The South of France is a destination I had longed to cross off my travel list ever since watching Monte Carlo when I was younger, which in hindsight was not Selena Gomez’ best acting I’ll admit. Then, followed by a long running obsession with Gossip Girl, Blair’s short-lived Princess status and Monaco’s fictional Royal Family had got me most intrigued as to how the real Grimaldi’s lived. Not only that, but the infamous Cannes Film Festival and old Hollywood culture that surrounds the entire French Riviera (Côte d’Azur) had always seemed so glamorous and classy to me.
This September I finally got my chance to see all of these amazing destinations and so I thought I would give you a run down on all of the ‘musts’, the ‘misses’ and share with you just how the other half live – and trust me, they LIVE.
First and foremost, the sheer wealth that this principality withholds is just absolutely crazy to see. There is always a sports car in sight, a private yacht in the distance or a designer label on show. To be honest, I felt quite underdressed in my sliders and £20 Zara shorts but who cares – I was busy embracing my big tourist energy, not my inner Grace Kelly (See below for photographic evidence)
Nevertheless, you cannot go to the South of France without visiting Monaco and by visiting, I really do mean just a whistle stop tour. Monte Carlo feels small in comparison to other destinations, despite its vast looming mound of towering building around the harbour. In terms of ‘things to do’ if you’re not into gambling and casinos, the Prince’s Palace of Monaco is the standout spot to see.
Despite that it was a slight trek and a half to reach, especially in the 30 degree heat, the views at the top were worth it. As were the amazing gardens, architecture and spots of history surrounding the Palace. It also has a aquarium up there too because, why not? You can get the opportunity to watch the royal guard changing too if you’re lucky – it’s just like Buckingham Palace but with a much hotter climate and a slight sea breeze.
Alike Monaco, Cannes seemed a little too materialist at first. I wasn’t trying to be pessimistic but it was difficult not to when everyone around you either had a face full of botox, a perfect blow dry or a four figure outfit on, whilst I stood sweating with my hair thrown in a bun and burning to a crisp. I was clearly not prepared for the glitz and glamour of Cannes but really, I should of been, it is renowned for its star-studded visitors after all.
Either way it is somewhere I am glad to now say I have been. The seafront is a lovely walk from start to finish and the beach clubs are to die for if you don’t mind paying €20 for a bowl of fries. The shopping is of course as luxurious as it gets and the hotels are equally as impressive. However, the less talked about and most amazing part of Cannes for me was it’s old town.
With a stunning fortress and church on a hill, I’ve not only found my dream wedding spot but also found the best view in Cannes. The walk up takes you through some incredibly narrow, cobbled streets lined with traditional French restaurants and picturesque quaint houses. It honestly made me change my mind completely about Cannes and gave me a reason to 100% return one day.
As soon as we landed in Nice I knew I wanted to return. I instantly loved the the seaside vibe that contrasted with the beauty of the old town that also contrasted with inner city squares bustling with people. It’s got everything. Sun, sea, food, nightlife, sightseeing, shopping. Everything you could ask for. Be warned though as for some strange reason, every restaurant seems to serve Italian food to the point where you end up thinking you’ve actually spent a week in Sorrento. Either way, if it’s pasta, I can’t complain.
We stayed in an amazing AirBnB for a week in the centre of Nice and it was quickly proven that this was the best way to go when booking a holiday here in the summer. With the guaranteed warm weather practically all year long, who needs a ridiculously overpriced central hotel with a pool when you have a glorious beach on your doorstep? We spent every morning filling ourselves up on fresh bread, croissants, cheese and ham from the supermarket opposite our apartment and really spent our morning dining the ‘typical’ French way. Yes, I may have eaten practically a small loaf of bread a day but did I care? Hell no, I was in France. It was all ‘deux pain pour moi s’il vous plais’.
An eight minute and €2 journey from Nice, you cannot make any excuses not to go to this beautiful spot. We walked there from Nice and despite it taking 3 hours due to a minor error where a coastal path came to a sudden end an hour and a half in which meant we had to re-route, it was still a beautiful way of getting your fix of the sea. The harbour front bars are perfect for a relaxing drink to watch the sun go down and the small sandy beach makes it a treat compared to the many pebbled beaches on the French Riviera.
SAINT PAUL DE VENCE
Last to mention is the medieval town that became the unexpected highlight of the entire trip for me. Placed high in the hills away from Nice and a simple tram and bus ride away, it was no surprise this small location was so popular. It’s cobbled streets are full of art galleries, independent boutiques and tons of personality.
We treated ourselves to a meal at the infamous La Colombe D’or which is known to be popular with celebs and its rich history with artists like Picasso. It is even more renowned for its amazing traditional French food. You usually have to book 2-3 months ahead but it is a real ‘When In Rome’ kind of place and it certainly did not disappoint.