Visiting Nice on the Côte d’Azur in France With a Small Dog – Part II
From the Promenade du Paillon (Don’t miss Part I of my Nice City Review!), I went on to visit old Nice proper.
Unlike so many of the towns and villages nearby, the old town of Nice does not have a large number of you-can’t-miss-this historical sites. But the old town is still absolutely charming, and instead of being a “town museum”, it’s where people live. There’s activity day and night. If you are a foodie, you are in luck because you will find a variety of great places to eat. Almost all are pet friendly, even for indoor dining. Small dogs (and some medium or large ones) abound!
From Place Massena on the Promenade du Paillon, we walked along the pleasant Rue St François de Paule, which is home to some classy shops and the beautiful Belle Epoque Opera of Nice.
Just past the opera, you can catch a glimpse of the large Place du Palais. This is where the law courts – Palace of Justice – is located. There are some terraces in the Square, but according to our hosts, it isn’t the most pleasant part of the Old Town to visit. So we just kept going straight down the road until we hit the pedestrian area where the street becomes the Cours Saleya.
The Cours Saleya (or “Corso” in the local Niçard dialect), runs parallel to the sea, and is one of the liveliest streets of Old Nice. Plus it has a double life! In the morning, a market takes over the central part of the street. The market is mainly for flowers, but on certain days, also includes fruits and vegetables. The strip is also lined with plenty of restaurants, which are reasonably priced but varying in quality, so we’re told. So be wary. Anyway, in the evening, the restaurant terraces expand, taking over the space the market held during the day. Market by day – party vibe by night! And dogs … everywhere.
We stopped along the Corso for a drink. The opportunity to people-watch and soak in the sun while listening to the Mediterranean was just too much to resist, even if we did pay a little more than we would have a few streets away.
At the end of the Cours Saleya, you can turn right and head towards the waterfront and enjoy incredible views of the whole Baie des Anges from the Castle Hill. (stay tuned for that post!) Or, you can turn left and carry on in the Old Town. That’s what we did!
Running parallel to Cours Saleya and heading back toward Place du Palais is the Rue de la Préfecture. This strip comes to life in the early evenings at around 5 or 6pm — aperitif time in Nice. (Hmm, I wonder what a canine consumes for aperitifs?) The street is lined with bars (mainly English-style pubs or more upmarket lounges) and some pretty decent restaurants.
North of the Rue de la Préfecture, the streets get narrower. Cars are banned so it’s an ideal place to just wander around, working your way up to Place Garibaldi at the very tip of the northern point of the old Nice triangle. Along your way, you’ll find many little shops, bakeries, and specialty shops selling salts, herbs, soaps and more. I was allowed off-leash for some of it – but when the crowds got a little thicker I was picked up to remain out of harms way.
On your wanders, just north of Rue de la Préfecture and before you get too far toward Place Garibaldi, you’ll find Place Rossetti. This is, more or less, the central radius point of the Old Town. The beautiful baroque Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate, built in the late 17th century, shades the square.
Place Rossetti is an ideal place to just sit down and have a drink on a terrace. More importantly, it’s also a perfect place to have an ice cream. No trip to Old Nice would be complete without a visit to the famous Fenocchio Ice Cream Parlour. There is always a big line up, so be prepared. The superb quality of Fenocchio’s gelato and the huge selection of flavours, including some I have never seen before, are the reason for the queue. But the wait is absolutely worth it, Dear Reader!
Mom carried me in her arms (crowds and all that) and I read the fun labels on the heaps of gelato: tomate-basilic, violette, chocolat chili, marron glacé, tee et curcuma, and so many more! The traditional flavours are reputed to be just as good, so don’t fret if you aren’t adventurous with your preference. I had a taste of someone’s vanille de bourbon and it was perfect! Mom had a combination of marron glacé and liqueur de cassis (gelato is traditionally served as individual scoops of different flavours) and she just swooooned.
If the lineup is an issue for you, and you happen to be in town between March and November, then you are in luck. Fenocchio now has a second shop at 6, Rue de la Poissonnerie, close to the eastern end of Cours Saleya. I sniff out all the important information for you, Dear Reader. (You’re welcome!) If you do go to that location, visit the fish market (Marché aux Poissons) on Place Saint François while you’re there. It’s open every morning except Mondays until about 1.30 pm. If you like seafood, you will go nuts!
As we wandered the old and narrow streets, I could not help notice how cool it always was, even on the hotter afternoons we visited the Old Town. The bipeds explained to me that this is because the cobble stones are always in the shade. This is, in large part, a result of the angles the houses take on when built. The tip of the buildings results in super narrow streets but — oh, how wonderful! — also makes the entire old centre into one big ingenious natural ventilation system. The people who founded the city hundreds of years ago were just so clever! I love smart things like that.
As you wander north of Place Rossetti, towards Place Garibaldi at the tiptop point of the Old Nice triangle, the roads get slightly less lively and a bit less trendy. You’ll find kebab places and fast food shops in this area, but there are also a few excellent restaurants. It was still a fun part of our walk.
My very, very favourite sniffing spot was just outside of the old part of town, near the old port. In addition to the boats and yachts, there were the best smells ever. This is where Mom had her favourite dessert and where we went to one of France’s top 10 best pizza places. But, I think I will save that for the post on Castle Hill, since it was on our way there. I don’t want to bog you down with too many wonders at once, Dear Reader!
In review: Old Nice is a wonderful town to visit that isn’t a tourist trap but rather a residential neighbourhood filled with lots of expats as well as locals living day-to-day lives and enjoying the Riviera life. It’s wonderful because you get a feel for the real Mediterranean existence. Most buildings are 4 or 5 stories high and don’t have elevators, and this is also true of many hotels. Don’t book a hotel right on the Promenade des Anglais or the Quai des États-Unis. The main street may offer the best views of the pebble beaches and sea, but the noise of local traffic and buses will drive you crazy.