We started our French adventure in Nice! It was definitely one of my favorite cities on the whole trip. It’s so clean and modern and the beach is right there.
We arrived around 8PM on the train and were luckily within walking distance of our hotel. We stayed at the Boscolo Exedra Nice (also booked with points) and it was gooooorgeous. Highly recommend, especially if you’re stocking up Marriott points.
We dropped our bags and headed out in search of some food. We were both starving (it seems we weren’t so good at planning snacks for extended travel) and ended up just having burgers at this corner restaurant. They were excellent and E’s had foie gras on it, so still French. We walked around for a while longer before calling it a night.
We had decided ahead of time that we were going to eat pain au chocolat (a croissant stuffed with chocolate) every day for breakfast in France. Our first one was good not great. We also went to a cafe that advertised iced coffee, but the barista seemed quite confused when we asked for it and I’m pretty sure what I actually drank was about 6 espressos on ice. Felt real good after that.
A few hours later, we stopped at a boulangerie for a baguette, and then a formagerie for cheese. We took both down to the water and snacked on a park bench. One of my favorite “meals” of our entire trip.
I should also add that the GS speaks French fluently so it was quite enjoyable to travel with him here. I mostly stayed silent during interactions because we learned when we were in Montreal that if I started speaking in English, they would switch and speak English to both of us even though he is fully competent.
We did SO much walking that morning. There’s a spot where you can climb all these stairs (215, actually. I counted) up to a real miradouro overlooking the city and the coastline.
There’s also a free elevator that will take you up but of course I wanted to do the stairs.
I wish we had allotted more time in Nice because I really loved it. We had booked this other hotel in Sablettes with my Hilton points in advance, though, and they were being really difficult about canceling it. So we grabbed sandwiches and got back on the train, bound for Toulon.
In Toulon we walked down to the ferry station and took a 25 minute ferry ride to Sablettes, a tiny beach town. Any annoyance we had about going there instead of staying in Nice was quickly eliminated when we saw this hotel. Our room was beautiful and had a little balcony overlooking the ocean. This was also the first sandy beach we had seen- in Italy and in Nice they were rocky beaches- and it wasn’t touristy at all.
I desperately wanted moules-frites so we picked the most hometown looking restaurant right on the water.
A general comment about dining in Europe… things move very slow. That was universal across all four countries. They are not in a rush to get you in and out like they are here. No such thing as a quick 30 minute lunch anywhere. They also aren’t working for tips, they are paid a normal wage. So in many places the service isn’t what you would get here, because their pay doesn’t depend on them being prompt and polite.
However, the food is great and this moules-frites was no exception.
The next morning I ventured to a laundromat across the street because we were both down to our last clothing items at that point. I was able to navigate that okay (and they actually had dryers!) and I went and grabbed a baguette. I had planned to also get pain au chocolat but chickened out at the last minute over my lack of French. So I sent the GS back to the bakery to get those, and to get me an espresso.
We enjoyed the beach for a few hours and then went back to shower and pack up. As we were walking to the ferry we passed a street market where I bought some funky pants for 5 Euro. Caught the ferry, back to the train station, and on our way to Paris!
Again we decided to book one place in Paris for two nights- we chose the CitizenM. It was kind of similar to the Chic & Basic in Barcelona- super modern, clean, minimalist. But a great location- close to the train station and walkable to basically everything.
We arrived in the evening and walked to Le Pop-Up du Label for dinner. Sounds like the space is always there but the “pop-up” refers to a rotating chef/menu and also live music. The food was good and they had a great IPA on tap. Unfortunately we were both pretty under the weather at this point so we called it a night early, knowing that the next day was our one full day to cram in everything in Paris.
I felt like death the next morning but rallied. We went to Neighbours because they had cold brew (similarly to The Mill in Lisbon, it was Australian run. I guess the Australians like their cold brew). The service was actually appalling and it took like 15 minutes to get a cold brew and a regular black coffee. But the GS did really like the cold brew.
Next stop- another pain au chocolat (I don’t remember where we got this one but the GS voted it the best one) and then we walked to Place des Vosges. It’s the oldest planned square in Paris and is so quaint and gorgeous. From there, the Notre-Dame Cathedral and Luxembourg Garden.
I was dying to try the hot chocolate in Paris so we went to Les Deux Magots, which is where Phil had his. I’m embarrassed that Swiss Miss exists in the US.
Part of the reason we were able to fly through cities like Florence and Paris is that neither of us have a great interest in art or museums. So walking around outside of the Louvre and not actually going in was sufficient for us. Don’t judge me, Mona Lisa.
The GS is a newfound soccer fan and wanted to find a spot to enjoy a Guinness and watch the Tottenham game (Le Sous Bock). This worked out perfectly because I found a gym nearby with a Body Attack class at the same time. The GS came with me to talk to the woman at the front desk. I’m guessing he probably said “This is my wife. She’s insane and wants to take the Body Attack class, please let her in.”
They did! It was such a fun experience. So thrilled I got to experience Les Mills in 3/4 countries we visited.
Reunited at the Tottenham bar, we set off for a late falafel lunch once the game ended. I was really bummed because the place Lisa recommended AND the place Phil went (L’as du Fallafel) is closed on Saturdays. That street has like 7 falafel places though, so we still got it. Note: go to Paris on any day other than Saturday.
Walked back to our hotel to get cleaned up for dinner. We hit the bar on the top level of our hotel for a beer (absolutely amazing view) and then The Frog & Rosbif for another.
We went to Restaurant 52 for dinner. The GS found this spot on a list of restaurants doing great French food in a new way without the stuffiness of typical fine French dining. It was great! Seemed like mostly locals there and we both really liked our food. Too dark for pictures, though.
From there we took the metro closer to the Eiffel Tower. We got there in time to see the lights twinkle at 11PM. Then another quick metro to get closer to Arc de Triomphe. We walked down the Champs-Elysees for a while. All the stores are closed at that time of night but, as avid window shoppers, this was fine with us because they keep all the lights on.
Another metro and back to our hotel. Our mileage that day was close to 16. I think we saw all the hot spots but I would 100% want to go back because I know there’s so much more to see.
One last pain au chocolat the next morning at Ble Sucre and this one was my favorite for sure. The flakiest croissant and they used dark chocolate. Incredible.
We took the metro to the airport and that was that! Such an amazing trip. The GS suggested I keep a journal and I’m really glad I did because it will be fun to read in a year, or 30 years. If this seemed exhaustive, I journaled every day so alllll the details are there.
This was the first time I’ve taken a vacation for longer than a week and it’s a totally different mindset when you aren’t having that Wednesday panic like ‘it’s almost over!!’ We were really able to relax in spite of the constant movement and enjoy every place we went. But when the 16 days were up we were ready to come home. Louise may have played a part in that.
If you’re still reading, bless you. Back to recipes soon! I made some Portuguese octopus on Friday that rocked our worlds.