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Southern France Trip Report - French Riviera - Cannes and more

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Apr 9th, 2018, 02:43 PM
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Southern France Trip Report - French Riviera - Cannes and more

We landed in Nice in the evening, went out to eat, and then headed for our hotel, Novotel suites- which was near the airport-it was decent, but they didn't have hair conditioner in the room. The next day we rented a car, and drove to Mercantour National Park. We had wanted to go on the hike around the pretty lake which I had seen everyone rave about on tripadvisor, but apparently Mercantour is a very big park, so it took 1.5 hours to get to the entrance. We stopped in a little village: Breil-sur-roya, and people didn't know how to get there and we didn't have an exact address. Some told us it's another 1.5 hour into the park, but it was already 4 pm and so we decided we would stay there and hike the Boucle de la Cruella trail in the village, which was a pretty hard hike. We hiked up the mountain about 40 minutes- but the entire hike was maybe 1.5 hour, so we decided to head back down. We walked around the large pond in the village center and headed back for Nice. We dropped off our car and took a taxi to Cannes.

In Cannes, we stayed at Novotel Cannes Montfleury- was ok, but there wasn't enough hotel staff to help us- only one person on duty at front desk for 450 people, so that if you needed something at night, you could forget about it till the morning. Also the rooms were very small, but there was a fridge and balcony. It was in a more residential area around 20 minute walk to the beach.

The next day we took the train to Monaco, which took about an hour and then a taxi to the palace. We got to the palace just as they were starting the changing of the guards- around 11:45 AM. I've never seen one, so it was cute to see the band and everyone marching. The palace wasn't open for visitors till the next day so we missed seeing that. Then we took a trolley tour of Monaco- which is a nice way to see the country. We got off at the last stop- by the casino Monte Carlo and went in. It only really opens at 2 pm and we had to leave by 2:20, so we didn't see much. We went back by train to Cannes and relaxed the rest of that day and the next two.

The next two days, we took long walks along the boardwalk, passed all the nice yachts, saw that they were preparing the set for Ninja Warrior show, went up on the high path to the fortress- don't know what it was called (there's a museum there), and just explored the town.

The following day we hired a private tour guide- from escape tour evasion- to take us to the Verdon Gorge. It was expensive, but we didn't want to rent a car- was confusing driving 4 days earlier and wasn't cheap and signs were confusing even with gps, and we figured this way we have a tour guide. First we stopped in Castellane, small village. Then we drove to the Verdon Gorge which was beautiful even though it was chilly in the beginning of April. We had the driver wait, while we attempted a hike. But half hour in, we passed through pitch black tunnels with water in them-you need a flashlight or your cell phone to see where you're going. When the water got too deep to pass, we headed back. He then took us to Point sublime- which was a high point on the mountain and walked around a bit. We then went to the Lake St Croix- and wanted to go boating- but the winds were too strong, so they didn't allow renting out canoes or paddleboats. Then we went to a cute little village called Moustier St. Marie- we wondered around in the shops. Then we took a hike- one: up the mountain side, and then went down and took the flatter level hike. Both gave beautiful views of the area. Then we arrived back at Cannes late that evening.

The next day was supposed to rain. We weren't sure what to do because there was a train strike for the next two days, so we couldn't go anywhere by train. We took a taxi to Park Naturel Paradou- we hiked there for a bit. Then we took a cab to the port and took a ferry to the island of St Marguerite- about 15 minutes boat ride. On the island we took a tour of the museum and prison- it was chilly and very windy. Then we walked around the island where we got beautiful views. On our way to the ferry it started raining- good timing, and then we headed back for Cannes and our hotel.

On the following day, we again couldn't take the train, but we wanted to go to Marseille to see Calanques National Park. So we took a flixbus from Le Cannet (in Cannes) and then when we got off we walked to the old port. (Marseille has some seedy characters near the train station and in town- didn't seem like such a safe place to go alone.) It was about a 15 minute walk from the bus stop in Marseille (which happens to be by the train station- so we got to see the loud rioting of the French train workers on strike). Then we asked at the tourism office about Calanque and took an uber to Calanque National Park. We should have asked about which was easiest to hike. I believe we went to the Morgiou calanque- which was beautiful but such a difficult hike. We could barely scramble up the steep mountain and were wearing sneakers, but hiking boots would have been smarter. There were times where we had to slide down or scramble up on our hands and knees. At a certain point- maybe half hour or more into the hike, we couldn't proceed because it was steep and didn't seem safe to pass there. There were no barriers and one wrong slip and there's just cliffs and the water. This was the hardest hike I've ever done, and I love hiking. So we decided to hike back. (We were on the red marker trail- not sure if that's color coded for how hard or easy it is to walk?) We saw a large group of people rapelling off the cliffs there too. The views were absolutely stunning. Verdon Gorge and Calanques were definitely highlights of the trip. Then we took a bus back to Cannes- flixbus texted us to inform us that a different bus company would take us back. Supposedly there was supposed to be a bathroom on the bus, but on the way there we didn't see one at the back of the bus. On the way back, we noticed one person go down a few steps midway through the bus, so we surmised that was a bathroom--I guess we weren't expecting the toilet to be in the middle, but rather in the back like it is in the US.

The following day was a beautiful day and since trains were in service we took one to Beaulie sur mer station. We got off and walked to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild- Rothschild beautiful villa and gardens. It took about 20 minutes, but the last minute of walking directions courtesy of google- was unclear and we kept getting lost. When we got there, it was a really beautiful house- you can take an audio guide tour- about 1.5 hours total. Then we walked through the stunning gardens. Our next stop was Eze. We took an uber to the gardens at Eze- which is also very nice. Finally we wandered through the village and then decided to take a taxi back to Cannes, because it was getting late.

