Even though I’ve holidayed in the South of France, I’d never been to Nice. One would think that with it’s proximity to the UK, it would be on my list of places to visit, it wasn’t and I don’t know why. When Osa, our FGGC Benin City class of 85 alumni put out her invitation announcing she was celebrating her 50th birthday over 4 days in Nice, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I must say, event coordinating is not one of my gifts, kudos to Osa for making this trip trés enjoyable for all. I know it wouldn’t have been an easy thing to do.
For many of us, It was kinda like a high school reunion because quite a few of us from 3 different continents who attended the same secondary school, were flying in for the event. I hadn’t seen some of the women since our last major reunion in Dubai 2015, so it was very nice to connect in person again. The excitement started from Gatwick airport, about 11 of us were on the plane. You can imagine what that was like. Hilarious!
Group holidays can be a bit tricky if you don’t go with the right mindset. The key to enjoying them is
- Stick to people you can get along with.
- Don’t be too picky by expecting things to be 100% perfect.
- Aim to enjoy yourself by being patient (at times) and being a wee bit accommodating (sometimes, not all the time 😂).
- Be friendly with those you don’t know, don’t be uptight, life’s too short for that nonsense.
Needless to say, even though I was still in recovery from my recent mishap and not in 100% Kinetic mode, I throughly enjoyed myself on this trip, maybe a bit too much. Hahahahaha!
We stayed at Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée, great choice by the celebrant! Being along the Promenade des Anglais, the location was perfect with a great view of the Riviera.
Our room was nice, it had everything you’d expect from a 5* hotel, the buffet breakfast had a variety of choices. However, the gym was disappointing for a 5* hotel, it was too small and very basic. If you’re not a fitness enthusiast like moi, that would not matter one bit. However, the promenade partly made up for that, perfect for getting a cardio workout done.
My only gripe would be the Chinese restaurant right at the corner next to the hotel recommended by the hotels concierge!!!!! He said the food there was great. Arrrgggghhh!!! Honestly, it was the worst Chinese food I have ever had in my entire life. Trust me and don’t go there ever!
I must mention though, on the night of #fabulousOsa50 birthday party, the young lady in housekeeping saved me from what would have been a disaster. Being a minimalist, I came with only one party dress which ripped right on the bust line on both sides as I was putting it on. O my gosh! You should have heard me scream!! Hahahahaha!!!! I can laugh now but it sure wasn’t funny then. I phoned housekeeping and she came with a sewing kit, stitched it up for me just about holding it together for the few hours I needed to wear it. She was my party attending saviour!
The first tour was of Nice, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Grasse and Eze. I’m not really a tour bus fan because you don’t get to spend much time at an attraction before it’s time to climb back on the bus. Also, I feel city tour buse expeditions are great for only 3 groups of people 1) big party groups like ours 2) the elderly 3) those who don’t like walking.
That saying, I enjoyed the tours, it was great fun and Sacha the guide was great. He injected stories to make the tour lively, though some were not 100% accurate. 😂😂 But, hey! The saying goes, “don’t let the (100%) truth get in the way of a good story”.
We drove through the city, starting along the English Promenade (the name originated from 19th century English expatriates) which goes all the way the the airport and is about 7km long. The Promenade de Anglais is the second most famous avenue in France, the most famous avenue is the Champs Elysees in Paris.
Having the best weather in France, the palm tree lined Promenade is the most iconic and well known beach fronts in France. All day long you see people jogging, walking, skating, riding scooters and Segways, cycling, or just sitting watching the blue waves. The French Riviera or Côte d’Azur (coast of Azure (azure blue water)) scenery is beautiful, the colour of the water looks unreal.
During the summer months, Nice is a beehive of activity and I’m sure the traffic situation then is worse than Lagos. Going in November worked out for the better and we were told it’s a better time to come. The city has beautiful architecture and there are strict rules to keep it that way. All the buildings are well maintained and not more than a certain height – no high rises permitted. If you own a flat in Nice, you have to keep it up to standard or it’s taken from you. Real estate in the French Riviera is one of the most expensive in the world.
We drive past the Russian Orthodox Church, the building looks like Ottoman Empire architecture. It was finished in 1912 and is owned by the Russian Federation. There is apparently a large Russian community in Nice, probably mostly millionaires and billionaires. I actually would have liked to see what the inside looked like, something for another trip. Our guide told us services are held standing up, I’m sure that’s a fib. 😁
Villa Leopolda is rumoured to be owned by billionaire Lily Safra. Over 100yrs old and valued at $750 million, Villa Leopolda is supposedly the most expensive residential real estate in the world. It was built by an American architect for King Leopold II. Because of it’s history (ownership has changed hands several times over the years) it remains a French historical monument. It is reported that 50 gardeners tend to the gardens in it’s 18+ acres daily. We stopped near the villa and got a beautiful view of the bay at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (see image above). Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is definitely on my list to visit on another trip.
