Nice is nice? Pas bien sur.

Posted: 3 March 2011 in Europe, France

Be warned, Nice is an absolutely stunning city, the Mediterranean is breathtakingly beautiful, but it’s really painful and a bit dull. Yes, painful. First of all it takes a while to adjust to laying down on rocks. They are about the size of your fist, perfectly smooth, yet a little awkward at first. Sun bathing however is not the problem. The problem is getting out of the water unscathed. You don’t realize it from the beach, but it is actually quite a steep dip into the sea. Couple the steep slope and slippery wet stones that move around under your feet, and you are likely to have issues getting out of the sea. The water is very warm though, which is nice for a swim. It’s also an idyllic place if you want to lounge for hours, but if you are like me and want to feel more active, you’ll probably get restless easily (hence the dull comment).

Nighttime is a different story in Nice. The food is great, pretty much everywhere. Salad Niçoise is one of the more popular picks, though I went for the Margherita pizza, which was delicious. Nice has great clubs, we went to the MTV recommended Chez Wayne. At the time smoking in bars was encouraged, so I spent most of the night standing on the table with my face in the air-conditioning unit in order to clear the smoke out of my eyes! But the music was really great! We later went to Thor. A more low-key bar with less expensive beer. They served Stella and Amstel, both great choices if you are new to beer. They are light and smooth, and without an overpowering taste of hops.

I found that people were understood me easily when I spoke French, but they didn’t feel the need to make friends. Locals are also less than apt with directions. We were trying to find our hostel, and ended up not even two blocks away, when I stopped for directions. The man I talked to had never heard of the street. The street he worked two blocks away from. But we found it anyway, because we continued to walk on the same route.

Nice also has some great modern art, big open squares, lots of shopping. It’s a big attraction for tour groups, and cruise ships, so be warned. It will be crowded during the peak times of the year, and of the day. It is also home to the Matisse museum. This is a great way to discover that you do not like Matisse. It was also my first introduction to café’s with only a single waiter.

The Riviera is certainly a place everyone should visit. Bring your camera, and walk up to the clifftops, you’ll love the view. Just make sure you know you’ll be taking it easy when you stop there, and save your ziplining adventures for the next city.

For those of us who grew up west of the Mississippi, we are missing out on something essential: History. Yes we have missions, and stories of gold rush. But have you seen a Southern Califonia mall not made of terracotta or stucco? The Eastern Seaboard seems to hold onto the traditional look and history more aptly. And some of the buildings are much older than we realize. It has beautiful brick buildings, old churches, and our American history laid out in the streets. Places like Williamsburg, VA, go into great detail to bring to life colonial times. If you happen to be a New York denzien, and feel like getting a fresh dose of New England heritage try New London, Connecticut. It is maybe two hours up the coast by train, and a great picture of classic New England. It’s a seaside town, with really old, beautiful churches and cathedrals everywhere. You could go on a tour of just churches and fill the whole weekend. There are great little eats off the main road; nice sit-down coffee without the Starbucks’ emblem. It is the perfect place to just have a light and easy vacation. It’s a seaport town that is welcoming and cozy. You could even catch a traveling show as it comes through town.

Here are some spots to consider:

Muddy Water’s Cafe, 42 Bank Street. Great veggie options, along with the usual picks.

Bean & Leaf, 13 Washington Street. A coffee shop where you can enjoy your cup.

I recommend staying at the Radisson Hotel, 35 Governor Winthrop Boulevard

If New Brunswick isn’t high on your list of places to visit, maybe it should be. A likely spot on any New England/Canadian cruise, or perhaps a drivethru spot on your way to Nova Scotia, there’s something I will always stop for: Tea. Yes, tea. I may be biased, because I love tea in general, but Saint John, NB, is home to The Infusion Tea Company. Infusion introduced me to Irish Breakfast Green Tea. Yes, it is green and Irish breakfast all at the same time. Absolutely delicious! It’s loose-leaf as well, which just makes me feel extra posh. It’s also where I first came across the half-size french press. It makes tea consumption a little too fun. The staff is very friendly, they’ll even teach you that tea should be steeped between 4-7 minutes, and you should never hit your bag on the rim of the cup–that makes the tea more bitter.

Saint John is also home to some excellent eats, drinks, and people who are so friendly they stop you on the street to say hello. Enjoy!

Infusion Tea Room: 41 Charlotte Street, Saint John, New Brunswick

Atlanta? Sure. Savannah? Why not. But, just for kicks, tryout Athens!

