extras available, from movies to games to trendy food, and sometimes even live music.

So book your holiday to Nice or Paris now and get in on the best deal of the winter!  But hurry: in just a few days these cheap tickets will be all snapped up.

See Related Pages: Cheap Train Tickets and Rail Passes, and the best of Winter in Nice

Photo credit:  TGV by Alieseret, licensed under Creative Commons

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Free Summer Nights Concert Series

soirees EstivalesOne of my favorite things on the Cote d’Azur is the free ‘Summer Nights’ Concert Series, the Soirees Estivales. This all-summer-long music festival takes place in all the little villages both near and far from Nice, filling the Riviera with free music and giving us an excuse to visit the wonderful little hamlets up and down the coast and inland; many that are well off the tourist radar and that might be otherwise overlooked.

The program is eclectic with something for every taste, the quality is good, the price is right, and the settings range from quaint to quirky to magnificent.   It’s the perfect excuse to get out of the city… Biot, Grasse, Breil-sur-Roya, Beulieu, Eze, St Jennet, Saint-Paul-de-Vence… every village in and around the Cote has something.   What could be better for a hot summer night?

Pick up the printed schedule at any Riviera tourist office, or click here for the concert schedule by village, music type, and day:  July, August and September (click on the days listed along the bottom).

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No Trains, No Planes…

Air France goes on strikeGetting around could be a little challenging this week!

First an Air Traffic Controllers strike will be messing up your flight plans, as they try to cancel most domestic flights and delay countless others between now and Friday.  Click here for the long list of cancelled flights just for tomorrow, Tuesday… yikes.

Train tracks seaside 2Next, there will be no trains between Nice and Cannes from this Thursday night at 8:30pm through Saturday (June 13-16), as they work on the tracks to install the long awaited third rail.

But here is a little good news that could take the sting out of a rough travel week: The IDTGV train tickets for autumn (Oct-Dec) have just hit the web today, so if you act fast you can score a trip Nice-Paris for just 19€ each way!

See Related Pages:  Transport in Nice

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Woody Allen Casting Call in Nice and Cannes

Photo by Serge Haouzi, courtesy Nice-Matin

Photo by Serge Haouzi, courtesy Nice-Matin

This just in:  Woody Allen’s next film will shoot this summer on the Cote d’Azur!   Code named WASP2013, the film is holding a casting call for up to 500 extras this Thursday and Friday in Nice and Cannes.

Set in the 1920’s, the physical criteria for the extras is very strict, and anyone not fitting the bill will not be admitted to the call:

  • Age: 35-60 (to be verified… must bring ID)
  • Ethnicity: European Caucasian
  • Women:  hair short to shoulder-length; no coloring, bleaching, highlights, weaves, or extensions… 100% natural only
  • Men: hair long on top, short in back, no sideburns (or be willing to cut/shave for the shooting dates); mustache and beard okay.
  • Face: no face-lifts, fillers or botox.
  • Body: no visible tattoos
  • Must be legal to work in France

The casting call for Nice is on Thursday June 6, between 8am and 7:30pm at the Studios Riviera (the old Victorine Studios) at 16 avenue Edouard-Grinda, at set #6 …just follow the signs for WASP2013.

For Cannes, it’s Friday June 7, between 8:30am and 5:15pm at the Hotel de Ville in the Salon Jaune.

Bring ID and a recent photo, and if you don’t have one the photos can be done on-site.  If you can’t make either date, you can send your info/photos by email to

With shooting on the Cote d’Azur planned for 10 weeks over July and August, this period-piece comedy will be Woody Allen’s 23rd film, and will star Colin Firth and Emma Stone.

Nice-Matin:  Woody Allen s’installe sur la Cote d’Azur, Casting a Nice pour la prochain film de Woody Allen

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How YOU can see Films at the Cannes Film Festival

Cannes 2013They deliberately don’t publicize it, but there are lots of ways to see films at the Cannes Film Festival, even without a badge.   …You just need to have the inside scoop on where to go and how to do it… and that’s just what Best if Nice Blog is here for!

Click here for my Cannes Film Festival page and scroll down past the star-gazing strategies for details on how to:


  • Get Free tickets for the avant garde Critic’s Week Section
  • Buy tickets for the Director’s Fortnight Section
  • Go to the Free Beach Screenings of Classic Films (…but I’d wait until the weather clears up!)
  • Go to the free ‘Off” screenings in theaters around Cannes
  • and if your French is up to it, go watch Les Guingols and La Grande Journal broadcast live each night, across from the Martinez.

