I've heard people rave about the Côte d'Azur before; heard about all the celebrities who escape to the French Riviera each year. But I didn't really expect it to be a place that I could connect with. I'm not a ridiculously rich celebrity, after all.
But as soon as I arrived in Nice, France, I realized that my preconceived notions about the French Riviera were all wrong. It WAS a place I could connect with; a place I could enjoy; even a place that I could afford (well, mostly).
It just goes to show that you can't listen to things other people tell you about destinations. I've heard some people rave about Nice, while others have absolutely hated it. Nice IS expensive, but it's also colorful and interesting and has some truly beautiful parts. I'm glad I went and experienced for myself — because I otherwise never would have realized that the French Riviera is someplace I would like to see more of.
Here's a look at what I got up to during my short stay in the French Riviera:
Nice is the largest city of the Côte d'Azur, and is often referred to as “Nice la Belle” — Nice the Beautiful. I arrived to Nice by bus and was immediately taken by its bright colors and really attractive harbor. The next morning, I signed up for a free walking tour offered by my hostel (Villa Saint Exupery Beach) that had us exploring the Old Town and having a picnic atop Castle Hill. This last stop took my breath away — it's definitely the must-see view in Nice, and will help you understand why so many people rave about this part of Europe.
After our hilltop picnic, some of us who had been on the tour headed to Villefranche-sur-Mer — an adorable little town along the Mediterranean coast with an inviting beach. Having traveled for 6 weeks through sweltering hot Europe without so much as one beach to visit, you can bet that I was one of the first ones into the water. This was also the place that made me realize that I'd had it all wrong about the French Riviera up until this point.
As the afternoon slipped away at the beach, I made a decision. Since I was only a 30-minute bus ride away from the sovereign city-state of Monaco (and since said bus ride would only cost 1.40 Euro each way), I decided that it would be silly not to go. I mean, who doesn't want to visit one of the smallest countries in the world? With an area of less than 1 square mile, I figured it would be easy enough to see most of Monaco in a couple of hours. And it was. Sure, I felt slightly awkward wandering around the Monte Carlo Casino in my slightly-wet swimsuit cover-up, but it was fascinating at the same time. Never in my life have I seen so many expensive cars, yachts, and stores in one place as I did in Monaco.
I only spent one full day in the French Riviera, and I now know that it was not nearly enough time.
I'll just have to add this part of the world to my ever-growing “must re-visit” list.
[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Essential Info”]I stayed at Villa Saint Exupery Beach (6 Rue Sacha Guitry in Nice), where dorm bed prices start at around 20 Euro per night and can be up to 45 Euro per night, depending on the size of the room (I paid 42 Euro per night for a 3-bed female dorm). The hostel offers free wifi, free breakfast, and a deal where if you buy a drink in the evening from 7-9 p.m. you get a free bowl of pasta. The hostel also organizes free walking tours (highly recommended!).
To get to Villefranche-sur-Mer or Monaco like I did, hop on the 100 bus, where tickets are 1.40 Euro per ride. From the bottom of Castle Hill, Villefranche is 10-15 minutes by bus, while Monaco will take 35-40 minutes.[/stextbox]
What do YOU think of the French Riviera? Have you been? Do you want to go?
Amanda Williams is the award-winning blogger behind A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. She has traveled to more than 60 countries on 6 continents from her home base in Ohio, specializing in experiential and thoughtful travel through the US, Europe, and rest of the world. Amanda only shares tips based on her personal experiences and places she's actually traveled!