Nice to Isola 2000 ski trip, day return by bus 750

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New for 2009: A few changes this year...the fare is now just 1 euro but your bus place must be booked in advance, the day before you travel, telephone 0805 402 606, the code for France is 00 33 and usually miss off the first 0 of the number. If you intend to return the same day, buy your return ticket from the machine in Isola 2000 before 1pm; to return the following day, buy before 16:30 hours. More information (in French) here.

Friday 21st December 2007

The three of us at the top of the Pelevos ski lift, Isola 2000 December 2007The three of us at the top of the Pelevos ski lift, Isola 2000 December 2007

According to the website, Isola 2000 opens today. The forecast is sunny and there is plenty of snow so we decided to take the 750 coach from Nice Gare Routière for a repeat trip we made in April, see here for details. This time with our daughter who was not looking forward to the long coach ride.

It IS a long trip for just 4 hours skiing but the conditions were perfect, plenty of sun and snow and almost completely empty. The schools in Nice break up today so from tomorrow, the resort would start to fill for Christmas. We took papers, books, PSP, iPods etc for the journey but quite honestly, the only part that dragged was getting out of Nice crawling via the train station and airport. After the airport, the journey speeds up and there is plenty to see out of the window. On the approach to Isola 2000, we saw eagles.

On the way back, it's dark but most people nod off after all the exercise. A few people get on at the airport, I expect they park for the day, then drive hone afterwards, it's quite handy this way and it cuts the dreary part of the journey.

I put all the details how to ski in Isola 2000 from Nice as a day trip using the 750 TAM coach on the April post: but we found a couple of easier options this time. When the coach stops, there is a building in front of you with a choice of two roads, one each side of the building.

Head off this side when you get off the coach - it takes you to the main entrance of the complex accessed directly from the road.

Take the higher road on the left as you face it and this takes you a short walk to the main entrance into the complex on the right hand side. Last time, we took the lower road and went indoors and had to schlep our way along gloomy passageways and up lots of steps. Going outside is much quicker. The main entrance has a car park and big sculpture outside. It takes you straight to the ski pass office, Ski 2000 ski hire, ESF and tourist office plus loos and café. We had to wait until 12:20 hours to buy the afternoon ski passes. They are tricky to attach neatly and they are so sticky, you only get one go so make sure you get it right, here's the sequence:

If you arrive too early to ski immediately, it's an opportunity to get the ski hire sorted and have a pre-lunch snack. There's a small kiosk just outside, opposite the Ski Pass office to buy a coffee and a bun:

hot chocolate and a muffina pre-ski hot chocolate and muffin

espresso and a piste mapJust an espresso for me while I work out the route

We hired skis and poles plus boots for the daughter from Ski 2000 again and they were kind enough to let us stash our bags for the afternoon. I remembered to bring a small rucksack for skiing this time.

We covered a bit more ground this time as my daughter is a good skier and keeps us all going. She also had a day's practice with my husband at our new ski dome in Manchester - the Chill Factor. It's all good practise for our weeks skiing in Feb in Méribel where she will be training for her gold star. We went up the Pelevos lift mostly and then tried a ski chair on the opposite side - the 'Combe Grosse' ski chair. The slopes here are very easy blues but had turned to ice in the bright sunshine, so you go rather fast as turning is difficult. We tried the red Sapins run, this was fine. the slopes on the Pelevos side were in shade but the snow was good for skiing. The runs are very short compared to Méribel and less difficult I think but the rush and buzz of skiing in the sunshine is unbeatable.

at the top of the Pelevos bubble lift
It's difficult to work out the best time to stop, we packed up at about 3:45pm which gave us enough time to offload the equipment and have a snack before getting the coach home.Schuss restaurant, Isola 2000
lunch on the mountain side, Isola 2000
We still managed to fit in lunch at a mountain side restaurant - the Schuss at the top of Pelevos. I don't expect we covered too many ski miles. A hard core skier could cover far more than us but we were there to enjoy the snow and sunshine as well as ski, a bit.

Serious skiers who don't want to hire a car and drive themselves to Isola 2000 would probably prefer the Ski-Bus which gives you closer to seven hours on the slopes. The Ski-Bus wasn't an option for us as the French school holidays hadn't started and it wasn't the weekend. Plus the 750 bus gives you a lie-in, leaving Nice at 9:15am. The cost is still 8 euros each way.

