Exploring the Cote-d'Azur

Trip Start May 30, 2013
Trip End Nov 25, 2013

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Flag of France  , Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur,
Wednesday, July 10, 2013

France and the French- well we certainly know we are in a different country, and they are a different breed to the Spanish. .In Spain we found the language difficult , but the people very friendly and eager to help. I guess , because we are in a large city, and the people busy ,we have difficulty in making ourselves understood, and because we don’t speak any French , it can be difficult to get help when trying to make purchases or decisions.BUT with an apartment situated 100 yards from the port, and 300 yards from the old town, we could not be better situated, and it has not taken us long to familiarize ourselves. Locally there are little bars and eateries all along the streets. Just at the corner a wonderful PIZZA shop making pizzas in front of you , with long queues waiting (must be good) …any type you want for 6 euros.
In the area where Don & Susan are staying, we  strolled through the Franciscan Monastery and gardens - situated near the Roman ruins ….the Monastery was 14-15th century, with central Nave, chapels and vaulted styled fresco-ed ceilings and glorious  stained glass window. The gardens are beautifully maintained and sit proudly above Nice City- with stunning views all the way to the ocean.

We have been using buses and trams to date, as driving and finding somewhere to park is very stressful- in fact a vehicle is NOT necessary as the trains and buses are regular and quite reasonable in price. We did head out of town however with the car - a day trip we had been recommended to Puget-Theniers- a little forgotten village in the mountain ranges that sit behind Nice. This little village appeared geared towards hiking parties and apart from a village market and local train station , it had little to offer visitors….

Last evening G & me headed  out  after dinner at home, and wandered the ‘old quarter again’ - we watched a motor cyclist and his machine  negotiating his way home up narrow steps; and we eventually settled at an outdoor bar that overlooked the Promenade des Anglais and, Mediterranean ocean , looking along the beach towards Cannes : all the “cruising” vehicles - the likes of which we can only drool over . One lovely mustang cruising with the top down, had a small terrier standing on the top of the back seats (on the boot)- looking like he was surfing in the wind., and well balanced  - I waited for him to come back, but missed a photo opportunity. We eventually wandered home via the port in the dark, midst all the other locals and tourists. The huge ferry, loading with expectant cars and passengers, waiting to leave on its nightly passage to Corsica

Deciding each day where to go - today we 4 caught a bus to Saint Jean Cap Ferrat - a journey to the end of the bus route, to find a beautiful harbour full of amazing boats and a very pretty seaside village. Before reboarding the bus and coming back half way to the Vila & gardens of Ephrussi de Rothschild. This  magnificent villa   sits high above the Med with  glorious views, situated  between Nice & Monaco, with its splendid art and porcelain collection and magnificent gardens. Beatrice had a love of travel and collected art and tapestries, Louis XV1 furniture and works by Fragonard and Boucher. Built during the Belle Epoque by Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild - the villa is classed as one of the jewels of the French Riviera . Now over 100 years old , and gifted by Beatrice to the Nice Govt, to ensure her project of beauty lived on .Covering approximately 12 acres and is immaculately tended into 9 heavenly gardens- including a formal garden with musical fountains playing to beautiful music, Japanese and Spanish gardens ….all with wonderful views over the Med..sea  Back on the bus to Villefranche sur Mer- another seaside village with a medieval past- and a very large Citadel -
an imposing fortress built in 1557 to defend the town.We made our way down through the cobbled ,narrow lanes and arrived right on the harbour side, with the water almost lapping at  a narrow tunnel entrance …..the way out was via a narrow walkway following the Oceanside, and citadel fortress walls  until we climbed back up, and up, to the street level again, to find a bus stop. The 4 of us looking like ’roasted beets’ all stood , hoping a bus would be along shortly to take us back to OUR Port. and there was!!!