“Yes, you Cannes!”

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Cannes Film Festival Opening Night: DIY version!

The Great GatsbyBaz Luhrmann’s completely over-the-top vision of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s  ‘The Great Gatsby’ opens the Cannes Film Festival tonight, while opening simultaneously all over France, offering a unique way to do your own Cannes Film Festival Opening Night.

Click here to see what awaits you in The Great Gatsby trailer.

Here’s how you can do the Cannes Film Festival Opening Night, version DIY:

  • 5pm – Pack a split of champagne and 2 glasses, head to Cannes, and go buy your movie tickets for the late screening of ‘The Great Gatsby’ at one of the regular town cinemas.
  • 6pm – Gather near the Palais and soak in the crazed ambiance.  Dress up a bit and the mercenary tuxedoed paparazzi will rush to shoot your photo.
  • 7pm – Watch the red carpet roll call of Hollywood royalty…  If you can’t get up close and personal, no worries, it’s all conveniently simulcast on several nearby jumbo-trons.  Leonardo’s limo will be pulling up around 7:50pm.
  • 8:15pm – Head off to your normal movie theater and watch your own personal premiere of ‘The Great Gatsby’ while sipping the bubbly.
  • 10:30pm – Insider tip: Hang out at the barrier near the alley behind the Palais (east side) to see the the stars hobnob after the film as they exit through the back way before leaving in their limos.
  • 11pm  Head to the giant dome behind the port, where the world of the film has been recreated for one night in a giant tent.  This is another great spot to star-gaze, as the A-list will all be invited.
  • Midnight – Didn’t get past the doormen?  Try the Petite Majestic Bar behind the Grand Hotel, where the drinks are cheap, the clientele colorful, and the half-tuxedoed crowd takes over the street!

Want to take your Great Gatsby experience even further?   F. Scott Fitzgerald was a defining figure in Riviera history, and along with the Murphy’s, shaped the face of Riviera tourism into what it is today: before it was only a winter resort, and the hotels (can you imagine?) used to close up for the summer.   Here’s your guide:  Follow in the Footsteps of the Fitzgerald’s on the Cote d’Azur, by Lanie Goodman.

See Related Page:  How to do the Cannes Film Festival Without a Badge

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Nice while it lasted: 1€ bus tickets go the way of the Dodo

Ticket Azur

Collectors item, suitable for framing

The famous 1€ Nice bus/tram ticket, formerly one of the best deals on the Cote d’Azur, has just jumped, …no, leaped …no, pole-vaulted to 1.50, joined by the Day Pass spiking from 4€ to 5€, and the Airport Express bus, which is now charging a whopping 6€ for that 30 minute ride.  Not the most welcome news to get during a financial crisis!

But wait, the 1€ bus ticket has not entirely gone the way of the Dodo:  with a little pre-planning you can still keep your ride at its former 1€ level. 

bus aThe 10-ride-ticket is still just 10€, so even if it’s now a littler harder to get, this is how you keep your bus/tram tix flowing for just a euro.   No longer sold on the buses (tough luck, tourists!), the 10-pack ticket is now only available from:

  • The Lignes d’Azur boutiques, located at Place Massena, across from the train station, or on blvd Jean Jaures outside the Old Town.
  • The ticket machines at the tram stops, but for these babies you have to have a credit card with a microchip or a pocket full of coin, as the machines don’t swipe or take bills.   Hence, the pre-planning.  Monthly and yearly passes also have not changed, making them an even better deal depending on your usage.

Unfortunately, those that get hurt the most by this new pricing scheme are those that have to choose between investing in 10-ticket pack and eating food that day, forcing the people who can least afford it to pay the maximum 1.50 ticket price.   In a spontaneous gesture of solidarity I’ve notices more and more sympathetic riders getting off the bus/tramway and offering their used (but still valid for up to 74 minutes) tickets to others, or sticking their ticket in the closing door of the tramway, to be found by some lucky person at the next stop.   Sympa!

