We are heading to Nice in September and wanted some recs for the Cote, Provence and the Rhone Valley as we will be driving around quite a bit for a few weeks. What are the great day and overnight trips from Nice that focus around food, wine and sights? What are the best markets in Nice where we can pick up food for picnics and dinners? Where do the locals eat and are there any neighborhood cafes that we should seek out? Please help me plan a great trip.
Thanks in advance for the help.
So many great places...
St. Paul de Vence is a must, but go in the morning. I'll let others give you their favorite restaurants there and I'll move to other out of the way places near Nice. In Grasse, the perfume capitol, is a place I and many French feel is one of their very best restaurants, Bastide St. Antoine. It is hidden in a residential part of Grasse, but you'll find very beautiful..lunch or dinner.Spend an evening in Mougins and enjoy one of the places in the village. A beautiful hilltop village, Picasso sent the last years of his life there, my favorites are Feu Follet, Edmonds, and Brasserie. They're great and fun energy each night. In Valbonne try Lou Cignon, in another village behind Valbonne is Le Clos St. Pierre...out of the way very French, very pretty in a village called Le Rouret. There is a few more in the area, but let me move on to the Var for a day trip. If You enjoy truffles then you must visit Bruno in Lourges. Bruno is known throughout France as the "boy who loves truffles". And you'll find out just how much when you dine there. He's larger than life, and a good friend of Ducasse. Quite of few vinyards in the area. Our favorite for a stop is Chateau St. Roseline..they make a very nice Rose. I'll stop now. I'm sure others will tell you Ducasse's Louis XV in Monaco. Go to Club Dauphine at the Grand Hotel in St. Jean Cap Ferret...I believe they stay open through Sept. Beautiful pool, great food, make resv in advance for lunch and pool chairs. The market in Nice and Cannes are both great. I prefer Cannes.
Since you are driving around, up in the hills above Nice is Vence, where Matisse's Rosary Chapel is a don't miss. St. Paul de Vence is famous for both the Fondation Maeght a one-time private modern art museum, and La Colombe d'Or, a restaurant full of paintings by the likes of Picasso, Cezanne, Matisse, Chagall and many more, who painted in exchange for food! The food, at last visit was not outstanding, but you can't get in to see the paintings without dining. I still recommend it.
the drive back to Nice includes Cagnes sur Mer, where Renoir's house/museum is located, and well worth a stop.
The market in Nice is in the old town, near the shore, along Cours Saleya. It's there every morning, but the big one is on Saturday. One end is a beautiful flower market - the other is the usual dizzying array of produce, cheeses, meat. At night, the restaurants along Cours Saleya feature fabulous seafood platters. We also ate at a little place in the old town- Nissa Socca- nice platter of local specialities.
Many of the medieval towns in the area, like St. Paul de Vence, have been turned into hilly shopping malls. But I loved Eze, which is an easy drive from Nice. At the top is a garden/historical monument that you pay a little to enter, but it's worth it.
Just around a litle corner from Nice (by boat) is Villefranche-sur-Mer, with a row of restaurants along the water. La Mere Germaine is recommended. We ate at Le Cosmo- a less expensive slightly inland place with really good food. You should visit the church that Cocteau renovated while there, and see the Rue Obscura, where locals hid out during WWII.
I'm sure the restaurants recommended in Grasse are wonderful. We stumbled accidentally into a place called Le Gazan last year for lunch (I think they only serve lunch- they ran out of food both times we were there). It's run by a couple, who cook and wait on the tables. They have a menu with a couple of choices- everything was wonderful, and the homemade desserts sounded so good, we ordered all 5, then each took a bite of one and rotated it to the right! It was such a great experience- chatting with the owners, sitting outside on a lovely terrace on a side street- that we went back this year. But we went to St. Paul first, and by the time we got to Grasse, they were out of food (they buy what's fresh and just enough for the day)- so get there before 2:00.
If you go to Grasse, look for the signs for Florian's a little outside. You can take a tour to see how they candy fruit (they put mandarin oranges through many days of boiling in sugar syrup) and buy candied rose petals to put in your wine.
When I lived there a few years ago, Le Safari in the Marche aux Fleurs (in old town) Nice was the popular go to brasserie for the foodie, hip set. Very good... and since the pace of change is generally slower out there, probably still good.
In the nearby town of Villefranche-sur-mer, La Mere Germaine (higher-end dinner with occassional ringo starr sightings) and Le Cosmos (port-side lunch) were solid standby's. Grab a cocktail at the Hotel Welcome in between the 2.... nice hike starting at the Villefranche port, near an old fort, past one of the few sandy beaches in the region, and continue along the craggly path around the shore, villa rothschild and lighthouse of Cap Ferrat.
You may not believe it now, but you may actually get tired of French (and italian) fare while down there... in which case, go to Delhi Belhi in Nice (also in the old port)... some of the best Indian i've had in France. Cheese naan, hip decor, good music... british style curries.
Get local specialties at casual vendors.... pan bagnat, socca, breaded fried flowers, and even north african / lebanese fare...
Eze Village on a mountain top between Nice and Monaco is a great drive, and incredible vistas. Can be very touristy, but who cares... unlike disney world it's made of real stone, isn't going to change in the next 1000 years... and again, the views...
For a longer trip... try to sneak in Cinque Terra in Italy (not too far).
And for fine dining further west... Le Moulin De Mougins.
I have also eaten at Delhi Belhi Indian restaurant (December 2006) in Nice - great food and great service by the owner operators (a warm and sweet punjabi couple from India).
Some consider Delhi Belhi to be the very best Indian restaurant on the entire French Riviera. I have reviewed this restaurant recently at the following url:
Delhi Belhi also has a web page at www.delhibelhi.com
Delhi Belhi is located behind the cours saleya, which is a popular place in the old town (vieux Nice) - once you get there, you can either ask or look for signs that point to Delhi Belhi in a small street parallel to Cours Saleya (Rue de la Barillerie).
Cours Saleya also has some of the gastronomical landmarks of Nice such as the "Le Safari" restaurant and "Chez Rene Socca". There is another place I like called "Cafe Turin" in the old town area that has great fresh seafood and is considered a Nice tradition for the past 50 years.