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EuroTip - Nice in 2 Days: New Wine, Old Town

Nice is a couple of hours drive from the French-Italy border, but not far enough for you to bid goodbye to the undulating Alpine hills that drive into the sea (See my last post on Milan here). 

The Nice bus stop is interesting enough situated at the airport - and you can even walk into the airport and explore different options to get around, such as helicopters. Should you not be aware, Nice airport also serves Monaco, which is a rich-people place which also hosts a Formula One track. 

Nice was undergoing some transport expansion with a new tram track at the airport, but which was not set to be operational until 2019. So our option to the city, 7 kilometres away, was a Metro bus which required you to buy a ticket inside the airport terminal.



Nice as viewed from the promenade, with its rocky beach in the foreground

My first stop in Nice was the Casino Supermarket, where I was treated to a racist security check being the lucky, random shopper to get a patting, and one so intrusive it would feel more familiar in Nairobi. The city was still reeling from a terrorist attack where some deranged chap drove a truck through the Promenade that stretches from the city to the airport along the beach, driving on the pavement and killing more than 60 people.

My stay was at some sweet hotel where I had two beds to myself. On my first day, I quickly made my way to the old town which consists of narrow streets and a host of eateries, bars and other touristy places. There is also a park up a rock which provides a vantage point where you can view the whole of Nice, but which gets shut at 7 PM by some strict guard.

Do not despair though, for you can still spend hours catching a breathtaking view of Nice by the beach as the sun sets and also watch planes fly across the sea to land at the airport on the other side of the beach. 


Nice has an interesting beach, full of large pebbles but nevertheless frequented by the locals. Having caught enough of the sunset and early evening, you can stroll into the old town for some traditional pizza slices followed by drinks at any of the fancy and costly joints.

And having missed the wine tour in Florence, I took extra care to catch the bus into the hills surrounding the city alongside bemused teenagers on their way from school. The bus was driven fast and my heart skipped several beats as we went round hairpin turns and up the steep hills where a view out of the window was rewarded with a valley falling dozens of metres below.

I eventually got to my stop and began my trek to the three planned vineyards I was to visit. First was Château de Bellet, which was a short walk from the bus stop. It has a main building which I think at one point was a church - it was almost double storey in height, with steep roofs and the inside still had the hall feeling of a church and an altar. At the moment it serves as an office.


The Domaine de Vinceline - Bellet vineyard

The staff at Château de Bellet were kind enough to offer me a taste of the wines they produce and I immediately took a liking to the white, which was fruity. The explanation was that it had to do with the barrels - something like the whites were done in new barrels and the red in used barrels hence the reds ended up with more flavour and body.

Now, it is at this point that I met the ridiculousness of French regulations. Can you believe that despite the beautiful view and weather, vineyards are not allowed to sell you wine to drink at the establishment because that now makes them a bar? I do not know what possible problem the French were trying to solve with this ridiculous regulation.

The vineyards here are not expansive, especially give the terrain - but the same vineyard tends to have several parcels around the same area with processing and storage done at a central location for all.

A Nice street by night 

Since I could not savour the wine thanks to the over-ambitious regulations, I decided to visit the other two vineyards. My next stop was the Domaine de Vinceline - Bellet and on my way, I was lucky to find a farmer preparing a new piece of land for a vineyard. There were at least two heavy earth moving equipment and him, which contrasts with farming in Kenya which would have been dozens of people working by hand and no equipment.

The Domaine de Vinceline - Bellet is a little off the tarmac road that winds its way around homes and vineyards. Just as I branched off the tarmac, a white and fluffy dog joined me on my way to Domaine de Vinceline - Bellet, which is so inconspicuous that I passed by it before walking back to ask for directions. The family I asked for directions from was having lunch and turned out to be actually the proprietors.

They welcomed me and started by showing me around the property, explaining that in 2003 they sold all they had to buy the property and invest in a vineyard.
 It takes between one and a half years to three years to age a wine after pressing it. The press is also located at the vineyard, which mostly produces red wine, but has a few white grape vines. The name Vinceline is a combination of the couple’s names. Though farming is mechanised to a good extent, there is a limitation in the steep slope of the land. 

I had a great time with the Vincelines and they are quite gracious hosts, taking the time and effort to explain wine production and all that it entails.

The path through the woods in Nice’s Bellet wine region 
As for the dog, it was not allowed to accompany me into the vineyard, but I would later meet it as I tried to visit the third vineyard. By some happenstance, the dog belonged to the Domaine De La Source Famille, which was to be my third stop. That is until I made it through the gate and into the main buildings. Everything looked nice, forgive the pun, but unlike the dog, the family were not as welcoming and it even felt that I was intruding into their farm. I had to apologise and beat a hasty retreat, and I am not surprised they have a three-star rating. Perhaps they should leave the very welcoming dog to run things.

I made my way back to de Bellet and found their 3 PM tour just beginning. I, however, opted out as I felt it did not make sense at this point in time having had a tour at
de  Vinceline. I walked back to the main road, this time taking a shortcut through an adventurous track in the woods and emerging at the stop ahead of the one I had alighted from. There was a beautiful chapel by the road and also a water fountain which came in handy after the draining activities of the day, and before the twenty-to-thirty minute bus wait.

It was really cheap taking the bus and walking around the vineyards guided by Google Maps, though I think there are other options such as driving and even guided tours, though, of course, these are really costly.

Nice’s Fountain Miroir d’Eau (Mirror of Water)

Having spent a fruitful day with the grapes, I returned for yet another golden sunset at the beach next to the old town. This time round, I had more hours to catch the sunset and I would swear it was totally worth it.

I then tried to follow it up with some clubbing, ending up at the Les Distilleries Idéales, where a Chinese family was really having a good time and were fun to watch. There’s the American Bar close to the beach, but like everything else American, it is more hype than substance. I was also frozen at one establishment probably due to my race, and my attempt to find a more fancy place ended up accumulating more miles rather than revealing any place worth writing about. Clearly, I do not learn.


Next in these series, read about my visit to one of the most popular tourist destinations on earth, Barcelona. 

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