Nice is rather spread out , so today we chose the little white train leaving from the Oceanside (Promenade des Anglais), to do our exploring and save our legs in the heat.1 hour of open air sightseeing with headphones and languages to suit the passengers…..certainly a good way to get the overview………. Garry rather fancies the tandam parasailing off the beach (and I made the mistake of saying I will see)- of course he thinks I mean YES!!! After a long walk back through the old quarter of Nice in the heat of the day , and a cold drink at our apartment- we set tomtom (GPS),for Mougins (a medieval village that the author I read, calls her “favourite village“.) 35 minutes inland from here…….. we arrived at a beautiful medieval hilltop village where artists, sculptures, and others have made it their home and work place in the hills above Cannes.  This was home and work place  also for Picasso.
Would you believe it!!!! I missed my Author (Carol Drinkwater), by only a few hours - a shop owner I spoke with ,said Carol was in the village speaking with her that morning!!!! Working on her new book …..on Mougins.
Nearby Mougins, is Grass - famous for its Perfumeries, supplying to the largest outlets in Paris …..Susan & I enjoyed the atmosphere and spent time smelling and testing perfumes , while the 2 men rested in a nearby outdoor park with a drink…..the OLD quarter was right there, so had a wander in  - lovely hanging baskets dripping with petunias, and water misting dropping  right across the little lane - lovely linen being sold and “just SO old buildings - leaning in together …town of great charm , Grass spreads out over shallow hills , as though relaxing in the sun or perhaps guarding the perfume meadows that have made it famous. In the square there is the statue that commemorates the Artist Jean -Monare Fragonard (the great Provincial artist) born in the town in 1732, and his name lives on in one of the 3 big perfumeries that were originally set up, in his villa.

The coastline North from Nice goes from one little blue bay to the next - all hugging the mountainous range that sits up behind this whole coastline all the way into Italy.Today G & me caught an early bus, travelling along this coastline passing through pretty villages, until we reached Menton (northern side of Monaco )- and the site of the border between Italy and France. The day was HOT… HOT …and after walking the Esplanade along the ocean , with many folk already sunbathing an swimming on its stony beach , we came to the ‘little white train’…These are very reasonable in price, and give a great overview quickly of an area. SO on it we jumped - travelling to the Italian border and back  up through  the medieval quarter… still very populated, and the little train only just passed through the narrow lanes. Still on the train - I had the urge to LEAVE IT, in the medieval centre….and stay right there!!“ Lets get out “. I said to G (he looked at me like I was mad) - but as the train stopped momentarily, out we jumped, leaving our little train to make its way back down to the waterfront, without us ,and saving us the walk back up into the old quarter in the searing heat.. Sometimes he does do as I tell him!! Menton remains a picture postcard Italianate village- famous for its lemons of which their origin is said to come from  :_ :when God expelled Adam & Eve from the Garden of Eden, and Eve decided it was an earthly paradise and planted her lemon. All local lemons are said to stem from those seeds - where a lemon festival is held every February to celebrate.
The Medieval quarter sits high above the blue Mediterranean and we made our way steadily up past the St Michels Baroque church (with its very loud bells ringing in our ears), through the narrow lanes , till we reached the cemetery, with graves dating from the early 1700’s, ... the most glorious views any dead folk have ever seen (and us) of the whole of the bay - looking to the Italian border to the North and south to Roquebrune Cap- Martin.,
A quiet Panache (shandy)and bread roll in a square with a large tree canopy to shelter from the sun, as we cooled down , before finding a bus stop , to catch the bus back South along the beautiful coastline- the road is so narrow, it is amazing the glass on the buses is not  shattered by the shrubbery on the high rock walls. as it passes by .We stopped off at Villefranche to view the museums under the Citadel (we missed on our visit a couple of days ago)…an impressive stone fortress ., complete with drawbridge.

