South of France: 3 Days around Nice

We are continuing to look further back in time and decided to focus this series on a trip to France. Back in 2012, we took our young children (ages 3 and 5) to France for 2 weeks – actually, our first overseas trip with both boys, by ourselves.

During that trip, we spent the first week in Paris, then the second week in the south of France. Of that second week, we split the time between Nice area (3 nights), Avignon area (3 nights), and nearby Aix (1 night). In this post, we look at our time around Nice.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Transit from Paris to Nice

There are several ways to get from Paris to Nice. These days, flights can be quick and cheap. A quick search on Google Flights shows that a one-way non-stop flight in April is about $50 per person and takes about 1.5 hours.

But, back in 2012, there weren’t as many low airfare options, and we thought it would be fun to see the French countryside, so we took a train. Conceptually, there are two sections of the route:

  • From Paris to Marseille on the Mediterranean coast, the high-speed TGV train speeds through the much of the length of France in roughly 3 hours.
  • After getting to Marseille, the trip along the southern coast of France to Nice (pronounced like “niece”) near the Italian border, is a slower pace, taking another 2.5 hours, for roughly 5.5 hours total.

The nice thing about a train is that there is usually plenty of space for kids to stretch and sleep. We opted for first-class seats, but still spent under $100/person for the journey.


The train is usually fairly relaxing and a good way to take a break from walking all day. The kids usually have a lot of fun with train rides. If we went from Paris to Nice again, we’d consider flying, but for Paris to Marseille, the train is still probably faster.

A Walk Through Nice

On arrival, we checked into our hotel, then went out to see the city. Jeremy had come down with a cold the day before, and we were suspecting that the kids were also starting to get it, so we decided to keep things low key.

The kids were like magnets to water fountains. The trick was keeping their sleeves dry.


Promenade des Anglais

We walked through town, then found our way to the Promenade des Anglais (“walkway of the English”), a beautiful 4km stretch along the waterfront.


The waves were pretty big and the boys had a lot of fun looking at them.  One surprise to us then was how rocky the beach was. Coming from California, when you visit a region known for its coastline, you don’t necessarily think “pebbles.” If your main intent is a pure beach vacation, do your research carefully – much of the Mediterranean is fairly pebbly compared with North America (though it can easily make up for it in other ways, just make sure your expectations align with reality).

Given that most of us were starting to feel borderline sick, we decided to have a quick dinner and make an early night of it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Day Trip to Monte Carlo, Menton, and Villefranche-sur-Mer

On our first full day in Nice, we decided to take a day trip to the east with goals of visiting Monte Carlo in Monaco, Menton, and Villefranche-sur-Mer. As it turns out, this was too much and we were ill-prepared to deal with the stroller. Still fun, but you can read my follow-up full post on this day trip to find out what we could have done better.

Monte Carlo is a beautiful city, but beware the hills if you are pushing a stroller. Make sure you have a copy of a map that shows where the escalators are. We neglected this, took a much longer way to the harbor, and eventually decided to turn back. There are a ton of other things to do in this city best known for its Formula One race and the Casino, but since we only intended to stay for an hour or so, our focus was wandering the streets.


The kids had the most fun on the beach in Menton. Note that most of the beaches in this area are quite rocky. If you are thinking about nice California sand, adjust your expectations. It is still fun, but don’t have images of walking barefoot through the surf. We had a nice walk through the town as well.


Our last stop included a visit to the Saint Elme Citadel in Villefranche-sur-mer. It was a nice winding fortress area – fun, but the streets were quite narrow and difficult to push the stroller.


Dinner in Nice

We returned to Nice for dinner and given how tired we were, we thought about just bringing paninis back to the hotel. But then we ended up seeing a place that had paella. Jeremy got that and I decided to try the oysters. Both were quite good!


Monday, April 23, 2012

On our second full day in Nice, we decided to take a day trip to the west, visiting Antibes. You can read more about it in a separate follow-up post.

With our illness still in full force, we didn’t do as much as we could have or take as many pictures as we should have, but on arrival we enjoyed the beach, then came back later for a picnic.

The rest of the day we enjoyed exploring both the lovely Old Town and Fort Carré – we really enjoyed Antibes.


We returned to Nice fairly early in the afternoon, rested a bit, then spent the evening exploring Nice’s Old Town.

This day trip was a lot more enjoyable than the previous day and if you have limited time, you might want to consider Antibes as a day trip before some of the other towns in this post.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

In the morning, we made a pit stop at the pharmacy at opening time to deal with our lingering colds before checking out of the hotel.

Our plan from here was to pick up a rental car and drive a few hours west towards Avignon, which we would use as a base to explore the Provence region. So, we packed up, checked out of the hotel, and got our rental car. The actual drive on the highway was fairly smooth.

On to Avignon!

Keep reading our travel blog for more adventures in France!

Here are some more blog posts from this trip to Europe:

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