Sunday, February 27, 2011

Castel Plage (Beach)

I adore Castel Plage.

Castel Plage in Nice is widely know as a very gay-friendly, private beach at the eastern end of the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels), you cannot miss this place.  This is where the see and be seen crowd goes to the beach; this is where all the jet setters visiting the city go to the beach.

I have friends obsessed with Castel Plage; they will literally be there from morning until night.  Everyone makes an appearance here.

I can’t blame them; Castel Plage is located in the most beautiful part of the beach snuggled up to the corner of Le Chateau.  The way it is situated at the end of the 7kms of city beachfront means it doesn’t get as much of the pounding surf along the pebbly beach.  This can sometimes make for the best swimming experience of the area in the warm, crystal clear water.

You will easily find this private beach by following the Promenade des Anglais towards Le Chateau.

Le Chateau is at the far end of the Baie des Anges.  When you see the barrel shaped part of the fortress on the corner, you’ll know you are headed the right way, just keep walking along the sea in the opposite direction of the airport.

Signs are posted along the seawall indicating which areas of the beach are public and which are private, usually the private ones are owned by major hotels.  You also can’t miss a private beach as they are usually the ones with restaurant tables and lounge chairs set up.

Castel Plage is open from May until late September; much of this will be subject to the weather, which for 300 days of the year is sunny.  If the weather has been good for a while, they will open earlier in the year, if the summer feels extended, they will stay open later into the year.  During that time they are open seven days a week from 9am-10pm.

Upon approaching Castel Plage you will see the various flags flying above the restaurant, included in those is the Rainbow flag. 

I also love the structure of the entrance to Castel Plage too, very unique to the rest of the entrances along the beach.  Here you will also see the price menu for what Castel Plage has to offer.

Remember, this is a private beach with it’s own restaurant and lounging areas.  For any private beach, expect to pay to rent a lounge chair on the beach; you will also not be able to bring your own food and beverages.  It’s easy enough to let time slip by basking in the sun and cooling down with a drink, but just be aware of the charges incurring.

People go to Castel Plage to relax and enjoy the day. It is a chic, private beach but it’s not so exclusive that you would worry about not fitting in and feeling comfortable.  Enjoy yourself too.

Castel Plage is beautifully set up; the atmosphere is that of relaxed elegance.
The staff is very gracious and attentive, the restaurant menu is always a pleasant surprise, the portions are just enough and drinks at the beach are always refreshing.

Castel Plage has been around for as long as I can remember, sure it’s luxurious but it’s also a great place to spend the day with friends and meet new ones.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Le Klub

As a first entry into the league of gay clubs in Nice I'm going to start off with a recommendation of Le Klub.

Located at 6 rue Halévy, just a block from the beach along the Promenade des Anglais in the popular pedestrian district of Nice.  This is one solid club to hit.

Le Klub has had a gay following since it first opened in September of 2000.  It seems to be what the club scene really needed in Nice, and it continues to thrive along with many other gay nightclubs and bars that have opened up over the years in the city.

The main demographics of Le Klub are what I would guess is the age group of 20 - 40 years.  Although I have seen people of all ages and sexual orientations there having a ton of fun and mingling with people from every type of lifestyle in the GLBT community.

Top DJ's from all over Europe and the rest of the World have played at Le Klub, if they are popular or up and coming, they are brought in to spin.  You'll hear Techno, Tribal, Old Skool, House, Top 50, everything.  Le Klub has quite a few themed nights too, especially in the summer so check out their website to see what is coming up.
Do not miss the drag shows! 

The club itself encompasses, from what I could explore, about two floors and looks like it has a capacity of about 300 people but probably a whole lot more.  It may not sound like much but that makes it tight and hot!
Picture shirtless men, sweating and dancing.

Le Klub has a large dance floor, bars, and the upper level feels a bit more lounge like where you can look down on to the dance floor below. It's also easy to hook up in some secluded areas too.  Overall, a very lively and fun place.

And don't let my picture of the entrance during the daytime fool you.  It may look like a tiny place from the outside but its a whole different scene inside, and even out front of the club at night its very social.

All nightclubs in Nice are now non-smoking, some I have been to though have their own makeshift smoking rooms.  And some people still sneak a smoke out in the open here and there.

In the Winter, they are open from 11:30pm to 5am, Thursday to Sunday.  In the Summer I have seen them open for more evenings and a bit later, like 6am.  The crowd starts to go for around Midnight. 

