The French Riviera: Honeymoon Along the Côte d'Azur
It's the 14th of July today, France's Independence Day, and everywhere people are celebrating. We've just arrived to Antibes from Provence, and already the town has come alive with music and performers. Local fish markets beckon with their fresh catches for the day, and cafes are filled with locals and tourists dining al fresco while they take in the incredible weather we've had the past few days. Down the Blvd. President Wilson, the Brazilian inspired Pam Pam Bar serves up elaborate fruity cocktails and entertainers with colorful headdresses. Holidays are week-long affairs in Europe (think 4th of July except for 7-days). Every night there's a different fireworks display in each major city along the Côte d'Azur. It's the best time to travel to the area!
Where to go:
Nice: Pronounced 'neese', this capital city more than lives up to it's name. Pick up a bottle of wine, some cheese, fruit and maybe a baguette from the grand marché and head to Castle Hill for incredible views of the town. There's also a park at the top that's perfect for picnicking. You can take a lift up, but I highly recommend taking the winding staircases. It's a bit of a trek - took us about 35 minutes - but as you head up there's a panoramic view of the city and a spectacular waterfall to cool you off near the top. You can also rent a couple of lounge chairs (14 euros per chair) and relax on the beach or swim. Just watch out, my husband got stung by a jellyfish while swimming here.
Cannes: We spent most of the day on the beach in Cannes, looking for a retreat for the summer heat. Though much more expensive than Nice (lounges were 26 euros per chair), Cannes also has a picturesque beach and no jelly fish. With blocks of boutiques, designer stores, gelato shops and cafes, there's plenty to occupy your time.
St. Paul de Vence: This beautiful medieval town sits on a hillside and looks like a postcard from the middle ages. Filled with art galleries, old houses, tourist shops and artisanal shops, it's a great place to stop for a morning coffee and croissant and wander around the cobblestone paths. The quickest way to get there from Antibes is by car or taxi, but you can also take the train to Cagnes-sur-Mer and then take the 400 bus up to SPdV. Visit this site for train schedules.
Monte Carlo, Monaco: This ritzy little port is a playground for the abundantly rich. Stroll along the water and you'll see a bevy of yachts, each one bigger than the last. While it's mostly useful for sight-seeing and people-watching (shops are quite pricey) there's a few moderately priced shops, a huge Zara, and a great little cafe near the casino. Travel tip: The casino only allows closed-toe shoes, so be sure to plan your outfit accordingly.
St. Tropez: Though we weren't in the area to visit St. Tropez and it is a bit of a trek from Antibes, I'd highly recommend it if you're staying for several days. The colorful buildings and Nikki Beach alone are enough of a reason to go. It's roughly 2 and a half hours by train, or 1 hour by car.
Where to stay:
If you're traveling during a holiday weekend, be prepared that hotels may be a little more expensive than usual. Antibes is a great town to stay in as it's centrally located in the Riviera, about a 7 minute train ride to Cannes and 13 minutes to Nice, even shorter to Cagnes-Sur-Mer and St. Paul de Vence, and the hotels aren't quite as expensive as it's neighboring tourist areas. The hotel we stayed in, Baie des Anges, was located in a residential area just outside of town. Though it was clean, comfortable, affordable and the staff has been lovely, I would have liked to have stayed closer to the beach and all the action. I'd suggest the Hotel Juana, for an art deco vibe with an ocean view!
Been to the French Riviera recently? What was your favorite part of the Côte d'Azur?