A Nice Day Trip to Nice (France) via @TravelLatte.net

5 Great Activities for Your Day Trip in Nice

New York, New York may be so nice they named it twice, but in southern France is a town so nice they named it Nice! Okay yes, it’s pronounced like niece, but we can’t pass up a good pun.

However you say it, the charming city holds its own among such French Riviera luminaries as Cannes, Antibes, and Monte Carlo. In fact, for many years Nice was the Mediterranean destination for Europe’s aristocracy. Even today, it’s easy to see why: castle ruins, a charming old town quarter, and a beautiful Cote d’Azur shoreline make Nice a popular stop.

For many travelers, their first – and sometimes only – experience with Nice is as a cruise excursion, or as one in a string of stops along the coastal roads and rails from Saint Tropez to the Cinque Terre. Which means you get one day to enjoy Nice. With that in mind, we have…

Five Things to Do for Your Day Trip to Nice

We did say one day in Nice. Unless you are Speedy Gonzalez, we don’t expect you would be able to do all of these things. In fact, if you plan to pair your day in Nice with a trip to Monte Carlo or Eze, you will probably only have time for one of our picks. We would choose a stroll through the lovely old city, but you can’t go wrong with any of these activities. Mix and match to your heart’s – or your schedule’s – delight!

5 Great Activities for Your Day Trip in Nice via @TravelLatte.net

Wander the Old City

Like many European cities, Nice has a historic old town, referred to as Vieux Ville. Though it’s easy to navigate the district, it’s very easy to lose all track of time! Depending on how you arrive in Nice, there are two places you’re likely to start: On one end is the Hotel Suisse Nice, which is closest to the port and public parking, and it’s just below “Castle Hill” where you can see the ruins of Chateau Nice. If you arrive in Nice by train or air, you will be closest to the other end of Vieux Ville, Promenade de Paillon and Place Massena.

The main attraction in the old city is Nice’s famous Marche aux Fleurs, the Flower Market, on the Cours Saleya. Don’t let the name fool you; there is much more to enjoy than flowers! You will find artisan meats and cheeses, fruits and vegetables, candies, housewares, and more. While the area is packed with tourists, you’ll find the Nicoise here buying their flowers and produce, too. Marche aux Fleurs is open from 6am to 5:30pm (until 1:30pm on Sunday) every day except Monday. If you are there on a Monday, you can expect to find an antique market instead, which is equally enchanting. In the evenings, the market stalls re-open as restaurants, turning the Marche into Restaurant Row. The market is easy to find, as Cours Saleya is just a block from the seashore and runs along the south side of the Vieux Ville.

5 Great Activities for Your Day Trip in Nice via @TravelLatte.net

Near the center of le Marche, you see the Palais de la Prefecture, the former Royal Palace of Nice. It was home to the Dukes of Savoy for 250 years but, since 1861, has served as the municipal headquarters of the French Alps-Maritimes Prefecture. More impressive municipal buildings, the Palais de Justice and Palais Rusca are just to the west. The outsides are pretty, the insides are mostly offices.

The 17th Century Cathedrale Sainte-Reparate is another two blocks north. You will see several bell towers in the area, but the Cathedrale has the only dome in the old city. It’s worth taking a peek inside the recently restored Basilica Cathedrale.

Drone footage inside Cathedrale Saite-Reparate courtesy of the Diocese of Nice.

Walking north through the shops and cafes of Vieux Ville, you will eventually emerge at or near the Promenade du Paillon. Turning right will take you past Castle Hill and back to the port; to the left you can walk back to Place Massena.

The wonderful thing about the old city is that it will take whatever time you give it! You could dash through in an hour, but that’s only going to make you want to go back for more. We have been known to spend all day in Nice’s wonderful Vieux Ville!

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See the Museum Scene

Every city in France pales in comparison to Paris when it comes to galleries and museums, but Nice has a few must see ‘em museums. Unfortunately, they are a little spread out; you might consider renting a bicycle, using Uber, or catching a bus if you are pressed for time and want to see several.

