Travel

French Riviera (Part 2)

I have to admit that sitting here on a freezing Melbourne evening, sipping a hot cup of green tea and writing this post truly makes me wish I was back in the French Riviera again. It was July 23rd, 2012 when my sister, dad and I flew to Nice and began one of the best holidays of our lives. For those of you that missed Part 1 of my French Riviera travel post you can read it here.

Prior to the trip I did a lot of research about where to go and what to see in the French Riviera in 10 days. I wrote page after page worth of notes and took these to my sister for her opinion and input. She said, “Whoa, you want to see all that?” and my response was… “Definitely.” I’m proud to say that we managed to accomplish the majority of the places on that list, even though it was the middle of a very hot summer.

Monaco

My trip to Monaco would definitely be a highlight. We entered the Royal Palace where Princess Grace once lived and also found ourselves in the playground of the rich and the famous at Monte Carlo’s world-famous casino. The views of the harbour-side, with mountains in the background certainly made a great impression on me.

St Paul de Vence Gallery

St. Paul de Vence resonated with us all for its typical French village atmosphere and relaxed medieval vibe. With lots of galleries and small boutiques, it was certainly a charming place to spend a few hours.

Cannes: Stallone's hand

All of us really loved Cannes! Every year in May the Cannes Film Festival draws in the crowds and the celebrities and from the minute we got there we could see why! It had such a lively atmosphere, yet it felt smaller than Nice and had some wonderful sandy beaches. It was great fun to cross the Walk of Fame and see the hand-prints of stars such as Sylvester Stallone, Cameron Diaz, Angelina Jolie and others. I’d love to return to Cannes and stay there a few nights because it left me wanting more after we got on the bus back to Nice.

Grasse buildings

Next we visited Grasse, the perfume capital of the world! With such perfumeries as Galimard, Molinard and Fragonard, you’re spoilt for choice with a plethora of enticing scents. I took a small group tour of Fragonard and was shown the entire process of how their perfumes are made. On the streets of Grasse, I was amazed to see a really unique sprinkler system where periodically a small burst of water was released from above to cool everyone down! Grasse is also the death place of legendary French singer, Edith Piaf.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

We visited two wonderful villas located at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The first was the villa of Ephrussi de Rothschild, the daughter of prominent banker and art collector Baron Alphonse de Rothschild. The stunning pink façade, somewhat resembling a doll’s house, was tastefully decorated inside and we could tell that no expense was spared. Outdoors there were musical fountains, a vast amount of different gardens (i.e Japanese Gardens, Italian Gardens) and fantastic views of the second villa, the Greek Villa Kerylos. I loved them both!

Menton view

Last but not least, the beautiful town of Menton, located just shy of the French border with Italy, really gave us some breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.

The French Riviera is breathtaking and I hope, through my photographs and stories, that I’ve ignited your curiosity for this wonderful part of the world. I leave you with my impressions of these quaint French villages, some by the Mediterranean sea and some deep in the French countryside.

Travel

French Riviera (Part 1)

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!

Villefranche at first sight

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.

Villefranche Our Street

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.