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  • Writer's pictureCaylie Poola

TRAVEL GUIDE: The South of France

I just couldn't stay away from Europe for too long.


So incredibly grateful that I just got to visit the South of France for a jam packed 10 day trip with my best friend Christina. After some last minute life changes, we booked this trip about a month and a half before our flight took off. I would say we had a great mix of spontaneity and a schedule of plans throughout our trip that made the 10 days the perfect mix of relaxing and busy. Visiting France in the summer was an incredible dream come true and I feel so grateful to continue to travel and see so many beautiful places in life. Traveling has become one of my greatest passions and my favorite part is sharing it all in these guides.



Exploring the side streets of Antibes, France

So --- lets begin. Here is your guide to a summer vacation in the South of France.


First, a quick breakdown of our 10 days:
Day 1: Land in Nice, France and taxi about 25 minutes to Saint Paul de Vence, France.

Day 2: Saint Paul de Vence

Day 3: Saint Paul de Vence > Antibes, France

Day 4: Antibes, France

Day 5: Antibes, France

Day 6: Antibes, France > Nice, France

Day 7: Nice, France

Day 8: Nice, France: Day trip to Menton, France

Day 9: Nice, France

Day 10: Fly back to JFK from Nice Airport

How We Got There & Transportation


When it comes to travel, I am ALWAYS budgeting. Typically, I let the cheapest flight option dictate what airport, what day and when I fly. We were lucky enough to find direct flights from JFK to NCE (Nice, France) airport on Delta and booked them straight away. If you are looking to travel the South of France flying into Nice is a great starting point because it is a major city and very easy to find taxis, trains, buses, etc to go elsewhere once you land.


Our initial plan after landing in Nice was to take one of the public transportation buses to Saint Paul de Vence, our first stop of the trip. When we landed we bought bus tickets and went to the bus station outside of the Nice airport. Unfortunately with the language barrier and so many buses, we soon worried we would end up on the wrong bus and for safety reasons we grabbed a taxi to go to Saint Paul de Vence. Luckily, out of the Nice airport there were so many taxis, unfortunately this option is going to be more expensive but one of the things I will spend money on when traveling is safe transportation, because when you have heavy luggage, English is not the first language and I speak VERY minimal French, it is often safer to give a taxi when getting from point A to point B.


Taxi's, Ubers & Public Transportation

Until the last leg of our trip in Nice, Ubers were not easy to come by, so we relied primarily on taxis, walking or public transportation to get around. We utilized our airbnb hosts to connect us with taxi drivers and tips for getting around in the safest and most budget-friendly way possible. We found the bus system to be relatively easy to navigate and a trip on the bus was only 1 euro, vs a 25 euro taxi ride somewhere. We used the bus to get to the beach, or a destination that was not overly far away from our home base. When we found a taxi driver that we liked, we found ourselves contacting them multiple times throughout the trip which made getting around easier. In both Saint Paul de Vence and Antibes taxi drivers don't just drive around aimlessly, so most of the time we found ourselves calling and asking to be picked up from a specific location. Using a taxi is NOT the most affordable, but I will always say in a new place it is going to be the most reliable option.


Train

We initially planned on using the train much more during our trip, but soon realized our huge checked bags and backpacks would make it a difficult venture. However, if you are going on a day trip (Menton, Saint Tropez, Monaco, etc...) using a train is going to be the safest and most efficient way to travel. As always, I book my train tickets using the app Omio and arrive about 15 minutes before the train is set to leave the station. You just need to be diligent about what stop on the train you are getting off and pay attention to your location! During our day trip to Menton we got off at the wrong stop on our way home, which ended up being completely fine but was due to us both not paying enough attention. When in doubt just ask someone what stop the train is going to be at next! Our round trip tickets for the day were about 10 euro each.


Where We Stayed

One aspect of travel that can be affordable, especially in Europe, is staying in airbnbs! I have done it all -- from hotels to hostels, and I can tell you with 100% certainty, the best way to stay somewhere comfortably and safe is in an airbnb.


