Thursday was a quiet day for us. After a lazy start, we stopped at a little shop not far from our hotel to get pastries and a boisson chaud for our walk down to Vieille Ville - the old town. We took the promenade along the beach down to almost the very end before cutting back in to the tiny streets, entering almost exactly at Cours Saleya, the market. We did a quick wander through before heading into the depths of the old town, twisting and turning around the various streets to find the cathedral and Palais Lascarais. After a few missteps, we found our way to Cathédrale Sainte Reparate, which had a small square in front of it but was otherwise tucked right into other buildings. It wasn't like the large, open squares with cathedral taking a large place of prominence that we've seen before. We understand now that it likely would have been that way when first built but as space became sparse, buildings would have been built in the open spaces. The cathedral was quite lovely and quite ornate for its size. Then it was on to find Palais Lascarais, now currently a musical instrument/modern art museum but was built in the 17th century for the Vintimille-Lascarais family. After several more installations that I didn't understand, we headed back into the city streets to make our way back to the market to pick up some tasty treats for lunch. We acquired some salami, cheese, olives, strawberries, grapes, and bread, which we took onto the promenade to enjoy overlooking the water. It was a really excellent lunch. Then, it was time to hit the beach. We had reserved sun beds at the beach across from our hotel and sprawled out with our books and some beverages. We did venture into the water, where the waves literally knocked me over onto my butt (which helped me aclimatize to the water pretty quickly!) and let the waves carry us around for a bit before heading back up to soak up more sun before the wind picked up and we got too chilly to stay out any longer.
Friday was one of our earliest starts, getting up and at it around 7. We were on a train to Cannes shortly after 8 and in Cannes around 9, making our way down to the water and the port to find the ferries to Îles de Lérins. We started with the larger of the two islands, Île Sainte-Marguerite, where we took in the old fort, with its Musée de la Mer, which is where the Man in the Iron Mask was held and is buried. We did not solve the mystery of his identity while we were there. Back in Cannes, we had lunch at a beachside restaurant before catching another ferry, this time to Île Saint-Honorat, which houses a monastery, along with a vineyard. The church was beautifully simple, which is a nice change from the typically ornate churches we see but what we enjoyed most was the ruins of the fortified monastery, build right on the water, giving us amazing views of the sea. We also discovered a pizza boat - anchored between the two islands, you can go to the boat and eat your pizza there or it'll deliver pizza to your boat! Then it was back to the mainland to walk past the Palais Des Fesitivals, currently hosting the slightly less glamourous duty free and retail travel products convention (no red carpets rolled out for them before enjoying a champagne cocktail in advance of the train trip back to Nice.
Today was another light day with only three things planned - finding the antique book market, climbing up Colline du Château for amazing views of the city and our food tour. Well, when we got up and going this morning, I forgot about the book market and we were up early enough that we decided to do the hill before our food tour. The hill is the highest point in Nice and is where the old castle used to be. There are several ways up but we took the stairs - all 300 or so of them. It was a nice climb, we stopped several times to look out over the city and the baie des Anges. There wasn't much at the top but they are working on excavating the castle so we'll have to check out their progress on our next trip (next trip? Yes, we're going to buy a pizza boat of our own and fund our retirement plan of sailing the Mediterranean with it.)
From there, it was time to meet our guide for our food tour. Delightfully, EVERYONE was on time and we got started with a little breakfast square that had pine nuts, raisins and Swiss chard in it. It was the best Swiss chard I've ever had. From there, we started winding our way through the old city, tasting candied orange peel and chocolate covered almonds from the oldest store in Nice, where Queen Victoria used to go for tea, socca - a kind of pancake made from chickpea flour, truffle salt, olive oil, fresh goat cheese, pastise (an anise flavoured liquor), stuffed vegetables, espresso, a small platter with ham and cheese, gelato and LOTS of rosé. I think there was more but I can't remember now. It was all really delicious (except the pastise, but I had extra rosé instead.) Our guide, Ally, was such a delight, she knew so much about the city and its history, despite only being here for a few months. Food tours have quickly become our favourite way to see a city and learn about its history - and this one was no exception. Happily, the book market I had forgotten about was in one of the squares we stopped at so I got to sneak in a peak at it, too, which was great. Also, maybe my favourite part of the tour was learning that you can walk into a wine shop AND GET WINE IN BULK. One of the first stops on our tour was to get a litre bottle of water that our group quickly emptied. Then, we took the empty bottle into a wine shop and they filled it up with red table wine for us - for €2.45. An entire litre of it. Which we then enjoyed as we wound through the old city streets before heading to the non-touristy market to see where the real Niçoise shop. Such a great way to see the city, enjoy some food and learn some history.