Our EasyJet flight from Paris will touch down at 15:00 hrs. Our brief 1 hour 40 minute shuttle to Nice was hopefully uneventful. It’s late August and it’s going to be hot, so shorts and a linen shirt will be our dress code for the day and perhaps for the next four.
We’ll anxiously wait for the carousel to spit out our luggage, before making our way to the car park. Our rented Audi A4 is here somewhere, and when we find it, well… the adventure begins.
After an exciting 3-day visit to Paris, this Canadian couple is pumped and anxious to explore this 80 mile sweep of land known as the Côte d’Azur. We’ll be there to photograph the French Riviera and lap up everything that Monte Carlo, Nice, Cannes and St-Tropez has to offer over the next 4-days. This is after all the playground for the European nobility, where the super-rich park their mega yachts, and Bentleys and Rolls-Royces are as common as bicycles. We’ll savor the cafés, restaurant hop and sip pastis just like the locals. And we can’t wait.
Nice – Day 1
Nice will be our home base, with La Bergerie, a bed and breakfast, our host. Our reasonably priced room offers an ideal base for exploring all of the Riviera. I’ve been assured that Nice, France’s fifth-largest city, with all its ‘big city’ enormity has not lost its grandeur, and locations like Old Town with its cobblestoned streets still maintain the French charm we’re looking for.
They say you haven’t been to Nice these days if you haven’t strolled down the boardwalk in the broiling sun and pretend not to people watch on the Promenade des Anglais. Admittedly, this is a relaxing pastime of ours, so Mary will likely want to fill an afternoon just enjoying this. Afterwards we’ll cross the street to scout a few of Nice’s historic highlights including the magnificent Hôtel Negresco (1912), and art deco, Palais de la Méditerranée (1929).
Dinner is a revered highlight for this couple, so we’ll do some additional homework before we make our selection. But what has been recommended (reviews like TripAdvisor etc.) and has made the short list thus far; Lou Pistou, a quaint bistro run by a husband and wife team; Restaurant L’Authentic, serving traditional French cuisine; Oliviera‘s, Nadim Bérouti gave up a career in finance to pursue his passion of olive oil; L’Escalinada’s owner Henri Cagnoli apparently knows every one of his customers by name, and if I want to cash in some of my Apple shares we’ll try Parcours Live Restaurant, a refined dinner for two on average: $925.
Cannes – Day 2
Every year hordes of Hollywood types descend upon Cannes to attend its famous annual film festival. Unfortunately we won’t be there at that time, held mid-May, so we’ll just have to cross our fingers that we run into someone famous.
However, our day will be fabulous none the less. We’ll strap on our Fitbit’s and take on the iconic Boulevard de la Croisette, that stretches 3km alongside the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. We’ll stroll the palm-shaded promenade hopping in and out of couture shops (’cause Mary will make me) and photograph the grandeur of the multi-starred hotels that line the strip.
But a day visit to Nice can’t be complete without taking a quiet stroll through the historic old town, Le Suquet, and have an ice-cream at Vilfeu Glacier. We’ll make our way along the cobbled streets, up to the Château de la Castre where I’ll photograph panoramic views of Cannes. Then we’ll head to dinner.
We’ll do a little window shopping first just to whet our appetites. We’ll review the menu at La Palme D’Or, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant, but that’s as far as we get. This culinary experience is a luxury that’s just a tad out of our price range.
But there are a couple of gems that we’ll want to review that better fit our travel budget. La Mere Besson according to Condé Nest Traveller, serves delicious seasonal Provencal dishes. If in France, eat like the French do (right), so I checked TripAdvisor and the reviews are pretty good so we might give it a try. But we love seafood and the Astoux et Brun sounds delicious, with reviews claiming this no frills café style restaurant serves the best seafood in Cannes. Looks like we’ll have to flip a coin.
