Sightseeing – NICE (Jardin Botanique / Botanic Garden)

The Jardin Botanique de Nice is open daily and situated on the Corniche Fleurie with views across to Baie des Anges and the Massif de l’Estérel.

It is located in the midst of a residential area on a hillside, but we noticed minimal traffic noise and could hear birds and insects all the time.

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The garden contains more than 3500 plant species including trees, herbs, cacti, agaves, aloes and flowers, and is divided into zones that mimic the Mediterranean climate around the world including South Africa, Mexico, Australia and central Asia.

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If you are driving to the garden, come off the AutoRoute A8 highway at exit 51.  There is a free carpark at the entrance to the garden (with about 15 spaces including one designated disabled space) though the carpark is quite busy and even though we have a small car (Volkwagon Golf) we found it difficult to exit out of the carpark as there were cars trying to arrive into the carpark and it is very narrow entrance.

If you intend to visit the garden by public transport, there are no trains located nearby so your only option is by bus.  There is a bus stop located right at the entrance to the garden, the stop is called ‘Jardin Botanique’ (Bus numbers 8, 65 and 73, from Lignes Azur, tickets can be bought from the driver, timetable information at www.lignesdazur.com)

Within the garden, the paths are well maintained with a mixture of wide paved pathways and earth stairways, and excluding the stairways there are enough ample paved pathways so the garden is accessible for wheelchair bound people.  Points of interest include a small waterfall, ornamental ponds, small bridges and a herbarium.  There are many park benches and water fountain taps dotted throughout the garden which is lovely.

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There are two accessible toilets onsite, free of charge, located beside the gardien’s building.  I forgot to check if there were baby-changing facilities, but the toilets were very clean and spacious enough for baby strollers/buggies/wheelchairs.

Two accessible toilets at Jardin Botanique de Nice

Two accessible toilets at Jardin Botanique de Nice

There is a fenced children’s playground onsite with climbing frames, rocking horses and a merry-go-round operated by pedals.  Age suitable for children from walking age upwards.  Near to the playground are two children’s picnic tables, and two larger picnic tables which were shaded under trees.

Location:  78 avenue de la Corniche-Fleurie, 06200 NICE

Hours:  Open daily, 9am-5pm in winter, 9am-7pm in summer.

Price:  Free entry to garden, free carparking onsite, free public toilets onsite.  They also offer free guided tours in French and English only with prior reservation (duration: 1.5 hours)

Points of interest:  Cacti, trees, agaves, aloes, fenced children’s playground, small waterfall, ponds, bridges, herbarium

NOTE:  I took a photo of the map of the garden at the entrance, however it was not very good quality.  Next time I visit I will take another photo and mark an entirely wheelchair-friendly garden route and add back to this blog post.

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Cuisine Nissarde – when in Nice, eat like the Niçois

Food, glorious food.

Now I live in France, my diet has changed.  I eat more bread and cheese, but I also cook with a huge variety of vegetables including aubergine and artichokes that I never used back in my home country, and I love the summer fruits here that I buy at the market.

seasonal produce at French markets

seasonal produce at French markets

Many people wonder how French people stay so slim eating breads, cheeses, pastries and sweet treats but it has a lot to do with making the most of seasonal produce and portion size.

Locally, a label has been created ‘Cuisine Nissarde’ to respect the authenticity of the cuisine of Nice, and it is granted to restaurants that feature in their menu three traditional recipes selected and developed by a technical committee including professional chefs and Tourism representatives.

