Nice – Yes, Nice!

I read about nightmare traffic jams near Nice, France so we parked our car in Frejus and took a scenic train to Nice.  It seemed like a great decision until we realized we were in a little suburb of Frejus , we would have to ride to Caan and change trains, and trains home would be infrequent.  On the upside, travel was cheap – less than 20 Euros roundtrip – seats were comfortable, and the view was spectacular!  Well worth any time lost by training rather than driving.

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The little train station in Frejus. We parked all day for free in a nearby lot.
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Our train tickets – make sure to ask for the student or senior citizen rate if you are eligible.

Because we had 45 minutes before our train arrived, we decided to go looking for the Roman coliseum near the train station.  We followed our smartphone directions and discovered most of the arena has been rebuilt right on top of the old Roman ruin.  It was not open when we arrived but we did get to see how the old is made new for current use.

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The new Frejus arena is built right on top of the old Roman arena.

We enjoyed a quick look around and headed back to the Gare (train station) to catch our train for Nice.


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Our train from Frejus to Nice, about 1.5 hours. We found seats in the upper deck on the sea-side (south) of the train for best viewing.
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It took a few minutes to understand the train schedule but it quickly fell into place for us and was super helpful for our return trip home.
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Our view of the Azure Coast from our train window.
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Another view of the Azure Coast from our train window.
Arrival in "Nice Ville" by train.
Arrival in “Nice Ville” by train.

Upon arrival in Nice, we walked out the front doors of the train station and into the Tourist Information (TI) building.  We got maps and asked for details on bus service.  We walked about a block to a bus stop that sold tickets.  English-speaking Japanese tourists showed us how to work the machine and advised us to buy 10 tickets for 10 Euro that could be used by any number of travelers rather than all day passes that would cost us 6 Euro each.  We saved 2 Euro!  And it turned out we rode the bus five times so we used all 10 tickets.

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Nice bus drivers are the rudest people we have met in all of France. They will not give you directions, they will not tell you if you are on the correct bus to get to the train station, they will not smile. We were on a bus heading for the train station on a pretty tight schedule (the bus was at least 20 minutes late on its schedule) when the bus suddenly stopped and the driver ordered everyone off the bus! He said there was a traffic jam ahead. I’ve never been ordered off a bus for a traffic jam. We missed the train but fortunately we only had to wait an hour for the next train.

It really would have been helpful to have a bus map but the TI did not have one and we could not find one anywhere.  I should have downloaded an app before coming to Nice, but live and learn.  Best of all is that Nice is pretty compact, but hilly, and good walkers can easily cover the city on foot.

Nice may be named nice because the residents are wonderful!  They quickly give you directions and point you on your way.  They more than make up for the rude bus drivers.

Because we did not have a bus map, we followed signs UP HILL to the Musee Marc Chagall.  It was about 95 degrees with high humidity as we trudged up the hill following signs to the museum.  The man in the TI told us it was a simple walk in “that direction – just follow the signs.”  We arrived at the beautiful stone museum with graceful gardens red-in-the-face, panting, and covered with sweat.  Turns out we could have taken a bus right to the front door.

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Exhausted, we bought our tickets (bargain day!  Just 6 Euro for admission and 2 Euro for headphones…supposedly because a small gallery was closed?) and strolled over to the charming cafe for lunch.

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I love this tree! She looks like a runway model wearing a leafy headdress. On the grounds of Musee Marc Chagall, Nice, France.
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The charming cafe on the grounds of Musee Marc Chagall, Nice, France.
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The cafe menu on the grounds of Musee Marc Chagall, Nice, France.
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Lunch – delicious! – for about 10 Euro. On the grounds of Musee Marc Chagall, Nice, France.

Then it was time for dessert:  the art of Marc Chagall displayed in a modern stone museum built just for his work.  Everything was located on one floor and the galleries were filled with light.

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La Rose Bleue, 1964. I love Chagall’s stained glass even more than his paintings. The depth of color is brilliant. Musee Marc Chagall, Nice, France.
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Le Roi David, 1951. You can see that Chagall’s painting is full of imagery for good King David including a happy marriage (see the white bride?) Musee Marc Chagall, Nice, France.

A vera ma femme

ma joie al mon affeguesso

…Marc Chagall (a love note to his wife)

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Le Cantique des Cantiques IV, 1958 (Solomon’s Song of Songs from the Bible). The very painting is a story of love. See the bride being carried away for a night of love on a magical horse? Musee Marc Chagall, Nice, France.
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These three paintings were once one painting. Chagall cut the three painting apart to make three separate paintings called Resistance (1937-1948), Resurrection (1937-1948) and Liberation (1937 – 1962). Chagall saw war as violent and tragic. Musee Marc Chagall, Nice, France.

Normally one art museum would be enough in a day, but I would only be in Nice on this day so off we went to visit two municipal museums.  Tour books told me the visits would be free, but we were asked to purchase a 10 Euro ticket that admitted us to several municipal museums.  It seemed a reasonable price but we were very disappointed at the lack of English signage or audio guide or printed flyer.

We took the bus downhill from the Musee Marc Chagall and a friendly rider on the bus told us where to get off and where to walk to get to the Musee Massena, a lovely La Belle Epoch house that treasures the history of Nice.  While we were not sure what we were seeing, both the house and the gardens are beautiful and well kept up.

