A “Nice” way to travel around the French Riviera!

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There is a lot of hype behind the French Riviera for it’s beauty, beaches and luxury lifestyle. Keyword: luxury!! It is not a cheap area to stay, however the following may help you save some money, while still allowing you to see some of the most attractive tourist areas such as Monaco, Nice and Cannes!

Originally my plan was to start in Monaco and take the train to Nice and then Cannes until I started looking up the price of hotels! I couldn’t find anything for under €180 a night and there were no hostel options except for in Nice. As it turns out, these areas are not far from each other so I decided to stay in a hostel in Nice which was right in the city’s center and it only cost me €30 a night (there were others for cheaper). Once you are in the city’s center, everything is close by so you can walk or take a tram/bus if you are feeling a bit lazy!

1. Castle Hill (Colline du Château) – Surprisingly, there’s no castle, as it was totally destroyed in 1705, however the area does give you the most stunning views of Nice! There is also an amazing waterfall, along with playgrounds and parks where you can take a picnic or grab some light food like sandwiches and snacks. I am warning you though, it’s a tiring hike up the stairs to the top, but it is completely worth the effort.

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2. Place Garibaldi – It is the oldest square that can be found in a large city. Place Garibaldi has many shops, cafes and restaurants that you can pop into while visiting. You can find it at the edge of Old Town and by the port area.

3. Place Masséna– The main square in Nice which has restaurants, stores and sometimes events/festivals. The thing that really sets this square apart is that it’s aligned with seven white statues on top of poles called “Conversation in Nice” and represents the seven continents. Each statue is facing the direction that the continent represents and at night they light up in a multitude of colors.

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4. Flower Market – Walk around and enjoy the colorful plants and exotic flowers. The market is open everyday from 6am-5:30pm except for Mondays and Sunday afternoons. You can find it within the Old Town.

5. Promenade Des Anglais– If you want to walk along the beach then this is where you would do it. This long walkway brings you along the Mediterranean and is lined with beaches, restaurants, hotels, biking paths and great views. You can spend plenty of time strolling along the promenade and that time is best spent with a gelato in hand!

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6. Old Town – This is a cute area to walk around with its narrow, cobblestone streets and is lined with restaurants and shops.  If you want to try some authentic French street food or buy some souvenirs, this really is the place to go.

7. Beaches – Warning: these are stone beaches! This is not something that I was aware of before I visited the beach, but once I did, I realized that it was incredibly uncomfortable when I was trying to lay out on a bunch of rocky stones, so bring a beach mat with you. Some hotels/hostels let you rent them for free or for a small cost, so check with your accommodation before making your way to the beach. There are of course plenty of places to purchase a relatively cheap beach mat near by if that is your only option.

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Now that you have seen all there is in Nice, its time to go explore the rest of the French Riviera!

1. Eze – This hilltop medieval village is only a 15 minute bus ride, there is no train option. If you are also planning on going to Monaco then you can take the bus to Eze and afterwards take a bus from Eze directly to Monaco. You would have enough time in one day to see both as long as you are an early riser. Make sure you pay close attention to the bus schedule. The bus only runs once every hour. I was late by one minute and had to wait for the next one. 

2. Monaco – Go to the infamous the Monte Carlo Casino and stare in awe at the over the top luxury cars! It is a 20 minute train ride or a 50 minute bus ride depending on traffic. 

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3. Antibes – Known for its yacht port, Picasso museum and Medieval market. It is on the way to Cannes on the train and is about a 20 minute train ride. I didn’t go because there was bad weather in the morning, however I was told that you would have enough time to stop off there before you moved on to Cannes.

4. Cannes – Home of the Cannes Film Festival and the quintessential of celebrity glam! Its is about a 45 minute train ride. If you take the bus it can take up to two hours or more. The beaches here were the best that I found during this trip.

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5. St. Tropez – If you want more beautiful beaches and scenery, then this really is a lovely place to visit. It is a little further out taking about an hour and 45 minutes passing Cannes along the way.

Transportation

While getting around all of these areas in France, you can take the bus or tram for €1.50. The train stations are in each area except for Eze. The trains drop you off in the city’s main area and is walking distance to most areas of interest or close to bus stops depending where you want to visit. 