See related page:  Everything you need to know about Buses in Nice and Taking Local Transport in Nice

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Nice Jazz Fest Line Up Announced

Nice Jazz Festival 2013This just in: The 2013 Nice Jazz Festival will open with Earth, Wind and Fire, close with George Benson, and groove to Chick Corea, Maceo Parker, Ben Harper, and Manu Katché in between.

But in an attempt to move away from the same names year-after-year, this festival’s accent is on new energy, with fresh innovation and bold new artists to discover.  Come experience C2C (electro scratch), Shai Maestro, Tigran, the Youn Sun Nah Quartet, Pedrito Martinez, Jose James, and Kellylee Evans.   Grammy winners include Esperanza Spaulding (two-time winner), and The Robert Glasper Experiment (best album R&B) with pianist Mos Def. 

Logistically, the Nice Jazz Festival continues to evolve, as well.  After so many years in its mythic home up on Cimiez, the move two years ago to the new in-town location was quite a jolt.  Yes, the access was easier and the ticket prices lower, but the new venue was awkward, crowded and difficult to maneuver, with a massive bottleneck between the two stages.    This year, the city is taking full advantage of new Coulée Verte/Promenade du Paillon renovation to re-design the site into something that will flow…    Whereas the two stages will stay roughly the same, the middle will be completely opened up, with the formerly in-your-face VIP/Sponsor area now relegated to the far back of the site, opening up a third more space and a more relaxed area to eat and drink.  

Mayor Christian Estrosi’s stated goal for the festival is to “present an elitist musical program but with ticket prices accessible to all” …so on that note, he announced that ticket prices will stay the same.  What a deal:  six non-stop concerts a night from 7pm to midnight for just 31€ if you buy before May 31st.   After that date tickets go to 35€  …but you can get in for 25€ if you are a senior, student, unemployed… etc.    The ticket site should open up later today…

So mark your calendars: July 8-12, 2013… when Nice becomes Jazz-central for 5 stellar nights!

Related guide page:  Summer Jazz Festivals on the Riviera

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New Name for the Coulée Verte: and the winner is…

Coulee-VerteThe English translation of Coulée Verte is the rather unappetizing ‘Green Flow’, or even worse, ‘Green Drip’, so it’s great news that Nice’s new giant public garden is to be renamed.   After opening up the process to the public, the new park now has a new name…

…But first, a few of the little gems that were not selected:

  • Central Park, nor its French equivalant, Parc Centrale.
  • Adeiu Parking
  • La Promenade des Niçoise (…since les Anglais already have theirs!)
  • Le-paillon_imagelargeLa Paillonade, and Parc de Paillon, in reference to the once-mighty Paillon, a river that still runs through it.
  • La Coulée des Lavandières, a nod to the laundresses that washed clothes daily in said river for hundreds of years.
  • Les Allées du Spaggiari:  He accessed the sewers from the Paillon…click here if you don’t know that story!
  • Estropvert, or Estopoganza, for our, some say, overly-ambitious Mayor.
  • Jardins de l’Endetement Inutile, idem.
  • Le Zoo du Paillon, a jab at the iron gates that will jab anyone who tries to climb into the park after its nightly closing time of, and I’m not kidding, 8pm.
  • And finally, Caga Blea: Coulée Verte translated into the local language Nissart, which also describes what you get when you eat too much of the local specialty Tourte de Blettes.

couleeverte-5…And the winner is….

Promenade du Paillon!

Okay… not bad, but it will create confusion when referring to the Promwhich Prom??  But since most people don’t know that the boulevard and now Park traces the Paillon river, which was the physical limit of the Old Town, along with the Chateau and the sea, we think it’s actually a great name, and far superior to the dreaded ‘Green Drip’.

This ambitious garden park is scheduled to be finished in September, although, from the looks of things (giant mud pit filled with cranes and bulldozers), they are going to have to sprint, especially since the first half absolutely must be done by July 8th, in time to host the Nice Jazz Festival!

Nice-Matin: Coulée Verte de Nice : appellez-la “Promenade du Paillon”

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Tramway Line 2 Takes Another Detour…

It’s been a rocky road for the much-anticipated East-West Tramway Line 2 between the Airport and the Port.

