Itinerary advice for French Riviera

Old Jun 8th, 2006, 07:05 AM
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Itinerary advice for French Riviera

I'm trying to put together a French Riviera itinerary for June/July 2006. Beneficiaries of this planning will include my husband, 21/2 year old daughter and myself.
Some of places that interest me include (west to east) -> Saint Tropez, Cannes, Antibes, Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat, Villefranche Sur mer, Beaulieu sur mer, Nice and Monte Carlo (Monaco)
Please post your comments about these places.
Can't afford a very relaxed trip since we have work commitments. Looking for a panaromic sort of a journey, maybe someday we will get a chance to return
Thanks
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Old Jun 8th, 2006, 07:31 AM
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MaureenB
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We spent three nights in Nice recently, and loved that city. There are many things to do in that area. We visited Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat (it's teeny) and the Ephrussi-Rothschild Villa at the top of that promontory.
We also spent a day in Antibes and especially liked it.
Here's my trip report, which includes some nice restaurants in Nice:

Nice, three nights in May, 2006

We arrived in Nice in the early afternoon on Friday, via train from Santa Margherita Ligure. The trip had been long enough, and was complicated when the Italian train quit one stop before our mid-point destination of Genoa. The conductor walked through and told everyone we’d have to get off the train and catch another one. No explanation given, simply 'get off and go catch another train'.

We had been seated relatively comfortably, with my huge bag safely stashed away, and we only needed to go one more stop to reach Genoa. But, instead, we dragged our luggage off that train and onto the next one, as directed. It was packed, standing room only.

We all stood there about fifteen minutes on that train, when another conductor came in and said yet another train would leave first, and we should get off and catch that one. So we again dutifully picked up all our stuff, and hauled it onto the next standing-room-only train.

Finally, it departed and we arrived in Genoa. Luckily for us, our train out of Genoa was late, too, so we were able to catch it. (It reminded me of Rick Steves’ saying that Italy is like a tangled plate of spaghetti: it’s a mess, but we love it anyway.)

Our Hotel le Grimaldi (http://www.le-grimaldi.com/) was a short cab ride from the train station, 10 EUR for myself, my daughter, my gargantuan bag, and her two small ones. We were greeted graciously at the hotel, which immediately struck us as a good find.

The hotel is actually two Belle Epoque buildings back-to-back. One side is much prettier to enter, as it faces a nice church. The other side is fine, too, but a bit boring. I think the side on rue Grimaldi is the plain one, and the other side on rue Maccarani is prettier.

The man at the front desk carried my bag to the room, and showed us around. There’s a business center on the ground floor, with free internet use on their two computers, and a free printer to use. (Also wi-fi in the lobby, I think for a fee.)

Our room was a ‘classic’, twin-bedded room, which was quite large (for Europe), had a little balcony, a sparkling yellow and white tile bath with fluffy bright yellow towels, and nice toiletries. It was 150 EUR plus tax, and 10 EUR per person if we opted for the hot/cold breakfast buffet. They suggested we check out the buffet served till 10:30a.m. the next morning, and if we were interested we could sign on for it. The deal is that you have to buy it everyday to get the 10 EUR rate. Otherwise, per day, it’s 15 EUR per person.

So the next morning, we were happy to find hot eggs, proscuitto, yoghurts, cereals, cappuccino, assorted croissants, juices, etc. We thought it a good deal and quite convenient, so we enjoyed it each morning.


It's an easy walk to the train station (w/o luggage) from Le Grimaldi, and a slightly longer walk to the bus station. Easy walk of a few blocks to the grand promenade at seaside, just past the pedestrian zone. Also not far walking to Vieux Nice. The neighborhood felt perfectly safe, and we walked back to the hotel late each night.

For our first dinner, I had brought the name of a restaurant I’d found on Travel Talk, and the front desk agreed it was a good one, a local favorite in old Nice. It’s called Acchiardo, at 38 rue Droite in Vieux Nice. We headed over for their opening at 7 p.m., and were very happy with it. Really friendly and attentive service, very quaint and casual atmosphere, with a good menu. I had a steak dinner, which actually included vegetables on the side. My daughter had two different salads. We had bottled water and a half-liter of house red wine. When the bill arrived for 28.50EUR, I thought they’d made a mistake because it was so much less than I’d been accustomed to paying in Venice, Florence and Rome. But, no, it was correct. (We would have maybe eaten there another night, but found out it closes on weekend nights, believe it or not.)

