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When I sat my sights on the South of France, I knew I needed to choose a city that was central to the rest. I wanted to be in warm weather, near water, and somewhere where other major cities were just a train ride away. Nice was that place for me. Located along the Cote d’Azur, Nice was a perfect getaway from Paris for a few weeks. The day trips from Nice made it super easy to settle in this city along the sea.
You may know of Cannes thanks to a little film festival held in the city every year. You may have heard of the Cannes Film Festival. If not, vacate your rock immediately. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Driving to Cannes from Nice can take as much as an hour due to traffic and the route. However, I recommend hopping on the train to Cannes, which can take as little as 26 minutes and is a straight shot. My ride was more like 40 minutes due to the train I opted for. I jut went to the kiosk and purchased a ticket so I didn’t pay attention to the type of train. A roundtrip ticket ran me 14.20€.
While Nice is home to rocky beaches and you can often walk along the coast and find people tanning on rocks, Cannes is the place where the sand meets the ocean. Like many other French cities, you can also find high end stores here just like in Paris. If Hermes, Louis Vuitton, and Celine are your type of stores, then this is the city for you.
Monaco was even closer to me than Cannes. While the drive can take about 40 minutes, the train can take as little as 15. I believe my ride was 20-26 minutes and I was in no rush to get to what very well may be one of the most expensive cities on earth. I believe my roundtrip ticket was 4.40€. Lucky for me I wasn’t there for more than a few hours and had no desire to break the bank.
After walking through a maze of luxury stores after getting off of the train in Monte Carlo, I found myself at the infamous Monte Carlo Casino, aka Casino Royal (007 reference). I didn’t realize it was THE casino so I ended up breezing past it and on to bigger and better things, i.e. the hunt for food. I walked along the water for quite some time before settling down to eat and I have to say, you should be prepared for a hike. Walking up and down the winding hills, and up never ending staircases was a complete workout. At one point I thought I’d miss my train back and honestly pass out from exhaustion. It’s super easy to get turned around. This must be why I stick to the coastline during my walks.
St. Tropez is currently the one that got away. I’ve been dreaming of this city for years and always say I’ll spend NYE here, but I still have yet to make it. The reason being, after visiting both Cannes and Monaco, I realized these cities are great for high end shopping, food that may set you back a bit, and not much else. Even googling the phrase “things to do in (insert city here),” nothing stood out to me that I felt I needed or wanted to do. The beach totally is a bonus, but it was too cold for the water and often times too windy to even sit on the beach. I opted to save my train fare and sanity because I knew I needed to take the train to Ste Maxime and then a boat to St. Tropez (a la my airbnb hosts instructions) but my gps wouldn’t acknowledge these truths. So that added to my not going.
In any event, I do plan to visit St. Tropez one day soon and it is still very much a a day trip you should take from Nice. I’m sure the beaches are even better than Cannes and not just because there’s sand here too.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that the South of France is where you go to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but it doesn’t have the isolation of the countryside. Even in the off season you can find plenty of people strolling along the coast and having picnics on rocks and cliffs overlooking the sea. I highly recommend visiting during the spring/summer as late winter will guarantee sunny days, but cooler weather and a breeze you can’t shake.
What’s your favorite city in the South of France?