Some traditional Niçoise dishes are:

Farcis: tomatoes, round courgettes, onions, aubergines, bell peppers, each with their own stuffing

Fleurs de courgettes:  Fritters that are eaten warm with tomato sauce

La tourte de blettes:  A pie made with Swiss chard (grown on the hills of Nice) and pine nuts

Pan-bagnat:  A small round bun (white bread) split in two and rubbed with garlic then filled with lettuce, tomato, spring onion, celery, purple artichoke hearts, radishes, tuna in oil, anchovy fillets and seasoning

Pissaladière:  An onion tart with black olives and anchovy fillets

Porquetta:  Stuffed suckling pig

Ratatouille:  One of my favourites, delicious served on crusty bread.  Made with tomatoes, courgettes, onions, garlic, bell peppers and aubergine sautéed individually then simmered together

Salade niçoise: Perhaps the most well-known ‘dish’ of Nice, there are many variations but generally it contains bell pepper, tomato, onion, hard-boiled egg, tuna, black olives and often green beans, potatoes and artichokes

salade niçoise (image: laroque-provence)

salade niçoise (image: laroque-provence)

Socca:  A chickpea flour crepe made with olive oil.  My recommendation for trying socca in Nice is Chez Rene Socca.

Here are the first Nice restaurants that have been granted the ‘Cuisine Nissarde’ label:

A’Buteghinn’a 
11 Rue du Marché, 06000 Nice – 04 93 92 28 22 – www.abuteghinna.fr

Auberge de l’Aire St  Michel
Chemin de Châteaurenard Gairaut, 06100 Nice – 04 93 84 42 07

Brasserie de l’Union 
1 Rue Michelet, 06100 Nice – 04 93 84 65 27 – www.unionrestaurant.fr

La Cantine de Lulu 
26 Rue Alberti, 06000 Nice – 04 93 62 15 33

Le Gaglio  2 Place Saint-François, 06300 Nice – 04 93 85 42 13 – www.restaurantgaglio.com

La Maison de Marie   5 Rue Massena, 06000 Nice – 04 93 82 15 93 – www.lamaisondemarie.com

Le Marché  12-14 Cours Saleya, 06300 – Nice – 04 93 85 77 15

La Socca d’or   45 Rue Bonaparte, 06300 Nice – 04 93 56 52 93

La Table Alziari 
4 Rue François Zanin, 06300 Nice – 04 93 80 34 03

L’Escalinada 
22 Rue Pairolière, 06300 Nice – 04 93 62 11 71 – www.escalinada.fr

Le Safari 
1 Cours Saleya, 06300 Nice – 04 93 80 18 44 – www.restaurantsafari.fr

Les Garnuches 
13 Rue Cassini, 06300 Nice – 04 83 55 65 53 – www.lesgarnuches.com

Lou Balico 
20 Avenue Saint-Jean-Baptiste, 06000 Nice – 04 93 85 93 71 – www.loubalico.com

Lou Bistrot Nissart  26 Boulevard Risso, 06300 Nice – 04 22 16 25 81 – www.lou-bistrot-nissart.fr

Lu Fran Calin 
5 Rue Francis Gallo, 06300 Nice – 04 93 80 81 81 – www.lufrancalin.fr

Restaurant Acchiardo
38 Rue Droite, 06300 Nice – 04 93 85 51 16

Restaurant Luc Salsedo 
4 Rue Maccarani, 06000 Nice – 04 93 82 24 12 – www.restaurant-salsedo.com

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Airport buses on the French Riviera

There is another disruption to the train services along the coast today, so lots of travellers have been stopping me regularly asking directions to the bus stops.

The bus network in the region is quite good, however bus schedules are reduced on weekends and bank holidays, and evening services are limited.  There are some flights that arrive at Nice Airport in the evening that may not coincide with airport buses so always check the timetables beforehand.

I am regularly queried regarding timetables and routes for the buses to/from Nice Airport and am happy to answer as the route and timetables are not posted at every bus stop.

