In what clearly is our favorite 2-night trip to Europe, our semi-annual visit to both Nice and Monaco always radiates as the best.
Our trip begins at JFK with Delta Airlines, in what used to be the only non-stop flight from JFK to Nice, France. For the first time in memory this summer, another airline (United Airlines) also flew the route, but from Newark to Nice.
Upon our arrival to Nice, as always, immigration delays were minimal, and in moments we were outside of the terminal at the Airport Terminal Bus Station. There has always been a non-stop, direct bus from the Nice Airport to downtown Monaco. The first stop on this bus is the Princess Stephanie Station. We begin our visit to Monaco with a short walk to the beautiful and conservatively priced Riviera Marriott Hotel in Cap d’ail. This hotel overlooks what could be a copy of Marina Del Ray, with massive private boats docked next to the hotel. The helipad from the Nice Airport to Monaco is also located at the end of this marina.
Once settled into the hotel, there are two ways of beginning the first day. One way is to begin a 10-minute walk to the Harbor Area of Monaco using escalators up and over small mountains and then up a significant mountain (via a hidden elevator built within the mountain) to the main area of Monaco. This area includes the Hotel De Paris, Hotel Hermitage, the famous Casino De Monte Carlo, and block after block of designer shops with shopping centers and a beautiful park in the center of downtown Monte Carlo.
Monaco is unique because you can walk across the country in an hour. The views of the ocean and the mountains are truly fantastic. You should remember that in the mountains of Monte Carlo are cleverly hidden shopping centers, elevators, and parking lots. Monte Carlo has an excellent bus system, and at 2 euros per ride (which just increased from 1 euro per ride), it is a steal. Monaco has been called a city paved with gold, which is easy to believe.
The second way of enjoying the day is to walk to the right of the Riviera Marriott Hotel to Plage Marquet (beach).
Here you can relax and soak in the wave-less Mediterranean Sea. The restaurant at this beach, called Uvita, is excellent for lunch and is served right on the beach.
No question, dinner is a must at A’trego, a restaurant close to the Riviera Marriott Hotel that overlooks the ocean and the beach nearby. This restaurant is excellent and surprisingly very reasonable for the food quality and the ambiance. You genuinely feel that you are eating on a major cruise ship.
On the second day, we usually travel from Monaco to Central Nice via a very inexpensive train connecting both cities from Monaco’s central train station (hidden in the mountains). The 15 to 20-minute train ride allows you to see views of the Mediterranean and famous beach cities like Villefranche Sur Mer and Beaulieu Sur Mer. Once in Nice, it is a short walk to the beautiful Meridien Hotel Nice, right on the Promenade and the ocean, and blocks from Place Massena, the center of restaurants in Nice, and a pedestrian mall.
There are many hotels in Nice, and another one of our favorites is the brand new AC Hotel, just two stops from the central metro station, Jean Medecin, and also located on the Promenade Des Anglais and the ocean. Another hotel frequented by Delta Agents that is a little less costly is the Albert Hotel, across the park from the Meridien Hotel and on the Promenade. You can walk forever in Nice from the Downtown Area to the Promenade to Old Town. And when it comes to restaurants, you cannot eat better than in the Old Town, on the pedestrian mall at Place Massena, or even on the beach just below the Promenade. One restaurant we love on the beach is called Le Galet, right in front of the Meridien Nice.
Also not to be missed when touring Nice is the beautiful Parc Castel (Castle Hill), atop a mountain overlooking all of Nice. This park and its views are spectacular, and for many of us who do not want to walk up the mountain, there is a very old-world, but comfortable, elevator that will happily take you to the top. I certainly welcomed this!
The trip back to the airport has now been made simple and cost-efficient. The brand new Nice metro system (Tramway de Nice) will transport you effortlessly from the downtown area to Terminals 1 and 2 in about 25 minutes at the cost of 1.50 euros. I am so impressed with this new transportation system and how it eliminates the tedious bus or taxi ride to and from the airport.
Of course, I must add that there are so many side trips that can be taken from Nice to cities such as Antibes, Juan-Les-Pins, Grasse, Eze, Cannes, St. Tropez, and Menton. A longer trip would be to Aix en Provence. These cities are absolute gems of the Cote D’Azur, the French Riviera.