If you are staying in Nice and flying in/out of the Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport, you can take the standard bus which is €1.50 and takes one hour or you can take the airport bus which is €6 and only 20 minutes.

Want to see more of Nice? Check out my Photo Essay! 

Tips on optimizing vacation time and saving money

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Although I work 9-5 in online advertising, I would love to leave it all behind to travel full time, spending my days exploring new countries and learning about different cultures. As you can imagine, it is certainly more appealing to me than being stuck behind a desk 40+ hours a week. And although it sounds even worse when I write it down, my life is not so bad, so is it a viable and smart option to travel full time? I travel a lot at the moment, this year alone I have been to Iceland, Las Vegas, Florida and I have an upcoming trip to Europe scheduled, but that seems to me to be more of an itch scratch than fulfilling my dream. Like most people the two obstacles are time (I get three weeks of vacation a year) and of course money. During my relatively short working and traveling life I have picked up a few tips on maximizing both of these things and that is what I am going to share with you now, because well.. I am nice like that!

1. Take long weekends – You don’t always have to go far when you travel. There are plenty of places that are close enough to make taking a three day weekend worthwhile. You only have to use a day or two of your vacation time and you get to experience somewhere new! I’ve used many three day weekends to go to places nearby such as Philadelphia, Chicago and Florida. I can reach so many amazing places by taking a short 2-3 hour plane, train or bus ride.

2. Use public holidays to your advantage – One year I took off Monday-Wednesday, the next two days I already had off for Thanksgiving and Black Friday, combine that with the two weekends surrounding that week, that’s nine days for a trip and I only used three days of my annual work vacation time! It is all about planning early and paying attention to what days different holidays fall around. I know there are some family oriented holidays that some people wouldn’t want to spend away traveling, however there are plenty of other public holidays such as Memorial Day, Presidents Day, Columbus Day, etc that you can use to combine vacation days with.

3. Choose your flights carefully – If you are willing to be slightly inconvenienced by taking an early or late flight you can often get a great deal. I always take the earliest flight possible, so I have as much of my first day as I can. This is certainly important if you are taking a short three or four day trip, as you don’t want to waste a day by arriving when most of your first day is over. The same applies to coming home, I usually leave late at night, often on a red eye (which is also usually cheaper), then I get to enjoy some of that last day. I once took a red eye, arrived back in New York at 6am and went to work, which was a bit of a stretch, but completely worth it! Basically, what I am saying is optimize your vacation time, so that you can enjoy as much of your time at your destination as possible.

4. Go on tours – Tours are perfect if you want to see as much as possible in a limited amount of time. People that work full time rarely have the luxury of taking a month off of work to explore a destination in detail. Before you go on your trip plan out what you want to see. I went on a two week tour to Europe that took me to London, Paris and Barcelona. Although it was a relatively short trip to see so many great cities, I had an absolute blast and got to see the highlights of each city. Another plus of tours is that you don’t have to wait on lines for attractions/venues. I am sure it varies with different companies, but for example I did not wait three hours to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was more like three minutes and trust me I have seen some crazy lines during my trips! Tour companies get special deals and can book in advance for sights that regular tourists don’t have access to.

5. Shop around before you go – One word, the internet, okay well strictly speaking it is two words, but you get the gist. There are so many great time and money saving tools that are available to you from the comfort of your own home, so shop around. For hotels/accommodation, there are the obvious, such as Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline etc., but there are also some less obvious choices such as the Hotel Tonight app and AirBnB. Sky Scanner is great for booking flights as it pulls in all the lowest airfares from different airlines and alerts you when prices go up or down. You can also pick up amazing travel and tour packages on sites such as Groupon or Living Social. I always sign up for these in the city of my destination before I go, so I get all of the great deals that are being offered for my upcoming destinations.

