10 November 2014

2014 EUROPE by Rail 11 - Nice at Nice

We arrived in the beautiful Nice Ville station, anxious to get to our hotel. We had checked Rick Steve's book, a second travel book we purchased from Barnes and Nobel, and online reviews for our accommodations. But booking online you never can really tell what you're  getting until you get there in person.

We had a bare bones Google map of Nice showing the location of our hotel, so we thought we knew where we were going. It turns out our hotel was only about 1-1/2 blocks away from the train station, but you had to cross the street and then take a down ramp kind of underpass. That wasn't clear on the map.

Instead I thought Durante Street was a bit to our left then down the street toward our right. In reality we were getting no where fast. Finally we stopped to get our bearings. I guess we looked confused as an older gentleman with his dog on leash tried to help us, but he spoke little English. He enlisted the assistance of another young man and between the two of them we knew which way to go ... generally. But it was enough to eventually find our hotel.

The hotel sign was prevalent, but the actual entrance was off the main street. It took a little looking to find the front door. The Durante Hotel was a charmer. It was painted in rich stucco orange with colorful decorations. Check in went smoothly and the tiniest elevator took us up two floors. It was so tiny, the receptionist took the stairs and met us at our room.

The room was on the small side but had a good-sized private bath with shower. It had the minimum of furniture--a queen-size bed with two side tables, two chairs, and a table. It was all we needed.

A great feature was the Juliet balcony opening onto a beautifully green and private courtyard. No sea in sight, but no industrial concrete buildings either. It was peaceful and just as we had pictured. It did not disappoint.

We dropped off our belongings and freshened up. We decided to back track to the station to verify the information and procedure for getting to Monaco by train the next day. This short jaunt was not included in our Eurail Pass.

We tried buying tickets through the automated machine, but got held up on the first screen. It was in French and we did not know which type of passenger we were. No option seemed to match "adult" or "senior," only adult with infant, student, some unknown others.

We did not seem to fit in any category, so we went to the ticket office. Long line, but fast turnover. They did not accept AX (we are trying to earn points so use that first) and said our MC card was no good?!?  Paid cash of 14 Euros round trip per person. Seemed like a bargain! They advised the train ran about every 15 minutes to and from Monaco.

Next we headed south for about ten blocks to the seaside. It sprinkled rain the rest of the evening, but not enough for the umbrella that we had in hand. The buildings along the way were spectacular. I wanted to live in every one of them!
Once by the sea we walked the boardwalk along the beach as night closed in. There were wood pillars draped with colorfully lit awnings to protect people from the weather.

The beach here was not the white sand we had seen early, but was rocky / pebbly in nature. I do not imagine that it is too comfortable to lounge on directly, but there were plenty of spots to sit on the boardwalk and beach chairs and beach umbrellas to rent. 
We stopped first at Queenie at a sidewalk table. Mike had Leffe, the French beer he discovered while dining with B&T. I had a vin rouge (red wine). We relaxed and absorbed the air, sights, smells and sounds of the coast. A bit rich atmosphere for our taste, but nice to have been in the lap of luxury for a little bit. Queenie's also had a separate Russian food menu posted. That surprised us a little.

We walked down the boulevard and beach a bit until we were hungry enough for dinner. We just did not have a clue which place to choose. Everything look great. We decided on a restaurant on the beach side of the street, but they said, "Too rainy, we're closed now." I think we didn't look "prosperous" enough for them.
We ended up at Gustave 5 which was open air, but we sat on the edge of the inside to keep from getting rained on. Marc (with a "C" he stated) was our pleasant and capable waiter.
Mike ordered a cold-smoked (lox style) salmon appetizer, while I had a scrumptious shrimp salad. Our entrees were langostino risotto. Mike had a framboise (raspberry) cream-white layer cake torte and I had the best ever in my life creme brûlée (served warm). Magnifique!

At one point a group of six Russian tourists sat at the table next to us. It started with smiles, but before long we were laughing and toasting each other with "Spasibo" meaning "to your health" or "thank you." They were sophisticated in taste, yet down home in manner. The tour leader spoke perfect English and we had a great time comparing notes and asking each other things about our countries.
We enjoyed watching them order and eat. For six people they ordered three huge platters of raw oyster appetizers. They doused them with salt, pepper, and vinegar. I mean really doused. Not sure how you could actually taste the oyster itself with all the condiments. They were drinking champagne in abundance. 

We wondered who had won the Russian Formula 1 race in Sochi that morning. Several of the guys got on their phones and reported that it was Louis Hamilton. We gave a great hurrah for that. (Thinking of you Ron and Dixie, we know you were watching and will report out the details!)

We told the Russians about Queenie's and the Russian menu. They said, "No way, we get that every day!"  Finally we said our "do svidaniya" meaning "good-bye" as we left them to their festivities.

As we left a couple from New Orleans, stopped us. They heard us speaking English and wanted to say, "Hi." We enjoyed hearing some true American voices. We stated we loved Commander's Palace in New Orleans. They said it was good but to check out Irene's next time. They talked about enjoying Michigan's smoked white fish. We laughed and took pleasure in the moment. 

After eating we walked down the boulevard a ways and viewed the silhouette of the magnificent houses on the bluffs and along the sea. 
Per our usually modus operandi, we headed back to the hotel on an alternate route to see some new territory. We, of course, got lost. Why didn't we bring the map? When are we going to learn that lesson?

Anyway we found the train station and then knew the direct way to the hotel from there. We settled in for the night at 22:23. We read and blogged ourselves to sleep.

Approximate Nice walking route:

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