I love every single facet of the French Riviera (Cote d’Azur) experience. now I can’t say this enough, it’s a must see for everyone, especially families with children. Also, I realized that some experiences are simply a matter of being in the right headspace.
So, let’s start!… it’s half term again and it’s been a long winter. We missed the sun so much and the thought of swimming in the warm sea sounds endearing. After searching the web we decide there are not many options suitable for us. That’s because we are looking for something more than to lay on the beach all day. So, here we go and we spin the globe to find our next adventure.
Parlez vous français ?!
Ever since I started studying French I’ve always been intrigued by the name Cote d’Azur, which means the Blue Coast. I was dreaming of a mild Mediterranean climate, blue turquoise sea, lots of orange and olive trees and a beautiful sparkling world. It turned out to be very close to what I imagined. Actually, my expectations were exceeded when I met amazingly friendly people, ready to walk with you for a mile or two if they had to; delicious food that would satisfy any taste or preference and several medieval villages.
Here we are, we have chosen our destination. “Good! “, we said, let’s look at flights! The only airport that’s close to this area is in Nice. In fact, it’s the third biggest airport in France after Charles de Gaulle and Paris airport. Because we’ve done it again by looking at flights just a couple of days before the holiday( I know, I know), we can’t find anything affordable. After combining all kinds of flights, airports and dates, we decided that driving is the best option.
A “how to” guide will be nice (or Nice, get it?)
According to Google Maps, it was meant to be a 12-hour drive to Cannes. In retrospect, it was a good thing that Google Maps kind of lied to us because we weren’t scared of such a long drive.
On the contrary, we started to look for accommodation. And we found Club Maintenon which I can highly recommend for a relaxing and quiet stay. We had a beautiful apartment, fully equipped and with quite a large kitchen fitted with a hob, oven, fridge and a dishwasher. The apartments are situated right in the centre of Cannes. Very close from the shopping street of Rue d’Antibes and about 0.2 miles from the famous Boulevard La Croisette. Also, it was just 5 minutes away from the beach (Plage de la Croisette), the port, Palais des Festivals and the station. Club Maintenon
Hit the road Jack!
After a full day at work, school and other activities, we are at the door in no time. Passports ready, luggage check and a sat-nav of course. We bought ferry tickets for Dover to Calais (France), just one day before departure and we found it to be very convenient. ferry
We’ve been on board of Pride of Canterbury on a Friday night. I’m sure you’ve seen a formicary (ant’s nest) before. Because that is exactly what it looked like. With babies crawling on the floor, groups of schoolmates telling horror tales and love stories. My son’s current passion is Titanic( not the movie, but the actual story). We’ve watched so many documentaries about it and found out so much about the Titanic’s passengers and their lives. Honestly, for a second there, I got chills on my spine because it made me think it must’ve been something similar, different stages of life, different backgrounds and different aspirations…all on one boat.
While crossing, it takes about 90 minutes, you get to enjoy a nice coffee in their restaurants and brasseries. Maybe you’d like to have a look around the shops. Or maybe if there’s still light outside, just enjoy the magical beauty of the sea from the panoramic windows or even from the deck.
You may never see Dijon but you’ve certainly tasted it
We drove all night and as soon as the Sun made an appearance, all we wanted was to explore beautiful France.
So, long before we reach our destination, we made a stop in Dijon…Which is the capital city of the historical Burgundy region in eastern France, one of the country’s main producer of wine. This city has conquered me almost instantly and not because of their world famous mustard but for being packed with impressive medieval, Gothic and Renaissance buildings. For anyone that is passionate about history, Dijon is a must on your list.
With all things considered, this city doesn’t have a pragmatic air to it but rather a very romantic aura. We only spent a few hours here but we’ll definitely come back as there is a lot left to discover.
As I previously said, what I find to be awesome is that many of the gastronomic specialities that originated here are known worldwide. Among them are the Escargots de Bourgogne (not my favourite but…), Crème de cassis( a black-currant liqueur) and the Dijon mustard of course (named after the city because it used to be the centre of mustard making in the early Middle Ages, in France).
Speaking about food, we enjoyed a nice brunch at Tartin’art. It’s kind of a boulangerie but with coffee and tables. It’s near the covered market and you will find a wide choice of amazing food (the best quiche ever, baguettes with tasty jambon and warm croissants need to be added to your to-do list). They have such friendly staff there and if you don’t speak French, don’t worry, they do speak English.
We said goodbye to the lovely Dijon and headed to our home for a week…Cannes.
Cannes – limousines, paparazzi, red carpet, celebrities
As soon as we entered the city, something strange was happening to us. We found ourselves trying to adjust to a new rhythm. Everything and everyone was on the move. Police car columns passing by, motorcycle columns, limousines with tinted windows, a lot of security, paparazzi and a lot of press everywhere. That was the moment when we realized the film festival is the reason for all of this.
The locals don’t seem to make much fuss about it. Actually try to avoid the event as much as possible. We might be impressed with this atmosphere but not the people of Cannes. I haven’t figured it out yet if it’s because this is the 70th consecutive year of the film festival or they simply don’t like their lives to be disturbed by anyone, including celebrities.
Anyway, we didn’t come all this way for this, no, no, no!
Le Suquet, which is an old quarter of Cannes is the kind of stuff I’m looking for. Away from the glitz and glamour of the busy marina and above the promenades of Cannes.
Old narrow streets, small coffee shops and local restaurants, then at the top… You get a 360° view of Cannes, a gorgeous clock tower and an old church, ready to be explored. As soon as I’ve seen Le Suquet, I said, there must be more. I love how well preserved their medieval villages are. There are a couple to visit in the area but what you want to add to your list is Eze.
Eze, the eagle’s nest
Èze has been described as an “eagle’s nest” because of its location overlooking a high cliff 427 metres (1,401 ft) above sea level on the French Mediterranean.
There is a connection with Britain too. Some very old silver coins that have been found in Eze, dating hundreds of years BC are now on display at the British Museum. The village is not just amazingly gorgeous but also has a lot of interesting history behind it.
We loved the botanical garden (Jardin Exotique), at the top of the hill. It’s a real gem not just for the tropical and beautiful plants you get to enjoy but also for the pretty views above the sea. The region is famous for the many flowers that grow here. I shouldn’t forget, there are a number of perfumeries to be visited, including the famous Fragonard perfume factory.
And I can write about it all day long but I feel like I’ll spoil the surprise. So, you have to go and make your own experience. Now I know Cote d’Azur is not just for wealthy people or for the ones that look like they’re coming from a fashion show and just stepped down the catwalk.
We often find ourselves copying other people stories or experiences, that might not even suit us. Why don’t you dare to be creative and allow yourself to be you?!… Walking in flip-flops on the famous Boulevard, wearing the fancy hat that you keep hidden in the wardrobe thinking everyone is going to laugh at you, yeah…why not?
Until next time!