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One word to describe our experience with the French Riveria many many years ago – EXPENSIVE. Everything from food to rooms, you name it. It was expensive.
Jennifer of the blog, From Mississippi with Love, who previously wrote about Lebanon, Bhutan, Nairobi, Tel Aviv, Namibia and Victoria Falls, recently went and here are her practical tips to the French Riveria.
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Côte d’Azur, otherwise known as the French Riviera, is the southernmost region of France. Its French name, Côte d’Azur, comes from the color of the water – a stunning, brilliant, sparkling blue. The region is an absolute gem and sits right on the coast of the Mediterranean, sharing a border with the Italian Riviera and encapsulating Monaco. The region was historically a part of Italy and thus, has many influences from its neighbor.
Flights down to Côte d’Azur are most commonly through Nice International Airport, and a second airport at Mandelieu is mainly used by private and business aircraft.
High-speed TGV trains are available from Paris a few times every day and takes roughly five and a half hours from Paris Gare de Lyon to Nice Ville. Regional trains are extremely easy to navigate and will allow you to visit multiple cities within the region without needing to rent a car. Do note that you are assigned seats on TGV trains, and it is not possible to print the ticket at the train station, so be sure to print it out beforehand!
Côte d’Azur is in France and uses the Euro (1€ to 1.19 USD). Most places will accept credit cards, and ATMs are prevalent throughout the region.
Transportation and traveling around Côte d’Azur
One option is to rent a car, but this can be pricey (especially if you are looking for automatic-only options!). Car rental prices for the day (roughly 40€+ per day), parking fees (20€+ per night), and European fuel prices add up pretty quickly!
A second option is to use the regional train system. The Côte d’Azur region operates trains regularly (a few times every hour) between most of the major cities in the region. Additionally, trains are available every fifteen minutes to Monaco. Expect train tickets to cost anywhere up to 4€ per trip – Nice to Monaco is 3.70€ each way. Oftentimes, the trains are just as fast as driving, though in summer months, it may actually be quicker due to traffic!
The third and cheapest option is to use the bus system. Each bus ticket within the region is 1.50€. While this requires a little pre-planning on your part, it is possible, especially with the prevalence of Google Maps.
The official language is French, but English and Italian are widely spoken here.
- Côte d’Azur has no shortage of beautiful beaches, historical attractions, and activities to entertain. Below is a highlight of the major destinations and stops available in the region, all of which can be accessible by car or train (as well as helicopter and yacht, for those so inclined).
- Nice: The largest city in Côte d’Azur famous for its pebbly beaches and Promenade des Anglais (the main seaside promenade). With the third largest airport in France (after the two airports in Paris), Nice is the gateway to exploring this region.
- Antibes: Unlike the pebbly beaches of Nice, Antibes sports over forty beaches along 16 miles of coastline, many of which are less rocky. Additionally, the city also boasts of the Picasso Museum in the old Château Grimaldi since Picasso left a number of his works to the municipality.
- Cannes: Most famous for the annual Cannes Film Festival, the city is also home to the Promenade de la Croisette, an avenue with palm trees in La Croisette, an area with picturesque beaches, restaurants, cafes, and boutiques. The old town, Le Suquet, is lovely to stroll through. Nightlife in Cannes is also exceptionally fun though it can get ridiculously pricey during May when the town is hosting the Cannes Film Festival.
- Saint Tropez: Made famous by Brigitte Bardot in the 1970s, Saint Tropez used to be where the rich and famous went to vacation. Nowadays, it’s likely to be filled with more tourists wanting to spot the famous celebrities than the celebrities themselves, but nonetheless, the allure of pristine beaches, a quaint old town, and turquoise waters are enough to make any sea lover’s dreams come true.
- Monaco: Monaco is its own separate country but bordered on all sides by France and maintains an open border and customs union with France. A souvenir passport stamp may be obtained at the tourist office. Take a walk through Monaco-Ville, the old town, and visit the Palais Princier, which offers stunning views of the Port and Monte-Carlo as well as tours of its interior. The Monaco Cathedral was made famous in recent decades by the marriage of Princess Grace. And of course, you can’t miss the Grand Casino and Monaco Opera House! Be sure to wear shoes other than flip flops in order to access the Grand Casino, otherwise you will be turned away at the door. Other notable attractions include the Prince’s car collection, the Jardin Exotique, and the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium.
- Eze: A tiny medieval village on top of a hill right on the coast between Nice and Monaco, Eze is not to be missed! It only takes roughly an hour or two to meander through the village and see the breathtaking panoramic views from the Jardin Exotique. Easily reachable by bus (~40 minutes) or by car. If you’re feeling adventurous, take the route down to Eze sur Mer via the Nietzsche’s trail! From there, you can take another bus or the train into Monaco or back to Nice.
Buying a SIM card or data is an extremely complicated process that will take a lot of time and paperwork. Some bars and cafes will offer free internet as well as most hotels. If you are comfortable without continuous internet access, this type of intermittent access will allow you to accomplish most things; however, if you are someone that needs to be connected at all times, then roaming options should be explored with your cellular carrier.
About the Author
Growing up in rural Mississippi, Jennifer always dreamed of exploring the world. Since those days, she’s developed irresistible wanderlust and called a number of places home: US (San Diego, San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Philadelphia), England, Malawi, Liberia, Israel, and most recently, Kenya. She’s in love with her sports teams (the New Orleans Saints and Manchester City), running (currently training for the Berlin marathon), and adrenaline sports (skydiving, cliff jumping, bungee jumping, sandboarding). One day, she hopes to utilize her love of cooking and sports by opening up her own Southern-style boozy brunch sports pub. Follow her on her blog, From Mississippi with Love or @jennnnnwong on instagram.
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