We walked all over old Nice, then through the pedestian area to the promenade and took that way back to the hotel. It’s such a beautiful walk at night. The Chateau hillside is all lit up, the palm trees are lit, and the waves look so pleasant. It was how we ended each of our Nice nights, with that walk back to the hotel.

The next day we decided to take the short bus ride on the #81, to visit the Villa and Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild, near Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. (The bus is just 1.30EUR each direction, which you pay in exact change on the bus.) We didn't stop to see the Greek Villa, but it's also on that same bus route, near the Ephrussi. You can easily catch the #81 for your return trip to Nice, at any stop along the road.

It was a nice visit, especially to see the views of the sea down below on both sides of the hillside. I thought the price was a bit steep, at 9.50EUR for an adult, because the Villa isn’t really all that interesting (sorry!), but the gardens are pretty. There’s also a nice little café there, for a light snack or drink or meal, which was a welcome break from all our walking.

While we were there, a very strong wind came up, which caused quite a bit of white caps in the water below, and chased everyone in from the patio tables. The wind stayed with us for the rest of the day, but wasn’t terribly annoying.

From the Villa, we did the easy walk down to the port of St. Jean to walk around and check it out. There are nice boats in the little harbor, with cute restaurants and shops. It’s very tiny, so doesn’t take long to walk from end to end of St. Jean. We spent just about an hour and a half there, then caught the #81 back to Nice.

That evening, we returned to old Nice for dinner. We loved that neighborhood’s little streets, overall atmosphere, and cute shops. We found the Restaurant la Tapenada, 6 rue St. Reparate and had a very nice dinner. It was probably about 60EUR for the two of us, on their fixed price menu, with a bottle of house wine. Very nice little place, with friendly and attentive service. They even let my daughter trade her dessert for a salad. So she had two salads to start, one after the other, and they timed the arrival of our main courses perfectly. We were completely happy with our meal there.

The next day we decided we’d stick to the coast and see Antibes, which is a short 20-minute train ride from Nice. We were glad we’d chosen Antibes, as it’s beautiful. The sea wall makes a nice walk, and the Centre Ville is very charming.

We wandered its streets, shopped in a tiny clothing boutique, found a little place for omelettes (nothing special, but nice enough), then headed back to Nice by train after about four hours total. It was a good choice for a quick day-trip.

That evening we weren’t very hungry, so opted for the simple Pasta Basta, once again in old Nice. It was a nice meal, although not extraordinary. Good prices and decent service.

All in all, we were very impressed with Nice and the surrounding area. It’s a very pretty city, with a friendly attitude, sitting on a lovely shore. There are many options for things to do near Nice. We’d considered St. Paul de Vence and Digne, but with the beautiful clear weather, we were drawn to stay at the seaside, and were glad we did.

 
Old Jun 8th, 2006, 10:21 AM
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How much time will you have? What are your interests--sightseeing, history, art?
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Old Jun 8th, 2006, 02:11 PM
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Hmmm...interests are many. But because of time constraints, I'm inclined to choose sight-seeing, just a high-level understanding of these charming places. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to plan an elaborate trip sometime in the future!
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Old Jun 8th, 2006, 03:39 PM
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Monte Carlo is not what I'd really call charming--expensive, a bit too clean and polished. There's not much to see in Beauulieu-sur-Mer. St-Tropez has excellent beaches and a good museum, along with a port full of amazing moored yachts, but we saw all we wanted to in a day.

The other places you mention are defiitely worth visiting, but for how long only you can decide. Nice has much to offer, as does Antibes. Villefranche-sur-Mer is a pretty little town with a good beach; Cannes is a bustling resort city, again with good beaches and interesting streets for wandering.

St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is a small peninsula covered with the walled compounds of huge luxury homes. You can, however, walk around the edge, and the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild has a lovely collection of objets d'art, seven interesting gardens, and a nice team room with a great view.

