We love Nice, and Donna has written and updated two editions of her own guide to the city, which also included the French Riviera, so we know the area well after several visits. It's one of our favourite parts of the world, and very easy to get around. We love taking the train to places like Cannes, Menton, Antibes and Monte Carlo – which are all included in this excellent pocket guide.
The format of these Explore guides from Insight is to divide a city or region into different walking and driving routes. For Nice and the French Riviera there are 14 of them. Each one has a map, a few pages covering the highlights you'll see on the way, some recommended places to eat, and a box of practical information: Distance, Time, Start/End, and any Points to Note.
It's a simple format but works well as the author has to be clever and devise a route that takes in all the main attractions along the way – and find a range of places to eat in, too, although there is also a separate Restaurants section in the back of the book which lists ones not covered on the route.
The first five routes are all walking tours of Nice and take in:
These pretty much cover everywhere in the city you're likely to want to visit in a stay of a few days, including such delights as the market in the cours Saleya (always our first stop for lunch when we go to Nice!), the amazing Hôtel Negresco, and the must-see Chagall and Matisse museums up in Cimiez.
One thing we like about Nice is how easy it is to get around the rest of the French Riviera from there, even if you don't have a car. There's a very good and inexpensive train service that runs along the coast making day trips to places like Cannes, Antibes, Monte Carlo and Menton really simple... or if you travelled light you could easily move around and spend a few days in each place. Those destinations each get a route of their own, and there are also routes for other Riviera highlights such as Vence, Grasse and St Tropez.
Finally the book includes two driving routes. A Corniches Drive starts in the Vieux Port of Nice and takes you east along the coast through Villefranche-sur-Mer and Beaulieu-sur-Mer to Monaco and Monte Carlo (though personally we wouldn't like to drive there!), and then inland to end in the dramatically-located Èze Village.
The second drive is the Massif des Maures which takes you into the hills from Cogolin through Grimaud and Collobrières before winding down to the coast and ending at the spectacular gardens of the Domaine du Rayol.
One quibble about the book is that if you're going to the trouble and expense of hiring a car then you'll need a more detailed guide than this one. The space taken up by the two driving routes could perhaps be better used with more walks.
The Hôtel Negresco in Nice (Photo (c) Donna Dailey)
The book comes with a convenient little pull-out map with the Riviera on one side and a street plan of Nice on the other. There's the usual array of practical information at the back, including twelve pages of hotel recommendations and ten pages of restaurants, plus an interesting list of books to read and films to see to get you in the mood for going... or to reminisce when you get back.
At the front are spreads on Food and Drink, Shopping, Entertainment, Festivals etc. In other words it's a typical guidebook with no surprises, but a very good one that we don't hesitate to recommend. It's well laid-out, easy to navigate, seems pretty comprehensive, and with lots of lovely colour photos that certainly brought back a few memories for us. It's also a handy size for purse or pocket... and a handy price too.
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