Summer is high season for this area, thus it is full of people from all over the world. We were lucky to find a really cute B&B near the small town of Biot called Bastide Valmasque. It's owned by a lovely couple named Claudia & Philipe who were both very helpful with providing information about the area. They met in India as they both worked in the textile industry, so while the B&B is a French country house, its interior has a lot of Indian influences making it very different from most of the places we had seen in France. They still have a a stake in a business in India manufacturing scarves and other textiles, and sell some of their designs at the B&B. As a parting gift, Philipe gave us a little travel laundry bag made from one of his patterns. We loved eating breakfast in one of their many garden nooks and we also enjoyed snacks in the evening sun on the patio. While this place isn't located right on the beach and doesn't have a pool, it's about a 5 min drive from the beach. You'd pay significantly more money to stay right on the beach and you definitely would not get the charm that the Bastide Valmasque offers!
We arrived in the late afternoon and after we settled we went out to dinner at a cafe in nearby Valbonne. This was a very small village, but it was completely full of people - locals and tourists alike. There were four cafes in the plaza and we went to the one that our B&B recommended, which also happened to be the one with the lowest prices and the most patrons. The food was OK - nothing special - but it was expensive. After eating out a couple of times in Southern France we found that the food didn't justify the cost. We actually ate better when we shopped at the local markets which are filled with amazing produce, cheeses, breads and tapenades for a fraction of restaurant prices.
Saint Paul de Vence
The morning of our first full day, we visited Saint Paul de Vence, one of the oldest medieval towns in the French Riviera. This town came highly recommended by Mom & Dad Barbier as they fell in love with it during a visit in the 90's. It did not disappoint! It is adorable, picturesque and choc full of art galleries. We really enjoyed strolling through the streets and wandering in and out of the galleries. It's definitely worth a visit if you are ever in this area.
After visiting Saint Paul de Vence we were ready for the beach! We went to nearby Antibes which has two beaches on either side of a peninsula We went to the first beach which is half public & half private (private means anyone can go, but you pay a fee and get a chair and umbrella in return). While the beach was decent, it was incredibly windy. There were several yachts anchored in the water which is typical in the French Riviera. At one point, one of the yachts came loose and started drifting towards the shore. The lifeguards sprung to action and soon a ton of emergency vehicles were at the beach. A couple of people went out to the boat but not much happened after that. The emergency crew stood by waiting for the yacht to come closer, but it never did. Tired of the wind, we left for the beach across the peninsula, which was a peaceful public beach - no wind, no waves, and no rogue yachts!
I had been to Nice in college and Chris wasn't that interested in visiting the museums there so we just did a drive by. Chris got to see the coastline and some of the plazas just in from the beach. Nice is a great place to stay if you are willing to spend more on a hotel room, especially if you can find one along the coastline. There is a really long stretch of beach from Antibes to Nice which is nice because you can find a little privacy with all that space. Also, if you are into art they have a wonderful Chagall and Matisse museum. I highly recommend it!
We spent a half day in the principality of Monaco. It was my second time visiting and Chris' first time. We parked the car in a garage midway up the hill and walked down to the marina to see all the giant yachts. Then we walked back by the Monte Carlo casino. The building itself oozes opulence and everything surrounding it is waiting to pounce on the casino's patrons - the Lamborghinis parked outside, the ultra high-end jewelry stores, and even some heavily made-up young women standing around in short skirts and 5 inch heels at 11am. Instead of bear bottles scattered in the streets, Monte Carlo has champagne corks. Seriously, we saw them everywhere.
For such a small place, there is actually a lot to do in Monaco - one could stay busy sightseeing (or shopping) here for 3-4 days. We enjoyed our half day there and decided that we'd come back here one day if the opportunity presented itself. However, if we do go back we'll have to pack a lot more than just a backpack!
This is a nice little town on the coastline that is a popular stop on cruises. We drove through town and walked around a bit. Driving here was a little complicated, as the streets are very narrow. The town was very crowded with people from the cruise ship so I don't think I'd recommend staying here if you are looking for someplace quiet. It might be worth a visit for breakfast or dinner when there are less day-trippers. The views from the top of the town are beautiful!
By afternoon, we were ready for another beach. We had read good things about Paloma beach, which was not too far from the area we were exploring. Supposedly, celebrities frequent this beach from their yachts, although we didn't spot any while we were there. It's another beach that is half private and half public. The private side was really packed - chairs just inches away from each other. We opted for the public side and had a lot of space to ourselves. The beach was very nice and the water was great for swimming!