Off-the-beaten-track bijoux bakeries, freshly baked pastries, jambon et fromage baguettes, street side cafés perfect for sitting and people watching with a frothy cappuccino before drifting along to pop up art, crafts and flower markets…
Grab yourself a cup of tea and a biscuit or two dear readers, because we are off to the South of France!
First stop: Nice
For me, Nice is the jewel in the Côte d’Azur’s crown. It has everything I need: culture, a city buzz, beaches, wine bars, shopping and heritage. There are some beautiful boutique hotels and apartments to stay in but plenty of budget-friendly spots that tick all of the boxes if you’re watching your pennies.
Tip: We planned on travelling further afield so staying near the train station (Gare Thiers) is recommended.
Only two hours(!) away from Newcastle, Nice feels a million miles away from the soggy British weather which suits me just fine.
The weather is still beautifully hot even in late September, and we sure made the most of it wandering along the promenade, stopping for a glass of chilled white wine at Le Beau Rivage beach bar or going for a dip in the sea.
Wander along the promenade to the Old Town and you’ll find a labyrinth of cobbled streets filled with bars, restaurants, little shops and charming apartments you daydream about living in. Pop along before 6pm during the week (except Monday’s from what I remember) and you’ll find the local flower market too.
For some, the Fontaine du Soleil on Place Masséna is a favourite – but for me the fountains along the Promenade du Paillon are beautiful! A five minute walk from the popular designer department store Galeries Lafayette, they’re a perfect spot to sit and watch the world (or get a soaking).
Cannes. Monaco and Villefranche
A day ticket on the train cost us around €12 and we headed half an hour along the coast to Cannes for the day. It’s a town of two parts – there’s the yachts, designer shops, manicured lawns and palm trees at the Port and then the winding and cobbled streets of Le Suquet, the Old Town of Cannes where some buildings dating back to the 11th century.
Grabbing breakfast at a local café near the train station, we hopped on one of the little tourist trains for €20 each which took us on a tour of Cannes and up into the Old Town before wandering around the shops and stopping for lunch. Luckily, there’s a Zara here which meant I can now say I bought something whilst in Cannes! Pity it wasn’t a designer handbag, but maybe next time…
Blink and you’ll miss it, Villefranche is only a couple of stops from Nice, in fact the railway line runs right along the cliff along the coast you’re so dazzled by the view we almost missed our stop.
According to Google, “The Bay of Villefranche is reputed as one of the five most beautiful bays in the world” and oh my goodness I’d have to agree! With Monaco on one side and Nice on the other, it’s hard to believe that it can retain such olde-worlde charm and the authenticity of a little village where everyone knows each other with such cosmopolitan neighbours where new people arrive or leave every hour.
We spent the day at the beach – quite literally the whole day – having rented loungers at the local bar/restaurant. A little reading, sunbathing, a dip in the warm turquoise waters followed by a little snooze…. and repeat – before heading for a wander into the Old Town. Sunlight trapped between the tall buildings (some of them 13th century!!) only served to add extra charm.
It’s like life has no pace here (in a good way!) – time stood still and you had time to just stop and catch up with your thoughts, or that book you keep meaning to read. You feel a million miles away from emails and social media notifications. Heaven!
20 minutes or so from Nice, we spent an afternoon in playboy paradise Monaco. The world’s second smallest country (to the Vatican I believe?) Monaco squeezes in serious attitude in such a small but beautifully furnished spot. Aside from hosting the world’s largest yachts, there’s the famous Cafe de Paris, the Casino de Monaco and the Hotel de Paris sandwiched between an array of the world’s fastest supercars.
I highly recommend grabbing a front-side seat at the Café de Paris, ordering a coffee and just watching the world. We played eye-spy the supercar and got to something like 23 in 40 minutes!!
Unsure of what time the last train was, we played it safe and headed back down the hill to the station back to Nice after a brief, but lovely wander through the gardens past Celine, Chanel, Prada and a few other well-heeled neighbours.
There are surprises and character around every corner here, it’s a place I find I can visit time and time again and still find something new to fall in love with… 5 days of sunshine, sea and plenty of good food – until next time!