In the heart of the old city is Palais Lascaris, a beautiful 17th Century Baroque building that holds one of Europe’s largest collections of fine musical instruments. Close by is MAMAC the Musee d’Art Modern et d’Art Contemporain. As you might guess, it’s filled with Modern and Contemporary Art from the 1950s to present. You’ll see works by internationally-acclaimed artists like Andy Warhol and Joan Miro, and artists from the School of Nice, including Yves Klein and Niki de Saint-Phalle

If history is more your thing, the Museum of Natural History is just across the street. This was the city’s first municipal museum, opened in 1846, and showcases the diversity of the Alps-Maritime region. Staying close to the old city, Musee Massena captures life in Nice through the prominent Massena family. The museum holds family and city memorabilia in the original family home.

[Tweet “If you love #art, you’ll be in heaven visiting museums & galleries on a Day Trip in Nice!”]

Near the airport are the Fine Arts and Naïve Art Museums. The Fine Art museum is of particular note. The former palace is a beautiful example of Nice’s aristocratic architecture in the Belle Époque, and dates to 1878. Inside is a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, Crucifixion, by Agnolo Bronzino (circa 1540).

Finally, two of the art world’s biggest names reside in Nice at the Musee National Marc Chagall, and Musee Matisse. These two are further inland, in the Cimiez neighborhood. Using Place Massena as a starting point, Musee Matisse is the furthest away at 3km by foot, or 5km by car. Adjacent to the Matisse Museum is the Arenes de Cimiez and Archaeological Museum featuring the Roman ruins of ancient Nice.

The Nice Museum Pass provides access to all of these museums, except for Musee Chagall, for 10€, or 20€ for a seven-day ticket. You can get the Museum Pass at any of participating museum. Alternately, each admission to individual museums is 6€ per person. Hours for all city museums are 11am to 6pm in the winter, 10am to 6pm from June to October. Entry for Musee Chagall is 8€, and it is open 10am to 5pm during the winter; 10am to 6pm May through October. Keep in mind that most museums are closed on Tuesdays; MAMAC, the Fine Arts Museum, and Museum of Natural History are closed on Mondays.

Strolling the Promenade des Anglais via @TravelLatte.net

Parks & Promenades

Nice is a fantastic city for walking. Vieux Ville is mostly pedestrian, there are sidewalks nearly everywhere, and the city has invested heavily in long, meandering Promenades. British Aristocracy is largely to credit for this tradition. Back in the day, as they say, aristocrats from England would vacation in Nice and thoroughly enjoyed a stroll by the shore. At least, they would have if the beach wasn’t filled with rocks and pebbles. Hard on tender tootsies, don’t you know? So they built a boardwalk, which proved to be so popular that it was continuously enlarged and upgraded into the Promenade des Anglais. We enjoyed it so much, we devoted a whole post to it!

What’s better than one beautiful promenade? Another! Not far beyond the border of old Nice was the River Paillon. Over time, it became something of a nuisance, so the enterprising French built a park over it. Now the Promenade Paillon runs (sort of) perpendicular to Promenade des Anglais, with broad lawns, fountains and public art. It passes the Place Massena en route to the Theatre Nice, where it turns into Promenade des Arts and continues to the MAMAC.

5 Great Activities for Your Day Trip in Nice via @TravelLatte.net

The fountain at the Promenade de Paillon is one of the most photogenic stops in Nice!

Near the airport, the huge Parc Phoenix is home to more than 3000 animals and 2500 species of plants! Anchored by the “Green Diamond” greenhouse (one of the largest in Europe), the park is open 9:30am to 6pm and entrance is just 5€ per person, with kids 12 and under free. In case you need to see one more museum, your park entrance also gets you into the nearby Museum of Asian Arts.

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Another interesting park is near the Musee Chagall in the Cimiez neighborhood. Le Jardin des Arenes de Cimiez features thousands of olive trees said to be more than 100 years old! The grassy park is free and open to the public, and there are often city-sponsored cultural events here.

Seeing the Sights

Beyond the historic ruins, lovely parks, and enchanting old city, there are several notable sights to see around Nice. While the entire city seems superbly photogenic, here are some of our favorites:

5 Great Activities for Your Day Trip in Nice via @TravelLatte.net

The Sights of Nice: Iglese Ste-Jeanne d’Arc, St. Nicolas Cathedral, Chateau Valrose; Miles Davis statue at Hotel Negresco.

