Five days on the Cote D’Azur

The following notes are taken from a trip I took some years ago……

I decide to locate my base of operations in Nice which is somewhat in the middle of the French Riviera (or the Cote D’Azur) and then take day trips on the train to Cannes, Monaco, Antibes, and Villefranche.

In Nice, I find a cozy little room near the station with bath and shower for 100 francs per night.  I have a shower, do a little hand laundry and then map in hand I walk to the top of Colline du Chateau where you can get a panoramic view of Nice, which does not disappoint.  It is a beautiful, sunny day and the walk itself is pleasurable with most people you meet nodding or smiling as you pass by.

Colline du Chateau in NiceCastle Hill, or Colline du Château as it’s called in French, is more “hill” than “castle.” Most of it has crumbled away, but travelers and travel experts alike recommend climbing the nearly 300 feet of stairs to the top of the hill for the sweeping panorama of Nice and the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels).

After lunch, I buy some fruit and water on the way home and decide to have a relaxing night with a good book before an early start in the morning; not sure where to begin first but will let the train schedule decide.  The Nice Carnival runs from Feb 13 to March 1st but I have just missed it.

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Monaco harbourI am off to Monaco as this is the train leaving at the time.  I walked all day.  Went to the exotic gardens high above the town of Monte Carlo (like a suburb) of Monaco.  I am super stoked as this place has been high on my bucket list for years and I am now finally drinking it all in – and majestic it is – not to mention tres expensive!  I walked through the underground caves, had an orange, then walked along the harbour to a Musee National where they have the world’s largest collection of dolls, mechanical and otherwise.  I did not check out the casino but walked past the Palace.

Monaco is a constitutional monarchy run by the Grimaldi family.  Prince Albert II, son of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace who were married on April 18, 1956 (the original Prince and the Showgirl) is the current head of state.  Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, after the Vatican.  It is approximately 77 square miles or 1/2 the size of New York’s Central Park.

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The next day I take the train to Beaulieu sur Mer at 9:30 am and walk around there for an hour and then take a 10 minute train ride to Villefranche sur Mer just down the road.  Villefranche-sur-Mer is a very picturesque Medieval fishing village on the beach just a few km east of Nice.  If you enjoy walking it’s an easy 30 minute walk to or from Beaulieu sur Mer and the Kerylos villa or else to Cap Ferrat, allow about 2 hours to get to the tip of the peninsula and the spectacular lighthouse.

Beaulieu-sur-Mer.12

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When I reached Cannes I headed directly to the beach.  It was another glorious sunny day and I was prepared  I had my bikini on under my slacks and I walked along the boardwalk till I found a likely place; some people were playing what amounted to table tennis or paddle ball without the net and I parked my derriere for the day.  I enjoyed the warmth that spread through my limbs immensely.  I soaked it up while watching people and trying valiantly to understand their conversations.  My grasp of French is pretty pathetic though I can manage to make myself understood in it for the important things….like the toilet, restaurant, glass of wine, etc.  I had packed a picnic lunch of cheese, fruit, salami and bread so around 4:30 I sat out on the rocks and ate dinner while I watched this old fisherman prepare to fish.  It took him forever, especially since people kept coming down to the dock to talk to him.

Cannes

Note:  Every year the population of Cannes triples from 70,000 to 200,000 during its annual film festival, and in exclusive hotels such as the Hotel Martinez, rates typically double.  The penthouse suite at the hotel is one of the largest in Europe at 1,000 square feet, and rates rise to $52,000 (£31,000) a night during the event.  The hotel was sold in 2012 and joined the Hyatt chain on April 9, 2013 and was renamed the Grand Hyatt Cannes Hotel Martinez.

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As I sit here getting bombed on Spritzers I shall attempt to describe my day’s activities.  I slept in till almost 10 am.  Not usual for this trip but it is my vacation after all.  It was cloudy and dreary so I decided to stay in Nice for the day and visit museums.

I started with the Marc Chagall Musee which is definitely worth seeing.  The stained glass windows at one end and the mosaic at the other are worth the price of admission alone. If you are there on the first Sunday of the month you can get in for free!  The Matisse Museum is just a 15 minute walk further uphill.  You can also see Roman Bath ruins, a 2000 year old olive grove and a Franciscan Monastery with fabulous Italian-style gardens which are open to the public.

Chagall mosaic

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Antibes is another coastal gem where I happened upon kindergarten children all dressed in fancy hats having a parade outside the chateau where Picasso spent a year painting and drawing and making ceramics.  Antibes children

This has been turned into a museum and I can see why he would have been so productive when you look out over the water and take in the beauty of the surroundings.  I am not a big fan of Picasso as I tend to favour his drawings over his paintings but the ceramics on display here are beautiful.  He was certainly a prominent artist of his time.

Museum Picasso in Antibes

It helps that I have an Eurail pass so that I can hop off and on trains at will.  You can purchase them for different periods of time.  The one I had was good for three months and was guarded much like my passport – neither of which I wanted to lose.  Five days wasn’t nearly long enough to absorb all that is the French Riviera but as a tapas it was delectable!

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