The cost of entry I have paid has been from 10-15 euros but that usually includes a conso.  Drinks, I have found to be reasonably priced.  They also have some free entry nights too, like Sundays.  All of this again depends on the time of year, theme, event nights, DJ's, etc. 

I have also never had a hassle to get in, if there is a line up, it keeps moving.  I've always had a great experience with the staff, they seem to enjoy their jobs and are totally suited to this work environment.

Nice has a fantastic gay community, on every visit I see it growing and becoming stronger.  In conversations I have had with some managers and owners of these establishments, they really seem to support each other.  I asked too about competition, of course it is there I was told, but they see more of a benefit from helping rather than hindering another gay business.

I always hit up Le Klub whenever I visit Nice, even if you plan on having a night of club hopping, make sure you stop in there.  I always think I haven't really been to the clubs in Nice unless I come by.

It appears Le Klub closed for business a couple of months ago!
Damn, that was a fun club. 
Photos © Le Klub

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Grocery Shopping

As lame as it sounds, yes, grocery shopping.

Depending on your length of stay in Nice I just thought you’d like to know where you could quickly pick up some of the essentials to perhaps stock up your hotel fridge or to have on the go while you are sightseeing.

Don’t get me wrong; I love eating at the many great restaurants to choose from in Nice, I’m just trying to give you the option of saving a bit of money as well.
You will be amazed at the variety of food products you can buy in the grocery stores in France.  And Nice has a large number of grocery store chains to serve you, along with smaller, usually family run shops all over the city.

Whatever you had in mind, there is a good chance you will see it or find something better than you’ve had before.  You will come across a lot of familiar looking North American brand foods; just some of them might also come with their own unique flavor.


If you are staying in the city center, one place I would suggest you try out is the Monoprix at: 42 avenue Jean Médecin.

It’s a large building that has a clothing department on the upper level and a combined drug store, deli, bakery, liquor, groceries, etc., all on the main level.  Everything you would regularly go grocery shopping for in North America can be found here.

I find this store very reasonably priced, that goes for the vast wine and hard liquor selection too.  And naturally there is a fresh array of fruits and vegetables, cheeses, meat and seafood.

I am hooked on the little pre-packaged pasta and green salads.  You can also pick up freshly pre-packaged sandwiches incase you wanted something to snack on while at the beach or on a road trip.

While making your way around the Cote d’Azur, you will likely come across another chain of stores named Casino.  They are in size from SuperCasino to Petit Casino so depending on which one you go to the selection will vary.  Most I have found are just as good for shopping as Monoprix.

Carrefour is another chain of stores that can be found in and around the city of Nice, if you are going out to one of the stores in the suburbs, you’ll find they can be quite big.


Galeries Lafayette at Place
Masséna also has it’s own gourmet food supermarket in the lower level.  It seems to be very popular, as many times when I have gone, some of the basics near the end of the day will be sold out.  But they still have a great overall selection of items.

What I am always pleasantly surprised about is the quality and variety of foods available in these stores, lots of healthy choices too.  And the prices, to me, don’t seem outrageous.  And don’t forget to bring your own bag to carry your purchases in or some stores may charge you for one.

If you are on a budget, don’t necessarily shop where the tourists do, shop where the locals go and you’ll be much further ahead.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Banks & ATM's

As with any planning of a trip to a foreign country its always best to take some of that currency with you before you arrive.  In France, it's the Euro and I've found it goes quite far in Nice and the rest of the Riviera.

The rules seem to keep changing in regards to credit and debit cards every time I go so I like to make sure they are up to date and with what works in the ATM's in France.

This last time in September 2010 (and also in 2011), I made sure all of my cards had an updated chip and a new four digit PIN, as in most cases now a PIN with more than four digits won't be accepted in machines there.  

Before my trip, I contacted the banks that I use to let them know when I would be traveling, where and for how long so that they wouldn't put a hold on a card while I was away thinking someone had stolen my cards and were attempting to use them somewhere else.

It's also a good idea before you go to do some research on how much transactions and withdrawals will cost you while away to help with your financial planning.

I remember the days of the traveler's cheques and what a hassle they were, especially if you were trying to get funds for the amount you wanted, and how much those currency exchange places would take as a cut for themselves.  Now I barely see those places around Nice.

Dealing with the banks in Nice is a whole lot easier.  Most banks there are open from 10am-1pm and then from 3pm-5pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays.  My friends in Nice (along with myself) seem to prefer banking with HSBC for their service.  Barclays Bank and Banque de France I would also recommend.