6. Eat smartly – I always visit the local grocery store when I get to my destination and stock up on food items, water, etc for the trip. If you use your hotel shop you will pay a premium, so it really is worth spending a short time getting your essentials off site. Or you can shop at home and bring some stuff with you but I personally don’t want to have to carry any extra baggage while I am traveling to my destination. I do bring small snacks from home such a cereal bars and pre packs baggies of  pretzels and cereal to munch on.  I am not at my hotel too much while I am traveling, so I like to eat breakfast with the food I purchased before I head out for the day and bring snacks along for the journey. If I happen to come back to the hotel for a break or to change for the evening, then I eat my food as well. It is all about being smart and balancing the amount of food I eat out. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to eat out. Being a bit of a foodie, it would be a real shame to me if I did not get to taste the unique food that my destination had to offer, so you can still eat out but you don’t have to for every meal. Saving some cash by eating cheaply for certain meals will allow you the luxury to indulge in others and not feel bad about it!

7. Stay in hostels – The biggest mistake on my first trip was booking a luxurious, expensive, five star hotel. It was beautiful and incredibly fancy, however I hardly spent any time there! It was a complete waste of money that I could have put towards something more valuable to me such as food or an excursion. All of the hostels that I have stayed in have been clean, convenient and much cheaper than a hotel. A good hostel can start as low as $30 a night depending where you are, while a hotel can range from $100+ for one that isn’t cruddy. You can shop for a hostel the same as a hotel on sites such as booking.com, hostel world, hostels.com, etc. These sites give you prices, reviews, pictures and even show you where they are located on a map of the city so you can see how close/far you are from where you want to explore.

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Close your wallet, 10 free things to do in Las Vegas!

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Many people think that Las Vegas is insanely expensive and it certainly has the potential to be just that, however you can also have an amazing time on a tighter budget. That is why I have decided to put together a list of free stuff, so that you can put your wallet away and let it take a much needed vacation as well! 

1.Lake of Dreams show at the Wynn hotel. The shows begins when the sun goes down and runs every half hour until 12:30am daily. Each half hour a different show plays. The best spot in the house to watch this is from the Up Parasol terrace bar, however you can get a good view from a variety of spots.

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2. Walk the strip both inside and outside the hotels. Each hotel has a different theme and is completely unique from each other. Vegas doesn’t do anything without going above and beyond so you will be in awe at the beautiful designs and props inside. Where else in the world can you view a replica of Venice, ancient Rome, Paris, ancient Egypt or the bright lights of New York all in one place?

3. Explore downtown Vegas also known as The Fremont Street Experience. It has entertainment, dining, gambling, everything that the strip has, just with a more “old Vegas” feel.  It is also home to the worlds largest screen, within a canopy that tops the street. The canopy towers 90 feet above the ground and spans the length of five football fields. Featuring more than 12 million LED modules and a 550,000 Watt sound system. The light show is definitely something to experience and is enjoyed by both tourists and locals.

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4.  Watch the Fall of Atlantis at Caesars Forum Shops. It runs every hour starting at 11 a.m. The Forum Shops are set within replica streets of ancient Rome and are a striking sight themselves.

5. Watch outdoor hotel shows on the strip. The Mirage, Venetian, Treasure Island, Bellagio have free shows that run continuously each night. The Bellagio water show is the crowning jewel of strip water shows, as the water dances in synch to a variety of songs throughout the night. These fountain spurts can reach a height of 460 feet  during the show. 

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6. See the Wildlife Habitat in the Flamingo hotel. There are also two live feedings a day that you can watch. Amongst the animals within the habitat are of course flamingo’s, turtles, pelicans and sacred ibis to name a few.

7. Enjoy the circus acts at the the World’s Largest Permanent Circus inside the Circus, Circus hotel. There are many different shows such as jugglers, unicyclists, trapeze artists and acrobats that perform every half-hour. Try to get there 15 minutes before the show starts, as seats get snapped up quickly!

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8. Check out the LINQ which is a newest area that was added to the strip! This is a new shopping and dining area that also house the High Roller, which is the Observation Ferris Wheel that has recently been added to the strip.

9. Look at the beautiful Bellagio Conservatory inside the Bellagio hotel. They also change it through out the different seasons. Below are pictures from when I went in November, it certainly had a fall feel to it! – Fun Fact – The Bellagio opened in 1998 with an opening ceremony that cost a reported $88 million!!!

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10. Relax and take a dip! Soak up the sun and go for a swim at your hotel. Each hotel on the strip has complimentary water which is definitely needed during the summer months! However, most people do not realize that it does get chilly in the winter months. Not all of the pools are open year round, so if do you go during that time, make sure to check if your hotel pool is open.

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