LINKS TO THE AIRBNBS WE STAYED AT:


Saint Paul De Vence Studio Apartment: This was our favorite stay of the trip. Not only was the studio spacious, beautiful and had a million dollar view -- but the host was INCREDIBLY helpful. They greeted us on arrival, came to our door when we needed help working the TV and gave us great recommendations for the area. They even called us a taxi on our last day when we had trouble finding one! This is probably one of my favorite airbnbs that I have stayed at - EVER.



The view from our Saint Paul de Vence Airbnb


Antibes Studio Apartment: Nothing but good things to say about this apartment! Great location and the host was very helpful and met us when we arrived. Small, but perfect for 2.


Nice 1 Bedroom Apartment: This was the most expensive airbnb of our trip and we had the highest expectations. Overall it was very nice, but the host was through a company that serviced many airbnbs in Nice. They were not as easy to communicate with and the airbnb itself was not as nice as the photos made it look. Overall, we really enjoyed the location and the terrace, and the inside was still relatively nice, but it wasn't our favorite!


Saint Paul de Vence

We decided last minute to stay in Saint Paul de Vence, as we initially planned to go to Cannes during that time period. This was the BEST decision we could have made for our trip. Saint Paul de Vence is one of the many charming towns that is located right outside of Nice. It isn't directly on the water, but only about a 20-30 minute drive from the other destinations we planned on visiting during our stay. We decided running away to the countryside was exactly what we needed at the beginning of our trip and we couldn't have been more right.


I think Christina would agree with me when I say that Saint Paul de Vence was our favorite location of the trip. Had we known we would have loved it so much, we may have booked an extra night. Here we simply slowed down and enjoyed life. Nothing here is fast paced. The people spoke some English, but not a lot in comparison to the other places we visited. They were able to understand us enough that we could get by. There was enough tourist activity so we weren't bored, but not too much—making it feel like a hole in the wall that we had to ourselves.


In Saint Paul we truly just explored the entire city with no agenda. We enjoyed stumbling into restaurants and getting a table on a whim, shopping at the little boutiques and appreciating some of the most beautiful art I have ever seen. Something we learned about Saint Paul was that it was known for being the stomping grounds of so many iconic artists, including Picasso and Matisse!


My Top Saint Paul de Vence Recommendations:


  • The most picturesque house -- The 12th-Century Poet, Jacques Prévert French Villa

This is not only the most photogenic spot to get a photo-op, but a home that is rich of so much history and life. The famous poet, Jacques, close friend & neighbor of Pablo Picasso once lived here. It is now on airbnb and was renovated in the recent years in order to make it a bit more modernized. Unless you book the house for a stay, you cannot go inside, but we stood outside of it for at least 20 minutes in awe of the beauty it radiated.




  • Les Remparts - Restaurant à Saint Paul de Vence

After a day of exploring sitting at this absolutely stunning rooftop restaurant was the most unforgettable happy hour I think I will ever experience. It truly offered one of the best views of the French countryside and we enjoyed a delicious spritz and sat there for hours, just taking it all in. We did not make a reservation and were able to get a table, however, it definitely got busy!


  • Check out the local galleries

Because of the rich history Saint Paul de Vence has when it comes to art, it is no surprise that the galleries and local artists are incredible. We stumbled into every gallery we saw, purchasing sweet bookmarks and mini handprinted posters to bring home. The bookmark I purchased was sign and given to me by the artist herself with an authenticity stamp. These artists are SO passionate about what they do and truly got so excited to see us appreciate their work and purchase some of it. I truly felt that any art I bought was money well spent, however, for obvious reasons, I didn't get nearly as much as I would have liked.


How We Got Around


We took a taxi right out of Nice airport to Saint Paul and went directly to our airbnb, located right outside the heart of the village. The rest of our stay we could easily walk everywhere, never being more than a 15 minute walk from our studio. The town is extremely quaint and it was easy to manage without feeling lost or overwhelmed. It wasn't too small but definitely perfect for just a 2 night stay. When we were ready to go to our next destination of the trip, our airbnb host called us a taxi and we took. just a 25 minute ride to Antibes. Inside the main village there are rarely even cars, it was extremely refreshing and peaceful. To get around in Saint Paul de Vence we didn't need to do anything but step outside and walk! We definitely saved money on transportation in comparison to the other places we visited this trip. We did struggle getting a taxi at first, so I recommend asking an airbnb host or local to assist with calling you one! (Sorry -- no Uber!)