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Musee Massena – Nice, France
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You can see the Senate writing desk in the background as well as portraits of Nice leaders. Gates to the first floor. Musee Massena – Nice, France
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I am obsessed with this carpet woven to look like an animal hide. Musee Massena – Nice, France
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A belle epoch meeting room. Musee Massena – Nice, France

Feeling like we had the bus thing down, we strolled to the bus stop and discovered the woman from our previous ride standing right next to us.  She happily gave us directions to our next stop.  She was our guardian angel on this hot day in Nice!

As we rode our bus, we oohed and ahhhed over the gorgeous buildings of Nice.  Every street could be a scene for a romantic movie.

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French flags hung from many balconies during the run up to the big football game: France vs. Portugal for the Europe cup.
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A peak into the front yard of a Nice home.
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A pretty typical street corner in Nice, France.
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Old school awnings on a building across from the Galleries Lafayette in Nice.
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Love the aqua awnings on this building across from the Musee Massena in Nice, France.
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More flags for France. This orange house is pretty unusual for the city because most homes and buildings are a creamy hue with pastel blue, grey or green shutters. – in Nice.
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A shop window on the streets of Nice, France.
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See the giant sculpture peaking out from a break in this hotel wall? Nice, France
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A small blue lantern sitting on a window ledge in Nice, France.

We got off the bus and followed the signs to the Musee de Beaux Arts.  We made the mistake of following the road signs which took us all the way around a block to our original destination because drivers need to avoid the one-way streets.  But we were walking so not fun on a hot day.

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If you are following the signs to your location, remember they are car signs, not walking signs.
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Just a few steps away has a whole new meaning when the steps go straight up! Nice, France
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Musee des Beaux Arts, Nice, France

The Musee des Beaux Arts was supposed to house a lot of works by famous artists and it is an odd mix of beautiful work.   We found nice Picasso pottery, a couple of large works by Rodin, and lots and lots of work by Duffy.  Because there was no English map or sheet, we could not find the other works even though we looked at everything in the museum.  This makes a sweet little morning visit – I say morning because the building was hot and there is no lift to the second floor located up a double stone staircase.  If you’re a Rodin-Picasso-Duffy fan, this place is worth a visit.

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Piano located at the end of the first hall at Musee des Beaux Arts, Nice France
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Rodin’s The Kiss at Musee des Beaux Arts, Nice France
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Picasso at Musee des Beaux Arts, Nice France
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Picasso’s Coupelle a la Oiseau at Musee des Beaux Arts, Nice France
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Beautiful early Renaissance painting is part of a hallway of Renaissance sacred paintings. This Crowning of the Virgin is by Giovanni da Gaeta from the 15th century. Musee des Beaux Arts, Nice France

Depictions of women have come a long way in 500 years!  Mary, gowned in Renaissance robes, chastely kneels to receive her crown, her head bent in humility and the weight of her halo.  The swimmer below rests casually on a robe, crowned by the sun.  Even her belly button shows through her swim suit.

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This Raul Duffy painting is hung on a recessed wall almost across from the Renaissance painting above. I love the color and the casual pose of La Grande Baigneuse, 1950. Musee des Beaux Arts, Nice France

Because of our visit to the Musee des Beaux Arts, I became intrigued with the work of Raoul Dufy (image, above).  When I returned home to the US, I stumbled upon a lovely article by Ian Phillips in Elle Decor Magazine who wrote, “More than anything, the Frenchman was a painter of leisure.  His favorite themes were the seaside, racecourses, and musical instruments and his canvases are filled with bright colors and a carefree spirit.”

Even though we were on vacation, we were women with a mission.  So we hiked down the steep hill from the museum, waited a long time for a bus, got thrown off the bus two stops short of the train station, caught another bus and arrived at the station nearly 30 minutes early for our train back to Frejus.

People have asked about safety but there are police and soldiers everywhere.  We saw this small force of three patrolling the train station at Nice.  They asked a pregnant woman sitting on the platform next to me to put out her cigarette but they were friendly to the children and nodded to the waiting passengers.

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Police and soldiers – always in groups of at least two and heavily armed – make their presence known throughout France. Nice Ville Gare, France
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Large groups of school children are escorted on field trips just about everywhere we go. They were well behaved but we headed to the other end of the train because we knew we’d lose the footrace to the seats in the upper deck if they were our competition. Nice, France
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Five police suddenly appeared and questioned a young man about the contents of his pockets and luggage. After a few minutes, they escorted him off the train. We think maybe it was a drug problem. Everything was handled very calmly and professionally. Train from Nice to Frejus, France.

So that’s the story of our day trip to Nice.  It was just enough time to see the city, shop at Lafayette Galleries, and enjoy extraordinary coastal views from the comfort of our train seats.  Don’t miss Nice.  It’s really – sorry – nice.

View from our train window of the coast between Nice and Caan, France.
View from our train window of the coast between Nice and Caan, France.






Author: barbgrano1

Just let me see the world! I'm currently focusing on the US and Europe and invite you to share my travels. I teach ethics and political science at St. Petersburg College part time; I retired as a college administrator in Ohio. I am a total geek about government with huge wishes for continued freedom and respect for the individual. We must each do our part.