Anyone who ever tells you that Nice is not nice has truly not experienced this jewel of a town. The beaches shimmer with brown bodies strewn across fist-sized smooth rocks and the town itself is full of narrow alleys and market stalls with some of the friendliest people we’ve come across. Over three days and nights we were barely exposed to the so-called “French” attitude we’ve all heard about.

My boyfriend and I flew to Nice from London via the EasyJet; a two hour, no-frills flight – but all you need for the short hop across to mainland Europe. At $170 AU each, you can understand why the flight is so full of Brits taking the opportunity to get some sun.

At the airport in Nice, for 4 Euro bus 98 takes you along the coast to the city centre. After 20 minutes of looking at that crystal clear water buy levitra pills online and smooth grey stones, not to mention the rows and rows of sunbathing bodies with that relaxed ‘this is heaven’ look on their faces, you begin to count the seconds until you too can become one of them.

We checked into out hotel, Hotel Wilson, in the centre of the old town. It’s a mere doorway on the street which we almost walked past. We struggled up six agonizing flights of stairs with our bags, but were relieved to find it was worth it when we saw our room. Although small and cosy with a double bed, fresh white linen and a bathroom, the décor is homely with lots of artistic mosaics and paintings. There’s a writing desk in one corner and best of all those green Mediterranean style shutters on the windows which open out to the life on the street. Back home we’re so used to the much-needed fly-screen on every window, but the feeling of space and freedom when your room is wide open to all that is going on in the outside world is unreal. Especially when there are no bugs to annoy you.

The beach is a short 10 minute walk from Hotel Wilson through large piazzas and single boutique stores. The streets are lined with tourists and locals alike. You can especially notice the locals, they’re the ones who are so brown they’re verging on leathery. They obviously don’t get the sun-safe campaigns we get back home. Although the sun does seem to bite a little weaker here. I guess their ozone-layer is still in good shape.

At first when you step down to the water, struggling at first to find your feet on the stones, you enter into the warm bath that is the Mediterranean Sea and you think, “Why did it take me so long to come here?” The water shimmers, is crystal clear and is extremely refreshing. With a backdrop of original architecture juxtaposed with flashy hotels and a clear blue sky, you can’t help but shout out loud, ‘this is heaven!’

On a summers day the sea is definitely Nice’s main attraction but it’s certainly not all that this town has to offer. The old town is situated in the streets just back from the sea in which you can wander happily through the narrow walkways and market stalls, including the Flower Markets.

There are also numerous little owner-run cafés and restaurants overlooking Piazzas which are the hype of activity at night. We decided on a little place called Nissa Socca one night which for 30 euro, will get you two beers, a pasta main and the tradional Noissette Salada (a speciality of Nice which is a large salad served with tuna, red peppers, tomoatoes, olives, egg, anchovies, celery and spring onion… sounds simple but it’s amazing).

Nice is definitely worth including in any holiday itinerary in Western Europe. Worthy of at least two nights and can also serve as a useful base for exploring the surrounding coast, such as Cannes, St Tropez and Monaco which are all a short train-ride away.

Lorna Jane is an Australian environmentalist & traveler.

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