Exploring the French Riviera

Sunny skies, a sandy beach, and lots of mountains, what more could a student at Georgia Tech-Lorraine ask for? Join Mira on an adventure as she explores the French Rivera in her trip to Nice and Monaco!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021 | Written by Mira

 DAY 1 

Image Description: White cup with a pink logo full of light brown gelato and a teal spoon, on a stone ledge in front of a running fountain. In the background is an orange building with a red cloth overhang with white text: "Spécialité Niçoise."
Coffee Gelato!!

I think trains may be my new favorite form of travel. As much as I love the views from airplanes, there’s something so calming about being on eye-level with the gorgeous French terrain. My itinerary for the day consisted of two trains and a metro, lasting about 8 hours, giving me enough time to read (for pleasure, not for school!) and admire the mountains and Mediterranean coast, of which no picture could do justice.

If you are staying in an Airbnb, I highly recommend asking your host about local favorites. Our host was so welcoming and gave us a list of places to go and how to get there, even sharing with us a local secret (there are coves on the other side of the port in Nice, free from an abundance of tourists). We headed out to dinner, wandering around the streets of Old Nice. I felt like I had been transported to another world. Among the souvenir shops and lavender soap vendors were so many restaurants with different cuisines: Indian, American, Italian, Middle Eastern, and especially Niçoise (the local Nice cuisine), plus too many gelateria to count!


ID: A woman with a maroon top and black shorts, spreading her arms in front of a large blue, white, and red sign that reads: "#ILoveNice." Behind the sign, the sea and coastline is visible, and the sky is overcast.
Doing touristy things

The best way to start the day? A French breakfast: boisson chaud (hot drink), orange pressée (freshly squeezed orange juice), and a viennoiserie (a pastry). We spent a leisurely morning, enjoying breakfast (petit dejeuner), walking around the Old City, and exploring the views of the beach. I could look at the view from the beach forever. Standing near the #ILoveNice sign, you can see the French landscape curve around the Mediterranean Sea. In the distance, you can see the hazy outline of mountains while listening to the sound of waves crashing against the rocks. 

After a very serene morning and early afternoon, we headed to the train station to go to Monaco (for no other reason than just to add it to the list of countries we’ve visited). If you buy the unlimited Eurail pass, the train between Nice and Monaco is completely free, no seat reservations required. 

 View of pale buildings, higher ones on the left of the image, and lower ones on the right, leading to sea level. In the background are mountains and an overcast sky. In the foreground are brown-green trees framing the image.

Monaco is built on the side of a mountain, and grandly towers over the nearby port. Our one goal was to walk towards the Palace and back to the station. We reached the Palace exhausted after walking down part of the mountain and up a cascade of stairs, but the view made it more than worth it. From our vantage point, you could see how each building towered over the one in front of it as they got farther from the rounded harbor full of lavish boats. I can proudly say that I only spent a single euro in Monaco, on a single postcard. On our way back to the train station, google maps struggled to understand the public elevator setup but we read signs leading us into the station that was built into the mountain. Honestly, I’m not sure exactly how we ended up stumbling upon the correct platform 10 minutes earlier than google maps anticipated, but I can’t complain about not having to sprint to make our train. 


ID: Waterfall on the left two-thirds of the image with a tree above and another tree to the right (in the right third of the image) of the waterfall. Peaking out above the waterfall, between the leaves of the tree is the sun, creating a sun flare in the image.
An artificial waterfall in Castle Hill Park

Our last day in Nice we followed the recommendations of our Airbnb host and a Georgia Tech-Lorraine alumni. A must-see destination in Nice is Castle Hill, a grand (and hilly) park near the port that features a refreshing waterfall that overlooks the sea. Even higher up the hill is a glorious lookout, making the (already amazing) views from the previous day pale in comparison. From here, you can see all the rooftops of Nice, and everything looks so small. Nearby a busker was playing a violin only adding to the ambiance and sensation I was in some sort of movie. 

If you don’t think you can make it all the way down the stairs, don’t worry! There is a public elevator not far from the lookout, and it leads you right to the beach. After spending some time at the rocky beach, we found lunch at a Mexican restaurant La Lupita (9 Rue de la Préfecture, 06300 Nice), and I got some top-notch iced coffee. 

The next stop on our excursion was one of the few (maybe the only) sandy beaches in this area: Villefrance-sur-Mer. In the week leading up to my arrival at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, a Georgia Tech-Lorraine alumna recommended this specific beach to me, and my Airbnb host confirmed that it was worth the train ride. If you take the trip, you should definitely bring sunscreen or buy some… I’m unfortunately speaking from experience. 

Nice is truly a relaxing vacation destination! If you’re at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the fall, go early while it’s still warm. If you’re at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the spring, go late when it gets warm. And, if you’re at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the summer, just go and please visit the Lavender fields in Provence for me!