FRENCH RIVIERA TO PROVENCE : 7 TOWNS YOU SHOULDN’T MISS
France is a treasure trove full of beautiful destinations. The French Riviera is unmatched in beauty by any region with gorgeous seaside promenades, pristine cobblestone old towns, giant yachts, delicious cuisine, all sitting right in front of the Provence Alps. We began our journey in Nice and fit in as many towns along the Mediterranean and in the French countryside of Provence as we could in 5 days. Although the French Riviera can easily be traveled by train, we rented a car for our trip.
This village is one of my favorites on the French Riviera but lesser known and not nearly as touristy as others. Sitting right on the border of France and Italy, Menton has crystal clear waters and a steep old town to hike for incredible sweeping views. The promenade on the west side of town is filled with beach-side restaurants and colorful beaches.
The tiny Principality of Monaco stretches only a mere .78 miles long but has a population of about 37,800! The country is governed by Prince Albert II (whose photo you will spot in every store front standing next to his wife Charlene Wittstock). He is the son of Rainier III and the late American actress, Grace Kelly. Monaco is divided into 4 regions, the most popular being Monte Carlo where the famous casino and Hotel de Paris are found. I always love the hike up to the castle and old town where you have spectacular views of the town built into cliffs and the old port. In most of these villages you find the castles were built on a cliff protected on both sides by water. Monaco is outrageously expensive so we bought some wine in Nice (where we were staying) and rode the train over to check out the port and casino at night.
When I was backpacking a few years ago I kept finding myself going back to Nice. Between the gorgeous sea, the dramatic Alps in the background and the charming Old Town, I quickly fell in love with this town. Climbing castle hill has the best views of Nice and the port, along with a breathtaking cemetery in front of the mountains. Visit the nearby beaches and check out the fruit and flower market that is in Old Town every day.
We stayed at the gorgeous Grand Hyatt Martinez right on the promenade. The main street is filled with high-end designer shopping but if you walk into the town you can find much more reasonable shopping. We took a 7 euro ferry one morning across to the island of Sainte-Marguerite which I would highly recommend. Check out Musée de la Mer (6 euro entry) which is known for the Man with the Iron Mask. You can wander around the old prison cells and visit the museum for ancient pottery and history of the island. The island is covered with great nature walks where we cut across to swim in the clear water with all the anchored sail boats.
We randomly chose to visit Trigance because it was close to the Gorges du Verdon and ended up falling in love with this precious village built around the mountain side castle. We slept in the cutest loft that we rented though Homeaway, which was newly renovated and right in the middle of town. After doing some star gazing on our way home from the Lavender fields we pulled into the tiny village and immediately felt like we stepped back in time. The silent empty cobble stone roads wound around to our house where we were greeted by a friendly neighborhood cat. We seemed to be the only ones there and the views from our windows stretched down the ivy covered streets. It was the perfect location right in the middle of Provence.
One of the main sights in the region is the Gorges Du Verdon where you can rent boats and paddle through the turquoise gorges. The town is absolutely stunning with waterfalls, a cliff top church, and incredible views of the valley. We had the most delicious peach and apricot smoothie and wandered around the charming streets.
Last but not least, the icing on the cake, any girl’s bucket list item, a dream come true – the Provence Lavender Fields. We found them right after the sun was slipping below the horizon. For miles the highways are lined with fields of purple and the occasional yellow from sunflowers. I could have stayed here forever. The fields are at peak blooming season in July and early August so we were there at the perfect time.