Then there are the hill villages: Mougins, Tourrette-sur-Loup, Vence, St-Paul-de-Vence, La Turbie, Eze-village.

So an itinerary will have to begin with my original question: how much time do you have?
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Old Jun 8th, 2006, 04:23 PM
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MaureenB
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If you're eliminating places, I'd suggest not making a big effort to see Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat. It is very tiny and cute, but not worth a half-day IMHO. We also saw the Ephrussi-Rothschild Villa, which was nice and pretty views from there, but again not worth a lot of effort, especially since it may be out of your way anyway.
 
Old Jun 9th, 2006, 01:27 AM
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Thank you soooo much for your wonderful comments. It is such a pleasure to read the postings (on VT), particularly if one's queries are answered.

I'd like to limit this trip to the coast. Having read about Saint Tropez in the books, I'd surely like to see it. Cannes is a glamorous place. So yes for Cannes also. My husband wants to visit Monte Carlo, although I don't think we will be able to visit the Casino with a toddler. We'll have to work that out.

1) Antibes - To include or not?
2) Spend a few (?) hours exploring the Cap Ferrat peninsula?
3) Any other must see place along this route?
4) Should we consider renting a car or use the train? I'm inclined toward renting since it might be convenient with a toddler. But can't assess the inconvenience of driving along the south of France in June/July.
5) How is the end of June? Unmanageably crowded? Much too hot? Nice? Perfect?
6) Should I consider flying into Toulon and flying out of Nice back to London?
7) Does 4 full days sound reasonable? What is a realistic itinerary?
Phew...I think I ought to stop here. Please reply.
Thanks
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Old Jun 9th, 2006, 02:15 AM
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With a toddler I would absolutely want a car. Driving is fine, June/early July is not that crowded (and I'm there every year around that time, and drive everywhere).
Monaco; your toddler may like the Musee Oceanographique. Great views over Monaco from the roof there (there's a small restaurant there, sandwiches and such). You can walk to the palace from there.
If you are driving around Cap Ferrat, stop at the small zoo. It's very pleasant, very uncrowded, and though not spectacular as far as zoos go, my kids loved it when they were tiny. You can buy bags of breadsticks, feed those to the monkeys. It's close to the Villa Ephrussi.
Antibes; I believe the Picasso Museum is closed for renovations.
I like St Tropez, but it could be a long trip in the car, as its a busy 2-lane road most of the way. Going very early sometimes helps, then have breakfast at the port and look at the boats.
Take it slowly, and spend some time on the beach or by the pool with your daughter as well.
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Old Jun 9th, 2006, 04:05 AM
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UslnUk--- your comment back was a bit snippy taking into account that you are asking for help opinions, but failed to provide some very crucial information; how many days?, mode of transport? what are your likes/dislikes (especially given the fact you are travelling with a todler). Panoramic on the French Riviera means beach, coastal rides, mountain roads; pretty much the whole region.

In a synopsis, if you have 3 days to do this, you don't have the time to complete your wish list and the cutting depends on your priorities (likes/dislikes). If you have two weeks, definitely a good list. Are you driving? As far as timing, the last two weeks of June is the Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Prix in Monaco; possibly the worst time to plan a relaxed vacation in the area with a toddler.
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Old Jun 9th, 2006, 04:13 AM
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The Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Prix are at the end of May (I was just there, sorry about the confusion). I would strongly recommend renting an apartment in Nice/Cannes across the beach and rent a car (daily as needed) for day trips.
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Old Jun 9th, 2006, 05:49 AM
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Viajero2 - I was honestly enjoying this forum until I read your posting!
Snippy? Others have been gracious in helping me through the itinerary. I'm still on Step No. 1 in the planning process and was only requesting information from folks who have been and enjoyed FR.
Could it possible that there are some people who simply can't afford two weeks, but still would like to experience a place, even if it means for a short time?
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Old Jun 9th, 2006, 11:56 AM
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If you are limited to 4 days I would get a car in Nice and head west to Cannes the furthest. No question forget about St.Tropez. Head east with Nice at the end.
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