Below, you will find more information and timetable links to Nice Airport buses  (current as at July 2014, all timetables subject to change):

  • Bus 110: Bus service between Nice Airport and Monaco and Menton 110busNiceAirportMonacoMenton
  • Bus 200:  This is a local bus that runs daily in both directions between Nice old town and Cannes.  The airport stop is outside the terminals on the main road (follow the people with suitcases!), it is called ‘Aéroport/Promenade’.  You will need to signal the driver; even though this bus is usually busy they don’t stop at every bus stop unless requested.  Also, be aware it is not specifically an ‘airport’ bus so there is no designated area onboard for luggage storage, which is important to know if you have lots of luggage or baby strollers/prams.  The main stops are:

Aéroport / Promenade = this is the Nice Airport stop

Gare de Biot = this is the stop for Biot by the sea (not Biot Village), Biot train station and Marineland, Kids Island, AntibesLand

Passerelle = Antibes (cross the railway overbridge for Antibes train station). IMPORTANT NOTE:  As at Monday 21 July 2014, the new bus interchange station at the Passerelle stop in Antibes is not open yet.

Passerelle bus stop in Antibes, still unopened at May 2014

Passerelle bus interchange station in Antibes, still unopened at 21 July 2014

In replacement of the Passerelle bus station, there are some temporary stops for the 200 bus if you are travelling to/from Antibes:

From Nice direction TO Antibes:  As a replacement for the Passerelle stop, there is a temporary stop on boulevard Général Vautrin. It is outside Hotel Le Collier, a small sign says ‘ Arrêt Provisoire’.  This is the stop you should get off at if you need to go to Antibes train station or port (then you can cross the road and the overbridge to the train station). Or the other stop which is the nearest to Antibes’ main square Place de  Gaulle and the old town is called ‘Dir. Chaudon’ which is on rue Directeur Chaudon.

From Antibes TO Nice direction:  There are 2 stops in Antibes for the 200 bus if you are leaving from Antibes in the Nice direction – the first one is named ‘Dugommier’ and is located outside the Sushi Shop/Monoprix on boulevard Dugommier, and the second one is a temporary stop on boulevard Général Vautrin.  Photos below:

First stop for 200 bus leaving Antibes heading in Nice direction (outside Sushi Shop/Monoprix). The designated 200 stop is the one directly outside Sushi Shop however sometimes the 200 bus has been known to stop outside the Monoprix so be warned it may stop at any of these bus stops along this stretch:

200 bus Antibes to Nice (bus departs outside Monoprix on blvd Dugommier)

200 bus Antibes to Nice (bus departs outside Sushi Shop/Monoprix on blvd Dugommier)

Second stop for 200 bus leaving Antibes heading in Nice direction (a temporary bus stop on boulevard Général Vautrin, it is near the overbridge, opposite Antibes Bike Center and IRC France (depannage informatique) a computer repair store).  There is no shelter at this bus stop for hot or adverse weather, or seating so bear this in mind:

Temporary stop for 200 bus Antibes to Nice, boulevard Général Vautrin

Temporary stop for 200 bus Antibes to Nice, boulevard Général Vautrin

Régence = this is the closest stop to Juan les Pins central. This stop is less than 10 minutes walk from Juan les Pins train station and seafront.

Square Nabonnand = central Golfe Juan

Gare Routière = this is Cannes main stop located near Hôtel de Ville and Cannes port. Less than 5 minutes walk to the Palais des Festivals / Croisette.

The 200 bus timetable is found here 200bus

  • Bus 200 night-bus:  Same route as the number 200 day bus, but this operates late nights on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and bank holidays only. Timetable here noctambus_200NiceCannes
  • Bus 210: This is the express service between Nice Airport and Cannes as it travels on the autoroute as opposed to the longer suburban bus 200 route via Juan les Pins, Antibes etc Timetable is here 210NiceAirportCannesExpress
  • Bus 250: Express service between Nice and Golfe Juan, including stops at Antibes and Juan les Pins. This bus has designated luggage storage, it is less crowded than bus 200 and has a faster journey time. Downside, more expensive.  Tip: I have used both buses and I would recommend this bus if you are traveling with lots of luggage, or children as bus 200 while cheaper is much busier and there is no designated luggage storage.  Timetable is here 250busExpressNiceAirportGolfeJuan

IMPORTANT NOTE:

Bus 250 to Antibes FROM Nice direction, get off at the stop in Antibes named ‘Chaudon’, on rue Directeur Chaudon.

