Exploring Nice – ❤️ of the Riviera

Exploring Nice

We explored the French and Italian Riviera in the summer of 2019. We based our travels from Nice, the largest city of the Riviera. It is a popular tourist destination in Southern France with a busy harbor, cruise port and international airport.

Yachts parked by the Port of Nice. This is a popular starting point for many private trips across the French Riviera.

We drove into the city from Southern France and parked by the Port. Parking is convenient and within walking distance of boat tours and bus stop near the harbor.

Supercars galore at the Parking garage by the Port of Nice! A Lamborghini parked near the Porsche and Mercedes supercars seen below.
A Porsche 918 Spyder next to a Mercedes Benz AMG GT S
The harbor is popular with sightseeing mini cruises
Glenda and Simone enjoying the harbor view

Most of the city center is easier to navigate on foot than driving through congested traffic. We had lunch by one of many affordable street side cafe and visited the museum district and some antique shops.

Lunch was Panini and fresh garden salad at a roadside cafe
Garibaldi square at the heart of old Nice
Shops and cafe across from the museum of Modern Art
At the museum of Modern Art
An underground archaeological crypt near the art museum
The girls found an antique shop near the harbor
Glenda shopping some antique posters of Dali and Picasso’s shows

We also took a guided tour by van around Nice learning about the history and landmarks. The tour then took us to the outskirts of Nice and to the beautiful Riviera coastline into Villafranche, Ezze and Monaco.

On the tour of Nice
One of several sculptures located through out Nice city center
View of the neighborhoods on the outskirts of Nice on the road to Villafranche

Check out the accompanying video clip below to learn more about our trip.

Video – Exploring Nice

Exploring Seville, Spain

A tour of historic Seville

Seville is the capital of Andalusia region in southern Spain. A historic city popular with tourists, it’s old town contains three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Alcázar palace complex, the Sevilla Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies.

My wife Glenda is Hawaiian-Filipino and her Filipino ancestry trace back to Seville with a migration around early 1890s during Spanish colonial era. With her recent DNA test showing her still 1/4th Iberian and her middle name (Sevilla) still bearing the heritage, a trip to Seville was an obvious choice. And when we landed she was beaming at the airports large signboard!

We arrived in Seville from Atlanta via Lisbon, Portugal. The airport is well organized and have a delicious restaurant right next to the security checkpoint!

We decided to stay at the historic old town and took a 30 min taxi ride from the airport. Some areas in historic district are only accessible on foot which was a treat exploring the historic wonders!

Musician playing Spanish guitar by the cathedral

After freshening up at the historic Murillo apartments, we started our walk toward Plaza de Colone for our bus tour around the city.

The nicely laid out historic district is an enjoyable experience including Street side Flamenco dance.

The Hop on hop off bus tour took us all around the city with an audio guide explaining notable sites.

Getting a sit at the upper level in good weather is best to enjoy sightseeing in the bus tour
The famous bull fighting arena of Seville
The blending of Muslim and Spanish design is prominent in Andulasia

The Seville harbour, located about 50 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, is the only river port in Spain. The river splits the city in two distinct regions.

The River Guadalquivir made Seville an important City during the Spanish Golden age back in 16th century
The famous Macarena church housing the priceless gold statue of Virgin Mary brought out during the annual procession
An example of modern Seville from the 1992 Expo that gave rise to the Technology district

After the bus tour and quick lunch, we headed to the Royal Alcazar for a guided tour. The palace grounds has been in existence since 10th century during Muslim Spanish rule and there are even remnants of walls from the Roman period. It was rebuilt in it’s current Andalusian Mudejar style by King Pedro I in late 14th century. More recently the palace interior and garden were filmed for the HBO hit series ‘Game of Thrones’.

Real Alcazar, palace of the Spanish monarchy for 5 centuries
Patio de las Doncellas courtyard
One of the access-gates (b. 14th century) to Salón de los Embajadores in Palace of Peter of Castile
The famous Royal gardens featured in the fictional kingdom of Dorne in HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’
The Royal bath and reflective pool
The interior facade by the pond of the Royal gardens where they still have live fish!
A photo op for the ladies next to back facade of the garden of Real Alcazar

One of the big attraction of Seville is it’s amazingly diverse and colorful cuisine. Tapas was invented in this city during the Spanish Golden age. Below are a few delicious samples!

Simone checking out the tasty treats at a Spanish bakery
Anadlusian Breakfast at a cafe
Tapas!!
Eggplant and red bell pepper dish
Dinner in the historic district next to our Murillo apartments

Exploring Seville was a memorable experience for us. The charm of it’s old town cobblestone streets, historic architecture and delicious food makes it a must see in any Spanish trip.

Courtyard of the historic Murillo apartments
Historic old town Seville at night
Stage and lobby at a historic 17th century Flamenco apparel factory, now a hotel
Shops line up the streets connecting old town to Plaza de Colone

We also took day trip to nearby Andulusian white villages of Zahara and Grazalema and historic Ronda.

White village of Zahara Della Sierra
White village of Grazalema
Historic Ronda

Finally, check out the below video clip for a live experience of our tour in Seville. Enjoy!

