Written by: Heather and Kelsey Pearson
Instagram: @heathermyriahpearson and @kelseystacypearson
Before boarding Celebrity Edge, we didn’t know much about all of the cities we were going to see. We were extremely excited to see both Barcelona, Spain and Rome, Italy, but we didn’t know much about the two cities we’d be visiting in France. To our surprise, our days in port in Marseille and Nice ended up being some of our most magical memories.
On the fourth day of our European cruise, we docked in Marseille, France. We took a 10-15 minute taxi ride from the port straight to the city center, where we located the tourist office. While eating breakfast that morning, Heather and I played around on our phones trying to make a general plan for our day. Heather found the app Get Your Guide, where she purchased a one-day travel pass for the city, but we needed to go to the tourist office to get information about how to use it (and to get some maps!). We found out that this pass gave us 24-hour unlimited access to the subway, buses, and many museums around the city. It also included a boat ride to Chateau d’If. Clutch!
Chateau d’If is an island off the shore of Marseille that contains an abandoned, escape-proof prison. It’s also famous for being one of the settings in author Alexandre Dumas’s novel The Count of Monte Cristo. With luminous, bright blue waters crashing its shore, it’s a beautiful place to spend the day. We walked around the island for hours and even enjoyed a nice lunch there. The island provides a beautiful view of the city, while offering a quieter setting.
We loved Chateau d’If so much that we ended up spending more time on the island than we originally planned. We planned on walking to Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, a church rising above the city’s skyline, but instead we had a beautiful distant view of it while at Chateau d’If. Instead, we decided to see MuCEM, which is a unique museum that provides an overview of Mediterranean culture.
It was extremely hot the day our ship docked in Marseille due to an African heat wave moving up Europe, so we were happy enough with our slow-paced, peaceful day. We went back to the ship around 4pm. We were both ready for a shower and food! This was such a great first day in France, and we couldn’t wait to see what our second day would have in store!
The next morning, we woke up to colorful buildings stacked along the hills of Nice, and we knew immediately it was going to be one of our favorite ports. We couldn't wait to eat breakfast, drink our coffee, and explore the brightly colored city. The ship itself didn’t dock on the shore like it did at other ports. Instead, it anchored in the water and boat tenders took us to the pier. Seeing the city grow closer to us from the boats was an absolutely stunning sight.
What first caught our attention were the pink, orange, and red-colored buildings in the city. Bright violet flower bushes growing up the sides of the walls were sprinkled around these buildings. It was like a painting!
For a while we just walked the brick streets and took it all in. The calm of the morning was so peaceful. The small plants covering balconies, the colorful wood doors, and the apartments stacked on top of cafes; it was all so quaint and beautiful. We imagined ourselves living here, and for a brief moment we allowed ourselves to imagine we did.
While we could have walked around this area all day, we really wanted to see as much of Nice as possible. We decided to purchase a ticket for the hop-on, hop-off bus. Because of how huge Nice is, we decided this would be the most efficient way to see as much as we could in a day. The bus had 16 stops around Nice and continually went through the same route, so when we hopped off we could just meet at the closest stop to us and hop back on. Just riding the bus gave us a view of the whole city. It also felt nice to ride on the top deck and feel the breeze!
Our first chosen stop: Museum Matisse. Not only does the museum hold one of the largest collections of Matisse’s work, but the museum itself is also positioned in the middle of numerous olive trees, making it an all-around beautiful landmark.
After seeing Museum Matisse, we took the bus to the Nice Cathedral, or Russian Orthodox Cathedral, built in the 17th century. With its turquoise and gold domes, it looked like something out of a fairytale. We set up our tripod and snapped a photo of Heather dipping me right in front of it. I felt like a princess!
On the day we visited the Nice Cathedral, a baptism was taking place, so we weren’t able to tour the inside. We did poke our heads inside though to get a glimpse of the paintings, sculptures, and gilding. European architecture is truly like no other!
We then took the bus back to the city’s center for lunch. Before our cruise, Heather researched vegan restaurants at every port. She typed up a whole document with five to six vegan spots in each city we’d be traveling to. This made it easy for us when we got hungry to see which of those restaurants were nearby (ideally walkable) and open. We were surprised with how many options Nice had.
Once in the city’s center, we plugged in the restaurants we found to see which one was closest. We found that we were walking distance from a restaurant called Paper Plane, so we walked that way, stopping for fresh-squeezed orange juice from a local market. It was so refreshing! At Paper Plane, we shared pad thai and the best caesar salad we’ve ever had! We would literally travel back to Nice specifically for this salad! All vegan of course.
We then walked back to the city’s center. From the giant fountain to the street performers, there was so much to see. Nice is also a great place to shop! Due to not having much room in our luggage for souvenirs, we only bought soaps, but the streets were filled with every luxurious brand you can think of. We window shopped for a bit, listening to the beautiful language around us.
From the city center, you can walk to the Promenade des Anglais, a grand walkway next to the Mediterranean Sea. This is the most visited place in Nice. The beaches don’t have sand like we are used to; instead, they are covered in pebbles. The water, like everywhere we visited, is extremely blue. It’s truly the perfect place to cool down from the heat. There are many palm trees and pergolas to sit under, or you can swim in the sea. Either way, you can’t go wrong!
One thing we didn’t get to see was the Cours Saleya Market. It’s located in Nice’s old quarter and is filled with fresh flowers and produce. From what we’ve read, it’s best to get there early and enjoy all the free samples being offered. Parc de la Colline du Château is also a location we didn’t get to see on this trip but was on our list. It has panoramic views of the French Riviera and a waterfall. I don’t think there will ever be enough time to see everything beautiful and charming that Nice has to offer. I guess that’s why we are already planning our trip back!
France had such a sweet romantic touch that made us fall in love with its charm. We could have spent the entire day simply sitting at a cafe, sipping espresso, snacking on authentic Mediterranean salads, and watching the sail boats go by on the sea. Both Marseille and Nice are definitely places we want to visit again for an extended period of time. We are so thankful that Celebrity Cruises introduced us to such charming cities in France.