The number one question I always hear? What’s your favorite place you have ever been? Well, I think I have my final answer.
I recently returned from a mini vacation to the French Riviera. Two nights in Nice, with a lovely afternoon cruise and a tour to Gourdon, Grasse, Valbonne, and Chateau de Cremat. I have previously visited Nice, Monaco and Eze and found them to be spectacular. And every time I return, I highlight a different city. The south of France is rich with stunning views, modern cities, medieval villages, amazing food and a spectacular coastline. There’s something for everyone here. But let’s take a step back and start from the beginning of this recent getaway.
I arrived at the Nice airport around 10 a.m. Customs was fast and efficient. I decided to try the local flix bus to my hotel. When you exit customs, you go all the way to the right against the wall. There were two windows with a line of about 30 people. You can purchase a myriad of tickets here, including the express bus tickets. I was heading toward the Promenade de Anglais. One ticket was 6 euro. After paying for my ticket, I was told to go to platform 7 and wait for bus 98.
Of course, platform 7 was incorrect. It’s actually platform 5 in terminal 2 and platform 7 in terminal one. But I eventually found the right bus. Cost for an Uber? Around 25 euro. I lost about half an hour in the line and figuring out the right bus. The ride itself is about half an hour.
I got off on Congres stop where I had the privilege of staying at the Hyatt Regency Palais de Mediterranean. (I’ll post a review of the hotel after I finish this blog.). A gorgeous five star hotel right on the main drag overlooking the beach. Really an ideal place to stay. But if money is an issue, several other hotels overlook the water including a Le Meridien.
I got ready and spoke to the concierge who set me up on a boat cruise and a tour for the next day. It’s really hard to get last minute tours so please consider advance purchase. Basically, my two options were the only choices left and only available due to the hotel’s connections.
The boat cruise was about a twenty minute walk from the hotel in the old port. It was a one hour cruise that left at 3 p.m. around Villefranche, Cap Ferat, and the Nice beachline. Simple gorgeous. I love to get a view of places I visit from the land, air and sea. Since this wasn’t my first time in the French Riviera, I got to enjoy the beauty from a whole different vantage point. It was one hour and smooth sailing. I highly recommend this activity. And just $18 euro for one hour.
Afterward, I headed to the old town for dinner. I meandered the old streets and eventually found a little Italian restaurant with seating outside where I ordered a pizza and salad.
One of my favorite things about the French Riviera is the food. It’s not strictly French food! But rather the restaurants concentrate on a Mediterranean cuisine. And being so close to Italy gives a plethora of good Italian cuisine options. Nice is very multicultural and gives a variety of dining choices. There’s nothing you can’t find here from fast food to fancy food.
After my fabulous dinner, I headed to the Hotel Negresco for a drink. Built in 1926, the Negresco is considered one of the best hotels in Nice and the inside of the hotel is a museum in and of itself. Beautiful paintings, sculptures and furniture line the walls.
I headed inside to have a drink at the bar. An old world wooden paneled bar with a rich sumptuous opulence. The drinks are pricey but I wanted to check out the hotel and tourists are not allowed.
After my wine, I snuck around and walked through the main foyer, visited a few floors and eventually got a peek at the famed Carousel Bar. So kitschy, but cute.
Afterward, I headed to my hotel for bed. After all, it was long flight from NYC and the six hour time difference is always a beast on the first day.
Day two consisted of my tour. My driver, Moumon, arrived promptly at 9:15 a.m. There were two lovely ladies from England already aboard the spacious van and we set offfir the day.
First stop was a historic confectionery in Pont de Loop, the Florian. We did a tour of the candy factory and then got to sample at least 30 varieties of special candies, chocolate and jams. Very sugary but delicious. Including local specialties I never heard of.
After that, we headed over to Gourdon, a stunning 9th century medieval town on the top of a mountain in the countryside. We had about 45 minutes to walk around the city, take photos and stop at some of the lovely artisan stores. Truly memorable.
Next we headed to Valbonne, a village situated along the Brague River. Although prehistoric remains have been found, an abbey was established in 1199. After the Black Plague, the present village was founded in 1519. We had about twenty minutes to wander the village.
We then got to head to the town/commune of Grasse and to the famed Fragonard factory where we watched a presentation about the production of perfume and the history. Fragonard was built in 1926 and has its own museum to tour as well as a shop to purchase perfumes and soaps.
We had about an hour to wander the cobbled streets of the old town. Set in the hills north of Cannes, There’s a gorgeous church, Grasse Cathedral dedicated to Notre Dame de Puy and founded in the 11th century. There are three Ruben masterpieces hanging the old stone walls.
After Grasse we headed up to the Chateau de Cremat. The winery just outside Nice overhangs the Var Valley. Built in 1906 over actual Roman cellars. A rich American heiress bought the property in 1923 and loved to throw lavish parties. Coco Chanel was a friend and loved the interlocking CCs and asked to use the logo for her design label. The heiress wasn’t interested in producing wine and allowed Coco to use the logo for Chanel which she trademarked and now Chateau de Cremat cannot use the logo for their wine. In 1946, the winery was restored and began production of wines.
After my full day tour, I returned to my hotel for dinner and a glass of wine. In the morning, I grabbed a Uber to the airport (22 euro) and headed home. Overall, I enjoyed my quick mini vacation to the French Riviera and can’t wait to return! I still need to see so many more towns. This area is rich with history, food and scenic views and I highly suggest this go on everyone’s travel list! And if anyone wants to know about the companies I used, feel free to leave me a comment.