After checking out of our hotel in the morning, we packed up the car and headed west. We envisioned a morning in Eze, a hilltop medieval town with spectacular views of Monte Carlo, but it was very overcast and it appeared that we would not catch much of a view through the haze. Instead, we headed to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a small fishing town. SJCF piqued our interest because it is home to Paloma Beach, which is said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the French Riviera.
The drive from Monte Carlo to SJCF was beautiful, but not for the faint of heart. Much of the drive involved winding, cliffside roads that offered spectacular views of the Mediterranean Ocean and the seaside villages along it. Any departure from the main highway involved steep roads full of hairpin turns. P handled it like a pro, but after a somewhat stressful stretch of driving, we were ready for an early lunch when we reached town.
We wanted to catch a quick bite before heading to the beach, so we used my smartphone and found Capitaine Cook, a much-reviewed restaurant near Paloma Beach. When we arrived at Capitaine Cook, we realized that it would not be a quick meal, but it would be a special one. It seems to have been a locally appreciated establishment for many, many years, where the decor is overdue for some updating, but the food and service are excellent. We ate on a beautiful patio where time seemed to slow down, and the food was exquisite. We ordered a freshly caught fish that was cooked and presented to us before being filleted, and which was served with a trio of delicious homemade sauces and ratatouille. We would highly recommend this gem of a restaurant to anyone who visits SJCF, as our lunch there was one we will not soon forget.
After completely stuffing ourselves, we made our way to Paloma Beach, a pebble beach cuddled up against seaside cliffs. The beach has a private beach club and restaurant (to our surprise) on it, where visitors can rent beach chairs and umbrellas. Immediately adjacent to the private beach is an equally nice public beach, which is free of charge. The water was clear and a beautiful deep turquoise color, and people enjoyed it while swimming, boating, and snorkeling.
After relaxing on the beach, we walked a nearby hiking path that runs along the perimeter of the peninsula and offers beautiful views of the Mediterranean. We were tempted to leave the path to explore some of the many side beaches, but we were running low on time, so we headed back to the car and continued our journey to Nice.
We arrived in Nice in the late afternoon and checked into our hotel, Le Grimaldi. It is a charming little hotel with a friendly staff that is beautifully decorated with a mix of old and new styles. We settled into our room, grabbed some gelato from the hotel’s gourmet gelato bar, and headed to the beach just a few minutes’ walk away. The beach in Nice is a beautiful, wide, long pebble beach that seems to stretch along the entire length of the city. The water is clear and light turquoise and simply gorgeous. The beach has many private beach clubs along it that provide visitors the option to rent beach chairs and umbrellas, and the beach also has many long stretches that are freely available to the public.
After a few hours of relaxing by the sea, we headed back to the hotel, got cleaned up, and went out for a late dinner in the old town. The old town was beautiful in the evening. It is full of cobbled streets, old buildings, large squares, and, of course, restaurants and shops. To our surprise, the old town was also full of English and Icelandic people who were in town for the Eurocup game that would be played at Nice’s stadium the following day.
We had a delicious dinner at La Tapenade, which offers a variety of traditional Niçoise dishes, and for dessert we went to Fenocchio, a very popular gelateria that offers over 100 different flavors of gelato!