The historic Hotel Negresco: Welcoming aristocrats, celebrities, and even royalty since 1913, this hotel is an instantly-recognizable landmark on the Promenade des Anglais. Perhaps in part thanks to the statue of Miles Davis at the front door. (Note: Unfortunately, the hotel has recently instituted a no visitors rule; you’ll have to be staying or dining at the hotel to get in.)

St. Nicolas Russian Orthodox Cathedral: It wasn’t just the English aristocracy that made Nice their winter home. Wealthy Russians vacationed on the French Riviera as well. For a time, Nice held the largest population of Russians outside of the mother country. To keep them happy, and in good standing with the church, Tsar Nicholas II commissioned what is now the largest Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in Western Europe. The beautiful church was built in 1912 and was recently renovated.

Church of Sainte Jeanne d’Arc: Known as the most controversial place of worship in Nice, this out of the way building blends art and architecture. It was finished in 1933 by architect Jacquez Droz, but wasn’t consecrated until 1965. Some say it’s beautiful, some say it’s anything but. Its white concrete construction and ovoid domes are definitely unique in the Nice landscape. The church is on Avenue Saint-Lambert in the Cimiez, not too far from the Chagall Museum.

Chateau Valrose: If you make it as far as the Church of Sainte Jeanne d’Arc, you might as well wander a bit further to the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis to see the Chateau Valrose. The castle and surrounding gardens were completed in 1870 by Baron von Derwies, the financial advisor to Russia’s Tsar Alexander II. The City of Nice acquired the property in 1950, and it has been the residence of the University President since 1965.

Have more time? Add a quick trip to the charming Medieval hilltop Village of Eze!

Nice Beach Day

Saving the best for last, Nice elevates the art of the Beach Day. Keep in mind, the Cote d’Azur often has beaches of pebbles rather than sand, but it’s no less enjoyable. Spread out a blanket and soak in that Mediterranean sunshine, or rent a lounger, complete with food and drinks, from one of the many beach bars. Just stroll the Promenade des Anglais until you find a beach level bar that looks appealing, drop down the stairs and find your spot in the sun.

For a more exclusive experience, try the Bay Star Beach Club west of the airport at the Holiday Inn Nice-Port Saint Laurent. It is a sandy plage privee (private beach) with a bar, café, and restaurant. The good thing is, you have sand, drinks and noshes with excellent service. The bad news is that it comes at a price. Drinks and tapas start at 5€; a sunbed and umbrella is 20€ for the day. Bay Star Beach Club is open May through September.

Stay Another Day!

That’s quite a lot to do in Nice, and we have only scratched the surface! What we found out is that one day in this gem on the Cote d’Azur is just enough…to make you want another! When you’re getting back on the ship, train, or car, you will be asking yourself one question:

“When can I come back to Nice?”

If you enjoyed this guide, please let us know in the comments below! Feel free to add any questions or tips you might have. You can also share this guide with your friends and social circles, or Pin it to your Pinterest boards, using the buttons just below. (Merci in advance!)

73 comments on “5 Great Activities for Your Day Trip in Nice

  1. Pingback: Melanie Glastrong

  2. Hi Rob,

    Really dig your heavy emphasis on not obsessing over doing all these things too quickly. Take your time. See why Nice is nice 🙂 Enjoy the experience. Bucket list trip checkers need not apply. Thanks for sharing 🙂


    • Thanks Ryan! Nice – indeed, all of southern France – is the perfect place to slow down and really enjoy where you are! Our first visit was a cruise stop, and we knew we had to come back to enjoy the city. If you only have a day, make the most of it, but don’t cram so much in that you can’t really enjoy it. 🙂

    • Hi Agness – We love Nice (Can you tell?) and are anxious to return! We’ve even thought of relocating – maybe one day. Really glad you liked the post. Hopefully you’ll have a chance to check out some of these activities soon! 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  3. I love Nice! What a great guide. I just wish the beach wasn’t so hard to walk down! The rocks kill my feet 🙂 Thank you for joining us on #flyawayfriday! Hope to see you this friday!

    • Hi Janine – We love nice, too! The beach took a bit of getting used to, since we grew up with sandy Pacific beaches. But we do like it – just have to have some good beach shoes. Thanks for readying! We’re traveling a bit, but will be back to #FlyAwayFriday soon!

