Relaxing in the Sun


The Wrong Colour

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by TianjinPaul on October 2, 2012

This popular square in Nice's Old Town is rather poorly named. It's moniker would suggest that it would create a visual or emotional impression that is red or pink. You might expect red buildings or pink facades. However, this is very much not the case. The whole area is a variety of shades of yellow. The facades of almost all of the buildings are yellow - there is a wonderful spectrum ranging from a delicate pastel to a deep bursting canary yellow. It makes for an interesting visual experience. There is hardly a tinge of red to be found.

Plaze Rosetti is popular amongst locals and tourists in Nice as a place to relax and enjoy dinner or a drink. I believe that much of this comes from the calming yellows, particularly when the late afternoon sun sends down a soft glow that makes the place feel so very inviting. It also comes from the scores of cafes and restaurants that cover the square and circle the fountain at its centre. Cafe Antonia is popular for snacks and cocktails, Chez Juliette offers haute local cuisine and Brasserie de la Fontaine gives local cuisine at budget prices.

There is also plenty of entertainment in Rosetti. During the summer months it is a popular stop-off for many of the street entertainers that make their living from diners in Nice. If you stop for a drink or dinner in Rosetti you can expect to see various buskers, dancers and even Brazilian acrobats. However, there is also a rather good jazz quartet that frequents the corner close to Chez Juliette and there is a gentleman who makes his money by eating fire. You can regularly see him gargling lighter fluid and letting forth bursts of flame on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The bottom end of Rosetti is dominated by the giant facade of one of Nice's many cathedrals (There are three in the Old Town alone). The open area of the square gives a great view and makes for a wonderful photograph. The cathedral too has a yellow facade and fits perfectly into the style of the square. The chimes of its bells also make a rather pleasant soundtrack to an evening eating and/or drinking.

Place Rosetti is situated in Nice's Old Town. In itself, it is worth a visit for the evocative colours and the beautiful cathedral. In this situation, the square might warrant a ten minute sojourn. However, it is a great place for drinks and dinner.
Place Rossetti
Old Town/Rue Rosetti Et Rue Centrale
Nice, France, 06300

The Beach at St Jean

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by TianjinPaul on October 2, 2012

There is a passage in Sebastian Faulks's excellent novel 'A Week in December' where one of the lead characters describes the way in which the famed Rothschild dynasty made its fortune. Apparently, a key element of their success was their use of carrier pigeons to ensure they received information from around Europe quickly so that they could be one step ahead of other financiers in their dealings. Quite how accurate this little anecdote was is open to interpretation. However, it certainly had my girlfriend and I wondering whether something so small could help create the splendour upon which we were gazing as we bobbed around in the water.

One of the main beaches in St Jean Cap Ferrat - the closest to the port and actual town - is overlooked by the magnificent Villa Rothschild, which makes it one of the most dramatic places in the world to catch some rays. The quaint little port of St Jean is at the southern end of the beach and the villa is to the north. The villa is set in a series of rather dramatically sculpted gardens and it is from a series lush palms that the beautiful building stares out to sea. The buildings are decorated in rather warm pastels that fit perfectly with the Mediterranean climate.

Not only is the villa rather impressive, but some of the passing traffic is also a little more chic than normal. By 'traffic' I do not mean cars, although there are plenty of Bentleys and Ferraris in St Jean, rather I mean the yachts that come in and out of the port. As St Jean is quite small, the really big craft stay out in the bay. However, there are scores of smaller ones flitting in and out. We spotted two fantastic 1950s motor launches as well as a wonderful wooden sailing boat. You could easily pass an hour or so boat spotting as they all parade past.

The beach itself is also very nice, although not the most comfortable in the Riviera. It is very spacious, which allowed us to find a nice spot with plenty of breathing space. Unfortunately, like most beaches on the Cote d'Azur, it is not made of sand. It consists of tiny gravel-like stones. These are soft enough to lay on without any problem - they are far more comfortable than the rocks in Nice or Cagnes Sur Mer - but are a little painful underfoot, so sandals are recommended. Rather problematically, these small stones give way to large rocks just as they enter the water (I guessed that the large rocks are natural and the gravel has been added for beach-goers). This makes getting into the water a little painful.

St Jean Cap Ferrat is a fantastic place to go to the beach. The view is wonderful and the beach itself very nice. It can be reached by car or by taking bus number 81 from Nice.

