Thursday, March 29, 2012

The MAMAC

One morning I was running some errands near Place Garibaldi in Nice before going to the beach that afternoon.  While leaving one shop to go to another, I noticed it was starting to rain lightly outside.

Rain seems to be such a rare occurrence in the Cote d’Azur during the summer, and so after doing my last bit of shopping I started to head back to my hotel thinking perhaps my plans for the beach that afternoon would be ruined.


Then I realized I was outside the Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC).

MAMAC


Many times over the years I had walked by the MAMAC in Nice and had never gone inside, which is a shame really because now when I think about it, I’ve probably missed out on some beautiful exhibitions.  Deciding there was no time better than the present, I thought I’d go inside and see what it as all about.

Situated in central Nice, the MAMAC is steps away from Place Garibaldi at the Promenade des Arts.  If you are using the tramway to get to the MAMAC, step off the tram at Garibaldi Station and walk back through the square but stay on your right walking towards the Monoprix grocery store.



Directly behind Monoprix, off Place Garibaldi is the MAMAC with its unusual architecture that is so different from the other surrounding buildings.  Just follow the street towards the center of the building, with the entrance being inside the circular structure on the main level.

The construction of the MAMAC was completed in 1990 and opened to the public.  And although I have heard there is somewhat of a love/hate relationship from people with the architectural design of this important modern and contemporary art museum and its grounds, it doesn’t seem to stop anyone from attending the museum or even taking pictures of its unique aspects.

Admission to the MAMAC is free; the helpful staff working the front desk is just interested to know where you are visiting from for their visitor’s records.  The museum is closed on Mondays but otherwise open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-6pm.


Ahead of you now are four different levels of artwork in a variety of mediums to discover.  When I find out I have the permission to explore something, I’m all over it.  First off, you can tell art, in whichever way you wish to interpret it, is infused throughout the building.  Right from the moment you enter the MAMAC until you leave the grounds.


I loved going from one floor to another, not quite knowing what to expect around each corner.  In areas, it appears that even the natural light from the design of the building was used from varying angles to accentuate an art piece in certain locations.

There are the standard art pieces grand-fathered within the MAMAC, but there are also new exhibits from all over the world that make their way through the museum as well.  With far too many artists to list here, you will basically find something from the likes of Francis Bacon to Picasso and Andy Warhol to Yves Klein. 



Make sure you take the time to go through every floor and do not miss the rooftop garden area.  I had previously heard this could be a place for men to cruise one another, although I didn’t experience anything like that, perhaps because of the sprinkling of rain that day.


When you do arrive on the rooftop, you will be able to walk around the entire circumference of the MAMAC; here you will see some spectacular views of the city from various vantage points.





Visiting the MAMAC is a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours.  Don’t do what I did and decide to go check out the MAMAC on a rainy day, make it a part of your day.  Either way it will lift your spirits and inspire you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

H33 Hotel - Nice

Whenever I’m about to travel somewhere, I’m the kind of person that likes to do some research ahead of time.  Just to get a feel for a city before I arrive, but not so much that there are no surprises left.


Included in that would be my hotel accommodations.  Except this time, for the first time in my life, I went on the recommendation of a two-star hotel through a friend who suggested and before I could even ask, booked a stay for me at the very gay-friendly H33 Hotel in Nice.

H33 Hotel


I have been fortunate enough to stay at some amazing four and five-star hotels.  And at times, depending on where I was going and my budget for the trip, I’ve stayed in more cost-effective two and three-star hotels without any problems.

This time I purposely did not do any type of research besides get the address from my friend, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the H33 Hotel in Nice.

All I knew from the address was the hotel is situated in central Nice at: 33 rue Pastorelli.  Which means it would be very easy to find since it’s only a couple of blocks from avenue Jean M├ędecin.  And a leisurely walking distance to most everything one would want, including the beach.