If you have ever wanted to relive your college days in a totally reasonable just-for-the-atmosphere manner, this is the place. The main thoroughfare is lined with bars and restaurants littered with kids from the University of Georgia, you are sure to have a good time. Ideally you can wade that time by selecting an age group. The locals seem to congregate by maturity. You’ll find bars filled with crazy undergrads enjoying their frat-filled youths, or you can find a yellow speakeasy type bar with the swank grad students. Either way you’re sure to find warm Southern hospitality and good eats.

There are of course more cultural options like the Classic Center Theatre which hosts varied touring companies, and offers VIP parties to meet the cast. There’s also the University itself, literally down the block, if you want to reminisce about the good ol’ days of living easy. If you’re feeling really adventurous though, you could make a trip northward to the Chattahoochee national forest. A truly beautiful place. With trees and waterfalls, and plenty of hiking to keep you in that adventurous state of mind.

Clearly everyone and their mother has an opinion on Jersey, wether it be the casino-crazed Atlantic city or the guido-infested Shore. Low and behold there’s a little more to Jersey than that. I previously touched on the wonders of suburban Jersey, Westfield and Milburn, but now I want to point out one of the state’s finest assets: Hoboken!

The thing that is just great about Hoboken is how cool it is. Yes, I said cool. If you happen to be a California kid than you will definitely appreciate the laid-back vibe and fun-loving atmosphere provided by this one square mile town. Washington street is lined with bars and restaurants galore. Heavily laden with Irish pubs–some of which are run by actual Irish people–and every type of foodie genre. People line-up around the corner for a muffin from the Cake Boss, and I say “Skip it!” It’s a muffin, move on with your life. There’s lots to be indulged in, and keep your eyes peeled for franchise favorites like the Melting Pot. Albeit overly priced, it does remind me of good ol’ Orange County, especially situated on a lovely park-like path along the river. About the length of the city itself, the river-walking area is a great site to visit. I’d even recommend bringing a date. That is if you can convince them to come all the way out to Jersey! New Yorkers seem to think it is light-years away, when in fact the PATH train can get you there in less than fifteen minutes for the same price as the subway. So do take the time to visit, and if you aren’t in the mood for an Irish pub, head a little further south (yes, into dreaded Jersey city) and hit up the beer garden, or catch a soccer match at the Newark stadium. You’d certainly be missing out if you didn’t at least investigate their annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities. So visit, have fun, and do misbehave.

Philadelphia or Pittsburg? Neither. Yes, neither. While each will surely be a great trip, we are going to talk about a great little place in the middle of nowhere: State College, PA. Smack-dab in the middle of the state, somewhere between the Eagles and the Steelers, lies a town built up around Penn State. It is a place to relive all the college mayhem you may have enjoyed, endured, escaped, or elluded from in your youth. With a million bars to chose from, I recommend the Phyrst. It is a cleverly-mispelled underground-dive that serves $5 pitchers of “Lager” (what we outsiders lovingly know as ‘yeungling’). It is certain to be a ridiculous night of debachery. Just remember to walk back to your hotel–As with the high spirits and low prices you will certainly find yourself in a stammering state in no time. When you do take the time to recover in the morning, consider heading out for cereal. State College also has a great little breakfast spot dedicated entirely to the magical world of cereal, not to mention plenty of breakfast diners, all geared towards you: the weary traveler. And if you happen to time it well, you could even catch whatever touring show is coming through town, and have a scoop of their ever popular ice cream (and rightly so). Just ask where to get ice cream on campus and I am sure they will point you in the right direction. If there’s no line, you’ve probably mistakenly headed to the Ben’n’Jerry’s.

The reason I chose “State of Being” as my title is because Delaware had a very particular feeling. It’s kind of like a nice Ocean breeze. It’s a great place to take a walk. I walked for miles. I walked to the store (like I often do), I found my way downtown (which was a little sketchy…). Regardless, Delaware is worth a stroll. I was in Wilmington. Certainly commutable distance to Philadelphia, New York, D.C., and Baltimore, it is not a city to be slighted. It is a comfortable place to live. The homes are nice, the people are friendly, and it’s refreshing. You can feel the hubbub of the city, while not being stressed and burdened by the things you ought to do. You can take the time to get your nails done or visit the library. They also have great hibachi, if you are in the mood for Japanese food. You could stop by the Delaware Theatre Company or some of their historic landmarks. Though technically a mid-Atlantic state, it is very similar to New England. Old brick buildings, lots of history in the streets. It is after all the very first state. That makes for a killer bumper sticker.