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Day 1: Home to Nice

This is a holiday which has been cancelled multiple times. We initially booked flights to Nice back in October 2019, planning a bank holiday trip for May 2020. That, of course, got cancelled by the pandemic, but I was sufficiently optimistic back in May 2020 to accept vouchers from EasyJet for my flights and rebook exactly the same trip for May 2021. Then that got cancelled too, along with various other trips, leaving me with a considerable amount of EasyJet vouchers to burn through. After the success of our first post-pandemic overseas trip to Malaga in November, over Christmas I decided to use up some of those vouchers by rebooking the Nice flights for May 2022. I was feeling optimistic about the trip finally coming to fruition... until a few weeks ago I had an email from EasyJet informing me that my flight out on Saturday 30 April had been cancelled. It had been an early flight (6am from Gatwick!) and the one they offered me in replacement wouldn't have got us to Nice until quite late on Saturday evening, losing a day and making an already short trip feel a bit pointless. I was on the verge of cancelling the whole thing once again, until I realised that I could take the Friday off work and swap to a Friday flight to France instead. This one didn't get cancelled and so this evening we are finally in Nice :)

Our flight was 08.25 from Gatwick, so we had a comparatively early start to the day, leaving home at around 03.30. There wasn't much traffic on the roads at that time of the morning, so we made it to the airport parking by 06.00 and were soon on our way to the airport. I was a bit apprehensive about what the queues at Gatwick airport were going to be like, given that there has been a lot of negative press coverage in recent weeks about airports struggling to cope with the volume of passengers. I was hoping we were going to be okay because we were travelling with hand luggage only, so didn't have to queue to check in bags, but my heart sank when we walked into the terminal building and immediately got directed into an enormous queue for security. It snaked all the way around the departures hall in a way which looked rather alarming. But, fortunately, it did turn out to be fast moving and so we ultimately got through security without any problems and with enough time to get breakfast in Wetherspoons.

There were close to zero people wearing masks in the airport building itself, but when our flight was called for boarding there was an announcement to tell people that now was the time to put them on. The type of mask which you have to wear on the plane (or whether you have to wear one at all) seems to be linked to the rules of the country you are flying to. It's all very well summarised on the EasyJet website, and so we knew that for our flight we needed to wear either a surgical or FFP2 mask. Some people didn't seem to have got the memo and we saw a couple of people get turned away at the gate for wearing cloth masks, which are not acceptable in France.

Because I had lots of EasyJet credit to use up, I'd booked us seats with extra legroom. This meant we ended up sitting at the front of the plane - in seats 1A and 1B - which was a new experience! The flight itself was pleasant and comparatively short, so around 11am we were already touching down in Nice. Sitting at the front of the plane meant that we were the first ones off, so we sped through passport control in record time. The rules which I'd read in advance of travelling had said that we needed proof of vaccination to be admitted to France, but at no point did anyone ask to see it.

The airport is connected to the city of Nice via a tram line, so tracking down the tram stop was our next task. It turned out to be relatively easy and cheap too, with a single ticket costing €1.50 each. We were soon speeding our way towards the city centre. It was a bright sunny day in Nice and as we passed rows of palm trees under a clear blue sky I was starting to think that maybe packing a raincoat and a jumper had been overkill :D 

One of the things we'd really been looking forward to when going to France was the food, so our first priority once we got off the tram was to find somewhere for lunch. We ended up at a branch of Hippopotamus, which is a chain of French steak houses that we've eaten at before in Lille, Lyon and Toulouse. The food there is fantastic, and so we were able to sit outside in the sunshine eating steak and chips, followed by chocolate mousse, with some wine to wash it all down :)

When we finished eating we realised that we were just around the corner from Nice's main square, Place Masséna.


It's a really striking location, with brightly coloured buildings...


...and a beautiful chequered pavement.


It reminded us a lot of Bologna, both because of the colours and because of the porticos which we spotted around the edge of the square.


At the far end of the square is a fountain, the Fontaine du Soleil, which features a large statute of Apollo.


At this point we were only a couple of minutes away from the sea :) 


There was some sort of sporting event happening along part of the seafront, but once we got past that we were able to stroll along the promenade and enjoy the views.


I didn't think much of the beaches here - so many pebbles!


Other people seemed to be enjoying them though.


We had some great views of the coast.


And it was lovely to be beside the sea in the sunshine :)


We were able to check into our hotel from 3pm, so after a while we turned around and made our way back down the promenade and towards the centre of town.


The hotel we're staying in is not far from the station and the room is quite spacious, with a sofa and desk as well as a bed. It's one of those places where the air conditioning is controlled by reception though, which is always a bit annoying.


Once we'd checked in we had a nap to recover from the early start, before heading out again in the evening to explore some more of Nice.


I was keen to see some of Nice's old town.


It was quite different to the more modern part of town, with lots of narrow little streets.


There were some pretty squares...


...and some really beautiful churches.


On our way back to the hotel, we walked through some lovely green parks in the centre of Nice...


...and caught a glimpse of the basilica of Notre Dame too.


By this point we were pretty tired, so decided to call it a day! Our original aim in booking this trip back in 2019 was so that we could add Monaco to our list of visited countries in Europe. So that's where we'll be going tomorrow :) 

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