Contributor: Josefa Abdelnour
Dates of Travel: July 2014
Train travel is a mode of transportation that works really well for my family of four. In summer of 2014, we arrived in Paris off a red eye, and after spending one night in a hotel, we took the TGV high speed train to Nice. We could have flown from Paris to Nice, but my kids were four and seven years old at the time and I wanted to avoid a several hour layover in Paris with two sleep deprived children.
When I was researching the price of train tickets, I did notice that train tickets were a bit more expensive and that we would arrive more quickly by plane. However, we opted for the train so we could travel comfortably. My philosophy when traveling with young children is to maximize downtime, explore playgrounds, and stay in apartments. Travel as if you live there. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros sang it best: “Home is whereever I’m with you.” I instill this sentiment in my children whenever and wherever we travel. I had packed each kid a travel backpack full of snacks, travel games, markers, drawing pads, and, of course, their iPads. And, guess what? My kids loved the train. We all found it comfortable and relaxing.
Arriving at our final destination took almost two days, but it was so worth the effort. The vistas of Nice are glorious. The beaches are not sandy, but full of round, smooth pebbles.
We found our way by taxi to our apartment in the Vieille Ville or Old Town and immediately took in the eye candy in the shops surrounding us. Throughout our stay in our Vieille Ville apartment, we enjoyed our daily market outings to source ingredients for home cooked meals.
After we settled into our new little home away from home, we went exploring on foot and literally stumbled upon the mother of all playgrounds, the Promenade du Paillon. It covers 12 hectares or 29 acres and is named after the Paillon River which flows underneath. The Promenade du Paillon starts at the Theatre National de Nice and the Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain and flows west towards Place Messina. The playground seems to go on for blocks and is surrounded by lovely gardens and park benches. Lush green grass grows underfoot.
We were delighted as a family to have found this playground. It was designed to maximize play for children and comfort for grown ups. Thoroughly exhausted, we exited the playground in the opposite direction from which we entered with the intention of going home when we were delighted, yet again, this time by a giant splash pad.
My kids ran fully dressed, straight into 3,000 square meters (which is more than 32,000 square feet!) of a beautifully paved section of the promenade, dotted with water jets. The jets alternated between a gentle cooling mist and water geysers shooting several feet into the air. They switch at a moment’s notice, so be warned and enter at your own risk.
We returned daily to the Promenade du Paillon where my son learned that if he sat on a geyser at just the right angle, he could aim the water in the direction of the other children.
Fire! Other tourists were so delighted, they giggled at his antics. Some even stopped and took photos. “Yep, that’s my son,” I declared proudly.
Also not to be missed are the statues of Place Masséna and the carousel alongside the Promenade des Anglais.
We took a day trip to Villefranche-sur-Mer, a picturesque coastal town on the French Riviera just east of Nice. We took an intercity bus from Nice along windy roads to this romantic town on the Riviera. When we arrived, our first stop was at a playground, followed by lunch from a shack at the marina where my kids befriended a French boy. They took turns throwing crackers to the fish in the water.
Then we hiked to the top of Fort du Mont Alban and caught splendid views of the Riviera.