Sunday, 4 November 2018

Roadtripping the French Riviera.

Earlier this year when I was in the midst of my grief over my latest miscarriage, I was stressing about the due date and what I would do on the date. As I recently said in my Refinery29 article, it's one of the hardest dates in the calendar when you've gone through miscarriage. Filled with so much hope whilst pregnant, it's difficult to know what to do with the date when there is no longer a baby to welcome into the world. I didn't want to sit at home feeling sorry for myself, and I also didn't want to go to work and carry on my life as normal because it felt disrespectful to the baby I lost. 

I always travel over difficult dates and anniversaries (including the anniversary of my first miscarriage), so my best friend in Australia suggested we go on holiday together over the date. I had a think about it and then announced I'd always wanted to do the South of France, so we started planning and dreaming of roadtripping the French Riviera. And despite my numbness and tears on the date itself, we had the best week ever and it was a brilliant way to take my mind of things, and concentrate on living life to the full and being grateful for what I have.

We began our week-long French adventure in Paris, a city we'd wanted to visit together for over ten years, but being 8,000 miles away from one another had always made it difficult to actually plan and pin down. After two nights in Paris we then flew down to Nice, and picked up our hire car and drove to Monte Carlo via Villefranche-sur-mer. The drive was the most stressful drive I have ever driven, and it traumatised me a little so Caitlin had to drive the rest of the way to Monte Carlo after we'd explored Villefranche, haha.

Days 1-3: Monte Carlo, Monaco

Villefranche-sur-mer is the perfect stop-off point between Nice and Monaco. It's the prettiest town I have ever seen, and is filled with colourful buildings and cobbled streets. We ate lunch by the harbour and had the most incredible beef carpaccio and carbonara, before wandering the town and taking plenty of photos. You only need a couple of hours here to get some food and have a wander, and there are also some adorable shops with super cute vintage poster style postcards!

We then kept going towards Monte Carlo, driving through the beautiful and upper-class town of Beaulieu-sur-mer, and through the mountains towards the principality of Monaco.

After a swift check-in at Hotel Metropole where we spotted Thierry Henry sitting in the lobby, we were shown to our extravagant suite and quickly popped open the bottle of champagne waiting for us! It was the night before the dreaded due date day, and so we drank the bottle, got dressed up, and went to Monte Carlo Casino.

Although the casino was incredible architecturally, it felt really touristy and we were slightly disappointed by it (although the drinks are cheap there!), so we decided to get a taxi and go to a bar recommended to us by the hotel concierge. Finding a taxi in Monaco was *hard*, there were none around so we had to go to a nearby taxi rank and call the number to ask one to pick us up.

It was a weekday so everywhere was disappointingly quiet, but alas, we had a drink at the bar, and then decided we were hungry and wanted chicken nuggets. Somehow we managed to walk in heels - stopping off for photo opportunities at random points along the way - and find a McDonalds, where we ordered burgers, nuggets, chips, and milkshakes.

Again, somehow we then managed to carry all this whilst wearing heels, all the way up the big hill to the hotel. The doormen at the hotel looked slightly horrified when we walked in with our huge McDonalds bags, but whatevs. We ate it all in bed and then fell asleep and it was bliss. And we did apologise to the cleaners for the rubbish and 'day-old-maccas' smell in the room the next day!

Our one full day in Monte Carlo - which was my due date - was spent chilling out and doing everything I love. We had a sumptuous breakfast at Odyssey, the Karl Lagerfeld designed cafe by the swimming pool, where I had my favourite avocado and poached eggs on sourdough. We then spent the morning and most of the afternoon lazing by the Lagerfeld designed swimming pool drinking £36 Pina Coladas.

Our extravagant day of excess continued when we walked along the ocean-front, found it was all boarded up due to building work (you literally couldn't see the ocean), found out that the marina was also closed off due to preparations for the yacht show the week after, and so went to the cafe opposite Monte Carlo Casino and ate a huge mountain of banoffee ice-cream sundae.

Afterward we strolled across the road to the famous Hotel Cafe de Paris for a drink on the gorgeous terrace, and ended up staying there all evening drinking champagne and cocktails, and eating the most expensive sliders and fries we have ever eaten whilst staring out at the sun dipping below the Cote d'Azur. It was bliss, and the perfect Monte Carlo experience.