For more information, their links are as follows:




ATM's are all over Nice.  Look for the symbols from Plus or Cirrus as they are part of the bigger international networks and stick with bank run ATM's for security and the best exchange/transaction deals.  You will also find that most machines give you the option on whether you want to do your transactions in French or English.

Exchange rates are more favorable if you pay with credit cards and the more you withdraw at once with your debit or credit card, the less you will have to pay in accumulating exchange/transaction type fees.

Nice Tramway

If this is your first time in Nice, taking the tram is a cheap and efficient way of getting to know the layout of the city.  At this time there is only one tramline that runs through Nice but it seems to hit all of the major arteries.

Since the tramway first went into operation in late 2007, you can see a remarkable difference in the way it has revitalized various neighborhoods in Nice.  Areas that seemed previously unexplored appear to be much more vibrant and alive.

I recall avenue Jean Médecin, one of the main locations where the tram now goes through, being a major route for all sorts of traffic before and quite honestly, in the early 1990’s that avenue seemed polluted and dare I say even grimy at times. 

Well that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, avenue Jean Médecin is now far more pedestrian friendly and clean.  If this is what “going green” is all about for the environment, then I’m all for it.

The current line runs in a U-shaped route from Comte de Falicon (Nice Nord) then down through the city center (avenue Jean Médecin) to as close as a couple of blocks away from the beach (Masséna Station) then back North to Pont Michel.  Stopping at a total of 21 stations, running almost 9 kms long.

You can purchase your ticket for the tram at any of the stations along the route from one of the automated ticket stands (in a variety of languages) for 1 euro, one way.  Tickets are also cheaper if you buy them as a weekly pass.

A monitor above the station will indicate the route the tram is going and approximately how long of a wait you will have, they do come by quite often and start running from 5:10am until 1am.

Always hang on to your ticket, once you step on board the tram, validate it at the automated ticket box usually located near the doorways inside the tram.  It is important you do this as ticket officers routinely come on board and will check that your ticket is valid, if not you will get fined.  Also, do not buy your ticket from someone on the street.

I have found the tram useful for when I want to get to the train station quickly or if I am heading off to a club at night, plus it’s cheaper than a taxi.

The tram is a safe way to get around Nice.


As of March 2, 2011 you can now purchase a Carte Azur for 45 euros for a month pass which gets you unlimited use of the buses and tram regardless of distance traveled and as often as you want.

If you plan on staying a year, you can purchase a Carte Azur for 365 euros, which breaks down to 1 euro per day.

This pass is good for 27 municipalities around Nice, 16 municipalities around Antibes and the Principality of Monaco.

Also, after I’m sure much debate on costs, etc., a second tramline will be constructed.  The route will connect the airport to Place Masséna; it will also head part way underground to Nice Port and up to the city’s northern suburbs.  Construction of the second line is due to be complete by 2016.

Update 2013:

As of May 3, 2013, the cost to take the tram or the bus goes from 1 euro to 1.50 euros.  Still not a bad deal when comparing that price to other cities.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Nice Train Station - Gare de Nice Ville

Nice’s train station was completed in 1867 and although not as grand as I’m sure it’s early days, it still holds it’s character and is quite the center of activity for the city. There has been talk for a while that renovation work will be taking place over the next couple of years.

If you are arriving by train to Nice for the first time, I will give you a quick run down about the station.

Basically, when you step off of the train on to any of the few platforms around, walk towards the lower stairwells which all lead to the same tunnel.  Proceed through the tunnel to the end where you will see another set of stairs leading up and into the main lobby of the station.

Once you are away from the platforms and tunnel you will now be in the main part of the station lobby where you can exit the building.

That being said, if you are entering the train station to leave Nice, the lobby area of the station is where you can buy things like snacks, magazines and purchase your train tickets from one of the ticketing machines.  In a later post I will provide more details on how to use the train ticket machines, but rest assured, they are very self-explanatory.

In the lobby, before you head for the train platforms, there is an automated train schedule board above the glass doors looking towards the platforms.  Here you will find out which train is heading where, which platform it will be located at, and for what time. Schedules, and which platform you should be at can change so do your double-checking here.

Once you have confirmed your destination information, validate your ticket in the little automated yellow boxes before heading to the platform.  It’s very important you do this because if you get caught on the train without your ticket being validated, you will get a fine.

Go down the stairs towards the tunnel, inside the tunnel itself will also be monitors telling you which set of stairs leads to your platform.  On the platform itself are even more monitors.

It’s all actually very easy so don’t worry, just expect at high season for there to be more crowds of people.

