Travelling along the Côte d’Azur

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I do still have a backlog of travel posts but the splendours of the French Riviera prove too stunning to keep to myself for long, hence I shall start here first. The french leg of my solo travelling ends right here against the wonderful backdrop of Nice. Prior to this, I ate my way through Paris, walked up many hills in Lyon and had a taste of the Provencal region in Avignon, Nimes and Arles.

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Being alone for an extended period of time is an experience that everyone should try every now and then. Even back home in Singapore, I needed ‘me’ time whether it be in the form of my running sessions or watching a movie in the cinema alone (yes, I’ve done that). Being alone does not equate being lonely; it gives you a pocket of time to think, reflect, enjoy the company of your own voice in your head and better appreciate your loved ones when you start to miss them. So naturally, travelling alone just brings ‘me time’ to a different level. Without anyone else to speak to while I marvel at the sunrise, listen to the waking voices of dawn or take in the scenic coast on a bus journey, I plunge in whole and immerse myself fully into simple experiences which I have otherwise been sensitised to.

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This morning, minus the sweet elderly couple strolling along the coast, I was left to take in the gorgeous image of dawn before me all alone. Words cannot begin to describe how beautiful the skies here look, together with the turquoise waters, it is truly nature’s landscape that has attracted flocks of tourists to this coastal gem every summer. (boy am I glad to be here in Fall!) Last I heard, Karl Lagerfeld along with the likes of Sean Connery all have vacation homes here complete with sprawling gardens, nestled among the coastal cliffs enroute to Monaco.

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I make it a point to go running in every destination I arrive in, it’s not only good for my waistline (all those croissants have to go somewhere!) but also great for my less than fantastic navigational skills. Of course, this makes me the most unfashionable person on a french street since I’m in my sweatpants and Nikes 24/7. BUT, I orientate myself when I run, get a feel of where the main sights are, and more often than not, stumble upon some hidden gem of a jardin that is tres jolie. When I see a produce market and orange juice freshly squeezed upon order, that’s my cue for a break. So really, who cares that I look gaudy as I sip orange juice from a biodegradable market cup?

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the stairway up Castle Hlll for the best views of the French Riviera
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A view of Nice from the top of Castle Hill.

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stretching here after a run along the beach and climb up the hill makes it all worthwhile

Among all the markets I’ve been to in France, the Cours Saleya in Nice is on my list of favourites. (I will insert the many photos of the Cours Saleya market later, just because it deserves a post entirely dedicated to it!) It isn’t so much the wide selection of stalls here that enchants me but rather, the setting and general mish-mash of items you can find here. In most french markets, you get a repetition of produce stalls selling pretty much the same fruits and vegetables at cut-throat prices. Though the Cours Saleya market is primarily a flower market, it is interspersed with many other vendors touting their wares ranging from vintage home decorations and lavender scented candles to provencal herbs and fleur de sel. Perhaps the fact that it is now Fall and hence the off-season for tourism has made this market more wallet friendly for me too.

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The Cours Saleya is also well situated in the heart of Vieux Nice and hence surrounded by the characteristic tuscan yellow buildings of Old Nice; these quaint flat-topped warehouse lookalikes with their rickety teal shutters that look like they might peel off any minute, makes a stroll through the old town visually arresting and gives you a glimpse of life in these lively residential quarters. The colourful sight is reminiscent of what one might see along the cobbled streets of Italy yet the waft of freshly baked baguettes from the corner boulangerie is unmistakably french.

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Monaco and its urban sprawl

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I also made my way to Monaco and its famed casino (a 40-minute bus ride away costing all of just 1.50 euro) since that’s what everyone does when they come to the French Riviera, just to see what the playground of the rich and famous looks like. Compared to Nice, Monaco looks a lil’ short on land. It looks like there is hardly an inch of space left for any more buildings in here. Throw in a lavishly decorated casino, many big yachts, countless Ferraris and Lamborghinis and there you have it – a place where similarly rich people display their extravagant lifestyles in similarly expensive transportation gadgets. The only thing that left me in awe here was the view of the Cote d’azur from the Prince’s Palace up on a hill.

When I returned to Nice that night, I felt like I was back in a vast haven where I did not have to jostle for space. I also felt right at home on Boulevard des Anglais with its smattering of joggers where running attire is a la mode.

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My final view of the sapphire waters was right here on a pastel blue chair, sipping my morning coffee and re-reading Voltaire.

A bientôt Nice, I’m fairly certain I will see you again. 

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