French Riviera: June 17-21, 2017.
I've been to France 5 times since March 2016.. that's how much I love it. That and it's a nonstop flight from South Florida. It's easier than going to the west coast or to Hawaii.
We flew from Athens to Nice to meet one of my uncle's and his family for the rest of our trip aka my sister and I totally crashed in on their plans.
We all stayed in an AirBnB because there were 11 of us total and we wanted to all be together. I wouldn't recommend the place we stayed at for a number of reasons. While the host was nice, he would show up at any given time. His descriptions are a bit misleading, i.e. "full on-site laundry and pressing available." It was actually a laundromat that was at the front of the courtyard to get to the unit. It wasn't close enough to things we wanted to do (first time in Nice) and while catching a ride to the airport on our way to Paris, there were prostitutes directly on the street corner (my kids were wondering why women were standing around). Needless to say.. not family friendly enough.
During our first day in Nice, we all went grocery shopping together. Supermarket pâté was so good. That night, we just hung out together and ordered take-out from a place the host recommended.
I've always fantasized about visiting the lavender fields in Provence. It's so picturesque and it must smell divine. My aunt-in-law booked a private ride/tour and asked if we wanted to come along. As much as I wanted to, the reality is, the kids would've hated it. It was a drive away + another drive to hunt for a blooming lavender field during mid to late June. The lavender starts blooming around the end of June so I knew the fields wouldn't be "full" until July. As beautiful as it is, there would be plenty of bees to contend with too. The thought of the journey it would take + the lack of bathroom access for the kids = a no go. It would be more of a thing I wanted to do versus a thing the kids would enjoy so I plan to go with them when they're much older and may appreciate the landscape. Instead, we opted to have a beach day in Cannes.
We took the train to Cannes and the kids loved peeking out the windows; it's a very scenic ride. It was a 10 minute walk to get to the beach. You could not get lost.. it was a straight shot. Our first stop: food. We quickly looked up reviews and landed at C.Beach. The shakes were delicious and the kids loved the clam pasta.
We wanted to stay at their private beach, but they only had umbrellas in the back row. Since it was our first time in Cannes, we wanted to be in the front row for the kids. Umbrellas are usually pre-booked or reserved for hotel guests so it was a mission to find a front row umbrella. We finally found one at Long Beach.
We spent most of our day here being beach bums. The kids loved the ocean. They buried each other in the sand. We ordered a few snacks (the service was amazing and the attendants were very friendly). Liv even took a nap under the umbrella. My brother also shouted that he saw boobies, although we had already warned both of them beforehand so that it wasn't so much of a shock; obviously, it still was.
On the walk back to the train station, we stopped at a mini amusement park for Olivia. She loved it, of course.
We were so glad we went to Cannes over Provence. The kids really had a wonderful day. It was a day for them. They all left happy and sun-kissed.
After our group and the Provence group got back into Nice, we went to city center to have an outdoor dinner at La Maison de Marie. This place had a lot of charm. It was romantic. The daube aux ravioli (beef stew ravioli) was everyone's favorite dish that night.
We ended the night with a beautiful walk around Place Massena and a stop at Fenocchio's for gelato. This place has a line for a reason. It was so good. We had 11 people so we all tried a variety of flavors. Watermelon was delicious.
When traveling with a large group, I've always been okay with separating ways to do our own things. It's too much (lack of) coordination to get everyone on the same page and we all enjoy different things. We split ways again when my family ventured to Saint Paul de Vence. It's one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera and while charming and magical as it may be.. it wasn't something I could see the kids loving. It was old town cruising.. no matter how much it would be like the town Belle (Beauty and the Best) lived in. We opted to stay in Nice and explore.
We all spent the morning at the flower/farmer's market before going our separate ways. We went a little later in the morning so a lot of the flowers were already gone. All of the fruits looked so appetizing. Olivia stuffed her face and stained her skirt with cherries.
Next stop: the water fountain at Promenade du Paillon. We walked by on our first night in Nice and the kids were so tempted to jump in fully clothed. We knew we had to come back and let them run around in their swimsuits. We had a quick lunch and moved on to a wooden, animal-themed playground (google Promenade du Paillon playground images). It was a short walk beyond the water fountain. The playground is set up into age groups so there was something for the little and the big kids. Aside from potential splinters, it was pretty awesome.
We also found ourselves another carousel in Jardin Alber 1er. They played great music, it was in the shade, and the kids rode around about 3 times.
We didn't get to spend as much time in Monte Carlo as I'd hoped. Grace Kelly was Olivia's first barbie. I was planning to dress her as Grace for Halloween. I wanted to explore and do something that would commemorate Olivia being in Monaco.
My family wanted to stop by Villefranche-sur-Mer because it was on the way to Monte Carlo via train. We walked by the beach. A beach with no umbrellas and the day's blazing sun. The kids had their beach day and their fountain day, I really wasn't up for another water play day (in the blazing sun in the afternoon). It is a highly rated beach and there were fun options to rent (like floating platforms/slides to jump from), but I prefer beaches first thing in the morning because of weather. We had a snack by the waterside and jumped back on the train to Monte Carlo (their train ticket machines were ancient and a pain to use).
We got into Monte Carlo.. our phones had bad reception. We didn't know where to go. When I finally got some reception, the directions took us to the wrong place and the opposite direction of where we wanted to be (near the Larvotto area). It was a lot of walking and of getting lost and places were closing up already (close to 6pm). We thought we could do an early dinner at the Hotel de Paris overlooking the view, but the instant we walked through the doors, a doorman stopped us. He said shorts weren't allowed. We totally felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman in a sense. We just walked around and had some gelato before heading back to the train station. We got a little lost figuring out how to get back up to there too. My cousin and my brother walked up a million stairs while we figured out a shortcut in the back of a chapel-looking building. The highlight was watching/listening to my cousin play some LaLa Land tunes on the piano at the station.
I hope to return to Monte Carlo one day and do the whole Grace Kelly thing with Olivia. Something to look forward to on a list of infinity.
We ended our stay with dinner at La Reserve with the entire group. We enjoyed the stunning sunset on the rooftop and watched some boys jump off the cliffs on the waterside.
Side story: I have a crazy, crazy memory of Nice now. During one of the early evenings, I visited Hermes on Avenue de Verdun to pick up an item I ordered online. After settling that, we looked around the shop and as we we're looking at some scarves, I hear someone scream "Nikolai!!! Nikolai!!!" They shut off the lights, the alarm goes off, and they lock the doors. Right by the front door, a male sales associate was pinning a man down. I was in shock. I kept thinking I'm so glad I left the kids with my family at the AirBnB. A female sales associate comes to me and sales everything is okay and leads me to the front room to look at twillies (I really didn't want to shop at that point). The man is sitting on the staircase now and I'm still not sure what is going on. As another associate opens the door for a couple to leave, the man tries to jet for the door and two men have to grab him and hold him down. This was directly in front of me. I could feel the blood rush through me. They hold him off to the side and they finally let us out. While we wait for our ride, we see police showing up. I still don't know what happened.. I presume he was trying to steal something. I'm just thankful he didn't have any weapons.
The even crazier thing.. apparently, he got released from whatever trouble he was in because he walked past me in Monte Carlo (right by Chanel and Hermes). Seriously the craziest coincidence I've ever experienced in my life.