After our brief but enjoyable trip to Cassis, we went to the heart of the Côte d’Azur. We planned to drive the coastline to Saint-Tropez and then on to Cannes for a night’s stay. Traffic was exactly what you would expect from popular coastal areas, heavy and slow.
We made it to Saint-Tropez in time for lunch (savory crepes!) and began our tour of the land of the rich and almost famous. The signs of extreme wealth were obvious and everywhere. From the Aston Martin DBS street-parked to get Gelato, the lady talking on her phone and checking her make-up while driving her Rolls-Royce Dawn (dark blue exterior with an orange interior, very nice), to the most obvious, the massive mega-yachts in the harbor. What is funny about this well-known playground for wealthy and famous people is the number of people trying desperately to be seen. I honestly can’t tell you how many young women, some men but mostly women, were dressed to impress and posing for selfies or videos in front of identifiable landmarks for Instagram, TikTok, etc. It was disheartening how many people were so self-absorbed they didn’t appear to be aware of the great art galleries, interesting architecture, or the beautiful ocean around them.
I found the lack of beaches fascinating, the coastline is much rockier than I imagined. It also makes the harbor the town’s focus. Some yachts in the harbor were obscene and dwarfed anything we’d seen in the US or elsewhere. Several of them had a whiff of Oligarch, but we didn’t see any police tape or apparent signs of seizure, so maybe not. The harbor boasts a ton of restaurants, but what I was most interested in were the street art vendors. Some of the artwork for sale by people sitting in a chair on the sidewalk was outstanding. I couldn’t believe the quality of the work; it was very impressive. Saint-Tropez was a good stop, but we had places to go.
We arrived in Cannes around 5;15 pm, which didn’t help traffic, but that was the least of our problems. Our Airbnb host had not responded to my communications, which was a red flag. He finally contacted us through the Airbnb app after I called and left a message because we were outside the building. It took about 45 minutes to decipher his instructions and find the hidden key to get into the underground parking garage to park the car. The assigned spot was so small that we had to get the luggage out before backing into it. Even then, I could barely open the door enough to get out without hitting the concrete wall.
When we finally got into the apartment, it was terrible. I could hear every word of the conversation next door as if they were in the apartment (I thought they were at first), then we discovered that it had not been cleaned. The bathroom was filthy, and the bedding was dirty; I won’t get into the details, but it was disgusting. I took photos of everything to send to Airbnb, pulled up Booking.com, booked a hotel room nearby for the night, and we left. We were in the apartment for less than 30 minutes before loading the car back up and driving a few blocks away to an excellent hotel, Hotel Le Suquet Cannes.
It had recently opened, and the staff was very accommodating. They upgraded us from a double to a king room, and that was before we explained why we had booked our room 15 minutes before arriving. They gave us an excellent recommendation for a restaurant, La Tredici, where we ate dinner later that evening. Airbnb was fantastic, and we had a full refund of all fees in less than 24 hours; their customer service team was excellent.
After getting settled and cleaned up, we walked to the water and along the coastline to see where the famous film festival was held. Then it was up the hill to the castle that overlooks the city and harbor. We had some great views and took a bunch of photos before dinner. The city of Cannes is a fantastic place to visit and has more to offer than the film festival. And if you visit Cannes, look at the Hotel Le Suquet, they were rock stars! Even though our experience began very badly, we enjoyed our stay there.
Èze and Nice
After a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, we were off to Nice for a more extended stay. We decided to go to Èze’s fortress “city” before settling in Nice. It was a very cool place but small with little to no place to park. We found a perfume manufacturer/store that had parking but only for their customers. Their website advertised a free tour, so we decided to park there, take the tour and then walk from there to the top to see what we could see.
The tour of Fragonard was surprisingly enjoyable. We saw how they make perfume, cosmetics, and soaps while also learning about the science of fragrance making. Of course, the tour ended in the gift shop, but the discount they offered was significant, and we both found some scents we liked, so we did some shopping.
Feeling justified that we paid for our parking privileges, we walked to the top to see the castle. The place was super cool, complete with a hotel and a two Michelin star restaurant, but there were no astounding views unless you paid to enter their exotic garden. Because the host of our next stay was waiting for us, we didn’t have time to take the tour, so there were no great photos from Èze. We saw what we could and left. The drive between Èze and Nice is one spectacular view after another. It would be better if there were more pullouts to admire the views, but if you can get a spot at one of the few that exist, you will not be disappointed.
We finally found our lodging for Nice and got settled into the super charming Residence at Villa Lèonie. Clemence greeted us and let us know where we could park while also giving us a little history of her family’s place. Her family lived in the house before deciding to turn it into a rental property. They renovated the massive rooms as needed to add kitchenettes and bathrooms and the place is very cool. Her father still lives here and hangs around doing his thing while people rent various rooms for vacation or long-term. It’s in a great spot and not expensive, so it was a win.
We walked to the grocery store about six minutes away to get some supplies to make our breakfasts and snacks to cut down on costs and make it a little more fun. Then we walked down to the harbor to check out a restaurant on the water that Clemence recommended, Le San Juan. It rocked, and Crystal and I had some of the best seafood of the trip so far. I had to disassemble my prawns, but they were good, and so was everything else. After dinner, we walked around the harbor, checking out the yachts (not as crazy as Saint Tropez) and taking photos of a lovely sunset from the seawall and lighthouse.