First it was to be on the Prom, then underground, …finishing at Riquier, …no, at the Port, no… under the Port… Well the latest twist, revealed by Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi at a surprise press conference yesterday, is that the Line 2 Tramway route is getting a bit of a trim, and will now finish at Place Massena, where it will connect with Line 1.   Cost and expediency are the reasons for the route-chop: the financial crisis has caused the Government to pull back on its some of its funding commitments, and this new shortened route will allow Line 2 to come on line in 4 years, in 2017.

The mayor insists that the Port extension will not be forgotten, however, and will come a couple of years later, towards 2019.

Nice-Matin: A Nice, la ligne 2 du tram s’arretera a Jean-Medecin en premiere temps

See related blog post: Nice Transport Transformed – A Peek into the Future

See related guide page: Local Transport in Nice

Posted in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | Tagged | 2 Comments

Love it or Hate it, brace yourself for Nice Carnival

Prom' Party, photo by Mary Payne

Photo by Mary Payne

Take the true/false Carnival Quiz:

Nice Carnival is…

a) The 3rd largest Carnival celebration in the world.           TRUE, after Brazil and Venice

b) The perversion of a nearly 2000-year-old Catholic tradition of church-sanctioned debauchery now evolved into commercialism and marketing gone wild.    Absolutely TRUE

c) The start of 3 weeks of unpredictable traffic-hell that locals dread.  FALSE: the dreaded traffic hell is completely predictable… avoid downtown on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday… and you’ll be fine.

d) An expensive, ticket-only event just for tourists.

FALSE!  Every year I drag some nay-sayer into the melee and they emerge converted:  Carnival is provocative and irreverent, the floats are weirdly impressive, and if you do it right it can be fun, free, quick, easy, and totally worth experiencing at least once each year!   But doing it right is the key… click here for Best of Nice Blog’s Insider Carnival Tips.

Carnaval posterTonight is opening night, which means the normally 20-25€ seats are free, and the show time is a merciful 1 hour.  From 8:30 pm acrobats will be flying through the air, followed by 1250 local children dancing and singing, the mayor speaks then lights the square just before the arrival of the grotesquely giant king and queen floats, followed by fireworks.

Saturday is the first Bataille de Fleurs at 2:30 pm on the Prom, and the first Corso illumine that night at 9pm Place Massena.

Sunday is the new Rock and Roll 10-Mile Run, a costumed rock-n-roll fun-run on the Prom, followed by a giant Zumba class at Ruhl Plage at 11:30am.

But whatever you do, don’t miss Best of Nice Blog’s Insider Carnival Tips     …if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

Photo credit Mary M. Payne

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220 Boutique Wineries Invite You to a Weekend Tasting

Little boutique wineries from all around France have gathered in Nice this weekend to showcase their best wines and do a mass tasting… and you’re invited.

Entry into the annual Salon des Vignerons Independants starts with the gift of an engraved tasting glass, which you then take from booth to booth, meeting the independent winemakers, discovering what sets them apart, and sampling their wonderful liquid wares.  220 winemakers have come from 12 regions in France, with hundreds of different wines… how to choose?

The entry fee is normally 6€, but here’s the Best of Nice Blog inside scoop:  click here and fill in the form they will immediately email you an invitation which gets two people in for FREE.  

Salon des Vignerons Independants,  February 1-3, Palais des Expositions (Tram stop ‘Palais des Expositions… best not to drive…), Friday from 2pm-8pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 7pm.

Now… as to the question of ‘how to choose’… here are a few tips, straight from California:

Photo credit: rosé by Jeremy Atkinson, licensed under Creative Commons


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C’est Pas Classique: 100 concerts over 5 days and all Free

They say that ‘Good things come to those who wait’, and with C’est Pas Classique there is a lot of good stuff… but man do you have to wait!

Classical music gets turned on its head, the program is eclectic and fun, the quality is great, and the price is unbeatable: Free!  ….Hence the problem: 60,000 music lovers are expected to descend on the Acropolis over the next 5 days.    So here’s the strategy to get into the most sought after seats:  go with friends, bring a thermos of hot spiced wine and some snacks, and treat the hour+ that you will spend in line like a stand-up alfresco cocktail party.

And here’s what awaits you when you finally get in:  Headliners like renowned violinists Vadim Repin and Nemania Radulovic, cutting edge symphonies, opera, soloists, workshops…   And then there are the bizarre hybrids, where classical music gets pulled down off its pedestal, making it fun, fresh, accessible, surprising… and anything but classic… like Big Nightmare Music, Les Pianotokes (ping-pong and dueling pianos), Chat-rivari (Clarinets to the cartoons “Chat”), Diva Malbouffa, and choral tributes to Queen and Pink Floyd.  Click here for the day-by-day program.