  4. I can always count on you for the BEST travel tips, Rob! Nice seems absolutely stunning and I would LOVE to visit someday! Thanks for sharing and joining Fly Away Friday, hope to see you again this week! xo

    • Aww, thanks Kana! Glad you like them, and we do hope you get to Nice one day soon! It’s waiting for you! 🙂 Thanks so much for reading TravelLatte.

  5. I’m going to Nice in the summer and this has been really helpful!! I adore flower markets so that sounds right up my street, and that museum ticket is a good tip. Just wondering, do you have any tips about getting to the Cote d’Azur from Nice/Nice airport? Thanks 🙂

    • Fantastic! We’re glad you found this helpful. We flew out of Nice Cote d’Azur Airport, which is convenient for every where from Monaco to St. Tropez. From the Vieux Ville area, we took Uber to the airport for about €17. The bus service (Lignes d’Azur) runs from Cannes to Menton, and several stop at the airport. If you are connecting by train, Bus 99 (I think) goes to Gare de Nice Ville, or Gare Nice St. Augustin is about a 20 minute walk. Oh, plus there’s are rental cars available at the airport. Lots of options – hope that helps! Let us know if you have more questions, and thanks for reading!

    • That’s was our first reaction, too. We love finding those unique things in a city. It’s beautiful and really adds to the city’s interesting variety. Thanks for reading, Vanessa!

    • You did! So, welcome back. 🙂 We are feeling that need for some beach time, too. And Nice is a beautiful place to get it! Hopefully you can squeeze in a trip soon. 🙂 Thanks again for stopping by, Lolo!

    • There is always next time! Not like one needs a reason to go back to France. 😉 It’s hard fitting everything you’d like to do and see in Europe into one trip…or even one dozen! As always, thanks for your comments!

  6. Incredibly helpful review. I’m off to the French Riviera in a couple of weeks. I’ve only ever been to Nice twice (I spend most of my time in Cannes) so it will do me good to explore it deeply this time around. Oh! And I’d love to see Eze. #FlyAwayFriday

    • Hi Rose – So glad you find these tips helpful…and a little bit jealous that you’re heading for the French Riviera! It’s really become one of our favorite areas – gee, imagine that! Definitely add in a day trip to Eze. It’s completely worth it! Enjoy, and thanks for your comments!

    • Oh yeah, Alex, definitely time to visit again! 🙂 It is so photogenic, but also has lots to do. Or…it’s a great place to relax and do almost nothing. I like to say that towns like Nice will take whatever time you give them and, in return, give you great memories. We hope you get to go soon, and we know you’ll enjoy it. Thanks for reading!

  7. I’m obsessed with this post on Nice!! I’ve been researching and planning my trip to South of France and your post has helped SO much! Beautiful photos and so many great tips.Thanks for sharing! xo #flyawayfriday

    • That’s fantastic to hear! So glad you find it helpful. You might also enjoy our look at Eze, which is a very popular day trip from Eze, or is often combined with Nice for a day trip. I’m sure you’ll have a great time in Nice – enjoy! And thanks for reading!

  8. I’ve been to Nice for one measly day and I spent it at the beach. Sure it was one of the best beaches that I’d ever been to and I had a fantastic time. But it’s great to know that there’s always more to do in Nice. #flyawayfriday

    • Hi Kat – On our first visit to Nice, we spent the half day we had there in the Vieux Ville. Had a great time, but later discovered how much more there was to enjoy! Although…a beach day is always a good day! 🙂 Thanks for visiting our blog, Kat!

  9. All of the above please! As I’ve said before, would love to go back and was a bit disappointed I couldn’t fit it in during my recent visit to France. Oh well next time! PS. Love that collage of various architectural types, neat!

    • Hi David – Always good to have a reason to go back to France, right? Nice impressed us in so many ways! The food, the views, and definitely the architecture. Your comment made me realize it would have been fun to do a post just on the different churches – they are so varied in style. As always, thanks for your comment!

    • Hi Bryn – glad you liked it! We spent a good portion of a few days just strolling, either in Vieux Ville or along the Promenade. I think that’s part of Nice’s charm; you can have a wonderful time just slowing down and strolling through the city. Thanks for your comment!

