The Beach Review #2: Nice

If you’re a long time reader of the Ginger Passports, then you might remember a wee blog post I published several months back where I reviewed Saint Kilda Beach in Dunedin, New Zealand. As the first edition of my beach review series, Saint Kilda scored 6.5 stars out of a possible 10, exceeding expectations in isolation and sand, but falling short in temperature.

A week in Nice in August offered the opportunity to dip my toes in the waters of the Mediterranean. The French Riviera is famous for it’s luxury and iconography, and I could hardly wait to embrace the coast after a month of meandering down central France.

For those perhaps unacquainted with my system of rating, here’s how it goes… I take a beach and evaluate it according to seven attributes: water, sand, temperature, wildlife, beauty, recreation and congestion. Each beach has the potential to earn 10 stars (★) and are stacked up against one another at the end of the post.

#2
Beach: Nice
Location: Nice, French Riviera, France

Water

Whilst the Mediterranean may not be like dipping your toes in a warm bath, it’s not far from it. I’m a complete wuss when it comes to the cold, so the fact that I was able to submerge myself after taking a few steps speaks volumes.

The water gets deep very, very quickly. This is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. There’s no jagged reefs or coral to cut yourself on, so it makes for a carefree swim. There are also no waves – but more on that later!

Sand

Yeah… that’s some misleading heading there. Unfortunately, you won’t find any sand in Nice (you’ll have to head westward past Antibes for that), but rather smooth pebbles by the name of ‘galets’. While these pebbles aren’t sharp, they’re not exactly nice to walk on either. I would make the regular dash from the towel to the shore grimacing in pain and searing heat, cursing my decision not to bring sandals.

Temperature

The biggest drawback to Saint Kilda is that it’s freakin’ freezing. I’m not just talking about the water, either – the south of New Zealand in general is a pretty chilly place to be.

Nice is hot but not uncomfortably hot. In fact, I would go as far to say that it is perfect beach weather. I visited during August, a month that on average scores between 24-27°C during the daytime. I was relieved to escape the 40°C highs of southern Spain whilst still being able to break out the bikini and sunscreen (because, y’know, I’m ginger).

Wildlife

When I came to write this part of the review, I had to actually open up another internet browser to search the answer. Even then, Google failed me. I never saw a single sea or land creature during my time lolling on the beach in Nice (save for perhaps a few nosy gulls). While there have been past sightings of sharks off the coast of the French Riviera, there isn’t really anything notable or iconic that I can discuss here.

Beauty

Strolling down the French Riviera is like strolling down the canvas of a painting. The colours, the texture, the music… everything titillates the senses. It may not be the natural landscape itself that draws the eye, but rather the mix of people and culture, blending together like wet paint on a palette.

Recreation

The adrenalised parasailing scene draws fun-seekers of all walks of life, but that – and the odd jet ski here and there – is about as lively as it gets. As a keen surfer, I was disappointed to learn that Nice has very little to offer in terms of waves. Nevertheless, myself and my budget were satisfied with floating in the water for hours on end.

Nice Beach runs alongside Promenade des Anglais, a coastal highway offering delightful (albeit overpriced) cafés and the sort of souvenir shops that you can’t help but check out every time even though they’re all the same. Although there is much to eat on offer here, Cours Saleya Market is a mere 50m stroll away. Here, you will find fresh fruit, local produce and savoury specialities of the Côte d’Azur. If all else fails, you can always count on people to be doing the rounds on the beach selling everything from chilled beer to carved watermelon 🍉

Congestion

Holy f*ck.

If you’re someone who values their personal space, then Nice is not for you. Be prepared to be sandwiched like sardines between holidaymakers, struggling to find just one square meter of free space to lay out your towel. People will assemble umbrellas right in your face. They will walk straight over you to get to the water. They might even strip right next to you (hey, it’s Europe). I distinctly remember waking up from a sun-soaked slumber to an eyeful of an old woman’s naked breasts.

The Verdict

7.1/10

★★★★★★★

I had imagined the beach at Nice to fulfil my wildest Mediterranean dreams: kilometres of white sand, gorgeous cerulean waters and a landscape like something out of a vintage postcard. I guess you could say I had high expectations.

The good news is that the reality of Nice wasn’t that different to my imagination. The ocean, heat and landscape all ticked the boxes, and even the severe lack of wildlife and lush sand didn’t dull my enjoyment. If I had to choose just one aspect of Nice that really impacted negatively upon my experience, it would have to be the pure congestion of bodies.