Whereas most of the 100 concerts are at the Acropolis, a trick to avoid the lines is to attend the concerts at the satellite venues: churches, the Opera, the Conservatory, open-air concerts at Place Garibaldi, Place Pierre Gautier (off Cours Saleya), and Place Massena.  Click here for a list of concerts in the outer venues.

If you like ‘eclectic’ and ‘free’, than C’est pas Classique is for you!

Posted in Bargain Hunting, Festivals, Musical Interludes | 1 Comment

Illegal Wine and Forbidden Cheese

Shhh… Don’t tell!

Tomorrow, being the third Thursday in November, is the official release date and festivities for this year’s  Beaujolais Nouveau, celebrated in every little wine store in France.  Having managed to get my hands on an advance bottle with the idea of doing an early review, I discovered something even more interesting: it turns out that drinking or selling this rather frivolous wine before that date is actually illegal, with the threat of a 150€ fine!  …So I can tell you that it’s light and fruity… and the threat of legal prosecution definitely gives the wine a bit more heft!

It’s all legal after midnight tonight, and tomorrow most wine shops will be offering samples, but the best place in Nice to try Beaujolais Nouveau is Cave Caprioglio in the Old Town.  Starting from 7pm, they pull out all the stops with live music, food, sometimes dancing, and a party that overflows far into the street…  and goes on until “on ne peut plus!”

Would you like a little illegal cheese to go with your illegal wine?   According to my favorite cheese restaurant, Le Bistro du Fromager, at one point the very possession of Reblochon cheese was proof of moral turpitude and was cause for arrest.  In the 14th century, dairy farmers paid landowners grazing fees based on the milk yield.  The landowners charged abusively high fees, so to get back at them, some farmers would not do a complete milking; once all had been accounted for they would then secretly milk the cows again.  Supplemental milking produces a liquid that is almost all fat, so the resulting cheese was easily identifiable (Reblochon actually means ‘second milking’) and had to be hidden.  Possession of Reblochon cheese was proof of stealing from your landlord and could land you in jail!

Posted in Festivals | 4 Comments

600 years of history unearthed below Place Garibaldi: Crypt now open for tours!

8 years ago, while jack-hammering up Place Garibaldi to lay the rails for the tramway, the workers noticed some strange stone structures just 10 centimeters below the asphalt… that turned out to be remains dating back to 1380!   Mandated by law to uncover the ruins (and delaying the tramway by a year), the city-sponsored dig slowly uncovered the mysteries of a Medieval Nice long-forgotten.  Place Garibaldi, it turns out, was the site of the entry to the walled fortress that was the Chateau, complete with turrets, a moat, a drawbridge, exterior walls, an aqueduct and outbuildings.

Once all the studies were completed, after the massive delay and expense of the dig, the most cost-effective route would have been to fill it all back in and let the tramway work continue. But no!  At great cost, the Ville de Nice did not fill it back in, but found a way to just cover over the top, and continued to dig under Place Garibaldi for another several years, trying to preserve this unprecedented historical find and make the resulting archaeological crypt accessible to the public.

The highly anticipated Archaeological Crypt Garibaldi is now open to the public… sort of.  There is only one entrance, so to meet modern security norms, disabled access, etc., they are limited to a paltry 15 visitors at a time, which definitely puts a crimp on things.  The city is looking to buy a nearby shop, and tunnel a second entrance, but that will take years, so for now, to descend the 31 steps into 600 years of Nice’s Medieval past, we will have to make do with a rather awkward entry system.

The only way to  get into the Crypt is to go with the guided tour (in French) for just 5€, which run 5 times a day (10am, 11am, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm) every day but Tuesday.   The tours must be booked in advance and the tickets purchased and picked up from the Centre du Patrimoine, 75 quai des Etats-Unis, just on the sea-side of the Old Town (04 92 00 41 90).   Then on the appointed day and time, you meet at the entrance to the Crypt (right next to Monoprix off Place Garabaldi).

31 steps… into another world.