Antibes, France

Antibes was the best of both worlds. Just a short taxi ride from Saint Paul de Vence, and only about an hour from Nice, Antibes is the charm of a coastal town with the amenities of a city. If you are looking for the classic South of France "vibe" rest assured you can find it here. I would say in terms of things to do and see, Antibes would be my #1 South of France destination recommendation. I think both Christina and I had even wished we did an extra day there versus Nice. We were able to walk most places, or utilize the public bus route, and felt incredibly safe. The old town in Antibes is HUGE compared to most European cities I have been to and it truly had this timeless charm to it that just cannot be easily explained with words.


My Top Antibes Recommendations:

  • Have dinner at Le P'tit Cageot

This Michelin star rated restaurant was TRULY delicious. Blindly booking a reservation here resulted in one of the best meals of my life! We found Antibes to have so many Michelin star restaurants, and in general, the food was AMAZING. They were FULLY booked so I would recommend you book this place in advance, as well as others! The nights we didn't have reservations we definitely struggled a bit to find a place.





  • Reserve a beach chair for a day at a private beach!

When in France, right? We definitely found ourselves splurging at the 2 private beaches we went to while visiting Antibes. Known for being a beautiful coastal city, we wanted to spend a lot of our time and money on getting some sun and enjoying the Mediterranean Sea! Private beaches are very popular in France, and I would 100% recommend booking a spot at one for a day! It is a bit more expensive, and most private beaches vary in price & in luxury, but you can find one that is at all ends of the budget spectrum. The 2 we visited were both great and we enjoyed a nice cocktail, snack, and I had an AMAZING time.


*The beaches in Antibes had sand which is a GAME CHANGER while visiting the French Riviera. Antibes is a great place to go to the beach because of this. We found the beaches in Nice to be only rocks and it is actually quite painful to walk around at those beaches, making swimming and doing much of anything more unenjoyable.*


EPI BEACH: This beach was more casual, affordable and played louder music. It was still luxurious and beautiful, but the more modest of the two we visited. Overall great for the money (which I unfortunately forget but in the range of 30-50 euros for the day excluding food and drink) we also didn't need to book this beach chair in advance, and called the morning of!


CAP D'ANTIBES BEACH HOTEL: I was seriously amazed by this beach. Located at a beautiful hotel, the beach is the epitome of luxury and class. To say we pinched ourselves when we got a spot here is an understatement. It was about 10 euro more expensive then Epi Beach, but well worth it. We honestly felt like it was a trap because there was no way it didn't cost over 100 euro. But it was perfect! We enjoyed chicken nuggets, fries, amazing service, the most STUNNING ocean view and had a day I will never forget. *I did book these "sunbeds" about 1 month before our trip via the email on their website!*



Heaven with a side of fries

  • Antibes Books

This bookshop looks almost identical to the one in Notting Hill, if you are familiar with the movie. I lucked out here because this was the only English bookstore I could find in any of the cities we were around while in France. Because of how much time we spent at the beach, I found my one book to come to an end very quickly and had so much fun picking out a new one here! A great place to keep in mind incase you are in need of a new book for vacation, as it is pretty much all English books and also extremely cute!

  • Enjoy sunset at one of the marinas

As soon as you arrive to Antibes, you'll notice yachts docked in multiple marinas towards the harbor. We took a leisurely stroll towards the marina each night we were there, and it was incredibly charming and peaceful. It was a slice of heaven that felt separated from some of the more touristy spots. We took beautiful photos here as well, and the view of sunset was unreal.



How We Got Around


Antibes is sandwiched between Nice and Cannes, making it a perfect location in the French Riviera. It is incredibly easy to get around by walking, especially if you are in the old town. However, on one of the days when we chose to ventured to a private beach for reserved beach chairs we ended up walking over an hour to arrive at our destination, ultimately wishing we used a bus or a taxi to get there. Thanks to Christina we were able to utilize the public bus and get day passes which was definitely a great way to save a little money on our trip!


As always I recommend using the app/website Omio to book train tickets! I do this whenever/wherever I travel and it is INSANELY helpful in planning my trips.