On arrival, my first impressions were how clean and organized the lobby and large stairwell area appeared to be.  Especially since I had arrived close to noon and the staff was busy with hotel guests checking in and out.  And even though the staff appeared run off their feet, they were very professional and acknowledged my presence.  Within minutes I was registered into the hotel.

Since my friend made the reservation, the type of room size I would have was also going to be a surprise.  I was given my room key and told the room was on the top floor and cordially shown the elevator around the corner from the front desk.


Once off the elevator I could see my room number on the door immediately at the top of the short flight of stairs.  Entering the room I was instantly happy.  I could not believe this was a two-star hotel!



The room was the perfect size, no squeezing between furniture to get around.  It was air-conditioned; there was a flat screen TV, and two separate, soundproof glass doorways that lead to a huge terrace with tables and chairs overlooking the city!





It made every other two and three-star hotel I had stayed at before in my life feel like absolute rubbish, almost embarrassing when I really thought about it.
This hotel was great; it should really be given a couple more stars!

Exploring the room further, I noticed the bathroom looked recently renovated including a decent sized shower, with lots of comfy, thick towels and plenty of toiletries added in. I had free Wi-Fi, a safety deposit box, a big double bed, with even a single bed across from it.


The room was very clean and I could live with the bold statement made in the decor with the dashes of bright color here and there.  Actually, if this was part of the hotel’s branding, it seemed well suited.


Taking it all in, I swear, while unpacking I must’ve had the biggest smile on my face.  I was already one happy and content hotel guest.

It was also good to be able to relax on the terrace and take in the various, expansive views of Nice.  I just could not get over size of this terrace, it easily would fit at least ten people, and when you consider its part of such a nice room, for the money, this is a fantastic deal.


I remember contacting some friends on Facebook about the hotel room, noting that the terrace was so large I could have a party on it.  Some of them thought I should but I knew how that would go and I wanted to respect the other hotel guests.


For me, it was lovely enough just to unwind out on the terrace in the early evening and enjoy a glass of wine before going out for the night.  At one point I even just sat out there while working on my laptop and felt warmly surrounded by the city that I love.  It was all a pleasant experience.


Add to that, I had some of the best nights sleeping in a hotel ever, the bed was comfortable and the room seemed so quiet.

Between 7am and 11am there is a breakfast room just up a level from the main floor of the hotel.  I was always on the go with meetings so unfortunately I didn’t have breakfast in there but in passing it did seem very popular with the other hotel guests.


Overall, this is the first time I have ever been so impressed with what is regarded as being a two-star hotel.  If you are traveling on a budget and want to feel confident that you are in a clean, comfortable and safe hotel, I highly recommend a visit to the H33 Hotel in Nice.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Charly's Bar

Wondering through the old town of Le Suquet in Cannes you will likely come upon a bar that is just oozing with life.  That place would be Charly’s Bar.


Charly’s Bar is a gay-friendly establishment that can be found if you are walking through Le Suquet away from the port, towards the upper levels of the area.  Although it is one of many pedestrian streets in the area, historically, rue du Suquet was the original main road into Cannes.


If you also happen to come across rue Saint-Antoine, follow it away from the port as well and stay on your left hand side as it eventually turns into rue du Suquet.  Charly’s Bar is located at: 5 rue du Suquet, in the heart of it all.


Within this area filled with wonderful restaurants and shops, you will notice Charly’s Bar stands out by its beautiful woodwork and it’s welcoming outdoor terrace off the entrance.  It is also where you will find the party is as much outdoors here as it is indoors.


What can be better than to relax and have drinks with friends on an outdoor terrace?  In the summertime, in the French Riviera, Charly’s Bar seems to help provide the right atmosphere for that to happen.


You’ll find the interior of the bar has it’s own unique style.  It’s cozy, and laid out in a cavernous cave like setting, yet with a modern design twist and function to it all.


It is one of the first things I ever noticed in the South of France, some establishments like to have their environments lit up with vibrant, yet flattering colors to help set the ambiance.  Everything just comes off appearing that much more glamorous too, especially if you are in Cannes, and Charly’s Bar is no exception.
  