The Ski-Bus is 30 euros return (2007/08 prices) leaving Nice at 07:30 hours and returning at 17:00 hours and includes the price of the ski pass. When you arrive and exchange the ticket for a ski pass you will be asked if you want insurance, it's only a couple of euros extra and is essential.

The one and only time we used the Ski-Bus in Jan 2003, it dropped us off at the lower Car Park which is not really suitable for complete beginners as the ESF Ski School is on the main level so you would need to get straight on to several drag lifts to reach the ski school. I wrote a review in

Ski-Bus Information leaflet - front pageSki-Bus information leaflet - back page

Places must be reserved on the Ski-Bus. Call in or telephone the Gare Routière (Bus Station) in Nice on 04 93 85 92 60 or call in the Santa Azur Offices at 11 Ave Jean Médecin or telephone 04 97 03 60 00. International dialling code for France is 00 33.

The 750 leaves promptly at 4:30pm and it's important to tell the driver on arrival that you will be returning the same day. From the view in the bubble lift it looked as if the bus stays on site all day - it's probably possible to leave bags on the coach if you ask.

We returned home to the UK on Staurday for Christmas. We will be collecting all the ski gear in Feb when we return for our Méribel ski trip.

Isola 2000 is part of the Parc National du Mercantour and more information can be found at or directly at

trip to Monaco from Nice December 2007

19th December 2007

you can see the three of us reflected in the silver bauble - me clutching an orange Hermes bagThis is the large Christmas tree in the centre of Monaco's Christmas Village. You can see the three of us reflected in the silver bauble, the orange blob is an Hermès bag, Happy Christmas to me.

We had spent the morning in Cimiez at the Matisse museum and in the afternoon we decided suddenly to nip to Monaco on the new 100 xpress bus.

The 100 xpress is a new service this autumn and the fare is still only 1,30 euros. On the information leaflet, it says this will be reduced to 1 euro in the new year (2008) Not sure if that will be universal for all TAM routes or just for the xpress service. A leaflet can be downloaded here

bus stops on the xpress 100 Nice to Monaco route

There are a limited number of bus stops for the new 100 xpress bus route from Nice to Monaco

The regular 100 from Nice to Menton via Monaco is still in operation. The time difference is about 20 minutes - it's about a 35 minute trip via the 100 xpress and at least an hour via the 100.

new 100 xpress Bus from Nice to Monaco via the autorouteThe new 100 xpress from Nice to Mnoaco via the autoroute

It feels quicker on the xpress as there are only about 6 stops in total and it goes via the motorway for part of the journey so you feel you are on your way. It's every hour at 10 minutes to the hour from the Gare Routière or bus station, quai 19, pay the driver. It returns from Monaco at half past the hour up to 6:30pm.

xpress 100 timetable Nice to Monaco100 xpress timetable, click on the image to enlarge

We took the express to its last stop in Monaco by Place des Moulins, right outside Ladurée where we bought a couple of boxes of their famous macaroons. From there, a 5 minute stroll takes you to the Casino.

chocolat a lafeuille d or macaroons courtesy Laduree website

Macaroons from Laduree
Photo: Courtesy

outside Laduree clutching bag of macaroonsoutside Ladurée, bag of goodies in hand

If you wanted to start at the other end of Monaco, the bus first stops at Place d'Armes where you can take the lift or walk up to the Palace. We had great views of the Port and Christmas village and big wheel as the bus descended into Monaco.

Our plan was to walk from Ladurée all the way back to Place d'Armes at the foot of the Place hill to catch the last xpress bus back to Nice at 6:30pm. We had about 3 hours but if we missed the last xpress, we could always take the regular 100 and jump off at the Port. It's an easy walk from this far east end of Monte Carlo as the direction is always down hill. If you walk from the Palace end, it's up hill although there are regular local buses to get you you about. Our walk took us past the Casino and past Hermès, my favourite shop where I bought myself a new enamel bangle for Christmas.
Hermes in Monte Carlo
Outside Hermès, avenue de Monte Carlo
In general, the shops, streets and gardens were much more Christmassy than Nice - far more effort with lots of tasteful lights, displays and decorations. In Nice you have to hunt a bit to see any decorations part from somewhat dismal looking municipal Christmas trees in concrete planters each with a couple of strands of tinsel and about five large baubles.