Nice, France

Nice is beautiful in its own right, but truthfully, it was the least impressive of the places we had visited beforehand. Ending our trip here was smart, and extremely efficent. We also decided to take a day trip to Menton, France, while staying in Nice, which was a great idea because of how easy it is to access a train while here. We arrived at Nice on a Sunday and found that almost EVERYTHING was closed. Nice is truly MASSIVE so each day we explored different areas of the city. Overall we really liked Nice, it just lacked some of the character that Saint Paul de Vence and Antibes had. I don't think I would have believed you if you told me Nice would have been my least favorite before I left for this trip, but hey, thats the point of these travel guides, right?






My Top Nice Recommendations:


  • Explore the Old Town of Nice

In any European city, I find the old town to be the most charming and interesting place to explore. Nice has an old town that is HUGE! We had so much fun exploring the markets, like Cours Saleya market in the Old Town and events going on during the time we were in Nice.

  • Le Plongeoir

Le Plongeoir is the name of the most breathtaking restaurant I have ever seen. The restaurant literally sits on a rock hovering over the Mediterranean. In the 19th century it was secured by fisherman, and since been an iconic dining location in Nice. The restaraunt is absolutely unforgettable. We dressed up and splurged on the most decadent and delicious meal of our trip, literally sitting over the ocean. It was definitely pricey, but well worth it. We booked our table here over a month in advance, so I advice if you want to eat here you do the same. This is without a doubt my #1 French Riviera dining recommendation.


Book your table here: https://www.leplongeoir.com/en/home/



The view from our table at Le Plongeoir

  • Promenade des Anglais

The promenade lines the coast of Nice, with a "boardwalk" type layout and the infamous rocky beach of Nice. It is LONG definitely not something you will walk the entirety of at once, but an AMAZING spot to people watch. So many people sit on the beach besides the promenade and get takeout, swim naked (seriously), read, I mean it is the ultimate main character moment. I can confidently say this is the best place I have ever people watched in my entire life. I think we sat on that beach for 3 hours observing, laughing, talking about everything going on around us. The rocks aren't super comfortable to sit on, so I advice bringing a towel or sweatshirt to sit on! This is the perfect spot to end the day with a bottle of wine and watch sunset. (And affordable because it is literally free)


  • Musée Matisse

Unfortunately this museum was closed when we visited Nice but I wish I had been able to visit myself. The museum features the work of Henri Matisse, an iconic French artist, and one of my favorites. This is a one of a kind thing to do in Nice, as its not everyday you can see Henri Matisse's work on display!

  • Castle Hill

If you have sneakers and a good attitude walk up Castle Hill for the ultimate hot girl walk and views of the French Riviera!


  • Place Massena

This plaza/square is iconic. With vibrant orange colors and a bustling crowd of musicians, commuters, tourists alike, we enjoyed walking around this area very much! We also found great shopping in the surrounding area, everything from Zara to smaller local shops!

  • Another Chair at a Private Beach

I mean obviously while in the French Riviera we are going to have multiple beach days. We are human after all! Truthfully Nice has SO many private beaches I did not need to reserve one as early as I did. When walking along the promenade you can easily see all of them and I would recommend just scoping them out for yourself, seeing what the chairs, vibe, crowd is like and then decide. Of course, depending on the month you visit, I would assume in July booking a chair in advance would be smart, but we found the need to was much less intense than I had originally assumed!


Nice Private Beach Recommendation: Opera Beach


How We Got Around


Similar to most of the destinations we visited while in France, we did a lot of walking. Otherwise Nice is incredibly easy in terms of finding taxis and public transportation. Nice was the only place of our travels we could find a taxi on our own without needing to call a number or search for a longer period of time. We utilized the train when embarking on our day trip, which was super easy to figure out. We as always, booked through Omio, and went from there. We didn't wander too far from the heart of the city and outskirts of the old town so other than the airport/train station we didn't really need a taxi! As always, asking a local or Airbnb host/hotel concierge for a safe taxi referral in any new city is extremely smart -- no matter how secure you feel in your decision to find one on your own.


