Wednesday, November 25, 2015

September in the South of France

After an eventful day in the city, we made our way back to JFK airport and were pleasantly surprised to find that we got seat assignments in first class. Talk about the perfect way to start off an international trip!

We arrived in Nice the following afternoon, picked up the rental car, and drove a couple hours over to Port Grimaud where my dad found an awesome AirBnB. It's an adorable little village about a 10 minute drive from Saint-Tropez. 


My first impression of Saint-Tropez was watching a caravan of about 20 Ferraris drive past me on their way to the harbor. Um, wow! Everything about this city is pure class, even down to the way people dress! The city streets were incredibly picturesque and we had heard that the harbor was unique because it's one of the few superyacht harbors in the world that is right on a public street. It definitely didn't disappoint!
The harbor was full of eye candy, not just with the amazing yachts but also with the 20 or so Ferraris that the owners just "casually" drove into town for a dinner party. We had fun (along with everyone else) spending ample time gawking at the cars and the boats, plus all of the post harbor-side restaurants.

We opted out of the caviar an champagne though (ha) and of course took advantage of the crepes and baguettes everywhere we could find them. And they were just as delicious as we had hoped!

We took a quick window shopping tour of the Chanel mansion. Yes, mansion. Complete with incredible gardens, a pool, and a pool house that's been converted into a store. Sadly they don't allow pictures inside but let's just say I felt a little under dressed ;). 

We soaked up every minute we could along the harbor before sunset...and before the jet lag took full effect. Now that I've had a glimpse of Saint-Tropez I can't wait to go back to explore it even more! 

The French Riviera

For our first full day we decided to do a driving tour of the coast starting in Nice and making our way over toward the Italian border. And oh boy was it ever a feast for the eyes! We lucked out with absolutely perfect weather, too. Everything was so beautiful it almost didn't feel like real life!

We didn't really stop in Nice but enjoyed the view of the promenade as we drove by. We had fun listening to my dad reminisce about his time in Nice when he spent a summer in Europe during his college years.


What's great about the French Riviera is that all the neat little towns are within just a few minutes driving distance of each other. There's practically a new view at every turn in the road!

I had heard so much about Eze before we came on the trip and I knew it was a village that we just could not miss. It definitely didn't disappoint! It's probably one of the most charming little villages I've ever visited! It's a tiny walled town up on one of the highest hilltops on the coast.

 Before we made our way up the hill, we first stopped at the Fragonard perfume factory just at the base of the town. I remember my sister and my mom telling me about this place when they visited France several years ago, and we had to make the stop for some souvenirs. They make some incredible fragrances!

 Once we made it into the town, we spent a few hours winding our way through the cobblestone streets and gawking at the 5-star hotels/private villas we saw along the way. 

The best view from Eze (which we found out at the very end of our walk through the town) is at the very top of the hill in the botanical gardens. Wow. We really were in the clouds! The views were phenomenal and it really felt like we were in a dream! 

Two fun facts about Eze: It was Walt Disney's favorite destination prior to building Disneyland. Also, it's where Bono from U2 wrote "Beautiful Day." I definitely see why now! 

After spending quite a bit of time in Eze we made our way over to Monaco. I had been there once briefly as a teenager but didn't remember much of it. My dad has spent quite a bit of time there over the years so he gave us a quick driving tour and then we stopped at the harbor and the famous Monte Carlo Casino. They were setting up for the Monaco Yacht Show so there were some insane boats in the harbor. 

And yes, the casino is just as glamorous on the inside as they portray it in the movies!


Our last stop for the day was the little town of Menton just a few minutes away from the Italian border. I loved that it reminded me so much of Cinque Terre just down the coast and it was just a fun combination of both cultures with both the food and the architecture. 

We had heard a lot about socca, which is a regional dish there so of course we had to try it. It's basically like a flat bread made from chickpeas. 

And in addition to that we got pizza, gnocci, and escargot! Mostly because Marissa had to take a video to show her girls that she actually ate snails ;)

I'm still convinced that it's the butter and herbs that makes these little things taste somewhat palatable! 

Port Grimaud

I totally fell in love with the little town we stayed in as our home base for the trip. Port Grimaud is right on the coast and is a little village made up of mostly vacation homes right on the canals so people can just dock their boats right in the backyard.

There's an adorable little village square with a bakery and market where we'd go to get a fresh baguette every morning. And we loved having bikes to ride around the harbors, too.