Exploring Seville – A Video Blog

Paris – First Look

A video blog of our first look at Paris, France

The first introduction to Paris, its historic and gorgeous city center and landmarks, is a special treat. In this video clip below we get our first look at Paris in the summer of 2018, as we head to our hotel from the Gare de Lyon train station. Enjoy the ride!

Versailles – First Look

A first look at Versailles Palace

The first time encounter with the Versailles Palace, one of the largest and most beautiful royal palace in the world, is a memorable experience. Check out the below clip for a sneak peek. We will be exploring more of the palace and its world famous gardens in subsequent blogs in next few weeks. So be sure to check back to the site. Enjoy!

Famous Architectures – A history told in a thousand years

A 1000 year of history told through magnificent architectures

In this video series we take a tour of the famous architectures around the world that tells a historical timeline of the past 1000 years.

We start in the middle ages in the nation-state of Pisa. Then visit french medieval sites of Notredame in Paris and Pope’s palace in Avignon. Then explore the wonders of Venetian Empire of late middle ages.

Renaissance wonders by Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Vasari take us to Sienna, Florence and Milan. We then turn to the Spanish empire’s golden age in Seville.

The demise of Spanish Armada leads us to London, England during the Tudor reign in the 16th century. Followed by 17th century reign of Louis XIV in Versailles.

We then move east to Hapsburg Austrian Empire of 18th century in Vienna. Then explore 19th century Bavarian castles of King Ludwig II that gave way to German Unification.

We then head back west to visit the marvels of Industrial era and late 19th century Parisian architecture like Eiffel Tower and the modern Louvre.

Finally we cross the Atlantic to explore the rise of a early 20th century giant city in Chicago. Further crossing the Pacific, we reach Sydney, Australia and visit the wonderful post – WWII architecture in Sydney Opera House.

We end our trip in a architecture landmark of the modern era – CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.

Travel Guide – Exploring Europe in 4 weeks

Europe travel guide

Travelling across Europe, especially in summer, can be an exciting adventure. This is a brief guide on how to do it based on our own real life experience. The guide is primarily geared toward residents from North America but applicable for most travelers flying into Europe. The travels in this guide took place between 2015 and 2019.

Planning

To prepare, you should start planning at least 6-7 months ahead. A helpful resource for planning is Rick Steves Europe Travel Guide and his audio guide and books.

We use hotels.com and AirBnB for accommodation, Kayak for airlines, Duolingo app for foreign language learning, Viator/TripAdvisor for guided tours, Man in seat61 for train connections and Google Search for train, maps and attractions. Make sure you have an international plan with your wireless carrier for your smartphone. Verizon and T-Mobile has the most Europe friendly plans in our experience. For best price and availability, book ahead by at least following timeline:

  • International flights: 3-5 months
  • Long distance Trains: 3 months
  • Flights within EU: 2-3 months
  • Car Rental: 6-8 weeks
  • Hotels/AirBnB: 4-6 weeks
  • Guided Tours: 4-6 weeks
  • Local Trains: 2 weeks

It is better to book the international flight first so you know where to fly in and then plan remaining itinerary.

Places to Visit

The sites visited and the accompanying video blog series are described in my blog Best Of Europe. When in a site, use your smartphone and Google map as much as needed to get the most out of your visit.

The roadmap

Visiting all these sites in a single trip is possible if you have 4-6 weeks in hand. However, you can split it in multiple trips to suit your budget and availability. Below is a suggested itinerary.

1. Fly into Europe via A) London, Then take a flight to Vienna, Austria. Or B) fly to Vienna directly.

2. Take a guided day trip from Vienna to Budapest, Hungary. Explore Vienna as well.

3. Take an OBB train from Vienna to Salzburg for a half day tour. Then a scenic train trip from Salzburg to Munich.

4. Take a day trip from Munich into Bavaria exploring Oberammergau, Linderhof and Newscheinstein. Then head to Zurich via train and enjoy the scenic Rhine river valley and nearby Basel and Rheinfelden.

5. Fly or take train from Zurich to Milan. Take a day tour to Lake Como. Then explore Milan before heading to Venice by train.

6. Explore Venice, then take the train to Florence. Explore Florence. Then take a day trip of Tuscany covering Siena, Pisa and San Giminano.

7a. Head to Genoa by train. Then take a Mediterranean cruise from Genoa or Savona exploring Marseilles, Nice, Monaco and Barcelona. Take day excursions from the cruise ports. Then fly to Marseilles. An alternative to cruise is available in next step.

7b. If skipping cruise then fly from Milan or Florence to Nice. Then explore the Riviera (Nice, Monaco, Ezze, Cannes) by car.

8. Rent the car (preferably automatic and German) from the airport. Then explore Provence by car including Avignon, Arles and Niemes.

9. Fly from Marseilles or Nice to Madrid. Explore Madrid. Then take the train to Seville. Explore Andalusian sites like Ronda, White Villages, Granada via guided day tours. Then head back to Madrid via Cordoba in Train. Spend half or a full day in Cordoba to explore. From Madrid take a flight to Paris.

10. In Paris explore the beautiful city as well as nearby Versailles. Take guided tour to nearby Champagne region or Normandy.

11. Then fly or take the train to London. Explore London. If your entry to Europe was in Vienna then fly back to Vienna. Finally, head back home!