  10. Haha..loved the pun! What a great collection of photos and videos. I have wanted to visit the French Riviera for a long time and Nice along with Eze would be at the top of the list. I would love to just stroll through those promenades.

    • Can’t pass up a good pun! Thanks for the kind words, Mary. You’re going to live the Riviera – but who wouldn’t? There is a lot to do and see, but even simple things like watching the sea and walking along the Promenade are so enjoyable. We hope you make it to Nice soon!

    • You would love it! Mountains are close by and the beach is right there! Most important, everyone we meet was so nice and welcoming. Great city – we are anxious to return again! Thanks for reading!!

  11. Wow! Didn’t know there’s so much to do in Nice. Thought we could do with only a couple of days. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi guys! A couple of days in Nice is great – you can see some highlights and get a feel for the city. Like most places, though, it will take more time if you have it! One thing we should have mentioned is to take it at a comfortable pace. Half of the joy is just “being” in Nice! Thanks so much visiting our blog!

    • Hi Jessica (and Laurence!) – isn’t the Musee Chagall great? And yeah, we didn’t even mention the food! We really loved the freshness of everything and, of course, the art of la patisserie. That could be its own category, maybe even its own post! Thanks so much for visiting our blog.

    • Thanks, Scarlett! We really could go on and on about the market because we could spend all day there, too! In fact, we found out that France’s Council for the Culinary Arts has named it one of country’s most special markets. Easy to see why. So glad you liked it – pun and all!

  12. Would love to visit Nice! I think I would definitely want to see the cathedral and walking along the promenade looks soooo relaxing.

    • Hi guys! You’re right about walking the Promenade; it’s relaxing with a little bonus. We couldn’t figure out how there was so much great food yet everyone was thin and fit. We figured it out on our nightly walks along the Promenade. 😉 Thanks for reading!

  13. Nice looks wonderful, we’ve still not been! I’d like to hire a car and spend a couple of weeks exploring the south of France. The promenades look very pretty and I’d love to wander the old city and chill out on that beach, excellent post packed full of useful information that we can use when we eventually visit, thanks guys!

    • Hi Garth (and Phil!) – I seriously think you guys would love Nice, and some of the surrounding towns and villages. Shops, restaurants, photo ops galore! But really, the town is great for relaxing – either with a stroll on the Promenade, or a lounger on the beach. Definitely a good spot to recharge the batteries with that Mediterranean sunshine! Thanks for reading, guys!

  14. That’s great that you’re co-hosting The Weekly Postcard! Can you believe that I cannot remember if I’ve been to Nice? In college, I went to Europe with my parents on one of those whirlwind different-city-every-night bus tours. I think we visited Nice, but none of your photos look familiar to me. In any case, if I were to return (go for the first time?), I would definitely want to take a leisurely stroll around the Old City. BTW, that Miles Davis statue is rather unexpected.

    • Thanks Michelle! I thought the same thing about the Miles Davis statue at first…but then it hit me. The Negresco is pretty well known for its jazz club, and Miles played there. A lot. Who besides a jazz fan would know, right? It is cool, but yes, unexpected. I think you do need to visit Nice, just to remove any doubt as to whether you’ve been! 🙂

  15. Fabulous photos and Nice is definitely somewhere I would love to visit. My only experience in the south of France has been in Marseille but I woild love to make my way further along the Cote d’Azur. Looks like there is plenty to see and do other than the beach!

    • And we never got over to Marseilles, beyond seeing the train station on the way through. :/ Seems we both need to head back to France! The hiking around this area looks awesome, on the coast and up in the mountains. Could easily spend months exploring! Thanks for reading, Lexx!

  16. It’s always a pleasure to read your posts, and this one started off so punny! Someday I’d love to visit the French Riviera, and Nice will definitely be on my itinerary. I love how you gave us five options for how to experience Nice, and you presented it in such a practical way for visitors who are likely stopping for less than a full day. If I were on a Mediterranean cruise with just one day to explore Nice, I’d probably follow your advice and wander around the Old City, especially the lovely flower market. #WeekendWanderlust

    • Hi Erin – Thanks for the nice words! It’s funny you should mention a cruise. That was our introduction to Nice, and if we knew then what we know now… None of the excursions mentioned even half of these cool things! So hopefully, we’ve given cruisers and day trippers some options they may not have discovered. Although, even if you only see Vieux Ville and Promenade Anglais, it’s still a great day! As always, thanks for reading!