The little flat we rented was perfect for the trip - it has a cute little balcony that looked out over the water that of course was perfect for our breakfast feasts. I still can't figure out what makes french bread and pastries so different, but they are worlds above anything I can find here! If you know my dad, you know he loves variety when it comes to food and that's definitely what we had every morning!

The town of Grimaud is just a few minutes inland up on a hill, with an amazing old castle and a cute little town. It was such little place to discover!

 Verdon Country
On our second full day of the trip, we drove up north a couple hours into more of the mountain country and stopped off at Verdon Gorge because we had heard it was amazing. And it definitely was! I'm still amazed at the color of the water. The pictures do a pretty good job at capturing it but it's still nothing like it is in person!

We took a fun little paddle boat up the gorge and got our workout for the day. Whew! The views were stunning and we just tried to soak it in as much as we could. I mean, look at this waterfall! There was nothing lackluster about this place.


Just a short drive over from the lake is the little village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. I honestly had never heard about it until the night before when we were planning our driving route for the day and came across a TripAdvisor review. But this place ended up being one of my absolute favorites of the trip - a true fairy tale town in every sense of the word!

The village is perched up on limestone cliffs and hundreds of feet above in a rock canyon there's an old church and and old church. And as if it couldn't be any more picturesque, there's a stream and a waterfall that flows right through the center of the town. Like I said--a total fairy tale.

On the third day of the trip, we drove east over to Provence with the goal of seeing Gordes since that was another town at the top of my list. We found some amazing views along the way through the farms.

The first glimpse of Gordes was breathtaking - it's another hilltop town that seems to kind of jut out from the surrounding farmland. All of the buildings have terra cotta roofs and are building using the same color of stone. From the bottom it almost looks like the buildings are stacked on top of each other!

We had a great time wandering around the streets, finding some of the best views, of course eating bread and pastries, and doing some window shopping. It was another gorgeous, sunny fall day that couldn't have been more perfect!


From Gordes, we made our way through the countryside and did a quick stop in Goult where we found this awesome old windmill. Along the way we saw some stunning views of the vineyards and other farmland. Provence has much more of a rustic feel from the Riviera - I decided that it's kind of like the Tuscany of France. So unique and beautiful in it's own way. 


Our next stop on the drive was Loumarin, which was another town I had never heard of but apparently it's on the list of the most beautiful villages in France. It's a really cute town with an old medieval castle that's been restored and is open for tours.

 We toured the castle and grounds and spent some time wandering the streets (clearly one of our favorite things to do ;) But really, it is!). We stuffed ourselves on bread and gawked at all of the fresh produce at the markets.

And how dreamy are these doors??
Since we were there in the early evening before any of the restaurants were open for diner, we decided to get started on the drive back to Port Grimaud and find a place to stop on the way for dinner. 

Thanks to Yelp we found out that there was a top-rated crepe restaurant in Aix-en-Provence that was on our route back and it was a total gem! The city of Aix-en-Provence is the city center of the region and has much more of a Parisian feel with the streets and buildings. We pulled in right at the start of dinner so the entire city center was bustling. 

La Crepe Sautiere turned out to be totally amazing - I took pictures of the entire menu because there were crepe combinations I had never even dreamed of! We tried both savory and sweet crepes and everything was incredibly delicious. It's on my list of places to go back to for sure! 

Despite only having three full days to spend touring, we certainly got to see a lot! Since our flight didn't leave till the early afternoon we had a couple hours to spend in downtown Nice for some last-minute stops before going heading to the airport. 

First stop as at the famous Confisserie Florian that known for their candied fruits. My sister had stopped there lots of years ago during her 8th grade trip and wanted to go back mostly for memory's sake. It was really cool to see how they candy the fruit in the big vats and we got to sample some of it too. They even make chocolates and candies with rose and lavender! Definitely unique. 

Next stop was to get my beloved macarons to bring home with me as a souvenir. Lac Patisserie is said to be one of the best in Nice and from the two minutes I spent inside the shop it was impressive for sure! And the macarons were delicious. :D

To top it off, we were pleasantly surprised to get first class seats on the way home, too! 

The view from the window leaving Nice was absolutely beautiful and obviously video-worthy. 

We got to see the entire coast from above and on our way up north even got some good views of Mont Blanc, the Alps, and the Matterhorn! 

We had a great flight back to JFK and caught the late flight back to SLC. All in all, this trip was absolutely picture perfect from start to finish! It's rare that trips like this go off without a hitch, but this one was about as seamless as it gets! It was a total dream come true for the three of us and we made so many great memories together.