 
The way the bar happens to be presented is also a brilliant way to meet people if you are traveling on your own, as it makes for easier mixing and mingling.
Charly’s Bar has an extensive and moderately priced drinks menu and you can even order tapas.  Here, the staff always seem to be smiling, even when they are super busy.

 
Being a more intimate-sized bar, there is no dance floor.  But that doesn’t appear to deter people from trying to dance in the space they do find available while listening to the wide selection of music played from throughout the decades.

Charly’s bar is a fun, gay-friendly alternative, a great place to stop in for a drink on your way out for the evening or make a night of it with your friends.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Gay Cruising in Mont Boron Park


Cruising in the Mont Boron Park in Nice is really no secret; word has been out about it for as long as I can remember. 

And although this type of gay cruising is not my thing, I do get a lot of email requests asking specifically about this area of Nice.


I have only been to Fort du Mont Alban in the Mont Boron Municipal Park a couple of times myself, usually to go for a hike, and because I have an interest in the architecture of historic buildings.



What I can do is give you directions on how to get there and my thoughts on what I have experienced on Mont Boron.
What you get into at the park will be strictly your business.

Mont Boron is situated at the eastern edge of Nice and is often referred to by the locals as being their version of the Hollywood Hills because of the exquisite, private villas dotted up and down the hillside.  Even Sir Elton John has a large estate on Mont Boron.

Within the park on Mont Boron are about 11kms of trails winding around one side of the hill to the other on which you can go for a bike ride, hike, or even find a spot for a picnic.  It is a fantastic way to spend the afternoon if you wanted to step away from the city for a while.

My trips to the top of Mont Boron have always been by way of a friend’s car and on the times I have gone, we have taken a different route each time.

If you are driving by way of the port area (which is on the edge of Mont Boron), you will start to see signage noting which direction you need to go to head into the park.   You will also see signage leading you to the top of the park by way of Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Another option to get there is by bus.   I would take the #14 bus from the stop right next to Galeries Lafayette in central Nice on rue Sacha Guitry.  The bus will take you to Mont Boron where you can walk towards the fortress area, it runs approximately every 20-30 minutes and will easily get you there and back.

Be sure to ask the driver when the last bus comes down the hill from the park.

From what I have seen and heard, once you do get to the top of Mont Boron, people tend to start cruising near the fortress.



This fortress I am talking about is the Fort du Mont Alban.   You will not be able to miss this place, although closed; this massive 16th century structure is commanding.  There are plans with the city of Nice to convert the fort into a contemporary art museum in the future, but for now you can still stroll around the battlements.



The panoramic views from this location are out of this world.  On one side of the hill you have the city of Nice where you can also see out towards Antibes and Cannes.  With the other side of the hill you can see out towards Monaco overlooking Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat with Villefranche-sur-Mer nestled below.
It is breathtaking!

Since there are no specific trails that I know of in which to follow, my advice would be to walk towards the communications tower heading south away from the fort overlooking the city of Nice.



The last time my friend and I went for a drive there, it was starting to get misty outside like it was going to rain any minute (which is evident in my pictures).


We were not even 50 feet from his parked car near the fortress and we could already see men on various splintered paths looking for some action.  It wasn’t flagrant, but it was enough that our gaydar had kicked in.





We had planned to just go for a short hike around the area, I was going to attempt to take some pictures from where we were overlooking Nice but the weather got worse quickly so we just headed back to the car and left the grounds.



You could see other men too, heading out off the trails and either getting back into their cars or hopping on their motorbikes because of the weather.  We kind of made a joke about it in the car when we were leaving how everyone was coming out of the woodwork.

I would say, even if you do not find what you’re looking for, Mont Boron is still a great place to get some fresh air, discover the fortress and you cannot beat the views.

Just don’t spoke the horses if you know what I mean.  Be aware of your surroundings and keep in mind that families go into the park as well.
Be safe and have fun!