The next two days we again relaxed in Cannes. Took long walks again.

The following day we flew home. The French Riviera is really a scenic place. I recommend all the the places we visited, with priority for Verdon Gorge and Calanque National Park- (although pick an easier hike in Calanque!).
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Apr 20th, 2018, 05:30 AM
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I really enjoyed your trip report. We haven’t spent a lot of time on the French Riviera but we have been to a few of the places you mention. We have been to Marseilles and Cassis where the Calanques are located. I’m too old and out of shape to do that kind of hiking so we took a boat tour of the calangues and really enjoyed it. We also spent a few days in the Verdon Gorge with our daughter who lives in Southern France. We stayed near Lake St. Croix and spent some time in the water. The area is beautiful. We had lunch in Moustier St. Marie, too.

We might return to the French Riviera with friends who have never been there and spend more time. Did you find it difficult relying on public transportation? I would love to go to Villa Ephrussi.

Thanks for a nice report.
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Apr 20th, 2018, 08:56 AM
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It's such a scenic place to live in!

It really wasn't that bad to take a train or even the bus-Just pay attention to the stops and check online to see how long approximately it takes, so that you don't miss the stop. We booked the ticket in the train station and sometimes finding the right platform was complicated because people didn't want to help, or didn't speak english. Rarely trains are late (we had one) but they're usually exactly on time. Trains are pretty relaxing, just pay attention to your belongings. (To village Ephrussi Rothschild, we took a train and got off at the Beaulie sur mer, walked about 20 minutes, we just got lost when we were right near there because we couldn't find the exact entrance. It's really beautiful and I recommend it.)

Other places we wanted to go to were: St. Tropez (ferries weren't open yet- we went in early April), Eccrin National Park- but that's more than 3 hours driving 1 way from Cannes so we didn't make it, Port Cross National Park (this too is an island. We weren't sure how to get there, if it was opened/if ferries ran at that time of year and we figured we had seen a lot of pretty coastline and islands anyway.)
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Apr 20th, 2018, 09:23 AM
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Really enjoyed your report. We, too, love the French Riviera and the surrounding areas. That hike was a real experience!!! You seemed to make the best of the train strikes. Thanks for sharing so many details of your trip.
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Apr 20th, 2018, 09:25 AM
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Where is this boardwalk you mentioned? I have seen them in Normandy and in the Hauts-de-France but never along the Côte d'Azur.
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Apr 20th, 2018, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by tomarkot View Post
Really enjoyed your report. We, too, love the French Riviera and the surrounding areas. That hike was a real experience!!! You seemed to make the best of the train strikes. Thanks for sharing so many details of your trip.
really is beautiful! yeah, we didn't want to let the train strike interfere, I'm so glad we ended up taking the bus.
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Apr 20th, 2018, 09:46 AM
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Karenwoo, forgot to mention about bus transportation:
The bus itself was also pretty good way to get around. Flixbus doesn't give the address for pickup. All they said was: be at Le Cannet 15 minutes before bus is supposed to leave. So we took a taxi from our hotel and the taxi driver knew where the flixbus pickup was. On the way back we just took an uber because it was cheaper and we knew where we were going. Flixbus even had wifi.
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Apr 20th, 2018, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by kerouac View Post
Where is this boardwalk you mentioned? I have seen them in Normandy and in the Hauts-de-France but never along the Côte d'Azur.
hmm, I called it a boardwalk, but maybe it's not technically a boardwalk? It was more like concrete block a little farther from the water and sand. Not sure what the word is for that.
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Apr 20th, 2018, 10:00 AM
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From Nice, we easily took a bus which drove along the water to Beaulieu sur Mer and the Villa Ephrussi. I agree it is a magnificent place. We also toured Villa Kerylos there, a reproduction of an ancient Greek home.
Note- I always pack a small bottle of conditioner for Europe as it is rarely supplied in hotel rooms.
Thanks for your excellent report on a beautiful part of the world.
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Apr 20th, 2018, 08:06 PM
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Thanks for sharing your trip report! As a (very) part time residence in the south it's good to hear new perspectives (I've not yet been to Port-Cros).

There is a section in Monaco that is elevated, with residences below that resembles a boardwalk.

@KarenWoo -- Public transit works very well from Menton to Cannes -- buses and trains, plus the tram in Nice. St. Tropez and the inland destinations are more difficult. We just rent a car when we want to go to places that are tougher to reach.
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Apr 21st, 2018, 05:01 AM
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Originally Posted by zxcvbnm View Post
Karenwoo, forgot to mention about bus transportation:
The bus itself was also pretty good way to get around. Flixbus doesn't give the address for pickup. All they said was: be at Le Cannet 15 minutes before bus is supposed to leave. So we took a taxi from our hotel and the taxi driver knew where the flixbus pickup was. On the way back we just took an uber because it was cheaper and we knew where we were going. Flixbus even had wifi.
Thank you for the information on the bus. And thanks to booster, as well!
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Apr 21st, 2018, 07:24 AM
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Thanks for your report, zxcybnm. For future reference, there was a tour boat out of Cassis to see the calanques when DH and I were there.
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Apr 21st, 2018, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by zxcvbnm View Post
hmm, I called it a boardwalk, but maybe it's not technically a boardwalk? It was more like concrete block a little farther from the water and sand. Not sure what the word is for that.
I think we tend to call that a walk -- or a promenade if we want to get fancy. Okay, I'll shut up now.
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Apr 21st, 2018, 08:55 PM
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You're right, promenade is a better word
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