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.
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.
We enjoyed a quick look around and headed back to the Gare (train station) to catch our train for Nice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A vera ma femme
ma joie al mon affeguesso
…Marc Chagall (a love note to his wife)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.