  17. The south of France is somewhere we want to explore and Nice looks an interesting place. This is a useful post, have pinned for future reference. #feetdotravel

    • Hi guys! The south of France is just so beautiful! Nice is a good spot because it’s easy to reach everything from St. Tropez to the Cinque Terre, so a good chunk of the French Riviera. Plus, it’s the Alps-Maritimes region, meaning you can get into the French-Italian Alps in just an hour or two by car or train. Mercantour national park and Vallée des Merveilles (Valley of the Marvels) are on our list for next time!

  18. I love a good pun as well, and you had to drop this one in for sure! What a wonderful place Nice is, I would definitely have to stay another day to see everything here – the beach would take up at least one whole day just by itself let alone the museums and strolls along the promenade! Great suggestions here, thanks for sharing! #feetdotravel

    • Yeah, Angie, we’ve seen your puns…and are still giggling over “wreck-ommended”!! Glad you liked the post, and you’re right – another day is almost a given! Heck, we spent several and didn’t get to everything we wanted to. Perhaps too much time spent at the patisserie… 😉

  19. This is great! When I look through the list of things to do, some of items I remember from my visit and some I do not. Either way, it is a great stroll down memory lane! The flower market looks amazing and I really didn’t know there were that many museums here!

    • Hi Jenn – We were surprised there were so many museums, too! Glad we were able to rekindle some memories – and maybe add some inspiration to go back! 🙂

  20. I want to go to Nice so badly and visit Eze and Monte Carlo and of course some of the other towns down there! I’d need at least a week if not more! These are some great tips! High five to being new hosts with #TheWeeklyPostcard!! 🙂

    • Oh yeah, Lolo, you’ll need more. Or, at least, you’ll want more than a week in the area, with so much to see and so many towns and villages to visit. Plus, it’s just such a pretty area! High-five back at’ya – happy to be part of #TheWeeklyPostcard family!

  21. Nice is an inexhaustible source of fun activities. I think we’ve been there at least 6-7 over the years, but still didn’t get to see everything it has to offer. We missed for instance Palais Lascaris and Museum of Natural History. Well, a good reason to go back.

    • Hi Anda – Thanks for stopping by! We literally came across Palais Lascaris while walking through the Old City. The grand doorway (and the banner out front) caught our attention. Peeking inside was like looking into another world. Grand and gorgeous! Definitely worth a visit. We can’t wait until we’re able to say we’ve been to nice six or seven times! #jealous 😉

  22. I have wanted to visit Nice since I took French in high school. It is definitely one of my must-visit cities. I’m pinning this for future reference. #weekendwanderlust

    • Hi Allison – and thanks for the Pin! Neither one of us remember Nice from French class…you obviously had a better class than we did! 😉 Hopefully. you’ll get a chance to visit this wonderful city soon!

  23. I am in love with Nice and with your photos of the city. It kind of makes me sad since I visited Nice as a day trip and was there for a couple of hours. I can’t believe the many beautiful places I missed. Hope to make it back one day and I may need to stay 2 or 3 days. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Oh Ruth, us too! But you know what? We were there for a week last time, and still need to go back for more. In fact, that was the inspiration for this post: Our first trip was a stop between Cannes and Eze, and we only had the afternoon. We explored Old Town since we really didn’t know the area or the options. It was great, but there really is so much more. We hope you get to go back and really explore Nice!

  24. What a fantastic guide to Nice. I didn’t know about the flower market so that’s one for the future! Such a sophisticated city. Vive la France! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Thanks Jo! We agree – Vive la France! Vive la Nice! Le Marche is awesome – but you have to be careful if you’re on a timetable. What seems like 15 minutes strolling through the market turns into an hour really fast! But you can get snacks, flowers, and a souvenir all in one stop! #winning 🙂

    • Yay! Somebody liked the pun! Nice is such a fun city to explore. Not so big that it’s overwhelming, and definitely great for relaxing. We found just walking through town to be a great break from “real life” – the shopkeepers are SO friendly, and really helped us with our French, with a “bless your heart” sort of understanding. 😉 Thanks for stopping by, ladies!

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