Visiting Nice, city on the French Riviera

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The South of France is one of my favourite spots in Europe. I much prefer it to Paris. The region and its people are much more relaxed. Things happen at a slower pace, the weather is always fantastic, but you still get to enjoy the best of French culture and cuisine.

Visiting Nice is something I consider a must-do on any trip to France. Along with its surrounding towns and cities like Cannes, Antibes and St. Tropez, it’s the summer playground for European vacationers.

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Downtown Nice is very walkable, with the majority of the streets being pedestrian zones. The city is built right on the water, where you’ll find a large stretch of beach. The beach here differs from most, instead of sand, you’ll find large rocks.

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The main square in town, Place Massena, is filled with people, walking slowly, soaking up the vibe, in no particular hurry to get anywhere.

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Just to the east of downtown is the Colline du Chateau, which offers a hilltop view of all of Nice and its sprawling shoreline. It’s well worth the climb up.

Getting in and around Nice is simple. The town has an international airport served by low-cost carrier Eastjet and also features direct flights to and from Montreal in summer time. The train station is also well-connected, with Monte Carlo and Italy a short trip away on the commuter train. There’s also a reliable tram system to help you get around town.

If you plan on heading to France, make sure you take a detour from Paris and head south, you won’t be disappointed.

Nimes, France: Where Ancient Rome Comes to Life

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From Paris, I headed south, to the small city of Nimes.

The city is known for its Roman architecture, which dates back 2,000 years.

The main attraction is the Arena, which according to Wikipedia and the locals I spoke to, is the best preserved Roman arena in the world. Once home to gladiator fights and the like, today it plays hosts to concerts.

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The other key monument worth seeing the Maison Carrƒ©e, a Roman temple, that’s remained remarkably in tact. It was saved from sure destruction when early Christians claimed it and converted it to a church of their own. The building also acted as a town hall throughout the years.

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On the hillside above Nimes, are the remains of a Roman guard tower, which visitors can still climb, for 3€š¬. From the tower, you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of the city.

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And like every other city in France, there are ancient churches, cathedrals and buildings around every corner.

Nimes is a good place to unwind during a short stay. It’s small and easy to walk. The weather is warm and the people seem friendly. It’s also close to the beach, with a train, costing only 1€š¬ shuttling passengers south, to the coast. If you’re on a whirlwind tour, consider Nimes for a two or three night stay.

Paris: The Ups and Downs of France’s Capital City

I’ve arrived safe and sound in Paris.

To get here I took the Via train from Ottawa, to Dorval, where I caught a redeye flight from Montreal to Paris, Charles de Gaulle Airport. My flight went smoothly, departing and arriving on time. The plane itself was modern and spacious, even in economy.

Each seat came with its own tablet, embedded above the pull-down tray of the seat in front. The tablets allow passengers to customize their entertainment experience, which includes feature movies, TV shows, games and dozens of music albums. It was a pretty neat set up.

I’ve done a lot of walking in Paris over my two days here. You can see most of the key sites by foot, provided you have the endurance to do so. Where walking won’t cut it, you can catch the metro.

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Yesterday I took a long walk which started at the Arc de Triomphe. I then walked down the Champs Elysĩes, stopping in at the Petit Palais, before continuing on to Place de La Concorde and the Jardin des Tuileries, where I stopped for a quick lunch (taboulet from a nearby grocery store). I then passed by the Louvre, before crossing the Seine river onto Ile de la Citĩ, home of Notre Dame Cathedral.

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There’s also a seedy side to Paris, you need to be vigilant when you’re here. There are people here looking to take advantage of you. In one day alone, I had to shoo away people trying to have me sign some bogus petition, decline a gold ring a man offered me, having pretended to have found it on the ground in front of me and stop some sketchy guy from trying to cut in line in front of me at the grocery store because he only has one item. Credit to all the people in line in front and behind me, none of them budged.

But overall, the positive outweighs the negative here in Paris. It’s a beautiful city, with lots to do and plenty of people to meet. Don’t let my warnings scare you off.

Here’s a few photos from my iPhone, I’ve yet to sort through the SD card from my DSLR.

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Summer Adventure

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I’m taking a six week hiatus to Europe. It’s my first time overseas since summer 2011, when I last came to Europe.

First up: A redeye flight from Montreal to Paris, where I’ll stay for a couple of days, adjusting to jet-lag. After that, I’ll probably head to the South of France, but nothing is set in stone.

I have a few locations on my hit list that I’d like to get to, but I’m not going to get weighed down by too much planning. I prefer to wing it as I go along and keep my options open.

I plan to split my time between hostels and airbnb listings. I’ve yet to use airbnb, but it’s been blowing up and seems like a great alternative for the budget conscious traveler.

Another wrinkle for this trip: I’ll be carrying my DSLR with me. Last time I traveled, I used my iPhone as my camera. It worked well, but I want to up the quality of images I bring back with me this trip. It’ll be a bit stressful, constantly worrying about a potential theft situation, but I feel the high quality images will be worth it.

I’m backpacking, so no suitcase, just a big pack and a smaller bag for day trips. Overall, I’m traveling pretty light. I took a test walk the night before I left, wearing my packed bag and didn’t have any issues with the weight.

That’s all for now, I will do my best to post updates as I travel along.