September 7th, 2013 – Sunny
AVIGNON TO NICE
We left Arles with our stomach full of goodies from its Saturday market (click for details) and we caught a regional train back toward Avignon. Ironically there were also coach buses for Avignon operated by SNCF that left from the train station. On the way from Avignon it only took us 15-20 minutes to get to Arles since it was a direct train. However, it took us almost 45 minutes for our return trip because there was a transfer required at Tarascon! (good thing I scheduled for some buffer time or else we would’ve missed our TGV train to Nice!). We picked up our luggage from our hotel in Avignon, caught the shuttle bus to the TGV station, and headed for the French Riviera! Similar to our train ride between Paris and Avignon, our TGV was traveling at bullet speed until it reached Marseille.
From Marseille and onwards the TGV was significantly slower due to the winding tracks along the Mediterranean coast. We actually welcomed the speed reduction because we were able to admire and appreciate our surroundings a lot more. From Provence’s rolling hills and rustic architecture, Cote D’azur was littered with jagged cliffs and dominated by orange-clay rooftops (Roman?). As the TGV sped past minor villages/towns (some of which we planned to visit throughout the next few days) it served as a brief visual preview which just further fueled our anticipation for the days to come. (J absolutely adored the city of Cannes as our TGV dropped off what seemed like half of its passengers).
As our train arrived at its final destination of Nice, the city was far bigger than we had originally anticipated (“apparently” Nice is the 5th largest city in France). We were pooped from all the traveling/early start (remember we actually went to Arles earlier in the day) and all we wanted to do was to get to our apartment and find a place to eat + sleep. Unfortunately in order to get to our accommodation (around Valrose Université) another transfer onto the local tramway was required. (We had a ridiculously tough time figuring out the fare machine and the fare system. The machine looked like a touch screen but it wasn’t… make sure you master that turn knob selector because it will come in handy since these machines are used in train stations as well).
For supper we turned to the trusty Tripadvisor App once again and we struck gold… again. We arrived at this TINY restaurant called “La Route du Miam” and it was easily the top 3 restaurant experiences of all time. (We couldn’t believe our luck… we arrived at another top-rated restaurant with no reservation…). When it was time to settle our bill 3 hours later we realized that it was a cash only establishment (I thought cash-only was reserved for dingy Chinese takeout places), and the owners Marie/Jean-Michel were completely OK with us walking back to our apartment for cash with no collateral!!!