Related page on the History of Nice:  21 Fascinating Facts About Nice  

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Vide Grenier Season: French Flea-Markets in Full Swing

Autumn is so many things: the Rentree, back-to-school, grape harvest, boat shows and regattas, mushroom hunting… and treasure hunting, with every village holding their annual Vide Grenier.   Vide Grenier means ‘empty your attic‘ and these bric-a-brac free-for-alls are the French equivalent of a neighborhood garage sale, or ‘car boot sale’ in the UK. If you ascribe to the adage that one man’s trash is another’s treasure, then you might want to check out the following:

And so many more… click here for a list.     Happy hunting!

Posted in Bargain Hunting | 1 Comment

Join the Saint-Paul-du-Vence Grape Harvest

Speaking of wine… If you’ve ever wanted to go into the vineyards and participate in the grape harvest, here’s your chance!

The Domaine of Saint Paul du Vence is hosting a Harvest Morning on Monday, September 24th, where you are invited spend a few hours in the vineyards, choosing and cutting the bunches of grapes destined to become this year’s wine.   The fruits of your labor will be rewarded with a lunch provided by the Domaine Saint Joseph …and an experience that you will never forget.

  • 7:30am  Rendezvous at the vineyard for a quick lesson in grape picking (in French, but can be translated into English in needed)
  • 7:45am  Into the vineyards!  The terrain of the vineyard is steep, so hiking boots are best, and garden gloves are a must.   A hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a bottle of water are also de rigueur.   If you have a pair of garden cutters, bring them as well, and know that you will emerge from the vineyards grape-stained, so dress accordingly.
  • 12:30ish  Finished!  Now toast your efforts with a well-deserved glass of wine and a buffet lunch provided by the Domaine Saint Joseph.

To sign up, just call Lia at ou or email her at   Lia will then send you the code to get into the village Saint-Paul du Vence with your car, and you park just past the restaurant La Petite Chapelle then just follow the signs.   Click here for more details (in French) from their Facebook page.

The Riviera Times:  Let the Harvest Begin!

Photo credit: Grapes on the vine by Veronique Pagnier, licensed under Creative Commons; Clos Saint Paul from Domaine Saint-Joseph on Facebook.

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Foire aux Vins: France-wide Autumn Blowout Wine Sale

The Annual Autumn Wine Sales (Foire aux Vins) are upon us, when French families stock up their wine cellars at a discount, and large French supermarket chains crank out over 25% of their yearly wine business in a few short weeks.   Here are the dates, store-by-store:

  • Buying wine in NiceGeant and Intermarche:  on now, through September 22
  • Leader Price and Franprix:  through September 23
  • Carrefour:  through September 24
  • Dia:  through September 25
  • Nicolas and Savour Club:  through October 2
  • Auchan:  starts September 19, through 28th
  • Carrefour Market:  starts September 21 – October 7
  • Leclerc:  starts October 3, through the 13th
  • Systeme U:  starts September 25 to October 6

The biggest sellers for restocking cellars are bottles in the 5-8€ range, but the deals are deep on all price ranges thanks to bulk buying and margin cutting by the big chains.  The choices can be overwhelming however, especially since each store displays around 800 labels, and the supermarket sales people usually have no clue.   Luckily, there are several sites that give recommendations store-by-store, including this fantastic and extensive grid from Hachette Vins, this quick cheat sheet from In Good Wine We Trust, and this article from today’s Nice-Matin that details their top picks from Carrefour and Leclerc.

Some tips:  Don’t forget that most chains offer free home delivery with purchases over a certain amount (and this would be the time to take advantage of that offer!), otherwise, bring your own boxes/cloth bags.  Do your research… the best deals on expensive wines fly out of the store on the first day, so check out the mailed or on-line catalogs in advance and make your plan (…and you can still get in on the first day for Auchan, Leclerc, Systeme U, and Carrefour Markets).  And as a last resort, look for wines that were bottled at the Chateau (as opposed to collectively), and keep in mind that these were “very good years”:

  • Wines from Provence 2000, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009
  • Red Bourgognes 2002, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010
  • Red Bordeaux 2001, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010

Photo credit: Wine Shopping by Best of Nice Blog

See Related Guide Pages: Best Wine Bars in Nice, Food Finds in the Old Town: Wine

Posted in Bargain Hunting | Tagged , | 1 Comment