Monday, March 8, 2021

Dining out in Nice: Dinner

Looking for some restaurant recommendations for your trip to Nice? Well, look no further! As someone who loves to cook but hates to clean up, I dined out quite a bit during my time in Nice. Here are some of my top dinner recommendations in the city. A note on pricing- while none of these restaurants are exceedingly expensive, but I felt that one $ was only worthy of a place fast casual food, or a boulangerie.

 

 La Lupita ($$) 

Craving Mexican food while in Nice? Be sure to hit up this authentic Mexican restaurant in the heart of the vielle ville (old town). France isn’t exactly known for having stellar Mexican food (especially outside of Paris), but this place really hits the spot. For “Taco Tuesday”, all tacos are half off, which made the tacos an even better deal. Monday boasts half price margaritas, including the margarita of the week. I enjoyed many, many margaritas of the week, including coconut, cinnamon, and passionfruit. Come Friday and Saturday night for great live music, and maybe grab a happy hour drink (3-8PM) before the music starts at 8! I recommend sitting outside if you aren’t there for the music, it’s a fun street for people watching. A fun bonus: see if you can catch a glimpse of this cute French bulldog if you come at a slow time during the day!

Address: 9 Rue de la Préfecture, 06300 Nice, France

La Voglia ($$) 

Introduced to me by my teachers during our first week in Nice, I admit that I was both concerned and not very interested in what was described to me as “American portions of Italian food”. I wondered why I would come to France only to eat oversized plates of mediocre pasta, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Situated just down the street from the famous Opera in Nice, La Voglia is fairly easy to get a table at early in the evening (it opens at 7, which is early for the French!), but as the night goes on, you should make a reservation, especially if you have a large group or are coming on an opera night, the weekend, etc. La Voglia’s menu has a great selection of pizza, pasta, meat, local seafood, and the portions are quite large, but affordable. Pasta that lasted me 2-3 meals was $18 Euro, and the chocolate mousse served in a quart sized glass jar was enough for 3 of us to share after our meal. The house wines are also a great deal at 2 or 3 E a glass (I’ve never been served a bad house wine in France), and the ambiance is a good mix of locals, groups (we were a group of 12 for my first time there), and a few tourists too. The staff speaks excellent English, and some staff members speak Italian too. My favorite dishes here were the burrata salad, the pasta with tomatoes and burrata (shown below), and the pizza Caprese (are you sensing a trend in my eating habits?) My dining companions (I brought every person who visited me in Nice here) loved the Rigatoni la Voglia, and the Macaroni, both served for you from a huge (personal) frying pan- the restaurant is one of the only I’ve ever seen in France that gives doggy bags. Don’t forget that like in much of France, the bread is free and unlimited, but don’t forget to save room for dessert! 

Address: 2 Rue Saint-François de Paule, 06300 Nice, France

Marcel ($$$)

A restaurant we were lucky enough to stumble upon while wandering around the vielle ville, which almost ended in disaster. We showed up right as they opened at 7PM, and asked if they had a table for 2. They said they weren’t ready to open yet, and to come back in 15 minutes. We came back in 10, and they were quite horrified that we didn’t have a reservation, since they weren’t sure they could fit us in. We were told to come back and try again at 8, so we went off to enjoy apéro elsewhere. When we returned, we were brought into the basement, which was actually a beautiful stone room, filled with just a few tables. Upon heading up two floors to the restaurant about an hour into the meal, every single seat (on 3 floors) of the restaurant was full, with everyone from American business people, a French family celebrating a birthday, and a few other tourists, like us. The food was outstanding- I started with a burrata and local tomato salad (shown below), my dining companion enjoyed some French onion soup. For our plats (the main dish), I had the summer truffle pasta (it was creamy, the perfect size, and decadent), and my dad had the boeuf bourguignon, which he said was the best he ever had. The beef was tender, and the gnocchi it was served over was a delicious surprise. We also split a half bottle of a local white wine, which was kept in a wine bucket filled with ice at our table-the server topped off our glasses whenever we were running low. Although I was running out room in my stomach, I knew this was not the restaurant to skip dessert at, and I was right. I enjoyed a moelleux au chocolat (similar to chocolate lava cake), and my dad had the salted caramel cheesecake. We left, full, happy, and with a promise to our server that we would call for a reservation next time, so that we could eat on the main level of the restaurant. Truly an outstanding meal in a country known for food. 

 Address: 11 Rue de l'Abbaye, 06300 Nice, France

Copper Branch ($) 

This Canadian based vegan chain restaurant was a surprise to find in Nice, but I had to include it on this list, as the food was honestly very good. With smoothies, burgers, salad, and vegan ice cream, this was a great place to grab some takeout, or to enjoy an affordable dinner while doing some work or catching up on email. The Einstein smoothie was my favorite, but their Kombucha was a close second (relatively difficult to find in smaller cities in France outside of health food stores.) Be sure to get a download the Copper Branch app if you plan on eating here often, so you can earn rewards! 

