Trailing our luggage we walked through the early morning streets of Marseille and climbed the impressive flight of stairs to the station, flanked by sculptures representing the African and Asian countries of the former French empire, of which Marseille was the principal port. We were not travelling so far, however, and were looking for the train to Nice for our next stop.
We were in good time and easily found our train which was waiting for us at the indicated platform. This was not a TGV, and the first class coach had compartments: we had not travelled in one of those since our trip to Switzerland two years before! No catering on board, but we were travelling between breakfast and coffee time, so that was not a problem.
The journey took us out of the city and then along the Mediterranean coast with frequent glimpses of the sea, always azure and sometimes in little rocky coves and at other times great sweeping bays. Main roads or winding little roads accompanied us from time to time and we passed through, and occasionally stopped at, towns along the way, some of them well-known such at Toulon and Cannes. In due course we arrived at Nice and stepped off the train into the baking heat of another French Riviera town.
|Our Edwardian Travel-themed room at the Nice Excelsior|
recommended café in a little square near the main shopping street. We liked it so much that we returned later for supper, no English spoken but really friendly personal service, and the proprietor turned out to be the father-in-law of the lady at the hotel who had recommended him. Newly in business he was very enthusiastic and was serving mostly local people, mostly on the pavement outside, which was where we also sat.
Fortified by coffee we set off to look around the famous Nice flower market and then bought a light picnic lunch which we ate in a pleasant park where we could sit in the shade of trees to avoid the full sun.
After lunch came to walk up the hill to the viewpoint at the Parc du Chateau - a long climb but a café at the top where we discovered the delights of iced tea. The view over the Port de Nice (basically a marina) on one side and back over the city on the other was amazing. We could look along the whole length of the beach, the Avenue des États-Unis and the Promenade des Anglais right along to the airport with its runways marking the other end of the sweeping bay. Stunning view, well worth the climb. We spent some time here and then made our way down, the short way down to the seafront, and then walked along the Avenue des États-Unis and the Promenade des Anglais. The beach and the promenade were busy but not crowded and we walked some distance enjoying the sunshine and seeing this famous seafront. It had been only a few weeks since the dreadful terrorist murder and there was a heavy presence of armed police: I'm not convinced that they made me feel any safer. I felt as safe as I do anywhere else anyway.
After a shower we returned to our little café for supper and then strolled through the shopping streets (safe enough from spending too much at that time of the night!) back towards the seafront until it was time to return for bed, ready for departure the following morning. We'd have spent some time in the bar at the hotel but for some reason it was closed that evening, and that was the only evening we had.
We did get on a beach in Cannes, there is a public section and it was not overcrowded so we had our usual walk along the waterline. We visited the gift shop at the arts centre which is the centre of the famous Film Festival, and in the very hot weather discovered a real liking for iced tea!
Soon it was time to head back to the station, recover our luggage and board the Paris-bound TGV for our next overnight stop, Avignon. It was a real joy to enter the air-conditioned interior of the station and to relax on the train and watch the coastal scenery go by, retracing our route of the previous morning; was it really only yesterday? Then in the outskirts of Marseille, our train turned north and followed the Rhône valley. We were on our way to Avignon.