The next morning we woke up bright and early and after breakfast in the two Michelin-starred Restaurant Joël Robuchon began the drive to Cannes...

Days 3-5: Cannes, France

Enroute we stopped off at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat to visit the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, which I highly recommend! The views are absolutely breathtaking, and the villa itself is fascinating and oh so pretty. It's very cheap to enter the villa, and you're even treated to a huge and rather impressive fountain show in the gardens if you time your visit well!

After visiting Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild we then drove along to Paloma Plage, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat's most famous beach. We soaked up the rays, enjoyed a delicious lunch of avocado and quinoa salad, calamari, and fresh bread at the beach-side Paloma restaurant, and just relaxed. It was the perfect day and one of the highlights of our trip.

We finally arrived in Cannes late in the afternoon and checked in to our hotel, Hotel Martinez. We had a gorgeous sea-view junior suite, and I literally want that entire bedroom in my future dream house (with the view and everything). After unpacking and getting settled we decided to go for a wander down the Croisette to look for somewhere for dinner. Naturally we gravitated towards the busiest restaurant, a pizza place called Vesuvio. The waiting staff were a little sour but the pizzas were great and it was proper old-school Cannes! We finished the evening with an apple tart that Cannes is apparently famous for, and then got an early night after our busy day in the sun.

The following day was our one full day in Cannes, and so we decided to spend it on the beach, and then planned to see the rest of the city the next morning. This worked out great as after a busy and hectic few months, I was in desperate need of some chill out time. Hotel Martinez currently don't have a beach club as theirs is being renovated, so they have a reciprocal agreement with The Carlton hotel that we took full advantage of! It was only 20 Euros each for a day bed, sunshade umbrella, and towel, and the beach reminded us of the beaches in Perth - beautiful soft sand and crystal-clear and calm waters to swim in. We spent the morning going from the sunbed, to the water, back to the sunbed, back to the water.

Eventually we were feeling a little peckish, so wandered down the Croisette to Barrière Le Majestic for lunch at Fouquet's. We dined in style, sipping on crisp white wine, and feasting on grilled octopus and steak. We completed our meal with the most moreish desserts possible, and then waddled back to The Carlton's beach club to soak in the sun some more. As if we hadn't eaten enough, a couple of hours later we each treated ourselves to very overpriced gelato! Every holiday needs gelato!

After getting showered and changed we opted for cocktails and an Absinthe fountain at the hotel's bar, Le Jardin du Martinez, and then more cocktails across the road at the famous La Chunga. Sadly it was a Wednesday evening in September and everywhere was closed, so when we arrived at Baoli Club and got over-excited about there being no queue, the security man laughed in our faces and told us the club was completely empty. Dammit. So we headed back to the hotel and went to sleep, haha!

Our final morning in Cannes was spent exploring the old town and walking around the pretty streets; the view from the Musée de la Castre was just stunning! And then it was time to drive to Nice...

Day 5-6: Nice, France

Like the drive from Monaco to Cannes we decided to stop off enroute on our way to Nice. We only had one night in Nice, but neither of us were too fussed about rushing around a city and really wanted to spend our precious time exploring the beaches along the French Riviera instead. We drove to Antibes and found a nice little beach called Plage Keller. It wasn't as relaxing or photogenic as Paloma Plage, but it was still much nicer than the main beach we drove past.

We had an hour of sunbathing and then wandered up to the fine dining restaurant on the beach, César, for one last fancy lunch. We enjoyed the fresh bread coated in butter and olive oil, and fresh tuna tartare and crispy calamari.

After lunch we drove the final stretch to Nice, and arrived just as the sun was dipping below the horizon. Our final dinner was a sumptuous three course affair with cocktails at Calade, the rooftop restaurant at the beach-front Radisson Blu, which overlooks the Cote d'Azur.

It was the perfect end to a perfect week.


PIN FOR LATER: Roadtripping the South of France! Exploring the French Riviera, including Monaco, Villefranche-sur-mer, Cap Ferrat, Antibes, and Cannes.


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