This was my first time in the swanky Côte-D’Azur (or French Riviera) and I wasn’t sure what to expect but after a few days, I realized that each town has its own flavor and experience. From over the top glitz and glam to a quiet coastal port town, Cote-D’Azur offers everything in between but there is one common theme: everyone is having a great time. Off the heels of a tranquil experience in Santorini, this was the opposite. Yes, we had restful moments and enjoyed the serene ocean views but between the delicious rose, and the very hospitable French way of dining, the nights were long (and incredible).
A few tips for taking advantage:
1. Choose your base wisely. Every town offers something different (more on Juan Les Pins, Cannes, and Villefranche-sur-mer below). Nice is nice (pun intended) but it’s like most other big cities, so check it out for lunch, but if you can, stay someplace else to really experience the coast.
2. Take the train. The train running though the Côte-D’Azur reminds me of a commuter train. It is cheap, efficient, and makes everything easily accessible. For example, we paid about 5 euro round trip to visit Cannes from Juan Les Pins, whereas an Uber was over 20 euro. The train stations are also fun. Despite Juan Les Pins’s train station looking like the setting of a horror flick, it had a wine bar where you can sit and watch for your train. Rose is 3 euro a glass. Problem solved.
2.5 Buy your train tickets in advance online and download the ticket with the barcode. Some stations have attendants. Some don’t. Even those that do may not if you know what I mean. You can get a huge fine for riding without a ticket, so don’t do it.
3. Check out the nightlife. More on that below. Although I’d imagine some places can be snooty about entry, most places we visited just wanted folks to have a good time.
4. Take advantage of the scents. The coast is known for its parfumeries. If you don’t want to buy parfum, just step outside where you’ll get a big dose of bergamot. It’s a real sensory overload.
5. Get in the water. The waves (or les vagues) are calm here so it’s easy to get in and have some fun.
Now for the fun stuff:
Juan les Pins
We chose Juan les Pins for three reasons: 1) character; 2) nightlife; and 3) proximity to other areas we wanted to visit. It didn’t disappoint on any front.JLP is lively. Don’t let the small town charm fool you – there are bars, restaurants, and great shopping throughout. Suite Wine Bar was one of my favorites. A great selection of wine and good ambiance. At the center of downtown, you’ll see JLP does not play games when it comes to nightlife. There are bars like Pam Pam and New Orleans, and a club named Kiss, that were flooded with people. We also enjoyed Le Crystal which provided super strong cocktails and top notch people watching. The folks here were VERY excited it was Saturday.
Villefranche-Sur-Mer, a small town with an impressive port history, was my favorite part of visiting the Côte-D’Azur. It’s only 40 minutes by train from JLP and is overwhelmingly picturesque. Lavender, orange hued buildings, sea breezes, and delicious food made this my favorite spot. Not to mention the lack of pretension. People here are enjoying the views and their business. It’s amazing.
Trastevere was some of the best food I’ve had in years. It was so good we contemplated going back the next day. Without being dramatic, YOU HAVE TO EAT HERE. The seafood is EVERYTHING.
See exhibits A, B, and C:
Well, we’ve arrived! That sounds appropriate for Cannes, right? Ha. We enjoyed Cannes. We visited during the film festival so the crowds were plentiful and fun. If you’re considering staying in a larger town, Cannes is a good choice. It’s vibrant, busy and Boulevard de la Croisette gives you the luxe French Riviera feeling you’ve probably seen in Departures. We didn’t stay overnight so I’m not sure how lodging compares to other areas, but I know that the prices along Boulevard de la Croisette were pretty up there. We stopped for a drink at the The Carlton and the drinks were 25 euro a pop. 25 anything for a cocktail is a lot and then…conversions. Oh well, great people watching and good cocktails dulled the pain of the price, but be forewarned.
If you’re on the interwebs like me, you’ll probably discover that Le Baoli is THE SPOT. We were worried about whether we would get in (you know how these things can be) but it ended up being closed early. Zut! But alas, we met a very nice woman who actually worked at Le Baoli and told us about (and arranged our entry) to another club called VIP Room. This was funny because as soon as you walk in, there’s a host that says “hello Emily and Edward, let me take you to the bar.” I was thinking, is this a cult? No, they’re just really nice (I think). A good time.
Overall, you can’t go wrong wherever you land in the Côte-D’Azur. I am still being dazzled by the sun reflecting off of the ocean at every turn. I now fully understand why people flock here in droves during the summer. If I can get a sponsor, count me in too.