The trip to Monaco. After making a French breakfast of bread, jam, cheese, fruit, and French press coffee, we walked to the train. The train ride to Monte-Carlo was a nightmare. We had no room to get on the first car we tried. We almost didn’t make it into the second one either, but we were off after the door attempted to close on my foot and opened enough for me to get in. It was a terrible human stew of sweating people standing all bunched together (we were wearing masks due to regulations; many others were not). We would not have gone if we knew that’s what the train would’ve been like.
After finally arriving in Monte-Carlo, we walked to the famous Casino and checked out the exotic cars parked outside. We took photos and walked the harbor to see parts of the F1 track, and since the race occurred a couple of weeks earlier, much of the course equipment was still in place. I wanted to see the tunnel exit and the chicanes around the swimming pool. It’s challenging to imagine race cars blasting out of that tunnel at 180 MPH or snaking their way through the very narrow streets. It must be a sight to behold in person. Mission accomplished, we climbed to the royal palace and the old part of town.
Monte-Carlo is a crazy city built into a cliffside with stacks and layers of buildings everywhere. Monaco is an intrigueing little country when you look at how small and tightly packed the population is, not even considering the staggering wealth. We saw the Prince leave the Royal Palace in his Toyota Prius flanked by a security detail, which was kind of cool.
After some of the best ice cream we’ve ever had (Swedish organic), we walked back to the train station for the ride back to Nice. There was no crushing crowd this time, and we sat on the top of a double-decker passenger train. The clear views of the ocean and cliffside homes made me want to go to the beach and float around in the water. Maybe tomorrow.
Just as I wanted, we started the day by walking down to the little beach nearest our apartment. It’s tiny and super rocky on the beach and in the water, but it was awesome. We were far from the only people with the idea to begin the day in the ocean, but Crystal was able to get some prime real estate on the rock beach in the sun before it got too crowded.
Dozens of people were doing triathlon training swims, while others were doing long-distance swim workouts. I managed to float around and check things out for a good 45 minutes before going back on shore to see if Crystal had enough sun yet. I’m pretty sure the sunscreen I slathered on myself before going out prevented any coloration on my pasty white torso, but I did seem to gain a few more freckles.
After the beach, we had a nice little brunch and got on with our day. We walked around Old Nice a bit since we hadn’t seen anything other than the port area. We found Garibaldi square, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, and then made our way to the park that divides Old Nice from the rest of the city. Nice is a big city, but we just kept to the old area. We wanted to focus on the relaxing beaches and the beautiful colorful buildings that are the hallmark of the French Riviera.
Our plan for the evening was to get a couple of pizzas to bring back to the apartment so we could sit outside in the garden and eat them with our wine. And after walking around Old Nice until we were both legitimately hangry, that’s what we did. We found a highly rated, organic farm-to-table, local ingredient type place called Basilic & Co. They were on the route home from Old Nice, which worked well.
Our meal in the garden was fantastic as the pizzas were the bomb, and we drank some of the Rosé we picked up at the grocery store the first day. I tried to watch the 24 Hours of LeMans and briefly had it on our French TV, but then they transitioned to soccer, and I was out of luck. It hurts to be in France during LeMans and not be there, but I will consider this a baby step toward reaching my goal of working that race.
We planned to climb to Point de View Colline du Chateau, between the harbor and Old Nice, to see the castle ruins and check out the views. The hill was a relatively easy climb from our side of town, and the views of the city and coastline were stunning. You could tell from the city level that this position would have some excellent sightlines, but there were so many unique spots to see the water and city that I just wanted to stay there for hours and watch.
We took a bunch of photos, observed a fitness class in the park, Zumba, I think, and took even more pictures before climbing down to the beachside. Our descent revealed that we ascended the easy side of the hill, as we had to go down about 300 steps to reach the promenade.
The beach was packed, and the variety of people there was quite amusing. Walking the beach promenade was fun, even though the sun was intense and sweltering. It’s a great beach area, and the water is some of the most inviting-looking water I’ve ever seen. Even with the pebble beaches, it just makes me want to drop everything and run in; it looks so good.
We walked the promenade for quite a bit before taking a right turn into the city. We were well passed Old Nice, so we gradually made out way back, looking at the shops, restaurants, and people as we searched for a place to have lunch. My criteria were simple, shade, and a place to sit; Crystal had a few more items on her list. We eventually stumbled onto a little Turkish restaurant, Delice Royal, that looked eager for customers. Their prices were reasonable, and the food looked amazing, so we stopped.
I am glad we did because it was excellent, and we each had a massive plate of food and a cocktail for 39 euros in Nice! Of course, we didn’t stop there as we walked across the way to a Greek place to get dessert and then to the cafe next door for coffee. We felt good patronizing three small, family-owned businesses, but we raised our bill quickly. An evening of writing and photo editing awaited as we finished our time in Nice and prepared for the next leg of the adventure; Italy!