The Beach at Beaulieu

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by TianjinPaul on October 2, 2012

As you may have noticed from some of the other entries in my journals, I am forever on the look-out for nice beaches in the Cote d'Azur. This stems from the inadequacies of the beach in Nice (the city in which I live). The sea may be a famously wonderful shade of blue and the city itself may be a truly fantastic holiday destination, but the beach is rocky and can be unbelievably crowded. There are times when there is scarcely room to breathe. Therefore, there are times when my girlfriend and I decide it is time to spread our wings and search for more distant and, more importantly, sandier locales.

An easy and convenient place to go is Villefranche. This ticks the two key boxes of being close and being sandy. However, sadly, we are not the only people who are aware of this, which means that it can be as crowded as Nice on some days. There are also Antibes and Juan Les Pins. These are sandy and much bigger than Villefranche, which means there tends to be more room. However, they represent a 45 minute drive along the coast, which takes away the element of convenience. Thankfully, there are a couple of alternatives that are both Sandy and convenient. One of these is Beualieu Sur Mer.

Beualieu is situated an extra five minutes along the coast from Villefranche (about 20 minutes from Nice) at the base of the St Jean Cap Ferrat peninsula. St Jean is renowned as being one of the most expensive areas in the world (until relatively recently it boasted the highest average house prices in the world). The beach there is overlooked by Chateau and Jardin Rothschild, which make it a truly spectacular place to catch some rays. Beaulieu cannot quite compete with this. In truth, there are few places that can - why would property prices be so high? However, Bealiueu makes a good fist of competing with St Jean's glamour.

Just as with St Jean, Bealieu can boast some impressive real estate just meters from the sea. In Beaulieu's case, this is a set of beautiful villas that are set about 50m back from the beach and gaze out across the bay in regal splendour. The road that separates these from the beach is lined by some of the most imposing palm trees one could ever imagine - they are well over 40m in height. There is also the Rotunda building, which sits at the end of the beach just across the promenade road. As the name might suggest, this building is round. But, more than that, it is beautifully designed in turn of the century elegance, which makes it a wonderful sight as you stroll out of the sea and up the beach.

But, what of the beach itself? Is it a good place to pass an afternoon in the sun? After spending a rather lazy Sunday there, I would say it is. Whilst not exactly sand, it is made up of very fine gravel that feels almost the same. In fact, I would argue that even though it is not so soft on the feet, it has its advantages over regular sand, such as the gravel not sticking to wet skin as much and not getting absolutely everywhere. The sea is also pleasant to swim in. Bealieau is situated in a bay, so there are not too many waves to disturb your stroke. There are one or two small drawbacks though. The first is that the water is no so deep and the bottom is covered in large stones, which makes it easy to scrape a knee. The second is that there are some small jellyfish in the shallows, one of which mildly stung me.

Elevated Expectations

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by TianjinPaul on October 2, 2012

In life, hype and expectation have a nasty habit of rendering even the nicest of experiences dissatisfying. For example, during a recent trip to the UK, I found myself hugely disappointed by a visit to Tate Modern and slightly underwhelmed by my trip to the British Museum. Tate Modern left me feeling unimpressed not solely because it had a rather gimmicky and lightweight feel about the place, but also because it had received a fantastic amount of hype in the media and was constantly recommended by my friends who live in London. The British Museum was nowhere near as disappointing, but as I had wished to visit for many years, it could not quite live up to the billing it received in my head.

La Terrasse falls into a similar category to the two London landmarks. It is the cafe/restaurant that sits on the roof of the Meridien hotel on Promenade des Anglais in Nice. The Meridien is one of the best-known and most respected hotels in Nice. It probably ranks second in terms of glamour behind the Negresco, although it cannot match the formers art-deco design. The cafe sits on the roof looking out across the Bay of Nice. Atop such a hotel and in such a setting, one would expect La Terrasse to be the embodiment of pure joy and wonder. It isn't. It is very nice and provides a fantastic view, but cannot quite reach the expectations its setting creates.

