Road tripping the French Riviera
It was going to be my first time there. I don’t know why, but I was so excited. When you think about it though, there were so many other places, which could have more impact on me. Places with ‘real’ highlights, historical churches, coliseums, museums with incredible art for me to wonder hours on end.
Perhaps it was exciting because this is where F grew up. Where he went to school, met his friends, picked up girls. This was where he drove to when he went to college. And this was his family, his grandmother, aunts and uncle.
So we packed up and headed down South. Flew from Paris to Nice and picked up our rental car at the airport. Tip for those heading over; try to book your car in advance and from your home country. We paid around 350 Euros for a six days rental. Rent it on the spot and expect to pay up to 1,000 Euros all in.
And so we hit the road on the Cote D’Azur!
Day 1: Our home base was going to be Cannes, since F’s family is still there and we stayed over with them. We spent the first day just walking around Cannes and taking in all the sights. We headed up to the church where F’s parents were wed, and walked along the Croisette.
We walked past luxurious shops and beaches filled with beach chairs to rent. We paid for the most expensive cup of coffee I’ve ever had just to be able to sit along the beach. We walked past the Carlton before heading home.
Day 2: Know that one of the amazing things about the Cote D’Azur is just how much you can see in such little time. There are so many unique small villages that you can find all along the way. Be adventurous and just turn in. We spent the morning heading out to Monte Carlo. Or Monaco. Depends on if you’re referring to it in French or Italian. For me personally, I have no shame in admitting that for the longest time I thought they were two different places.
We then drove up to Eze, a small medieval town perched highest in Provence to protect itself against invasion. It was a beautiful city built with stone. I recommend paying the 6-8 Euro’s to head into the Jardin botanique d’Eze. The view of the Mediterranean from above is stunning!
On the way home, we dropped by Villefranche-sur-Mer. A beautiful pastel colored town located by the sea. I was mesmerized by the fact that all the shutters were painted beautiful variants of turquoise. I find out later, that there is an agreement between the towns on the colors that they can paint and maintain their buildings and homes. I guess Villefranche-sur-Mer chose pastel with turquoise accents!
Day 3: Perhaps we overdid it the day before. Or perhaps we overate. I can’t really tell. But we went slow on this day and spent the morning swimming in Theoule-sur-Mer. The water was an incredible crisp cool. Balanced by a wonderfully sunny day. It felt like swimming in a glacier pool (I imagine). It was that fresh.
After taking it slow, we decided to head off to St. Paul De Vence, one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera. It’s filled with local artists and artisans, and just like Eze, it too was an old stone town. In case you’re wondering though, it’s not just a tourist town, but a real functional living town too. So don’t be surprised to see the men playing petanque in the evenings.
Day 4-5: We drove for about an hour and a half to get from Cannes to Aix en Provence. A beautiful college town where F went to school. In comparison to the other towns we visited, this was definitely much larger. There were so many small squares to congregate around for a meal or a cup of coffee.
The colors of the city was mostly around the beige and orange variants. Walk on down the numerous small lanes and I can guarantee you will find some form of water fountain somewhere. I can’t verify it. But it does seem to have to the highest ratio of water fountains per sq km!
Day 5 -6: To end the wonderful trip, we drove through Marseille and Cassis. We even managed to check out the beautiful Calanque of Cassis before heading off to the iconic St. Tropez.
I had been warned by every South of France-er (is that such a word) that St. Tropez was ‘ok’ but there were so many other more fantastic towns peppering the Cote D’Azur. I only found out during this trip how the iconic Brigitte Bardot shot a movie called “and God created woman” here which pretty much launched the this town into fame. (Nothing like the BB factor!).
It was indeed playground of the rich and famous. Instead of cars, it was a comparison of boats and yachts located right next to the clubs. Each costing at least a million and above. The town itself was quite cute and the people the most stylish of all the towns I’ve visited. But I do warn that it may be more overhyped than you would think. In fact, it felt a lot smaller than Aix en Provence.
What a trip! And how amazing! We enjoyed it so much that we decided we needed to come back at least every two years to visit. And with all the towns peppered along the coast, I am sure I will never find myself short of places to visit.