8/9/2021 Update: The US Department of State has issued a travel advisory for France – Level 4: Do Not Travel.
Traveling during a pandemic is a gamble. Will they allow me into the country? What guidelines changed from last week? Will I be able to get home? But when you use all your spare time, money, and energy thinking about travel, you put in all on black and buy the plane ticket (+ read lots of The Points Guy’s updates).
My curser was hovering over the flight to Nice on the same day France opened its borders to Americans. Armed with my double vaccination card, flexible cancellation Airbnbs, and BinaxNOW Covid tests for our flight back to the US, we packed up and said “Au revoir.” Finally…back to Europe after 18 months… I cried a little..
Entry to France: Things to Know (traveled on 7/30/2021. Check with French government authorities for local guidance.)
- You must wear a surgical mask on the flight and it must be changed every 4-5 hours. Air France allowed passengers to swap out their cloth masks and provided surgical masks. (Note on my flight to Croatia on KLM, they did not provide masks. Bring plenty of extras with you.)
- Complete Emergency Contact Form. We completed online and printed, but the air crew passed out on the flight and preferred to use their paperwork.
- You must show your vaccination certificate at Customs.
- *Complete a “Sworn Statement of Absence of COVID-19 Symptoms” .
- *You must bring confirmation of accommodation, paid in full, for the duration of your stay.
- *This was not collected or asked for. I think it depends which Customs agent you get.
Home base in Nice with day trips to Antibes, Èze, and Monte Carlo
8 days / 7 nights
We found a fabulous Airbnb in the middle of Old Town Nice, but tucked away enough to not hear the action at night. This apartment (like most) did not have A/C (thank god for fans), which wasn’t unbearable just something to keep in mind when traveling in Europe in general. Rookie mistake…guess I’d been away for too long when booking.
Promenade des Anglais – walk along the Promenade that hugs the coast of Nice for great people watching and access to the beach. Fun fact: the name comes from the English aristocrats who came to Nice in the 18th century to escape the cold weather.
Cours Saleya Market – you’ll find tourist and locals here shopping for fresh fruits, veggies, and flowers. We stopped here every morning to grab berries for breakfast and fresh squeezed juice. You can also find Socca (delicious chickpea pancake street snack) here at the Chez Theresa stand.
Castle Hill – make this one of the first things you do upon arriving in Nice! There used to be a military citadel atop the hill, but it has been long destroyed. We joined a walking tour that led us up the hill for sweeping views of the city and landscape.
Hike to San Jean Cap Ferrat – if we return to the French Rivieria, we’ll be staying here next time! It was so peaceful with less crowds and calm beaches. Paloma Beach was our all time favorite! Stop in at Diva for lunch in the marina on the way to Paloma Beach. Pricey, but delicious plates.
Visit Villefranche-sur-Mer – we hiked the scenic route into this cute village using a great blog from SWTliving. It’s 6 kilometers and 1.5 hours from Nice one way. We got a little overzealous and added this route on our way to the Cap Ferrat hike. By the end of the day we hiked over 10 miles! Sorry, Mom!
Reservations recommended in high season. There is no wait list for restaurants in Old Town. When you sit at a table, it’s yours for the night so once a restaurant is full, there is no chance to get in.
Le Panier – 10 tables, chalkboard menu, intimate vibe with phenomenal fish and duck.
Influence – the best dining experience in Nice! They only offer tasting menus and the 6 course was more than enough for each of us. The owner chose the best wine for us based on our preference. It was so good that I don’t have any pictures of the plates because we were lost in enjoying every bit of it.
Bocca Nissa – head to the rooftop for drinks and a vibe, but skip the food. Their menu is attempt at Mediterranean tapas, but their portions are huge and (not sorry) but I’m a snob for Spanish tapas.
Pizzeria Caruso and Les-Amoureux– PIZZA!
Other great options include Bar des Oiseaux and Comptoir du Marche. These are hot restaurants on the Michelin guide where we couldn’t get reservations and Oliviera is known for hand picked olive oils and homemade cuisine.
Patisserie Lac – our favorite place for pastries and chocolate! Xocoalt is another famous chocolate boutique.
Fenocchio – the most popular gelato in Nice! Beer gelato, anyone?
There is public beach access everywhere in Nice, but it gets crowded fast and the pebbled shore may not be the most comfortable to lay all day. For a price, you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas to have private access. Even though it seems they pack the chairs together, we didn’t mind. It’s somewhat of an organized chaos and with drink service if I may add.
In my opinion, Bella Nissa was the best option for us. More relaxing vibe and best value on beach chair rentals. $23 chairs with umbrella for the day. Front row requires a reservation at their restaurant which works perfectly for convenience, but we opted to leave for an hour to get lunch elsewhere and come back.
Plage Castel is another good option, nestled along the edge of the beach near Castle Hill, although rougher waves. If you want more of a party vibe, head to Hotel Amour a la Plage.
Pro Tip: buy these water shoes for Nice’s pebble beach! Affordable, borderline stylist, comfortable, and easy to pack!
Ici La Bas – great for prints of Cote Azure and local artist designs
L’atelier Deco – cutest home and accessory shop with a french boho flair
Taking the bus is the easiest and most direct route to this hilltop medieval village. It’s about a 30 minute ride from Nice (and a very picturesque!) and costs €3 round trip. Here you can stop at Galimard to learn about the art of perfume making and even create your own scent. Some make the trip to Grasse for everything fragrance related, so this was a great compromise. Booking in advance is required for the Private Workshop where you’ll be guided by the “Nose” of the perfumery to help make your own fragrance (€79).
Chateau Eza – Michelin star lunch with view! 3 course set menu for €60, worth every penny. Make reservations early to soak in the view. We arrived around 1:30p not knowing the kitchen closes at 2pm, so plan for an earlier lunch so you’re not rushed.
Hop on the train and head west to the village of Antibes for mega yacht viewing and private sailing. There are many companies that provide half/full day, private or small group sailing like this one from Airbnb. There is also the Picasso Museum, which was formerly the Grimaldi Castle where he was living for 6 months, that is not to be missed.
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Continue west past Èze and arrive in Monaco in 30 minutes (from Nice) by train. I’m not sure what I expected in Monaco, but I almost felt like I was on another planet. The Principality has a population of only 40,000 people, of which 1/3 are millionaires. But where was everyone? While I get many have second homes in Monaco or maybe it was because of COVID, but there was not a soul on the street when we walked from Monte Carlo to the Old Town.
*You are required to wear a mask 100% of the time in Monaco (even if outside and away from people).
The Monte Carlo Casino is open to the public (except residents of Monaco) and has an entrance fee of €10. Remember to bring your ID + vaccine card and dress to impress if you want to gamble. It’s smaller than I imagined, but very ornate on the inside and outside.
We stumbled upon a great spot for lunch just 5 minutes away from the casino called Il Terrazzino. Delicious, homemade pastas, full of locals and at a very affordable price. Highly recommend!
Get the best views of the city by walking up to the Prince’s Palace. You can even see a bird’s eye view of the Monaco circuit.
Now for a quick return to the US to catch up on work before we leave for Croatia in 3 weeks. Commence full revenge travel mode!