We only had two nights in Nice and wanted to make most of our time in the French Riviera! We flew from Barcelona to Nice, a quick one hour flight and hit the ground running.
There is something about the light on the Cote d’Azur...it literally makes the blue water sparkle. A writer, Stephen Liegeard, coined the term "Cote d’Azur" or "blue coast" and described the area as a ‘coast of light.’ The city adopted this term to replace “the French Riviera”, in an effort to remove the Italian influence from the area (Nice has a complicated history with Italy and France...riveria is the Italian term for coastline).
We stayed in Eze, a small medieval town on the top of a hill 25 minutes outside of Nice. The hotel was built into the mountain and could not have been more picturesque. From our hotel, we could see the top of Bono’s house along the water! The rooms are scattered throughout the village and as you could imagine in a medieval village, there is no level ground and uneven stairs everywhere you look. In Gavin’s words, you had to be a mountain goat to stay there. The little town is charming, complete with shops, restaurants, a church, and a garden at the top with great views.
Our first day, we wandered around small streets of the Old town in Nice, bought some scarfs, and visited a cathedral. Katie Green has never met a church or a scarf she didn’t like! 20 minutes outside of Nice, there are a few vineyards in the Bellet region. We visited Chateau Bellet, an old church turned into a winery, for a tour and tasting. We learned about the “Rolle” grape and loved tasting the 100% Rolle white wine. The other famous winery of Bellet is called Chateau Crema. Funny story about this - The owner, Irene Bretz, often had parties for her friends at the vineyard. One of those friends, Coco Chanel, was at a party while she was in Grasse, the world’s perfume capital, creating her new fragrance, Chanel No. 5. She didn’t have a logo and asked her friend if she could borrow Chateau Crema’s interlocking CC logo. The rest is history!
Eze is directly in between Nice and Monaco. Monaco is the second smallest country in the world (the Vatican is the smallest). The region is still governed by a prince and one of the wealthiest countries per capita. 1 in 3 people is a millionaire. It is very popular for sports players (especially tennis players!) to try to gain residence in Monaco so they do not have to pay taxes. The country declared no taxes for its citizens after the success of the Monte Carlo Casino, which was built in 1854 to attract tourists and profit. Monte Carlo is still a huge and very glamorous attraction.
We had a hilarious pre-dinner experience at the Casino. Patrick didn’t have a blazer so he borrowed one from the bartender at the hotel. Our only frame of reference for a casino was Las Vegas, so as you could imagine Monte Carlo was somewhat of a culture shock. Super fancy, formal, and quiet. When we discussed our surprise about how small the casino was with an employee, we were told Americans like everything too big. Gavin is not shy when it comes to betting, so in a gambling environment, Katie is the keeper of the cash. She would only let us bet in increments of 5 euros and was very nervous working the slots. Patrick is still laughing about the experience and said it was by far his highlight.
Our tour of the French Rivera started off with a little rain but turned into the most beautiful sunny day. Our guide, Yvonne was super smart and an insanely good driver. Gavin decided Yvonne was too intense—she was literally quizzing us at times—but his commentary on our tour and guide made the day even funnier. We went from Eze, to Cap Ferat, Villefranche, Antibes, Cannes, and Saint Paul de Vence, and Monaco.
The views from Villefrance to Cap-Ferrat are stunning. We could only imagine how charming this town is during the summertime. In Antibes, we went to a farmers market and found the cutest boutiques. Antibes is surrounded by a fortress and the water is so blue it looks fake. In Cannes we learned that during the Cannes Film Festival, the 74k population of Cannes triples! Cannes was cool to see, but was definitely more touristy and less authentic than the other smaller towns. From there, we went to Saint Paul de Vence. There are a lot of towns in France named Saint Paul - so they will always be associated with the closet biggest town (in this case, Vence). La Colombe d’Or (The Golden Dove) is a famous hotel/restaurant in Saint Paul de Vence. The walls display a staggering art collection donated by famous artists (Matisse and Picasso to name a few!) in exchange for room and board. We walked around the medieval village, which is filled with galleries, and talked about how our art loving friends the O'Briens would have been in heaven! We finished the tour in Monaco, visiting the Prince's Palace, Cathedral (where Grace Kelly is buried), and Oceanographic Museum.
Everything about our time in the Cote d'Azur was so so special. From our delicious meals and awesome dinner conversations, to enjoying our new favorite wine from Bellet on our hotel's terrace. What an incredible trip with Katie and Gavin - truly unforgettable!