Spontaneity + Traveling = The best way to roll…
Back in 2013 between back to back double shifts and part-time country hoping, I threw together a pretty poor movie, an even worse story and entered the lastminute.com spontaneity competition. Needless to say, I didn’t win. Which was fine, as It wasn’t going to change my life just my empty wallet.
A few weeks later and the lovely peeps at LM sent me a £50 voucher. Coupling that and the last of my Airmiles together I got a return ticket with BA to discover the best of Nice for £20, nice huh?
Thinking to another budget weekend I decided to throw caution to the wind and follow the motto that got me here, #bespontaneous. Armed with my lucky two euro coin (another story) I headed off to flip through the South of France. Today I got all nostalgic and decided to look back on the trip that taught me: I was putting hostels behind me and I was over itineraries!
Heads for Coffee in Cannes, Tails for Breakfast in Nice
Cannes was never on the itinerary, I had 36 hours and had planned those out between Nice and Monaco. A flip of the coin before boarding the flight and that all changed.
Jumping on a bus at Nice airport to the nearest station (no need to head to Nice central) I was soon in a window seat on the train to Cannes. The sun was shining, the journey was beautiful following the coast and I was already pleased I was bucking the plan.
Cannes is best known for its film festival, to be honest I didn’t know anything else about it. Wandering through the streets is reason enough to go on its own. Little boutiques sit side by side quaint coffee shops and mouth-watering boulangeries. Follow the winding streets and eventually you will end up on the sea front, which on a sunny day like today is where you want to be. Unlike Nice with its beautiful but pebble filled beaches Cannes has glorious sands, clear waters and the perfect point for a little siesta (and sunburn!)
Take a stroll past the Palais des Festivals et des Congress (home of the mighty film event) and meander your way through the bold trees lining the port square, the old men playing Petanque and the stylish folks sipping coffee watching other stylish folks wandering by. At the end of the square you will hit the fantastic street art decorating the bus terminal just before the steep stairs to the castle. Stairs worth taking, the views are stunning.
Heads for Hostel, Tails for Space
On route back to Nice and It was time to dump the bags. I was booked into Hostel Paradis, not bad at €11 a night for a six bed dorm and great location. I was secretly yearning for a little bit of private space though as the last few hostels (another story(s) hadn’t been so great, I took to the coin to confirm I had made the right decision.
‘Monsieur, vous n’avez pas de réservation’ Ofcourse they didn’t, I had only booked it five minutes before on Lastminute.com – grabbing a secret hotel for £45 seemed to be keeping the theme alive. There was bright art worked carpets, an adorable outside garden and the shortest walk from the station possible. Hotel Excelsior was home for the night, with a cute balcony, comfy bed and some time out I knew it was the right call.
My Usual budget option: Hostel Paradis
Heads for Safe bets, Tails for Stomach testing
‘The escargot and the beef tartare’ I couldn’t help feel the luck of the coin had deserted me as I uttered these words to the waiter. I’ve worked in a French restaurant for the past year that sells both and never brought myself to try them. But here I was, in the lively old town, in beautiful Nice and about to eat a snail, well actually eight. I wish I had just picked up some Socca from the little caffe back for a fraction of the price but non. Snails, surprisingly good, beef tartare not so much my keep of tea. A half bottle of Bandol to wish it down and a creme brûlée and espresso to finish and that’s me done. I leave full and happy that their wasn’t frogs legs on the menu!
My usual budget option: street food, Socca
Heads for a nightcap, Tails for early night
After a wonder down to the beach and Rue de Anglais, past the beautifully lit up old town cathedral I realised it was Nice carnival. Discarded confetti dressed the gutters in a brightness of colours, Disney like floats were parked up like horror movie extras. There was no event on this evening but it looks like something worth visiting for. I sat and watched an old fisherman patiently wait for his catch, the old town clock struck eleven pm and I asked the coin if It was to be a late night bar exploration for me. Unfortunately the answer was no, but I was starting to have faith in my little round friend so to bed it was.
My usual budget option: match
Heads more Nice, Tails to Monaco
The sun was back and ready to wake me up. A quick shower and pack up and I was outside the hotel staring at the station. But I didn’t think I was done with Nice, throwing the plan to the wind I launched the coin and quickly did a U-turn and ended up at a cafe and enjoyed a not so cheap coffee overlooking the sea.
I wondered back through the old town and took the stairs up to the panoramic viewpoint in the castle. I think that would be the point that cemented my love for Nice. It’s rare I fall in love anywhere, but here I did.
Further up you hit a beautiful park, mesmerizing cemetery and you can descend the other side to the lavish port and cathedral. Heading pack to the station and at Boulangerie La Lorraine the worlds best croissant proved the perfect lunch snack.
Heads for Coffee, Tails for Champagne
The first thing I thought when I got into Monaco was ‘Wow, this place is ugly’ and that opinion didn’t change much either. I found a little bit of glam and grandeur in Casino Square, following the Grand Prix path. The heavens had opened, rain was pouring and thunder was rumbling in the background. Cafe de Paris seemed the perfect spot to watch the world go by in the pissing rain so I took a covered table on the balcony and flipped my coin. A €20 glass of champagne later and I felt a bit of a prat (but a happy one) sipping it in the rain.
My usual budget self: it’s worth the people watching, grab a €4! Coffee instead
Heads for Hedonism, Tails for behaving
I hate gambling. I can count the amount of times I have placed a bet on one hand. The last time was years ago. But this is Monaco, it’s raining like hell and I’m outside one of the most famous casinos in the world. The coin splatters as it hits the wet floor but there is no doubt it’s a face staring back at me. I guess I was about to have to use a second hand to keep track.
Wow – the beauty and the money spent on this place is insane. It’s worth a visit even if you are not going to spend a dime. Ofcourse, cameras and phones are banned so no photos here but trust me, it’s a feast for the eyes. I was tempted to even pay for the members day pass just to see the rest of the space.
Armed with a fifty euro note I took to the only table I actually grasped the concept off (and that’s just the red and black bit) and put the £50 I saved on my flight on red. Ten seconds later and I had doubled it, seemed to go to be true. I repeated step one again and sure enough, I had now tripled it. My addiction based personality was starting to itch so I walked away and cashed it in.
My usual budget self: Come for the atmosphere, not for the spending
It was still raining like crazy but I wanted to explore, I got a day bus pass and jumped onboard to the royal palace. The heavens took a rest and allowed me a few photos. Although I felt this was the prettiest party of Monaco I still didn’t feel it was really on a par with many parts of its neighbours. I had an itch to end the trip spontaneously and burn my guilty gained money on, But what was left of the Monaco lifestyle for me to experience?
Heads for Save, Tails for Splurge
I was shitting my pants, is the nicest way to summarise it. I have a big fear of heights, a plane, now that’s feels safe. But this little thing with a propeller…. For a steal at €120 you can enjoy a seven minute transfer from Monaco to Nice airport. If you haven’t been on a helicopter before because you have serious vertigo it is actually pretty awesome. Flying along the night lit coastline of the Côte d’Azur was pretty cool but I was wishing I had flipped my coin earlier as I bet it would have been an even more epic sunset flight an hour earlier. However, as far as the end of a flying visit goes this ain’t half bad. Salut Nice, until next time…
My usual budget self : number 100 bus, a measly €1