If you have arrived by train to the station, have made your way to the lobby and are now about to leave the train station.  Here you will be able to choose your choice of transportation to where you would like to go.

Taxis are readily available out front of the train station, as are city buses. 

Alternately, since the train station is located on avenue Thiers, walk left along the station and follow avenue Thiers to the very popular avenue Jean Médecin which is a very short, maybe 3 minute walk away, here you can catch the city tram.

The tram only costs 1 euro (purchase ticket at street station, validate on board tram) and with only one tramline, it’s easy to use.  Again, it depends on where you are going.  Here is my link providing more information about Nice’s tram system: Nice Tramway

Otherwise, I have found the area around the train station to be safe.
  I recall in the early 1990’s the area could feel a bit sketchy at times, usually at night, but I have personally come and gone from the train station at all hours without incident. 

Like with any city, take the usual precautions.

I’m also the kind of person that likes to walk everywhere, so if you were trying to gauge time, for myself, a walk from the train station down avenue Jean Médecin to the beach takes me about 20 minutes.

Enjoy the experience.

Update: February 20, 2012
Plans have been revealed about the massive upgrades and renovations to take place at the train station and area.  The look of the project is a mixture of traditional and modern design.

There will be a complete overhaul to the station itself, the platforms, interiors, and underpasses all with the aim to improve upon passenger comfort, security and safety.

A large square will replace the current car park to encourage pedestrians to walk or take the tram located 250 metres away from the station.  I like that idea!

As a popular tourist destination, the hub accommodates an impressive seven million passengers each year to various destinations across the country and Europe. It’s also the heart of the Riviera’s rail network, providing accessible routes to Italy, Monaco and Russia.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Nice Airport - Aéroport de Nice Côte d'Azur

To me, just landing or departing from Nice’s airport is a visually beautiful experience.

Depending on where you are flying from, each route arriving into Nice is simply stunning to view.

I always try my best to get a window seat and even try to find out ahead of time which route we may be arriving from, whether that be from the Cannes approach or by way of flying over Monaco and past Saint Jean Cap Ferrat before landing in Nice so I know which side of the plane to try and book a seat.

You’ll know it’s me on the plane as I’m the one with my face glued to the window trying to get a look at every inch of the Cote d’Azur that I can see.

Departing from the airport is just as thrilling to me.  Taking off and flying out over the beaches and then heading out above the deep blue, Mediterranean Sea, to then usually turning back again to fly directly over France if I’m heading to Paris.  I love it!

The runways of Nice’s airport are built on reclaimed land on what feels like the edge of Nice jutting out on to the sea.  So coming or going from the airport is really quite something.

Nice’s airport consists of two terminals.  Terminal One is for International flights and Terminal Two is for European and internal French Flights.  A flight time from Paris to Nice is only about an hour long and not really that expensive when you compare it to North American internal flights.  So is it any wonder the South of France is such a great travel destination?

Both terminals are easy enough to navigate and contain what you would find in most airports, a variety of tourist shops, food courts, currency exchanges and even a good selection of smaller, high end boutiques.

There are free, clearly marked shuttle buses at the airport that will take you from one terminal to the other and they run quite frequently.

If I am flying from North America to Nice, depending on how tired I am from my trip, I may choose to take a taxi of which there are many out front of the airport.

In my past experiences, a taxi from the airport, down the Promenade des Anglais (along the sea) to Le Meridien Hotel has cost me anywhere from 25-35 euros.  The taxi drivers have always been very professional and didn’t treat me like some lost tourist, the taxi itself was usually a luxury car and very clean. 

I have found the taxi drivers to be safe and personable and they have taken me to where I wanted to go without hassle.  Needless to say I tip them very well, it’s encouraged if you have had a good trip, as it is not included in the ride.

You can also take a city bus from the airport which leaves at Terminal One.  It is the #98 bus, costs 6 euros and the main route it takes is along the Promenade des Anglais where it will stop at each bus stop along the way.  It may even be a good idea to let the driver know which area or stop you are looking for when you get on the bus.

If you are heading to the airport along the Promenade des Anglais, a good rule is to wave the #98 bus down if you are waiting at a stop.  You can also check the bus schedules at stops but they usually run approximately every 20 minutes.

Overall, I have found both airport terminals and the transportation services related to the airport convenient and easy to use.

Update February 6, 2012

It was announced in January 2012 that a new airport terminal will be built west of Terminal Two and will be used exclusively for low cost airlines.  This is to encourage more flight destinations and low cost airlines to reduce turnaround times. 

Work is due to begin in 2016 and is expected to be finished in 2019.