Two years ago I was very fortunate to travel to the beautiful south of France and spend ten of the most memorable days enjoying the hot summer along the Mediterranean Sea. Dad, my sister and I flew into Nice Airport from London Luton, a journey that took only a few hours. We were all extremely excited to finally be in the French Riviera; the sort of place where dreams come true, where famous movie stars once lived, where artists like Picasso and Matisse painted their masterpieces and a place we’ve grown to love wholeheartedly from the moment we got off the plane.
My dad’s friend and his family were also on vacation in Nice at that time and he was kind enough to give us a lift to our place of accommodation, a studio apartment in one of the most beautiful places I have ever called home – Villefranche-sur-Mer. Our journey on the road passed the infamous Negresco Hotel to our left and the most incredibly clear, sparkling, turquoise waters of the cote d’azur to our right. We were in heaven. Dad’s friend had such a sense of humour that we were laughing uncontrollably in the car and this made the trip that much more enjoyable.
When we got slightly lost and didn’t know the exact whereabouts of the apartment we were staying at, we parked the car along the road, everybody exited the vehicle and we were all left speechless by the view before us. What a welcome!
It became difficult not to fall head over heels in love with Villefranche immediately. In the distance we could see yellow and terracotta-coloured buildings with light blue shutters in the windows, white yachts docked on the harbour and an amazing array of hills in the background. It was like something straight out of a painting and quite frankly it felt just as surreal. It was one of those “pinch me, are we really here” moments.
Eventually we located our apartment, turned the key and we were home. Feeling slightly exhausted but so thrilled at the same time we became acquainted with our new living arrangements. The space was a large rectangular room that was cleverly divided into two levels at the far end, where my sister and I had single beds on the second floor mezzanine, while dad had his own room below. The common living room had a dining table, sofa and TV, while the small bathroom and even smaller kitchen led off from there. The space was cosy and the view from the only window in the apartment immediately reminded me of the beautiful Portofino (Italy) that I visited one month earlier. There was something about those terracotta colours and shutters that felt so Italian to me! With the only breeze and ventilation coming from the large window all the way at the other end of the apartment, it was difficult to fall asleep at night and in the morning the bells from the nearby Chapel of St Pierre would ring at 7am! We didn’t mind though, we survived without air-conditioning and without knowing any French.
In the mornings we would wake up and go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea before it got too hot. I remember it perfectly! We would pack some fruits in our picnic basket and take our beach umbrella to sit in the shade on the soft small pebbles that were plentiful near the water and all around. I loved Nice of course too, for its cosmopolitan and lively vibe on the streets, its incredible food market and all the connections to art, history and film culture that it possesses. From Nice we ventured to lots of other beautiful towns, which I’ll share with you in Part 2.
Our faces still light up whenever we think of the incredible places we’ve seen, the lovely locals we met, the food we ate, the memories we’ve shared and the moments that took our breath away. The French Riviera is a must-visit destination and even after you’ve gone there once, it will draw you in again and again.