Loved the Cote d'Azur!

Sep 9th, 2010, 12:04 PM
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Loved the Cote d'Azur!

First of all, thank you so much to all those on the forum who helped plan this trip. We’d been to the Cote d’Azur before, but found numerous subtle tips here that made everything go smoothly. Our 20th wedding anniversary was spent enjoying cloudless sunny days with culture, cafes, glamour, beaches, museums, and wineries.

Friday August 27- After flying from Tampa to Newark, NJ, we flew the relatively new, all business class Open Skies Airline to Paris Orly. The experience was not quite as good as first/business class on the major carriers, but it was 1/2 to 1/3 less for full reclining “Biz-Bed” seats.

Saturday August 28- Well rested upon arrival in Orly, we took a one hour Air France flight landing in Nice just after noon. We had packed smartly so wheeling our luggage one half mile to the train at Gare St. Augustin was easy. The station was unattended and someone had jammed something into the coin slot in the ticket machine, so we enjoyed our free ride to Villefranche. (We always tried to pay for train travel, but ended up with two free rides out of 6 on the trip with no enforcement issues.)

Walking down the steps with luggage at the station in Villefranche was a bit of a hassle, but the picture postcard view more than made up for it. We had reserved a “comfort room” on the third floor with a balcony over the water at the Hotel Welcome. Check in was a snap and we explored the town a bit.

Our first bus ride of the trip was indicative of our whole experience— crowded, somewhat hot and stinky, but the best value at 1 Euro. I can’t imagine the crowds during the middle of the summer or Grand Prix week. Gare Routiere in Nice is well located for exploring the old town and Cours Saleya. After dinner the final promenade party of the summer began with bands, fireworks, and lots of locals. We capped the night by being politely escorted out of the lobby of the Hotel Negresco after admitting we weren’t there for dinner or drinks.

Sunday August 29- We had never made it to Eze before, so the day began on busses 81 and 83 through Cap Ferrat and Belleu to Eze. The views lived up to all expectations, and luckily we beat the most of the tour busses there. We had some trouble descending the garden steps because bus loads from a cruise ship were ascending.

The afternoon was spent under 78 degree sunny skies at the beach in Villefranche. The “sand” was a bit courser than I remembered, but significantly better than the rocks in Nice and elsewhere. Wonderful views of Cap Ferrat, Villefranche, cruise ships, (and female beachgoers). For dinner we were happy to return to Le Cosmo next to our hotel in Villefranche. The first appetizer on their menu is the snow crab salad. It is a delicious blend of fresh avocado, artichoke, and the crab meat of about 6 legs—wow!

We returned to our hotel for a night cap. The balcony takes what would be a small, but nicely appointed room, and turns it into a private resort experience. Nothing will ever take away my memory of sipping wine in a bathrobe looking out over the café-lined quay across the water to Cap Ferrat.

To be continued…
CaseyMorgan is offline  
Sep 9th, 2010, 12:33 PM
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Sounds great!
kerouac is offline  
Sep 9th, 2010, 12:40 PM
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Thank you for sharing!
How did you decide on Villefranche instead of Nice, Antibes,etc, as your base? Asking because i am in the same "predicament" now for next June
CaliNurse is offline  
Sep 9th, 2010, 01:04 PM
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We choose Villefranche because we could walk to both the bus and train stations from the hotel. And if you have been to the area or look at photos it is amazing. As you read the next two reports, you'll see how easy the transportation is from there.
CaseyMorgan is offline  
Sep 9th, 2010, 01:25 PM
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thanks to you, Casey, i just found the perfect overnight stop between France and Italy!
CaliNurse is offline  
Sep 10th, 2010, 05:46 AM
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Our trip report continued:

Monday August 30- After grabbing a quick croissant and coffee, we began the 45 minute walk along the water, past the train station and the beach to steps leading up into Cap Ferrat. We took turns posing in front of a couple dream homes along the way. Much of the walk was in the shade and free of traffic until nearing our destination of Ephrussi de Rothschild Villa. Not quite Versailles, but an interesting tour. The fountains and seven themed gardens had views that challenged Eze. The smaller yachts anchored below were 75 feet long. The biggest was well over 200 feet, using the helicopter on the bow as a reference to measure.

