6 Days in the Cote D'Azur - The French Riviera
Oh the South of France! I had always imagined visiting the French Riviera with all of its glitz and glamour so when the travel bug first bit me, this was at the top of my list and boy, was it worth every penny! One question that I get asked time and time again is, “Isn’t the French Riviera extremely overpriced and expensive?” and the answer is no, depending on what you do. If you want to live the life of luxury for your entire trip then yes, but that will be anywhere you travel to. I tried to do as much research as possible beforehand to figure out what activities and sites were most important to my best friend and I and to get the lay of the land. Instead of bouncing around and staying in different towns within the French Riviera, we chose Nice as our home base and took day trips from there to St. Tropez, Cannes, & Monaco. We found a super cute boutique hotel, Villa Otero, which is walking distance to the promenade and was easily accessible to everything in Nice, including the train station. Keep reading for a day by day recap of all the fun things we did and the delicious food we ate!
Day 1: We started our vacation off with a running start and spent our first day taking a day trip to St. Tropez. You can book this with a guide but we felt very adventurous on this trip so we opted for the train+bus route. The total travel time to get to St. Tropez from Nice via train+bus is between 3-4 hours depending on the train schedules. Taking the train was fairly simple and the train station was a short walk from our hotel. You also get to take in the scenery from the train and the bus is your typical coach bus that takes you from the Arcs - Draguignan train station about an hour out of St. Tropez directly to the town of St. Tropez. I highly suggest catching an early train from Nice that way you can spend most of the day in St. Tropez before having to head back. Once you make it to St. Tropez, you’ll probably be hungry, we definitely were! Luckily, there are tons of little outdoor restaurants by the docks as soon as you enter the town and the food is so fresh! After grabbing a bite to eat, we took the trail up the hill to get a viewpoint of the town (picture above). It was a little bit of a hike but well worth it! Afterwards, we walked around the small town and went in all of the shops. Everything in St. Tropez is so unique, so make sure you pick up a souvenir. For the past year, I try to get an ornament from every place I visit for my Christmas tree but before that I would try to get something special from my travels. We stumbled upon Ivan Hor’s shop in which he is knows for his artwork consisting of 3D paper sailboats. I ended up choosing a small rectangular piece that now sits in my kitchen. Walking into his shop is like stepping into an artists mind. There are beautiful, mind blowing pieces of art everywhere. There’s no way you can leave his shop empty handed!
Day 2: Our second day was spent exploring Nice. We made sure to start the day off right by grabbing breakfast & coffee from a small bakery near the hotel. We loved this place so much that we went here every morning for breakfast! (The name escapes me but if I can find it, I’ll update my post & link them.) Afterwards, we walked along the promenade and climbed up Castle Hill to get a great view of the town. There are also tons of local shops along the blocks leading up to the promenade. We found delicious chocolates to the best smelling soaps. After lunch at La Storia, we headed over to the Molinard perfume boutique where we had booked to have a tour and a class to create our own perfume! France is well known for their award winning perfumes and scents so we thought this would be a great & unique experience to share. This was probably my favorite activity from this trip! I loved sampling all of the scents and combining them to make my own custom scent and the bottle you make for yourself is bigger than you would expect for the price! I still have mine & absolutely love it. They give you a certificate afterwards & they keep your fragrance formula on file so that when you run out, you can reorder it & they’ll ship it to you!
Day 3: Today, we booked a full-day small group tour to Monaco and the other nearby towns in the French Riviera. Our guide was amazing and we only had a group of 6 so it was very easy for our guide to tailor the tour to our needs and answer all of our questions. We started at the old town of Eze, which is a small, medieval town built into the rocks of the mountain. Everything was very beautiful, like straight out of a fairy tale. Our next stop was Monaco, where we saw the changing of the guards at the palace & were able to get a bite to eat from an amazing sandwich shop there. We happened to be in town the week before the grand prix was taking place so they had the circuit laid out & we drove our van around for one lap. Next up was Cannes & again, we were in luck and in town right before the infamous Cannes Film Festival so we were able to see the red carpet rolled out and where all of the action was about to take place! Our last two stops were Juan-Les-Pins and Antibes which ended up being my favorite stop. The water was gorgeous and the town was so quaint, I would love to go back and stay a few days.
Day 4: Another day trip! Like I said before, Nice is the most perfect home base for your trip as it’s very easy to take day trips from. Today, we rented a car and drove to the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region. We had hoped to drive through some lavender fields but we were a little early and it wasn’t quite season for them. We were also planning to see the Verdon Gorge and the L’Occitane factory as we’re both very much into skincare.
Sidebar: This was by far the most stressful but funniest days I’ve probably ever had in my life. Imagine… I was driving a smart car where the GPS was only in French. Instead of the L’Occitane factory, the GPS takes us to a nearby tiny town that has a L’Occitane store where the store associate had no clue what we were trying to ask. Then, upon leaving the store, I follow a van in front of me and instead of taking us out of the town, I follow him through a security gate into the town square that is for pedestrians only unless you’re a delivery vehicle and then we couldn’t figure out how to get out! I was so scared we were going to get stopped but luckily we didn’t and we still laugh about it to this day.
If you like skincare then I highly recommend stopping of the L’Occitane factory in Manosque. You can tour the factory & learn about the history of the company and the types of fresh ingredients they use in their products. You can even shop in the company store for discounted products! The Verdon Gorge is a canyon and the water below is a beautiful, bright green/blue. You can drive through the gorge and catch glimpses of the water & there is an end of the gorge where you can paddle board and kayak in the summer months. We had mentioned to our tour guide the day before about our plans and he said we absolutely had to make time to stop at a town called Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and we were SO glad that we did! This hidden town is built into a mountain is the most charming town I’ve ever seen. It’s quiet and has small shops. We ate dinner here at Côté Jardin and it was one of the best dinners I’ve had in my life. The food was so fresh and the staff were extremely friendly and welcoming towards us!
Day 5 & 6: We spent our last two days in Nice which having three full days in Nice is a perfect amount of time. By now we had mastered their transportation systems and could move around the town easily when we got tired of walking. We visited Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild (the pink house below) and yes, it’s even more beautiful in person than in the pictures I took. It only took about 15 minutes to get there by bus and only costs 12 euros to tour the house and the luscious gardens. We also visited the Matisse Museum and the Marc Chagall National Museum. Nice also had a flower market that is sure to put a smile on your face and a great antiques market on certain days. On the 5th night, we got dressed up and took the train to Monaco to go to the casino and dinner at Il Terrazzino (an absolute must when in Monte-Carlo!). On our last day, we had breakfast on the beach at Blue Beach Restaurant on the promenade and attended a Provencal Cooking Class in Old Nice Town where we learned how to prepare the traditional Nicoise Salad and a chocolate cake dessert. Later that night, we went to Le Petit Lascaris for another amazing meal. I ordered dessert and it was the last portion they had made so they brought it out in the mixing bowl it was prepared in! It was so sad to know that we were leaving this gem of a place but we made sure to get our fix of wine & pastries! Until next time Nice!