Eze and Grasse
The Medieval village of Eze is a hilltop village with spectacular views of the riviera. It is the smallest village in the world with only 40 inhabitants. There are no cars there so the village doesn’t have many inhabitants. Within the Alpes-Maritimas region of France you have the cities of Nice, Cannes, Grasse and Antibes. The Alpes with its numerous ski resorts is one of the most attractive destinations in the world. There are amazing views of the Mediterranean Sea from the aforementioned cities.
We stopped in Grasse. Grasse is the perfumery capital of the world. It is the world leader in the production of natural fragrances for the perfumery industry and is home to international fragrance houses. Grasse was known for leather production until perfumers and apothecaries began settling there way back in the 18th century because they discovered that the city’s climate is perfect for growing different types of flowers.
We visited the world famous Fragonard factory there and were given a tour of the factory and a talk about it’s history and how the perfumes are made. The Fragonard factory was built in 1782 which makes it one of the oldest perfume factories in Grasse. After the tour, we were taken to the factory shop where they had perfumes, soaps and home fragrances for sale.
Monaco and Monte Carlo
Monaco is a micro country on the French Riveira, it borders France and Italy. With a population of only 40,000, it is the second smallest country in the world (roughly the size of Central Park in NY). It has the highest per capita GDP in the world but not anyone can live in Monaco because it is also the most expensive place to live in the world. Monaco has micro sized land mass, demand for real estate is high but property is scarce.
Monaco scrapped income taxes in 1869 and as a result, it is a billionaires paradise. The tiny state attracts a lot of wealthy high profile individuals because of it’s weather, political stability and the events held all year round, the most famous being the Grand Prix. Lots of sporting celebrities live in Monaco because of it’s tax free status.
However, only about 8,000 inhabitants are Monègasque – citizens. It is rumoured that the Prince (Albert) takes care off all Monègasque and as a result, they live very comfortably. Monaco is full of high rise buildings because the land mass is very small. It borders France on 3 sides and streets separate the two. Monaco is also known for its casinos. We were told that though gambling is big in Monaco, the Monègasque are not allowed to gamble.
Antibes & Cannes
The second bus tour took us on a route to Cannes. On the way to Cannes, we stopped at the resort town of Antibes. The driver took us through the residential millionaires row and billionaires bay in Cap d’Antibes where we were shown all the spectacular houses owned by foreign nationals. Cap d’Antibes is quite a nice place to live, you can get a decent sized villa for a smidgen at €2-€10million. 🤣🤣
Antibes coast line is 25km long, a paradise for beach lovers. It also apparently has the biggest yacht harbour in Europe, apparently, 70% of the worlds super yachts sail through in the summer months – Russian Oligarchs, Saudi Princes, Brazilian billionaires all showing off their prized possessions. We didn’t get to see the harbour on this occasion so no images of that.
Eden Roc resort, the best hotel in the French Riviera is also situated in Antibes. Famously chic, Eden Roc is a very big deal, it’s on a 9 hectare estate and is very popular in the celebrity world. It’s the Côte d’Azur icon of glitz and glamour, if you’re a celebrity and you haven’t stayed at Eden Roc, then you’re B lister. 😜 The hotel hosts one of the biggest red carpet events of the year, the AmFar gala. If you’re into experiences like this, then putting a stay at this hotel on your bucket list is a must! Before you ask, no, sadly, we could only drive past the resort. 😒
The interesting thing about Cannes is that it almost seems like the annual film festival (which is the second most important event in the world) that’s held there has completely overshadowed what the town has to offer. When you hear Cannes, the first thing that comes to mind is the film festival and red carpet. 1million people visit Cannes yearly around the time of the festival, I guess it’s not surprising that the festival has overshadowed what else might be happening in Cannes. We were given about a hour to explore the town by the guide so we headed straight to the red carpet to take pictures. After that we went to have something to eat and it was time to leave.
So, does Cannes have more to offer than red carpet pictures, food and shopping? Sure it does. Cannes has a lot of history. It’s got a port, the Old Port of Cannes, however, if that’s not your thing and you’ve seen super yachts in Antibes and Monte Carlo, you might not want to see them again.
Cannes has got a street like Promenade des Angles called Boulevard de la Croisette where there are great views of the sea front. It’s got parks for walks, hikes, or runs. And if you’re like me and like to look at the old historical buildings, then head to the old town in Le Suquet, the oldest area in Cannes where you can see what Cannes was like in the 18th century before it became what it is today. You can also visit the islands off the coast of Cannes, it’s beach’s, the Musée de la Castre, the old 14th century church (Notre-Dame D’Espérance).
To conclude, I see myself visiting this region many more times. All of the towns are so small you can probably walk the length and breath of each one on different days, taking in and experiencing what each has to offer.
All images are mine except for the two images of Hotel du Cap-Eden Roc (which I got from a YouTube video) and the Iconic Cannes red carpet formation image.
Looking to visit The French Riviera? Look no further than www.rivieracometrue.com for sightseeing. You will not be disappointed!
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