But hey – I suppose you can’t have everything.

The Rankings

  1. Nice 🇫🇷 France
    (7.5 stars)
    ★★★★★★★
  2. Saint Kilda 🇳🇿 New Zealand
    (6.5 stars)
    ★★★★★★

If you weren’t aware of the excessive links to my previous post in the Beach Review series, then here it is again: Saint Kilda. Or, if Nice has tickled your fancy, then you might like to read about a scrumptious food tour I embarked on in the unforgettable city (featuring a delicious recipe!).

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The French Way: A Succulent Food Tour of Nice + Recipe

It was mid-morning when my family and I shuffled sleepily to Place Masséna on a Sunday in mid August. Our arrival to Nice the previous evening had offered us a peek into the lazy, sun-kissed life of the Côte d’Azur, and we were ready to explore the city through our tastebuds.

At 9.30am on the dot, our lovely tour guide, Marion, bounded into the square. We had booked a food tour with the French Way, a local company specialising in art, food and wine tours in Nice and Paris. The rest of my family were proud foodies, and whilst I was still developing an appreciation for gastronomy, I was excited to tease my palate with the iconic tastes of Niçoise food.

While I’d always thought of French food as confined to croissants and vintage cheese I can’t pronounce, this tour would open my eyes to the fresh and simplistic flavours of the French Riviera. Described by the French Way as, “not quite French, not quite Italian”, French cuisine is characterised by the use of locally-grown vegetables that are chosen according to the season. The dishes focus on modest, reductionist ingredients so that the consumer can enjoy each component in its own right.

Marion lead our tour group from Place Masséna, through the Old Town and to Cours Saleya Market. There, we wandered through the bustling stalls with eyes as wide as a child’s on Christmas morning, trying to take in everything all at once. The colours, the smells, the atmosphere… it was almost too much to process. All the while, Marion was throwing information and samples at us left, right and centre.

Highlights included Torta de Blea (a local cake made of sweet and savoury ingredients), Socca (a chickpea pancake of sorts), and hard candies made from violet flowers. Oh, and I can’t forget all that gorgeous fresh fruit.

Fifteen tastings later (yes, you read that right), and we had arrived at Maison Bremond 1830. Maison Bremond 1830 is a mouth-watering shop specialising in olive oils, truffles, tapenades, terrines and confectionery, all sourced from the Mediterranean and Provence. There, we were treated to olive and truffle oils that would change my standards of cooking forever. Without a shred of doubt, my favourite was the lemon-infused olive oil. I thought that was quite impressive for someone who doesn’t particularly like lemons or olives 🍋

The ‘Deats

Name: Maison Bremond 1830

Website: Here

Address: 15 Rue de Pont Vieux

Phone: +33 (0)4 93 92 50 40

Email: nice@maison-bremond.com

At the end of the tour, we bode farewell to Marion and retreated back to our apartment with full stomachs and inspired minds. As someone who had never been passionate about the kitchen (I think to even say I am tolerant is quite a stretch), I was amused to find myself motivated to practice recipes and dishes influenced by Niçoise cuisine. I really relish the idea of modest, delicious food that is easy on the tastebuds and easy on the waistline. I guess that’s the key word here: easy. None of the meals Marion delighted in showing us required much preparation or effort, and they were all sourced from local producers without any of that synthetic shit imposed through processes of importation or preservation. With French food, what you see is what you get. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Recipe

Salade Niçoise

2 hands full of red radishes

4 hard-boiled eggs

1 branch of celery

2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes

200g of tinned tuna

4 big handfuls of mixed salad leaves

1 tablespoon of dijon mustard

10 tablespoons of olive oil

3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

1/2 red pepper and 1/2 yellow pepper

4 spring onions (or 1/2 red onion)

1 handful of broad beans

4 purple artichokes

16 tinned salted anchovies

black olives de Nice

salt and pepper

vinaigrette

The ‘Deats

Name: The French Way

Website   Facebook   Twitter   TripAdvisor

Address: 31 Avenue Malaussena

Phone: +33 (0) 6 27 35 13 75

Email: info@thefrenchway.fr

If this article has whetted your appetite for all things French, then make sure you take the time to enjoy my two Parisian blog posts: Fluctuat Ner Mergitur: A Paris Photo Diary and How to Spend a Layover in Paris (Sans Eiffel Tower) 🇫🇷

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