We took the bus down into Belleau for sandwiches and a walk around the town, and then returned home to Villefranche. 2.50 Euros allowed us to enter Chapelle St. Pierre next to Welcome Hotel. Its walls are beautifully painted by local artist Jean Cocteau. Then a quick walk down nearby Rue Obscure “hidden street” which has a fascinating history as well.

We cleaned up for dinner at Hotel de Paris next door to the Monte Carlo Casino. The experience was unforgettable, but don’t ask what we spent. At the casino Mercedes and Porsches were valet parked down the street. Only Bentley’s, Ferrari’s, and Lamborghini’s were displayed up front. Even if you don’t plan to gamble, walk into the gorgeous main lobby. Passports, proper attire, and 10 Euros each allowed us to enter the elegant back rooms where the tables were.

We are experienced gamblers, but have never seen anything like the Blackjack room. The quiet, somewhat darkened room was intimidating. Gamblers instinctively whispered because no slot machines rang. 40 foot ceilings and acoustical elements like drapes and fabric-covered walls added to the stillness. The minimum bet was 25 Euros. We were up a couple hundred in the beginning and left victorious (which means only down 100!). In the taxi on the way home we joked about writing a book titled: “Europe on 500 Euros a day.”

Tuesday August 31- Got an early start on the train to Cannes with Carte Isabelle tickets in hand. For 12 Euros each, we could ride trains all day. It was a short walk down to the Mediterranean, and then along the water to the film festival hall. We posed on the red carpet, had a great omelet at a nearby brassiere, and headed back to the train station bound for Antibes.

Gare Antibes puts you within a 5 minute walk of the amazing yacht-filled harbor. We walked right along the docks, past the castle-like city walls, and then through the arch into old town. Saw our first beggars of the trip-- some were quite creative. Enjoyed the huge open air covered market and then walked less than a football field to Chateau Grimaldi which houses the Picasso Museum. Picasso’s art was great of course, but the other temporary exhibits disappointed. The foundations of the museum are of an ancient Greek town, which later became a Roman castle. And as recent as 1860 the building marked the border between Italy and France.

Since we blew through Cannes in the morning there was time to take the bus to nearby Juan Les Pins. We chose to pay for a private beach so we could change clothes and enjoy lounge chairs and drinks. The sand quality was great all along YLP. The service was good at Plage Esterel, but we really had to use French to communicate. After a fun, busy day we took the train back to home and enjoyed dinner at Le Cosmo (again!).

To be continued with part 3 of 3 coming soon…
CaseyMorgan is offline  
Sep 10th, 2010, 06:22 AM
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Great report. The last two years we stayed in Nice and loved it but now need to go back just to stay in Villefranche. Loved your day with the carte Isabelle and just have to do that. We had lunch at Le Cosmo last year. Leaving on Monday for our trip but no Cote d'Azur this time (dh's turn to choose).
Micheline is offline  
Sep 10th, 2010, 10:53 AM
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Carte Isabelle is a summer special only. Not sure what deals are best in other seasons, but we enjoyed it.
CaseyMorgan is offline  
Sep 10th, 2010, 12:40 PM
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Our trip report concludes:

Wednesday September 1- Jean Pascal of Degestation Directe picked us up at the hotel at 9:30 for a half day winery tour in Bellet Region just north of Nice. A morning wine tasting tour is different, but we managed to stay relatively sober.

The first winery was at Chateau de Cremat who gave away the famous CC logo used by their friend Coco Channel, so now they use a similar CK logo. The next winery, Domaine de la Source, was a small family operation where we could meet the owners, play with their dogs, and pick grapes off the vine.

Hardly anyone visits the vineyards of Bellet region which has been operating for more than 2,000 years. Just a few miles north of Cote d'Azur, winding steeply upwards, the Route de Bellet passes ochre-colored farmhouses on the hills and eventually arrives at a plateau 1000 feet above sea level. A bit of snow was still visible on the Alps in the distance.

Our guide dropped us off at the Chagall Museum on the way back to Nice. We really enjoyed his colorful religious art. Since the weather was perfect (again) we opted for the beach in the afternoon. There are two outdoor café/beach bars just across the road from the beach in Villefranche. We enjoyed a late lunch of salads and pizza before planting ourselves with our novels on Hotel Welcome’s beach towels.

