Simply away from it all - 10 minutes from the centre ...
Safe to say that passing trade at the Clair must be minimal. To pass before this friendly little two-star hotel, you’d either have to be terminally lost or en route to the school at the end of the cul-de-sac.
So, in the interests of clarity, let’s start with the location. Unlike other hotels mentioned in this Nice guide, the Clair is on the eastern side of the port. You skirt the boats, go up the Boulevard Carnot hill and take a decidedly unpromising left-hander towards the Terra Amata archeological museum. The narrow, uncertain street takes you past a block of flats (which also houses the museum) and brings you to what looks like a small private house. This is the Clair.
The impression of being well out of the centre is deceptive. On foot, using stairways and side-streets, it’s only 10 minutes to the old town. The beaches by the port are closer still. Even so, a feeling of getting away from it all persists.
That’s good. But what are you getting away to? Well, firstly, a cheerful welcome from Anglo-Danish owner Esther Joukovic and her Yugoslav husband, Luba. This has nothing to do with the automatic courtesy of professionals, and everything to do with a pleasure in meeting people. “In six years, we’ve only had one guest I didn’t like, and I don’t want to talk about him,” says Esther, a warm and handsome lady who used to run a language school in Brighton.
Secondly, you’re getting not so much rooms as little studios. Though it doesn’t look much like it, the Clair used to be the local girls’ school. Downstairs from the main house, the studios have been fashioned essentially out of the former classrooms. They give on to what used to be the playground.
Pulling up plants
Now, let us be honest, this is not grand luxury. The Clair is among the least expensive establishments in Nice (well, least expensive to which one can also direct decent people). Though some have been recently, and brightly, refurbished, the 10 studios remain simple. Furniture is rudimentary and the beds, though comfortable, are not going to win any design awards. Neither are the bathrooms, though they are eminently practical … and clean, which are the key characteristics anyone requires in a bathroom.
The great thing is that almost all studios have kitchenettes. That’s why they’re called ‘studios’. For those which don’t, there are common cooking facilities. Thus may you make your own breakfast or, when Nice prices prove too oppressive, your own dinner. There's a decent supermarket within very easy reach.
The even better thing is that you may then eat it in the ex-playground. This has been transformed into a lovely garden-cum-terrace. Here you may not only eat but drink, read, dream, ensure the kids aren’t pulling up any plants or make friends with the nice people from the next studio along.
Port for dinner
The garden has its own (locked) entry from the street so there’s no need to trog up and down to the main house every time you want to go in or out. You might use it to head out for the nearby port of an evening. You will find there a nest of lively and inexpensive restaurants which, because slightly off-centre, often escape the notice of other tourists. Esther and Luba are good at giving more precise recommendations.