The public transport is very user friendly - buses, trams and trains- all within a short walk of our apartment. A day trip to Monaco with Don and Susan on the train was a great experience. Fortunately leaving early , to beat the heat of the day. Arriving at the station above the city, there are a series of lifts and escalators  to help locals and visitors to cope with the steepness of the site. One Irish chap we spoke to, says he is living in Monaco for 6 months, and although not at the highest point of private accommodation, still has 160 steps to negotiate up and down each time he wants to leave his apartment on the hill.  Monaco , playground of the rich and although the wealth is understated , it is clearly present as evidenced by the vast array of yachts in the harbour and the vehicles on the roads . We did walk around the harbour and climb the great number of steps to reach the Grimaldi Palace- all worth the effort , for the views over Monaco were stunning. Fine views in all directions and we were able to see ‘changing of the guard ‘at 11am. The open top bus arrived so on we hopped - all too happy to be driven, and save our legs in the heat. We think the driver considered himself to be in the Grand Prix- racing along at break neck pace ,and “oh my GXX!!” his speed through the tunnels ; I just shut my eyes with a map over my face. The lineup of cars in front of the Casino ; too numerous to name , and of course the shopping. Security guards at the front doors of the jewelry shops, and jewels dripping in the shop windows. No fashion shopping for us- although they are all there- Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Bulgari Cartier …..all major fashion, leather, and jewelry houses have outlets there..The Casino is a stunning building , built in 1878...guards on the doors and the steps roped from the bottom of the road- many visitors milling around to drink in the opulence and people watch- . The few people we did see going inside, appeared to know what they were doing, and the guards stood aside to let them in (beautifully dressed). We were unsure what the criteria was for entry,(apart from dress) but did not even try. One look at our hot, sticky bodies, would tell them we were NOT gamblers.By 3 0clock we were dripping, hot and ready to find the train back to Nice….where it seems to be cooler in the afternoons.

G & me had spotted a lovely little beach at St Jean Cap-Ferrat, a short bus journey north -
 So off we went early this morning, stopping for a baguette at a village shop and spent the day on the beach.Fortunately we were able to take a sun umbrella and some beach mats, as the beaches here are mostly pebbly. Jellyfish were a real problem and I had only been swimming some minutes before one got me on my arm…OUCH!!!!!  Many others also got stung, and we did not venture too far from the shore after that. Interesting watching the water activity.Lots of small yachts being towed out like little ducks all in a row, and budding Jacque Cousteau’s in the water all decked out in wet suits being taught the skills of scuba diving.

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Ken & Jackie on

Brings back many memories of the times we spent in the same area and visited the same places. Great photos and look forward to the next saga.

Lynda Harvey on

Jan you are doing a fab job keeping us informed of your whereabouts - it must take you hours.. I get sore legs just thinking about all of those steps. You seem to be on the go all the time - why am I not surprised!!
I have recently had a good time in the south island (olive picking) and once again it was great. Lots of snow around this time as I went slightly later than last year - Queenstown was picture postcard material.
Home for abit now - until I go up north to Mangawhai to play some golf with my old mates and flit around the kids and friends in Auckland.
I must say that I'm a little envious of your sunshine. It's turned bloody cold down here. I guess it's winter.
Went past your place on Sunday - wow that creeper on the frontside brick wall has gone mad - and looks great.
Lots of love.....LyndaXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Linda Kimbler on

I just love your updates on your travels. Gene and I went with his daughter and family one year to the south of France so these spots were very familiar. Sounds like you are hot like we are here in Arizona. Have been up to 119 degrees but this week cooler between 105 to 113 degrees. However the humidity is creeping up so seams hotter. We are now in the monsoon season with winds a bit cloudy (no rain yet) this will last until September. We head to Southern California on July 24th with stop in San Clemente to spend a few days with friends at their summer place by the beach, one night on Coronado Island at the new Navy Lodge at North Island, Naval 'Base (San Diego) then 2 weeks at our timeshare condo in Escondido about 30 miles east of Bill and Vicki's home in Carlsbad. Home around the mid part of August. Hope to get out of the heat and enjoy the coast for a while.
Finally got all unpacked and the laundry/craft room is completed along with the office so feeling very pleased with myself. House and yard look great and so pleased we had a pool put in the backyard. Don't think I could live here in this heat without pool and air conditioning. So far it hasn't been all that bad.
Had a nice three days with Bill and Vicki at their home in June and nice chat with Kaye and Terry today via telephone. They are planning a trip to Arizona and Texas in 2014.
I really marvel at your lovely writing skills Jan and just love the stories and photo's you post.
We had planned to go to Holland in April 2014 but Bill and Vicki want to join us and they already have a trip planned for Russia so I said we would wait until 2015 (April) so they could join us on the 12 day river cruise of Holland and Brussels.
Must run but do so enjoy your updates. The Blog site you are using is fantastic. Love and Hugs, Linda

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