Bus 250 leaving Antibes TO Nice direction, the 250 stop for Antibes is on boulevard Général Vautrin, it is near the overbridge, opposite Antibes Bike Center and IRC France (depannage informatique) a computer repair store.  The 250 does not go through Antibes centre it is only the 200 bus that leaves from outside the Sushi Shop/Monoprix in Antibes.

Temporary stop for 200 and 250 bus Antibes to Nice, boulevard Général Vautrin

Temporary stop for 200 and 250 bus Antibes to Nice, boulevard Général Vautrin

  • Bus 500: From Nice to Grasse including a stop at Nice Airport. The stop at Nice Airport is at Terminal 1, platform 4. Buy your ticket from the bus ticket office near to the stop. Please note, if you take more than one carry-on bag they may charge you €1 per extra bag, and oversize luggage (larger than 165cms, for example snowboards) €5 per item.  Timetable is here 500NiceGrasse

All timetables are subject to change.

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TRANSPORT – Strikes / traffic jams / speed cameras on the Cote d’Azur

Yesterday, I had planned to visit a local festival however I made a big mistake and forgot to check the train timetables and updates before we left home.  We arrived at the station and found that only one in every four trains were still scheduled.

Our train was delayed 45 minutes, then subsequently cancelled, and the next train was another 1 hour wait.  Our plans were quickly scuppered, not to mention our patience.

If you are traveling by bus, train, airplane, car it pays to be aware that there can be frequent strikes by French transport workers so check ahead if you can to save yourself time, money and frustration.  Another thing to note is that public transport has reduced schedules on bank holidays, so allow extra time for traveling and double-check attractions or activities will be open.

A few words you may see related to strikes and travel disruptions:

Grève / un movement social = strike / industrial action

Perturbation = disruption

Retard = delay

Bouchon / Embouteillage = traffic jam

Éboulement = road block due to collapse (e.g. cliff, rockfall). Also effrondrement (block due to collapse/subsidence) and coulée de boue (mudslip)

Réfection de la chaussée = repairing road surface

Supprimer/annulation = to cancel / cancellation

Here are some sites you may find helpful for travel planning on the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera):

http://www.bison-fute.gouv.fr/   A French website detailing major road works, main closures or highway disruptions. They have a calendar of peak travel congestion (handy for travel planning during French school holidays which have different dates according to regions), and regular updates by department (area) in France.

image courtesy of Bison Fute government site

image courtesy of Bison Fute government site

http://www.infolignes.com/previsions.php?zoneId=3&zoneName=Sud-Est  Train updates from SNCF (French national rail) including line works and strikes.

http://www.nicematin.com/t/Ligne-d’Azur  Useful local news website with links to updates on bus strikes.

www.easytravelreport.com  A great website initiative from Penny Ciocchi for global transport strikes. Very helpful for advice regarding strikes at Nice Airport including strikes by air traffic controllers and ground workers. Also, covers Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and Paris metro.

http://english.controleradar.org/provence-riviera-speed-cameras.php  Map and information on the location of speed cameras in the region.

www.viamichelin.com One of my favourite sites for estimated driving times and costs – particularly good for fuel estimates and costs of tolls in France.  Add 10%-15% time buffer to the travel times given as does not take into account stopping at traffic lights, major congestion etc

I hope these links will help you during your visits to this region.  If you have any other suggestions, I would love to hear them.

Activities – SOPHIA / ANTIBES (Parc des Bouillides)

Parc des Bouillides is on the border of Sophia Antipolis and Antibes, but is also classed as a local park of Valbonne (though it is not near Valbonne village as such).

It is a large park with established trees, grassed areas for picnics and ball games and a small stream.  There are lots of shady areas due to the trees, and water fountains and picnic tables at various locations.