My girlfriend and I visited late one Sunday afternoon to enjoy the final flushes of the summer sun as it set. The first thing we noticed as we took the small flight of stairs from the hotel's ninth floor was, of course, the view. The building is so high that unless you get to the very edge of the roof, you cannot see the ground below; the only thing on view is the sea. From the elevated position, it takes on a very different shade than at ground level. The deep blue of the deeper water as the famous azure of the shadows were gone. Instead it took on an almost metallic shade as the sun shone down onto the flat sea. This was beautiful, but, even before we saw a waitress or got a drink, I was a little disappointed. I had not predicted it, but without the azur and the palm trees, the sea around Nice looks largely like the sea anywhere and the view, while impressive, was not awe-inspiring.

My disappointment continued with service we received and a little bit with the decor. The Meridien is a five-star hotel that hosts princes and celebrities. Therefore, we expected the service to be tip-top. However, we waited three or four minutes, during which we simply stood around in limbo, before a waitress arrived to seat us. Then, it was another long wait for her to take our order. This all seemed very strange as the place was not so busy and they were not rushed off their feet. Eventually, they deigned to serve us, but this was again followed by a long wait for our drinks. The decor and style at La Terrasse was nice, but it wasn't what you would expect from a five-star hotel. The roof area was decked and fitted out with white sofas, all of which were very nice. However, it had a slightly rough around the edges feel. A few of the sofas were not spotlessly clean and some of the parasols were patched in places.

In short, La Terrasse was quite nice. It had a great location and good - but not great - view and was a very pleasant place for a drink. However, it failed to really set the pulses racing as it might. We paid 13 Euros for two diet cokes. As we left we did not feel short-changed as it was a nice experience, but we would not do it again.
Le Terrasse at Le Méridien Nice
1 Promenade Des Anglais
Nice, France
+33 (0)4 97 03 40 36

Good coffee, but over-priced

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by TianjinPaul on October 2, 2012

I have mentioned in other articles that I have written about Nice that the French can have a rather protectionist approach to coffee. They like their espresso done in the Frznch way and can be overtly resistant to the idea of the type of coffee we drink in the UK or US making its way into France. I once discussed this with a colleague of mie who remarked that, "You will never get me to drink that dirty water". For this reason, there are no Starbucks or Costa Coffes in Nice. The vast majority of cafes serve espresso and the rest of us must make do with a less than ginormous cafe au lait or capuccino. I have, in the past, also highlighted the few places where you can get a more international cup of coffee. One of these is Pink Coffee.

I was never particularly keen to try Pink. This was due in the main to its rather amateurish appearance. The logo looks like it was drawn by a child, the decor is a little too garish for my tastes and the seating outside looked cheap and uncomfortable. Nice is a one of the more chic parts of the world, so Pink Coffee looks somewhat out of place. Probably the most damning way of looking at it is that the Subway (the sandwich shop) next door has a far better looking seating area. In short, I avoided it because there were hundreds of places that looked a better bet for coffee. When I eventually decided to try Pink Coffee, the results were mixed.

If we start with the fundamental aspect of going to a coffee shop, the coffee, we can focus on the positive aspects of Pink Coffee - there are plenty of negatives to follow. The first thing I noticed was the expansive menu that was chock-full of Lattes, Frappes and all manner of other coffee concoctions. This filled my heart with glee. I opted for a XXL Latte whilst my girlfriend went for a Mocha Frappe. When they arrived, I was mildly surprised at the interpretation of XXL. It was closer to what I would consider L or even M. However, it was very good. The coffee had plenty of flavour and it was nice and rich as a good Latte should. My girlfriend's frappe was also very nice. To accompany these we ordered a blueberry muffin, which was fantastic. The top was crispy - it was so nice it put me in mind of the Muffin Top episode of Seinfeld - and the lower part was deliciously gooey.

The coffee and muffin were good, albeit a little too small in all instances. Sadly, that is where my positivity must finish. Everything else about Pink Coffee was pretty poor. First here was the service, which matched the shabby appearance. There was only one server, which meant we had to wait a little. Then, when she did serve us, she was extremely rude. Her expression was exceedingly dour and she put us under great pressure to order quickly. She also then took exception to my requesting additional sugar. This wall exacerbated by the price. It cost us well over 10 Euros for two drinks and a small muffin.

Pink Coffee is situated between Zone Pietons and Promenade des Anglais. I would recommend the coffee, but it certainly does not compensate for the poor service, shabby appearance and high price.
Pink Coffee
Zone Pietonns and Promenade des Anglais
Nice, France

© LP 2000-2009