St-Tropez – Day 3
We’re budgeting an hour and a half for this 100 km drive from our home base in Nice. We’ll hop in the Audi, set the nav system and point it south west towards our target, St-Tropez. This once peaceful fishing village is now a sizzling jet-set favorite. Not for the serene, in August, St-Tropez streets and beaches become ultra crowded, and the port will be cluttered with yachts.
Our day will start at the port where we’ll likely beach the car for the day. We’ll jostle among the tourists to photograph the yachts lining the harbor in picturesque old port. And if we arrive early enough we’ll uncover St-Tropez’ daily morning fish market, at Place aux Herbes. Everywhere you look, St-Tropez offers up a Kodak moment.
If the weather is on our side we’re planning to soak up the Mediterranean and work on our St-Tropez tan for the afternoon. The famous and infamous have tanned their body parts along the sandy stretch of Pampelonne beach, including the legendary beauty, Bridgette Bardot. Famous beach clubs, restaurants, bars, hotels and night clubs service the throngs of tourists and jet-setters that flock here. I sense more people watching.
I’m basing our choice purely on reviews here folks, they’re all 5-star. The best restaurant in St-Tropez appears to be the award-winning L’Adresse Marocaine. We certainly haven’t planned on eating Moroccan food in France, (excuse the faux pas) but this definitely deserves a sit down.
Monaco – Day 4
Monte Carlo, located inside the minuscule country of Monaco, is synonymous with luxury living, like 30 percent of its residents are millionaires! A playground for the super-rich, Monte Carlo conjures visions of an affluent and glamorous city, hence the Astin Martins, Bentleys and Ferraris decorating the streets.
It’s casinos have been featured in not one but two James Bond films (1983’s Never Say Never Again and 1995’s GoldenEye). And if that’s not enough charm for you: it’s still ruled by the same royal family who took over in the year 1297.
The Monaco Grand Prix is not only the highlight of the sporting calendar but of the social one as well. Steeped in luxury and history, watching Formula 1 cars roar through the streets of Monaco would be an exciting way to spend an afternoon. It’s too bad we’ll miss this once in a lifetime event by a few months.
In the meantime, Travel and Leisure recommends we grab a seat at the Café de Paris, order some Veuve, and enjoy the show: couples in black tie strolling, coiffed blondes trolling, uniformed chauffeurs in dark cars idling—and this couple is loving the spectacle of it all.
We’ll wander over to see the impressive Prince’s Palace of Monaco and catch the changing of the guard. We’ll pony up the 11 euro admission to admire its chapels, white stone towers and 15th-century frescoes and wander through their private 100 antique car collection.
Mary will enjoy this part: The Pavilions Monte Carlo, a row of five pebble-shaped spaces, houses luxury brands like Bottega Veneta, Chanel, Miu Miu, Yves Saint Laurent and a dozen or so more. And if that’s not enough, she’ll drag me to Stock Griffe. According to my sources, this ‘designer outlet’ offers huge savings, as much as 70 percent, on pieces from top designers like, Escada, Pucci, Prada, Kenzo, Versace, Moschino and more.
With all that walking and shopping we’re going to be hungry. We’ll reserve a table for lunch (doubling as dinner) at the famed Le Louis XV at the L’Hôtel de Paris. (Note to self: prepare for wardrobe change). A little pricey but we just have to experience a three Michelin-star meal. Chef Alain Ducasse became the youngest chef to earn haute cuisine’s highest honor.
Before we depart this ultra luxury playground, we’ll make one final stop at Monaco’s famous casino. Playing a hand at the famed Casino de Monte Carlo will be our parting shot. Okay, we may opt out on the part where we’ll jockey up to a black jack table, but even these two non-gamblers will get something out of seeing this 1863-built relic. And of course a highlight is people watching.
Back to you
Have you experienced Côte d’Azur? Been to Nice, Cannes, St-Tropez or Monaco? If you have any tips to pass on to Mary and I, don’t be shy, we’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, stay connected to CiaoMary by subscribing to our blog – to the right of this article. We’ll be posting a follow up to this post in the fall so stay tuned.