Address: 26 Rue Massena, 06000 Nice, France 

Ma Nolan’s ($$) 

The first place I ate in Nice after we moved there (something about an Irish pub just makes me feel at home), this pub and restaurant offers a big selection on their menu, and a full bar with some Irish favorites. Happy hour is from 5-8pm, and all drinks are discounted! They also host trivia on Monday nights in both English in French, with a gift cards prizes for the winners. Missing your local English TV? Come watch the game here while you enjoy a burger, bangers and mash, or the popular fries with melted cheese. Ma Nolan’s also serves brunch, and a special roast (vegetarian option available) on Sundays, so be sure not to miss it! There is another location in Nice (I always ate at the vielle ville location), and one in Cannes too (all locations have trivia). If you’re in need of a break from practicing your French, enjoy a fun evening out at Ma Nolan’s! 

Address (Old Town): 2 Rue Saint-François de Paule, 06300 Nice, France 

 

 Next week's post about Nice will feature brunch and boulangerie recommendations,so bring your appetite! 

 

Bisous xx Meaghan

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Tromso Northern Lights Tour

Part of the reason I've been dying to visit Norway was to see the Northern Lights, and when I had a two week vacation from work in February (a good, but not great time of year to see Aurora Borealis), I knew that we had to go to Norway! After flying from Nice to Oslo for a short layover (Norway is quite expensive, so we packed lots of non-perishable snacks like trail mix and granola bars, both for the airport and for wandering around in the cold Norwegian weather). Upon landing in Tromso and arriving at our hotel, we talked to the front desk staff about the best travel agencies to book tours with local tour companies. After checking out GetYourGuide, we discovered that we could book our tour from the comfort of our hotel room, with no lines or added fees, and with QR code tickets available right on our phone. Since the tour was the next day, and we didn't have access to a printer at our hotel, this the perfect setup! The main reason we booked a Northern Lights tour was that all my research told me about the perils of renting a car in the Norwegian winter weather. Although I'm used to driving in the snow, I am certainly not used to driving in the snow, dark, and on the unfamiliar roads of the wild Norwegian countryside! The mini bus tour from Get Your Guide was perfect for us, since we wanted a small group experience, as well as the expertise of a local who would guide us in hunting for the Northern Lights. Pukka Travels was the local partner for this tour, as they were local Norwegians who spent almost every night each week taking people like us on the hunt for the Aurora. Before we started our 7 hour tour, we were outfitted in the most amazing snowsuits, and enjoyed coffee and tea before the tour started. After about 2 hours of driving into the arctic wilderness, we arrived at the remote location that was decided to be the best location that night to try to catch a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights. Spoiler alert: we didn't get to see the Northern Lights on the tour, as it was too cloudy, but the tour guides made the best of it- we still wore our hilarious and toasty snowsuits, had reindeer stew (there was a vegetarian option!), shared hot chocolate and candy, sat by the campfire, and enjoyed taking some fun photos next to a frozen river. Part of the fun was riding in the bus and hearing more about Norway, and the Northern Lights, and asking the guides for dining recommendations, things to do, etc. I would definitely do this tour again the next time we head to Tromso (we loved Norway so much!), and I would absolutely rebook with GetYourGuide. Please enjoy laughing along with me at the below photos of us in our snowsuits (which I would legitimately buy if they were for sale- they were so cozy and warm even after hours in the cold!)

Don't forget- the best time to see the Northern Lights near Tromso is from early September to early April, but if you are there from the end of May until the end of July, you can see the midnight sun. Happy travels!

 

 

 *This post is not sponsored by GetYourGuide, but it does contain affiliate links if you book this tour (at no cost to you of course!)

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Hiking in Abondance

The weekend before starting work in Thonon-les-Bains, my colleague asked if myself and some of the other assistants de langues would want to go on an all-day hiking trip with some teachers from school, and we jumped at the opportunity! I did a quick Google search to see where we were headed, and couldn’t have been more happy to avoid figuring out bus schedules to the adorable town of Abondance. Although Abondance was a short 40 minute car ride from Thonon, the windy roads and lack of signage made me glad we weren’t driving ourselves. After driving through the countryside and forest, we popped out in the cutest little town I had seen thus far in the Alps.
With the sun shining, we started our hike up the mountain, with snacks and water (and wine of course) in tow, for our lunchtime picnic close to the summit. On the way up, we saw cows typical to the region that make milk for a special local cheese, aptly named Abondance. The cows spend most of the year grazing on the mountainside, and make the journey down to their home farms just in time to escape the snow.
We were lucky the trail passed by some mountainside homes, called Mazots- small houses built for those who work the land or own farms nearby.
The higher we climbed, the closer we got to the cloud line, which led to some gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, dotted with puffy white clouds.
The town also has a large Abbey, which I only got to see from the outside- it apparently is quite beautiful on the inside, so consider adding this to your list as a nice slower-paced activity after hiking in Abondance! This hike would be beautiful in summer or fall, but I would avoid it in winter (extremely icy and perhaps snowy), and early spring (too muddy). Do bring snacks and plenty of water, because we were away from home for about 6 hours, not including driving time. There were no restrooms on the mountain, but Abondance center has a café or two that you could stop at on the way back to your homebase for l’apéro or a chocolat chaud!

