There are so many places to visit here, ranging from coastal fishing villages to big cities to tiny mountain towns, that I had trouble deciding where to stay and what to do! I made a strategic decision to just stay in 2 places for 4 nights each rather than shorter stints like I'd done in Italy. This was meant to give my backpack toting shoulders a break and also to allow me to get a thorough impression of each place. It's worked out well so far, during my 4 nights in Nice I was able to do short side trips to Monaco, Vence, St. Paul de Vence and Cannes and still get a really good feel of Nice.
Monaco was exactly how you'd expect it to be - over-the-top luxurious, like Donald Trump is your bellboy and Jay Leno is your chauffeur kind of luxurious. The famous casino was very ornate, dripping in gold chandeliers, and I couldn't shake the feeling that at any moment I'd be discovered and promptly escorted out. I took the bus there which takes about an hour but is worth it because it follows the coastal cliffs the entire way and gives you a peak at each little coastal town. Unfortunately the bus back was packed and I couldn't get a seat but at least I didn't have to sit on the floor.
Vence and St. Paul de Vence were probably my favorite spots so far in France. I elected to visit them at the advice of two older Norwegian women whom I dined with one night and who said they were much more peaceful and picturesque than the more popular town of Eze. And they were so right. They're both small medieval villages set high up on the mountains and made entirely of stone. Each one is like a maze of cobbled streets and buildings, of course covered in vines and flowers (like everywhere in Europe), and you descend into these little caves of boutiques and restaurants. St. Paul resembles an old fortress and if I had to pick just one place for a quiet weekend away this would be it. Even with the other tourists milling about, you can hear the constant din of cicadas and the bubbling of nearby fountains all day long.
I stopped in Cannes earlier today while on my way to Marseille, my next big stop. I had to keep my backpack with me so I only endured about an hour in the heat but that seemed to be all one would need there. I saw where the film festival takes place, the port packed with luxury yachts the old town section and an imprint of Angelina Jolie's hands. What more could you want?
I didn't elect to take the boat trip to St. Tropez because P Diddy isn't in town until next week and what's the point without him? No, actually, I just didn't have time and it's so hot here it feels like you're on the beach all the time. I'm already tanner than a pair of leather cuff sandals just from walking around outside all the time.
On the food front, I actually had a really delicious sandwich today...at the Cannes train station! It had super tangy goat cheese, garlicky roasted tomatoes and olive oil. Maybe I should dine at public transportation hubs more often.
In a totally unplanned coincidence, I'm going to be in France for Bastille Day! I'm excited to see what that entails!