Dinner and more wine were consumed at Le Grignotiere in Villefranche on Rue Poilu. This restaurant was one of several along the walkway/road just up the hill from the quay that had good food and a fun vibe at night.

Thursday September 2- Began the day with breakfast for 11 Euros at the hotel. We had friends coming by cruise ship and had agreed to meet them at the dock in Monte Carlo at 10. Bus 100 for 1 Euro did the trick again. We got off on the second stop near the famous swimming pool and walked to the pier.

From there we all took a series of steps, escalators, and elevators up to Monaco-Ville. We spent some time in the cathedral and then ignored Rick Steves’ advice and went into the palace for the tour. It was definitely worth it and did compare (not is size, but in quality) to Versailles. Call it good planning or lucky timing, but we came out at 11:45 in time to watch the 11:55 changing of the guard. Not to offend, but a bit hokey and nothing like the changing at Buckingham Palace in London. We could have spent hours in the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium, but it was time to part ways with our friends and shop a bit in Nice.

Along the way to Nice we noticed a couple teenage girls board the bus. Figuring it was school shopping time and that they would end up at the mall, we followed them upon arrival at Gare Routiere. They hopped on the new light rail system. We followed for our same 1 Euro ticket. Our instincts were confirmed when they jumped off 5 stops later and lead us right to H&M in the shopping district.

One Euro later we were back in Villefranche for dinner at Le Caravelle. It was on the same little street as last night’s dinner. A great, joking waiter and a wandering guitar player really added to the atmosphere.

Friday September 3- Our last day! The train worked well to get us to the airport for the morning flight to Orly. We looked forward to going to Paris to complete our vacation with mixed emotions.

If you take all the best features of Paris— the history, cafes, glamour, museums, etc., and move them to a lush mountainous terrain spilling into the blue Mediterranean, then you have the Cote d’Azur.
CaseyMorgan is offline  
Sep 10th, 2010, 01:04 PM
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Great report, but
kerouac is offline  
Sep 10th, 2010, 01:07 PM
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(what happened?)

Great report, but I am the sort of person who will say that you could have skipped the casino in Monte Carlo (and the expense). Seeing it in movies is more than enough for me.

There are plenty of other casinos in the region for losing as much money as you want, slot machines included.
kerouac is offline  
Sep 10th, 2010, 01:13 PM
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Loved the Cote d’Azur, hated getting pickpocked in Nice. In Nice, be reallllllyyyy careful around the train station and the tram stops.
jkbritt is offline  
Sep 12th, 2010, 10:19 AM
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Sounds like a perfect 20th anniversary trip!
In all my trips to France, I still haven't made it to the Cote d'Azur. Villefranche sounds like a lovely place to stay, if you want a smaller town than Nice. That would appeal to me.
Sue4 is offline  
Sep 12th, 2010, 10:55 AM
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Great report, I too, love the cote d'azure!!!
susanna is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 11:40 AM
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We didn't have any problems in Nice with security, but are always watchful. We did have someone try the old gold ring trick near the Arch de Triump in Paris.
CaseyMorgan is offline  
Aug 31st, 2012, 06:07 PM
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DebitNM is offline  
Sep 1st, 2012, 04:21 AM
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Thanks for a great report. I'm curious about your Open Skies flight. Have considered using them, was it worth the $$ in your opinion?
Rhea58 is offline  
Sep 1st, 2012, 05:15 AM
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Great trip report. Brings back memories of our stay at the Hotel Welcome several years ago. You did really well for not having a car. Thanks for the report.
AGM_Cape_Cod is offline  
Sep 1st, 2012, 05:22 AM
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“If you take all the best features of Paris— the history, cafes, glamour, museums, etc., and move them to a lush mountainous terrain spilling into the blue Mediterranean, then you have the Cote d’Azur.”

Hi Casey Morgan – excellent, concise description of the Cote d’Azur. Merci.

Truly a beautiful place…
latedaytraveler is offline  
Sep 1st, 2012, 05:31 AM
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I topped this thread to bookmark it (and several others) for an upcoming trip.
I am not sure OP will see or answer any new questions...
DebitNM is offline  

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