Nice is a whole new world on a Vespa

September 29, 2010 in Europe,France,Places

I’ve been enamoured with Vespas ever since seeing Audrey Hepburn hop on the back of Gregory Peck’s for a ride through the streets in Roman Holiday. That carefree Vespa jaunt through Rome seems to encompass all the freedom and adventure that Hepburn’s character is seeking.

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Romantic ideals aside, the concept of a Vespa tour in Europe never really captured my wallet. Tiny streets, unpredictable drivers and stories of motorcycle crashes kept me firmly in my public transportation zone, however limited it is. However, when Left Bank Scooters contacted me about taking a tour, I decided to embrace my inner Princess Ann and take the risk.

And the reward was well-worth the risk. Riding a Vespa along the Mediterranean was absolutely thrilling. It was my first time on a scooter, but driving one turned out to be much easier than I expected. It took me a few minutes to get the hang of it, but by the end of day, I felt comfortable picking up speed around even the curviest of hill curves (OK, my heart was pounding but I managed it).

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The customized tour was also brilliant. Andrew, my tour guide, has been in Nice for about the same amount of time as me, but I was shocked at all the cool places he’s discovered. It pays to have a Vespa to explore on! Tours offered by Left Bank Scooters are customized to the client’s interests—you can use the time to see the main sights in Nice, take the scenic route along the sea to Monaco, or check out the best view points from the hills. Since I’d already seen the main sights, I relied on Andrew’s regional prowess—and the tour went above and beyond my expectations.

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I’ve been eyeing Fort de Mont Alban through my window since I arrived, and girlfriends and I would often discuss how to reach the top of the hill while lying on the beach at Villefranche-sur-Mer. We could never figure it out—so I was stoked when we emerged out of a forest-y hillside to the fort. Constructed in 1557, it protected Nice from the French—until they finally took control of the fort in 1792 and turned it into a prison. The view was spectacular—no doubt thanks to its strategic position to survey the seas.

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After twisting down the hill, Andrew pointed out a peaceful and protected beach, a far cry from the tourist-packed stretch along the Promenade des Anglais. It features a three-tier diving board that I doubt I could find the courage to jump off—but it would make for excellent people-watching breaks from magazine reading. (And also the perfect place to drag a daredevil boyfriend who’s sick of laying out on the rocky beaches!)

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I was then deemed ready to take on traffic on the Promenade des Anglais. We ended up at Musée des Arts Asiatiques, only to be disappointed by a weekly closing sign. Luckily, Parc Phoenix next door was open—after springing 2 Euros on an entry fee, we wandered into one of the biggest tropical gardens in Europe. Peacocks, geese and iguanas wandered the area freely, while emus, prairie dogs and alligators were kept in fenced areas. Dozens of varieties of exotic flowers dotted the grounds and the greenhouse.

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Heading north, I had to concentrate on navigating curves at high speed. It was easy to get distracted by the unbelieveable views of the city and the sea! We ended up at La Cascade de Gairaut, a waterfall situated high on a hill overlooking Nice. It was built in 1883 to bring water to a newly-constructed canal, and continues to function today.

The tour reminded me that even when you think you’ve seen all a city has to offer, there’s always more! I’m embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t yet discovered these sites, but I definitely think it was a thousand times to cooler to check them out on a Vespa.

My ride was compensated by Left Bank Scooters, but all opinions are completely my own.

**Note: I’ve been informed that Left Bank Scooters is now only running in Paris. I really enjoyed the experience in Nice, and would certainly recommend the company in Paris. (June 6, 2012)

  • Anonymous

    ooo that looks like so much fun!! Of course, I’d rather ride a Vespa along the sea than in the heart of Paris where I’d likely get myself killed. You look like a natural :)

  • Yay, glad you had fun and it was the perfect day for a scooter ride too! The beach with the diving platform is Coco Beach, it’s my favourite and the closest to my house so we go there all the time. There is an amazing restaurant next to it called ‘La Reserve’ (http://www.lareservedenice.fr/fr/index.php) which has the best view in Nice, you should definitely try it if you have time but it’s quite pricey so a special occasion place!
    You definitely looked very at home with your Vespa, I love the matching helmet!

  • Excellent. I don’t know Nice all that well. But scooters were made for the south of France.

  • Anonymous

    It is definitely the best way to see the Cote d’Azur–so thrilling and liberating! However, I’m with you on Paris–cold weather, busy streets. I’ll stick to the Metro for now!

  • Anonymous

    I love those classic pictures of La Reserve–I’ve been dying to splurge there! The Vespa ride was so much fun, I’m even more envious of your commute now :) If I were sticking around in Nice, I’d definitely invest in one!

  • Anonymous

    Sunny weather, gorgeous roads–I agree!

  • You are too cute for words. I want a vespa, immediately.

  • That’s really cool. I might take a tour with Left Bank Scooters when I visit Nice next fall. The idea both scares, and thrills me. I’ve always wanted to Vespa around Europe. This seems like the ideal opportunity. Great post!

  • Anonymous

    It would be perfect for Midtown–although I think I prefer Midtown on a cruiser bicycle :)

  • 1) LOVE the outfit!!! Tres chic!
    2) What could be more fun than driving a Vespa in Europe???
    3) Gorgeous photos!

  • Anonymous

    I would definitely recommend it! It was really exciting, but it was nice knowing that there was someone around to ask questions from/ save me if I fell! Plus, they know the best places to scooter–where you can’t get on public transport!

  • Anonymous

    Merci! It was lots and lots of fun!

  • Anonymous

    So you don’t need an actual license to drive one of these things? It does look like fun. Those are awesome photos, by the way.

  • Anđela

    Reading your blog leaves me with an impression that I’ve completely misjudged Nice the last time I was there… truth be told I only spent there one day and didn’t get a chance to see all of Nice, .. to be honest I never thought going back one more time would be a good idea but now that I’ve read some of your posts… there’s definitely more to Nice that I thought … so thanks :))
    the photos are great :)) glad you enjoyed your ride!
    enjoy the rest of your stay!!

  • Rexford

    Christine,
    how much do the tours normally cost? I am for sure going to check this out when I roll through Nice (sometime soon, hopefully). Great photos, and I’m so glad you conquered the motor bike. Good lookin’, dude.

  • Anonymous

    They have tours in Paris and London! I’ll see what I can do about scoring us a tour in Paris, perhaps? I can definitely see you on a Vespa.

  • Anonymous

    Apparently not! You should check them out in Paris–it’s a really fun way to see the sights, instead of being stuck in crowded and sweaty public transportation. And it was a beautiful day–I lucked out!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks so much! What was your first impression of Nice? It’s a great little city–but this Vespa tour definitely showed me another side of it!
    Either way, I hope you’ll give Nice another shot :)

  • Katie

    Oh Christine, Sounds like so much fun. I have done ATV’s and a scooter once before and loved it. Makes me want to try it again in France!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    I think you would love it! It’s such a fun way to see the city! I’m convinced now that I need a Vespa when I come home…

  • Abi

    So picturesque! Wow, I thought I knew Nice pretty well but some of these spots are new to me too.

  • I’ll leave the scooter riding to you! Lovely photos.

  • Anonymous

    The tour was totally worth it! I thought I knew Nice as well, but I was shocked to find all these gorgeous places!

  • Anonymous

    It was much easier–and more fun–than I thought it would be! Definitely recommend trying it!

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