It was with a slightly sore head that I made my way to Abbesses metro station the morning after my night out in Montmartre. As it’s located half way up the hill in Montmartre it has the distinction of being the deepest station on the network.
I surfaced again at Gare de Lyon (after a change at St. Lazare) and checked the departure boards for the 11.19 TGV to Nice. I struggled to recall my GCSE French but the phrase “en retard” didn’t sound promising. As it happened there was a delay of an hour and a half due to “probleme mechanique”.
‘When life throws you lemons, make lemonade’ they say – I decided to make champagne by heading to the famous Train Bleu restaurant above the station concourse. It’s a bit fancy. Ornate ceiling art, chandeliers and plush furniture. As a slightly hungover Englishman in a t-shirt I felt a tad out of place, but the glass of champagne certainly helped clear the sore head (it was €17 – but you get free olives and nuts!). It’s a beautiful room and I soon forgot about my delay.
The train eventually left at 1pm. I was in a first class seat on the upper deck (€72, booked three months in advance). Confusion reigned, as there were two trains joined together and the carriage numbers were swapped around after people had boarded. This culminated in a quite spectacular meltdown from a French lady, complete with the full range of Gallic hand gestures.
The journey is remarkably fast as far as the outskirts of Marseilles, around three hours. The scenery is pretty pleasant too; meadows, rivers and villages flash by at 286 km/h. After skirting around the centre of Marseilles the train gets slower and the scenery gets spectacular. You get tantalising glimpses of the sea around Toulon but it’s when the train reaches St. Raphael that you get the first real sight of the beauty of the Cote D’Azur. Tiny beaches, not so tiny yachts and the clear light blue water.
I arrived in Nice just before 7pm and headed to my hotel which was just next door (Ibis Gare – £70 per night). I had time for a quick dip in the hotel pool before heading out to the night.
On my way to the Promenade des Anglais I passed the pretty Basilique Notre-Dame and then the fountains at the Promenade du Paillon. The view along the beach was stunning in the sunset, I walked accross the pebbles and enjoyed the sound of the waves.
After a saunter along the front I enjoyed a drink in the Cours Saleya (a market lined with restaurants) to the sound of music.
Later on I headed to Nice old town, a maze of narrow streets lined with cafes and bars. I sat outside one of these fine establishments and imbibed a few beers, before rounding the evening off at Wayne’s Bar – a raucous live music venue. Looking forward to properly exploring this beautiful city tomorrow.