September 10, 2013 – Sunny
Èze Village + Nice
Like any other day in Cote d’Azur it weather was predictably sunny, but unlike its weather our day was furthest from predictable.
First thing in the morning, the frequent and dependable tram was no where to be found. We waited for approximately 30 minutes and the platform was jam packed with locals/tourists… until a fellow Canadian traveler informed us that all public transportation was halted due to job action. We left the platform disappointed and confused because we relied on public transits exclusively for our travels. Nevertheless we pushed ahead and chose to walk toward the train station (Gare Thiers) since TGVs and coastal trains might still be operational (our plans were to visit Monaco that day).
The 30 minute walk down Avenue Alfred Borriglione was uneventful but enjoyable. Our sentiments changed drastically when we arrived at the train station as our fear became an reality – TGVs and regional trains were also shut down! The train station was filled with frustrated tourists and I overheard some travelers that they had missed their flights back home (even though it was a major inconvenience we were grateful that the strike didn’t take place on our departure date). We had little choice but to wander around town on foot, and we ended up at a McDonald’s (the slowest McDonald’s in the world, but it was air conditioned lol) to do some last minute on-the-fly trip planning… and soon realized that we were attempting the near impossible. Since J had some work that needed done anyways (she is very dedicated to her work… in fact she was working on her laptop until late the day before we got married lol), so we decided to head back to our apartment and have a lazy day instead.
We cut through winding streets until we stumbled upon Avenue Alfred Borriglione once again, but unlike an hour ago the road was congested by pedestrian traffic instead! French slogans filled the air and brigades of angry citizens marched down the avenue in protest. I was initially upset by the protest for complicating our travels, but on reflection it was a blessing in disguise as the strike completed our genuine French experience! (France is famous for its strikes after all lol).
Later that afternoon (around 1-2pm) I stumbled across an English article online that suggested limited restoration of tram and bus service… since Èze was supposed to be only a 30 minute bus ride away, maybe our day could be salvaged after all! We arrived at “Garibaldi” stop via tram, walked through a short pedestrian tunnel 100 meters away, and there were only a few souls waiting for the #82 bus that would take us to the mountaintop village of Eze (the tram ticket was valid for the bus ride as well, and make sure to take a photo of the bus schedule because #82 only comes every 1-2 hours). The bus ride offered a beautiful view of the coastline dotted with villages and towns, and some private yachts the size of small ferries could also be spotted out in the water.
At Èze the sun was shining and the temperature was quite mild (18-20 Celcius?) aided by a cool sea breeze + elevation. Needless to say I was finally comfortable with the temperature for the first time in days! In front of us was an ancient medieval village that was constructed primarily of stone, and with its uniqueness & charm it wasn’t difficult to understand why Èze was such a famous tourist attraction. Although Èze remained popular among tourists, we roamed freely at a leisure pace without having our personal space violated (even with small pedestrian pathways that zigzagged throughout the village). Such tranquil atmosphere was greatly appreciated by both my wife and I because it is rare for popular locations to retain its original “flavor”. At the same time however, Èze was obviously geared toward tourists since most ex-residences (at least the ground floors) were converted into tourist establishments such as art galleries, small museums, souvenir shops, etc.
Èze’s atmosphere and architecture allowed for some unique photography, however due to its enclosed nature there were limited opportunities to experience/photograph the immensely beautiful coastal view that Èze was surrounded in. In order to enjoy the coastal mountain views we reached “Le Jardin d’Eze” which classified itself as an “exotic gardin” but in reality it was just a nice relaxing space with a few cacti. Needless to say the content within the garden did not justify its admission, but the view from the garden was worth any admission price. An unobstructed, panoramic bird’s-eye view of the Mediterranean at the top of a charming medieval village, combined for a one-of-a-kind postcard landscape.
We quickly hurried through Èze as we realized that our #82 bus was due to arrive. By the time we reached the bus stop there was already a healthy gathering of tourists… an hour and fifteen minutes later the bus finally arrived (job action?), and there was NOTHING civilized about the degree of line cutting that went on. I was particularly angered by a group of middle aged Italian travelers (around 10-12 of them.. in their 40s) whom actually physically injured J’s wrist. I was about to punch that Italian not-so-gentleman but J refrained me from doing so… so for the next 45 minutes we were tightly packed into an over-capacity bus next to a group of strangers that I had no respect for.
We hopped off the bus early at “Le Port” partly because the bus was too crowded. We emerged from the bus and were greeted by a barrage of color and a comforting sea breeze. Unfortunately we had no idea where we were but we proceeded to leisurely stroll along the harbor walk anyway. Similar to old Nice the harbor-side buildings were painted in a variety of eye catching colors, and those colors were further accentuated by an orange hue during golden hour (first and last hour of sunlight). We continued along the waterfront path for another 5-10 minutes until we reached a familiar sight: the base of Castle Hill! By that time the sun was about to set and the deep orange orb was near the horizon. J and I found an empty bench and spent the next 15-20 minutes enjoying the sunset until the sun disappeared completely from the horizon.
We continued down Promenade des Anglais and enjoyed a lovely Italian dinner at “La Voglia” (nothing fancy.. good location with decent food). We encountered a fabulous older couple from Germany and shared some travel stories. Nice was a lively city and it was evident as we strolled through old Nice at night with street performers and numerous events playing simultaneously, but we were too exhausted from the day’s walk and decided to call it a night instead.