The park has many wide concrete walkways perfect for children’s bikes or scooters, and also for people who are wheelchair-bound as the walkways are excellent condition and flat, paved surfaces.

wide paved pathways, Parc des Bouillides

wide paved pathways, Parc des Bouillides

There is a fenced children’s playground with climbing structures, slides, rocking horses and it is entirely floored with safety rubber matting so is good for little ones. The downside is that this playground is not shaded, so be aware on hot days.

fenced children's playground, Parc des Bouillides

fenced children’s playground, Parc des Bouillides

fenced children's playground, Parc des Bouillides

fenced children’s playground, Parc des Bouillides

There is also a public skate park with a couple of quarter pipes and ramps.  There are walking trails, a running trail, free public basketball courts, tennis courts, volleyball courts, football nets, and the Athletic Club of Valbonne has a clubroom there also.

Access:  From Antibes:  Via route du Parc, look for the small side-road D103 on the right-hand side with the small red signage ‘La Source’. Parking is to the left down the road.

Also, the other access points and carpark is near École Sartoux and promenades des Bouillides. Refer to the map below:

map of Parc des Bouillides

map of Parc des Bouillides

Carparking:  Free carparking, though limited spaces.  There is a designated handicapped carpark space near the route du Parc entrance but in the height of summer this is a busy park so this designated space may be taken.

Toilets:  No onsite toilet facilities unfortunately.

R.S.V.P

There are many ‘French’ phrases or words that are used in English-speaking countries that seem to go unnoticed.

We have just received a wedding invitation in the post from a family member and on opening it I can see at the bottom of the invitation ‘ R.S.V.P to….’

I wonder how many people know that R.S.V.P is a commonly used acronym for invitations but one with French origins – it means ‘répondez, s’il vous plaît’, or ‘please reply / request for a response’.

R.S.V.P has French origins

R.S.V.P has French origins

 

ACCOMMODATION – ‘Eco’ ratings benefit the company and consumer

With a countless array of options for accommodation, the modern consumer can struggle to make a choice.

More companies are seeing a benefit in aligning themselves with ecological or ‘green’ programmes as consumers are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint on the planet and their lives.

Green Globe is a global certification for sustainable tourism.  Members (e.g hotels, tour operators) have strict criteria to uphold surrounding sustainable management, social/economic factors, cultural heritage and environmental factors.  There is auditing done to ensure members abide by the regulations – I would be interested to know how frequently they audit the members.  Members also enjoy promotion of their businesses to the global market of leisure and corporate travellers as well as meeting planners all looking for sustainable travel options.

Members active on the French Riviera include:

– Grand Hyatt Cannes Hotel Martinez

– Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc

– Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo

– InterContinental Carlton Cannes

– Le Grand Hotel Cannes

– Hotel Le Mas de Candille, Mougins

– Hotel Monte-Carlo Beach, Roquebrune Cap Martin

All of these members on the French Riviera are in the higher end of price brackets, so it leads me to think that Green Globe affiliation is marketed to the pricier hotels here.  I’m hoping that it means smaller accommodation providers are also making greener measures part of their business, without any affiliation to a programme of sorts.

Find out more about Green Globe at www.greenglobe.com

Green Globe - image reproduced and copyright AC

Green Globe – image reproduced and copyright AC

On a more localised level, La Clef Verte – The Green Key – helps travellers choose environmentally-conscious accommodation throughout France including campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, holiday accommodation, hostels and hotels.

It is a voluntary label, awarded annually by an independent jury at an international level and as per Green Globe, there are criteria around water, waste and energy management and responsible purchasing of goods related to the business.

image copyright & reproduced courtesy of lhotellerie-restauration.fr

image copyright & reproduced courtesy of lhotellerie-restauration.fr

A search for the French Riviera region (searching for ‘hotel, all areas’) listed 8 results including Hotel Colombo in Monte Carlo, Hotel Relais Impérial near Grasse and the Gray Albion in Cannes. The search was very quick, less than 5 seconds for results.

The website is simple and user-friendly offering accommodation information and location maps.

To learn more about La Clef Verte properties in France, visit www.laclefverte.org (web page options in French or English)