We hopped in the car to get an early start. The night before, the boys and I tried to convince Chuck that we should be pulling away at 6am. He, however, has travelled with this crew many times and knows that he happens to live with 3 big pack rats who are RARELY “ready” within 2 hours after our targeted time to leave. But we were on a mission. We’d been warned that many people head to the South of France in August, so we were expecting a long day of travel, and wanted to get there ASAP!
The trip went much smoother than expected. Other than some traffic around Saint-Emillion we sailed. The boys did great. Thank goodness for European rest stops. We came across one that literally had an exercise area for the kids. It was hilarious!
We arrived in Nice mid afternoon and I had forgotten just how blue the water is. We walked along the promenade, the boardwalk. There are little private beaches interspersed between public beaches and each are so pretty and well kept with different colored umbrellas, beach chairs, etc. Almost all have a restaurant and bar serving cocktails on the beach. Everything is so bright and white…it was quite hot that day and sunny- there’s not much shade anywhere so we decided to weave they some of the back streets and find gelato.
After killing some time we headed to our apartment to get settled. After weaving back and forth down what felt like a million one way streets we found our place. The driving in Nice is tricky to begin with but with a ginormous construction project going on in the middle of the city, it was nuts!
Chuck had gotten a text from the apartment owner that the elevator was not working so we lugged our things up 6 flights of non-air conditioned steps. He entered the code for the lock box, got the key to apartment 601 and when we opened it, the gust of air conditioning was amazing. Our first A/C in 6 weeks!!! We were so excited! As soon as Chuck walked in, it was immediately apparent that someone else was staying in the apartment… a bottle of meds on the counter, along with some rotting peaches in a ziplock bag…..There were clothes hanging and suitcases open with clothes strewn on the floor/bed. It was almost like… someone staying here has missed a train back to check out.., or worse- did something happen to these other renters?
As soon as I asked Chuck if we had already paid for the apartment, and he assured me- “yes, in full”….we both started wondering… had we been scammed? Could that happen with Air B&B? With most hotels booked in August around here, where were we going to stay? In the excitement of everything, we dragged all our bags inside said apartment to get out of the heat and think for a minute. Chuck has tried unsuccessfully to reach the owner a few times. Now what?
After 10-15 minutes, a man walked up the steps and thru the door looking totally shocked when he saw us… we jumped up and Chuck tried to explain only to be told (thankfully in English) that he, his fiancée and her daughter had just arrived earlier that afternoon. We apologized, dragged our bags back out (he was more than happy to help us out) and luckily at that moment, Chuck received a call from the apartment owner who apologized for accidentally typing 601 in the email along with house code rather than 602. So we were staying right next door! We were not going to be sleeping on the streets after all. As soon as we got in our apartment, unpacked (and recovered from feeling completely mortified), Chuck ran out to find a market nearby. Luckily, he found one that was closing doors as he walked in and let him grab a few essentials- soap, paper towels, water and of course, wine, which we quickly went to after sitting down to breathe. And then this happened.
The corkscrew broke off in the cork. Seriously.? Thankfully, Chuck dug around and found a spare wine opener. All’s well that ends well. And at least we had met our neighbors.
After some serious wi-fi binging by the boys for awhile, we headed out to a bistro that was within walking distance and one of the only places around open on Sunday. As soon as we got there, we looked around and realized the portions were absolutely huge (and so un-French!) and so Chuck and Charlie decided to share lasagna that Charlie says was the best he’s ever had,”no offense, Mom”. It came to the table a million degrees and in a 9×9 pyrex dish!
I was sad to say goodbye to my last chèvre chaud on toast for a few weeks (warm goat cheese and I are having a serious love affair….) But on to Italy and gorgonzola, and parmesan, and mozzarella, and ……
By the time dinner was over, we were all so exhausted, we headed back and crashed for the night. Although Chuck and I somehow ended up in the hottest room in the apartment, we were happy to have little whiffs of A/C here and there that we reminded ourselves was still cooler than what we had back in Clermont recently.
We woke up the next day and Chuck ran to a nearby bakery where he brought home several different pastries, one of which was the. most.incredible.almond.croissant. I have ever put in this body. I literally couldn’t speak for a minute. It was so flaky with this incredible almond filling inside and the top had a crusty layer of sugary toasted almonds… it was divine.
After coming back down from fantasizing about eating 20 more, we decided to grab coffee. The thought hit both of us, could there possibly be a Starbucks here in Nice? Sure enough, there was one at the mall nearby and maybe we should just go there. And so we did. My cold brew was just as awesome as I remember. We have loved every minute of our new Nespresso but cold brew can just not be recreated here in France. Cold coffee is just really not a thing here in France yet. Another post about coffee later.
After figuring out the bathroom (not free and of course we have no coins) we hit the road and drove up the coast towards Italy. The scenery is nothing short of amazing. We wanted to take Charlie through Monte Carlo (home to the Grand Prix) in hopes of seeing some crazy fancy cars. Luckily we were not disappointed. Just that day we saw (per Charlie’s count) 11 Bentleys, 2 Ferraris, 2 Lambroghinis, etc. etc. etc. Charlie was in hogggg heaven.
We landed in Menton, a small city that sits along the border of Italy and France and is well known for their love of citrus fruit, specifically lemons. Chuck and I had been there in the past and remembered everything lemon.
Menton is absolutely beautiful. It has amazing views of both the ocean and the mountains and is a sleepy little town. We spent the afternoon exploring and after driving back we headed to the beach for a picnic dinner and swimming in the ocean.
The beaches here in Nice where we stayed were so different than any beach we have ever been to. Instead of sand, the beach consists of 100% rocks, like smooth stones.
It is beautiful, but it makes it very difficult and treacherous to climb in and out of the water and the bottom drops off quickly and steeply, though it is hard to see from this pic above. It was some serious physical work! We watched about 20 people almost fall and break their hips, it’s almost like climbing out of quicksand. The boys loved every minute of it, and other than some sore feet the next morning, we all made it out injury-free 😉
Early the next morning we woke up and headed out to the train station. Luckily, though Chuck got stuck on the elevator between floors for a few minutes, he was able to lower it back down enough to climb out and we made our train in time.
The boys absolutely loved the train. It was their first time riding one and there were so many things about it that, in my opinion, made for a more pleasant ride. We all sat together in our own area and are able to get up and walk around freely to the bathroom, to the dining car, etc for cokes, cappuccinos- (Italian and yum!). Finding a train with working wi-fi is rare, so it was a great chance to read and the boys had stored up enough games/movies on their devices to keep busy.
The trip was not without a little excitement. We had a 30 minute layover between trains in Milan which typically is more than enough time to change trains. The trains on the Eurorail are very punctual, unlike the delays we are all accustomed to with air travel in the US. Unfortunately, that morning, there was a 24 minute delay and so the 6 minutes we had to switch trains in the very busy Milan station were a little dramatic- we were all huffing and puffing weaving in and out of crowds, clouded in cigarette smoke and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen our boys hustle like that. We made it with 2 minutes to spare and off we headed to Florence, our next stop. The trains that travel between bigger cities tend to be faster moving trains, which means a smoother ride, and the boys loved riding the fast train. After a long day of travelling, we were happy to arrive in Florence.