Charming Saint Émilion

 

During our trip to Bordeaux (which ended up being 3 days longer than planned due to a cancelled flight), we headed to nearby Saint Émilion for the day at the recommendation of my parents, and I couldn’t be more glad we did! This was one of our favorite places we visited during our fall vacances.

We took the SNCF train from Bordeaux, which was a short and picturesque 35 minute ride (don’t forget to validate your ticket in the yellow machine marked ‘composter’ before boarding!) through the sprawling French countryside.

Upon arriving at Saint Émilion, we opted to walk from the train station (la gare) to the town center, which took us about 25 minutes. We saw some beautiful wineries on the way which boasted the perfect autumn foliage we would continue to find throughout the town too.



We wanted to see as much as we could in just one day, so we started off visiting a cave, or wine cellar at Manoir Galhaud which was a fun way to kick off our wine-filled day! We explored a few different rooms, each with large barrels of wine waiting to be bottled. 

Next, we headed to L'île EnchanTée, a recommendation sent along by my parents, to check out some beautiful tea towels, table cloths, and other local items. We couldn’t resist buying a few towels, as well as some early Christmas gifts as thanks for the tip on a great shop.

While in the town center, I had to get a photo of one of the most famous streets in town, which did not disappoint! We spend the rest of the morning just wandering around town, taking in the stunning architecture, and window shopping for items that couldn’t possibly fit in our over-stuffed suitcases.



After a quick lunch of galettes (savory buckwheat crepes from the north of France), we set off to do some wine tasting, which was hosted by the local tourism office. We spent about an hour tasting local wines with a few other couples, learning about what makes Saint Émilion wines special, and chatting with the sommelier about the big differences in flavor a terroir can produce even in a close geographical areas.

Wine tasting always makes me hungry, so we embarked on a search for one of my favorite French desserts, macarons! I found a new favorite in cassis (blackcurrant), which is popular ingredient in French cocktails (like the Kir Royal), and French desserts. My only regret was that I didn’t get a box of macarons to take on the train ride back to Bordeaux!

To cap off our visit, we went to the top of the historic town center to take some photos of the city from above. Looking out to see the vineyards in the distance, we promised ourselves that we would come back to visit again someday!

 


I would highly recommend Saint Émilion to anyone who is short on time but wants to see another area of the Bordeaux wine region- we saw all we wanted to in 1 day, but we certainly could have made a weekend out of it had we scheduled more wine tastings and vineyard visits.

Santé!

Meaghan

A Wine Tour in Bordeaux

 

Our next day in Bordeaux, we embarked on an all-day wine tour that started at the Bordeaux tourism office at 9:30am (this exact tour is no longer offered, but Viator, one of my favorite tour- booking sites, has similar tours still available!) The morning portion of the tour kicked off with a leisurely walking tour of the Chartrons neighborhood, which used to be a merchant district. We learned a lot about the history of the charming area, while walking by historic wine shops, fish markets, and unique restaurants.

We were quite hungry from all the walking, so we were thrilled when our tour guides led us to Baud et Millet restaurant for a delicious local lunch. Those who wanted to were invited to check out their impressive cheese selection and storage area in their cave. I couldn’t believe how much cheese they were able to keep in a relatively small restaurant!


         


 

For our prix-fixe lunch (included in the tour price), we both started with a hot goat cheese appetizer each,  after which my husband enjoyed a more traditional (meat-filled) lunch, while I was offered the usual French option for vegetarians – a fresh salad J There was plenty of fresh French baguettes (an all-day essential in France), and we chatted with our fellow tour participants about their favorite sites they had seen in Bordeaux so far, as we all wanted to ensure we hadn’t missed a must-see attraction.

We enjoyed some local wine with our lunch, as well as a café gourmand for dessert, which is actually a few small desserts served with a coffee (almost always espresso in France). Although we aren’t coffee drinkers, les petits desserts were a great way to cap off lunch!



Following lunch, we caught our tour bus to head off to a few wineries outside the city center, Chateau Dauzac, in the Margaux appellation, and Chateau Baudan, in the Médoc appellation. Dauzac was larger and a bit more commercial, while Baudan was family owned, and the tour was given by the owners’ daughter. We enjoyed both tours very much, and were able to try quite a few wines at each winery. I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of most red wines, but I took the opportunity to try to sample some of the local offerings. I ended up liking them more than I thought, and I even bought a bottle to enjoy back at home.

While larger group tours aren’t for everyone, taking a bus tour like this one was a great way to see the Bordeaux paysage and two vineyards without having to rent a car or deal with public transportation. At just around 60 Euro, our guided tour included lunch, about 8 samples of wine, museum fees, air-conditioned bus transportation, tours of two wineries, and transportation back to the city center. A great deal if you ask me!

 

Chateau Baudan



Chateau Dauzac

 


Fall Foliage

 


 Jardin Public