Menton, France


When deciding what destination we would visit for our day trip of the trip, we went back and forth a lot. Nice is SO close to so many amazing destinations, it felt like any of them would have been great choices. We debated Monte Carlo, because of how infamous it is, but after reading some reviews and asking around a bit, we realized the hype of it might not live up to the reality of it. We settled on Menton because of how stunning it looked, filled with SO much color. We bought a return ticket to Menton leaving from Gare de Nice Ville (Nice Station), and were on our way!


Menton is the last place on the French Riviera before you reach Italy, so at some points during the day, we could literally see Italy. It has some Italian flair for sure, which we enjoyed. And SO MANY LEMONS! I have never seen a place more unapologetically monetize lemons in so many ways. The train ride was give or take 45 minutes, as the train stopped at places like Monte Carlo and Eze before arriving to Menton. After arriving at the Menton train station we had to walk about 20 minutes towards the waterfront, where we found the more charming city center where the infamous colorful homes and streets filled our surroundings. Menton was also significantly less tourist then I thought it would be. I don't think just everyone has figured out how great of a destination this place is quite yet! (Joking, kinda)



Menton, France


Menton, France Recommendations:


  • Walk towards Basilica of Saint Michael Archangel for the most INCREDIBLE views of the French Riviera

Not only is the Basilica beautiful, but the path you take to get there is a moment in of itself. We found the most beautiful overlook near the Basilica, so my tip would be to get to the Basilica and explore from there.

  • Walk the Promenade du Soleil

This is a beautiful place to explore the shops, people, food and views of Menton. From here you will have access to pretty much all that Menton offers. You can walk a few steps towards the beach and sunbathe, or head into the town for a gelato. The beach here is a bit more pebbly than Nice, (the beach is Nice is STONES), so it is more enjoyable to sit/walk here. It is stunning. Majority of what we did this day was just walk around and take it all in honestly.

  • Explore the Old Town

Not much to say here other than the obvious. Old Towns are ALWAYS a yes when it comes to traveling in Europe. End of story.

  • The Cemetery of The Old Chateau

To say the walk to get here was long and uphill would be an understatement, but the view towards the top where this old cemetery lies is truly unlike anything I have seen in my life. I am SO glad we took the time to walk up here. There were benches at the top, so we just sat for a bit and enjoyed it all. I loved how this walk allowed us to see the more homes and felt so separated from any tourists. We even saw a primary school field trip happen!

  • Lemons, Lemons, Lemons!

Give yourself enough time to shop the citrus products that are EVERYWHERE in the old town. There is lemon EVERYTHING! I got some souvenirs but just had fun looking at all the variety there was.


Takeaways From My Trip


The South of France is magical. Because this was my second time in France I feel confident in saying that the French are generally very nice and helpful people. We picked up some of the basic phrases to get by in French if needed, but even in the most "local" spots English was understood on some level. I would say that France in general is not for the picky eater. Here I noticed that the best restaurants were the ones that had a much more limited menu. Food is an art here, and I found myself trying all sorts of new dishes. Christina even tried beef tar tar (I am not that ambitious)! Unlike the US where we hold ingredients and change our order frequently while eating out, it is definitely not the polite thing to do here and you are definitely missing out if you don't just try it all! We enjoyed mussels, potatoes, roasted chicken or duck, SO MUCH MEAT. Despite not being a huge meat eater at home, France pairs most meals with meat/fish and a potato, but who am I to travel and not completely go with it?


I ordered Euros through the Bank of America app before leaving for France, but as I should have predicted, I ran out quickly. People PREFER you use Euros versus credit card in most places. We went to currency exchange locations in Nice but had a hard time locating them in the previous destinations. Taxis & smaller cafes will likely only except euros, so be prepared and always ask first to avoid an extremely awkward moment!


And as always, don't forget to dip your croissant in your cappuccino.


So incredibly gratul that I just got to visit the South of France for a jam packed 10 day trip with my best friend Christina. After some last minute life changes, we booked this trip about a month and a half before our flight took off. I would say we had a great mix of spontaneity and a schedule of plans throughout our trip that made the 10 days the perfect mix of relaxing and busy. Visiting France in the summer was an incredi ble and a dream come true and I feel incredibly grateful to continue to travel and see so many beautiful places in life. Traveling has become one of my greatest passions and my favorite part is sharing it all in these guides. . .


Caylie




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