Onwards and downwards towards the Port where the Christmas Village was set up. A similar format to Nice (and every other city in Europe) Wooden chalets, an ice rink and a big wheel. Generally, it was bigger and glitzier than Nice with better decorations, more stalls and a bigger ice rink - they had covered over the open-air swimming pool. There were also more fun things for children to do - snowshoe walking on real snow and motorised ski quads over mini courses of real snow.

There were also lots of stalls providing food and snacks plus picnic bench seating. Hot dogs, socca, waffles, pancakes, baked potatoes, sandwiches etc. We had hotdogs, pancakes and socca, watched the iceskating for a bit and continued on towards the big wheel. At this point time had gone by so we headed across the road and up the pedestrianised Princess Caroline Street, turn left at the top, cross over the your are at the Place d'Armes bus stop, on the north side of the road, headed for Nice. There's a convenient bar here for a coffee, beer and loo. One thing I've noticed about the bus stops in Monaco, they are reluctant to display the TAM 100 bus signs, you have to just trust that they will stop at the main stops and stick your thumb out just to make sure. It's all local bus information. There was a small poster for the xpress bus though, which was reassuring. A 100 bus turned up first and we were about to jump on, when the xpress appeared behind it.

It's the first time we had been to Monaco in December and I would go again, it was lovely and an interesting contrast to Nice.

A new Tramway for Nice

December 16th to 21st December 2007

Our usual week in Nice before Christmas back home in the UK

My dear husband took plenty of film clips of the new tramway in Nice and posted it on Here are his efforts:

The Tramway Line 1 is finally open after years of building works and disruption. Our studio near the Port is about 4 minutes walk from the nearest Tram stop -'Garibaldi' which is just past Place Garibaldi and at the beginning of rue de la Republique. From our studio in Residence 'Port Nicéa' you walk past Place du Pin and along rue Papon to reach it.

I think the biggest difference it will make to us will be easy access to the main train station in Nice - Nice Ville Gare SNCF. It's a long walk from the Port unless you take the 30 bus. We are close to local ter network train station, Riquier but for the fast trains to Cannes, Antibes, Monaco etc, you need the main train station on ave Thiers.

The tram is part of the ligne d'azur bus network - the local network for buses in Nice and all information about the buses and tram can be found on the lignedazur website. Tickets for the bus and tram are the same and are priced the same, 1,30 euros (reduced to only 1 euro since 2008) or a 'carnet' of 10 for 10 euros. There are other passes to buy, see the site for more details. If you need a trip to the airport, you need the day pass which is 4 euros and it lets you use the 98 and 99 express airport buses as well as the ligne dazur buses and trams for the rest of the day. When you get on the bus or tram you must validate or 'composté' your ticket in the machine by the driver.

Sometimes you need more than one bus to complete a journey or both the tram and a bus to complete a journey. If you make the connection with 74 minutes it is still only the cost of one journey provided it is not a return journey or a second onward journey on the same line but you must still validate your ticket each time you get on a bus or tram.

When you validate your ticket, a date and time is stamped on the back. There are plenty of inspectors about to check tickets. When you buy a carnet of 10 tickets, each time it is validated, the date and time is printed on a new line at the back of the ticket so that you can keep track of its usage.

You can buy single tickets and carnets directly from bus drivers or from ticket machines (coins and credit cards) by the Tram stops and from the main ligne dazur office at 3 Place Massena.

Nice Tram line 1 (line 2 in the next few years) loops a big 'U' shape from Las Planas in the north, down to Place Massena close to Nice Ville train station (stop: Gare Thiers) and along the main city centre road, ave Jean Médecin (stops: Jean Medecin and Massena) and turning east at Place Massena (stop: Massena) to the Acropolis via the Old Town and Gare Routière (stop: Cathédrale-Vielle Ville), then back up north to Pont Michel.

The trams are sleek and quiet but have a bell that dongs in a quaintly old fashioned way if they are about to run you over. The roads are widened and the pedestrianised areas are bigger and it's a great improvement if you don't have a car - the traffic and noise is much reduced. The area around Place Massena is just about finished and looks great. Place Garibaldi is still a mess, a complete building site, but there is great activity going on and I hope it will be ready for the summer.