We spent the third day of our cruise in Nice and Monaco. I absolutely loved the South of France. This was my first time there, and it completely captivated me. It was stunning, and the water was so blue, and the towns so gorgeous. You can see why the French call it the Côte d’Azur (the literal translation is something like “the bright blue coast”)!
Like our last port, Portofino, we had to take a tender boat to shore in Villefranche. We got to see the ultra-lux St. Jean Cap Ferrat as we sailed in.
Pulling in to Villefranche sur mer, an adorable French seaside town, right around the corner from Nice.
Once we drove over to Nice, we started wandering around its charming streets and its classic “flower market.” In addition to stalls selling flowers and succulents, artists are there selling their paintings and crafts and there’s a big farmers’ market. It actually reminded me a bit of DC’s Eastern Market, except with a fancy French twist, of course. It’s on a wide promenade surrounded by the cutest French cafes. We stopped at one to grab croissants and lattes, and it was heavenly!
It looks a little bit like a storybook village!
Here I am happy as a clam wandering the many stalls selling lavender soaps and fruits juices and artwork. I could have wandered around here all day! How incredible would it be to live around the corner from this and be able to stroll by everyday?
A cute stand selling lavender products from Provence!
We stopped in this cute chocolate shop, Maison Auer, to pick up some sweet treats to take with us. I had read about this store in a guidebook– apparently this was Queen Victoria’s favorite shop when she would stay in Nice! They have her coat of arms up in the store. I figured if it was good enough for her, it was probably good enough for me. The chocolates were delicious, I highly recommend it!
One of the things I was really looking forward to seeing was the rocky beach of Nice. Instead of sand, its made up of pebbles and small stones. We walked down the beach and up to the Mediterranean sea, and every time the waves went back into the ocean the pebbles made such a cool sound- it was like you had just shaken a rainstick, the way the pebbles all tinkled together.
The Promenade des Anglais was so beautiful- palm trees and the beach on one side, and beautiful French buildings along the other side, plus the brightest blue sky you’ve ever seen? A recipe for perfection.
Dying over these umbrellas!!
Isn’t Nice just the nicest?
There were so many other things I’d love to see there- their art museum, the Russian Cathedral- not to mention just more time to wander around the streets and lie on the beach! It’s one place I definitely want to come back to and spend several days there.
After our morning in Nice, we drove a quick 30 minutes or so to Monaco. Two countries in one day!
The building above is Monaco’s aquarium. It occupies an incredible cliffside spot looking out over the French Riviera. It’s a gorgeous building with really fascinating displays inside. We wanted to check it out while we were there, so we wandered around for about 30 minutes looking at all of the fish. They have it set up so it’s kind of like you’re in some underwater cave. Really, really cool.
You see that little train? It runs around the entire country–aka, about a 40 minute round trip! We ended up taking it after we wandered around Monaco-ville, the older portion of Monaco, and toured the Royal Palace. It was such a fun way to see the rest of the city/ “country” in a short amount of time. They have a narration as you go which tells you everything you’re seeing and provides a bit of Monaco history, as well.
This is St. Nicholas Cathedral, where Princess Grace was married in that show-stopping wedding dress! It’s also where all of their monarchs are buried. It’s their very own Westminster Abbey.
The streets of Monaco-ville were so quaint and colorful! All of the towns in the South of France are just gorgeous, and are filled with adorable little corners and alleyways.
This is the gorgeous palace of Monaco, and the home of the Royal family. If you haven’t figured out yet, I happen to love all things Royal (Royal families, Royal houses, Royal weddings, Royal babies, etc., etc.), so of course I loved getting a chance to tour this palace.
On the plane ride from DC to London, I actually watched the Nicole Kidman movie, Grace of Monaco, thinking I would learn a little bit about her and Monaco before my visit. I didn’t read any reviews before watching it, which was probably good because if I had read them I never would have watched the movie to begin with! The reviews were terrible and the movie was pretty bad and lacked a real plot, and the plot it did have was kind of ridiculous. (Funnily enough, the scriptwriter actually live-tweeted the movie when it premiered on Lifetime (lol) and pointed out how bad it was. Apparently he’s convinced his perfect script was destroyed by the movie studio. I don’t know who’s to blame, but it was bad.) But, all that aside, I did manage to pick up some Monaco history by watching it. Like, did you know the French blockaded Monaco in the early 60s? They wanted Monaco to pay taxes to them, and Monaco resisted. Eventually the French relented, and Monaco kept its independence.
Looking out over the gorgeous Marina and Monte Carlo.
Look how packed-in all of those apartment buildings are! Monaco is an insanely expensive place to live, and you can tell they try to take advantage of every square foot they have to squeeze people in!
Monaco’s very own changing of the guard- for a tiny country they don’t skimp on the pomp and circumstance!
Now, this might just look like a parking lot, but those signs there are for the Grand-Prix. The famous car race runs through the city every year, on the same streets our little train was driving on, and they have everything set up here when the festivities are happening.
Here’s our little train chugging along!
So many fancy sports cars on the road… such a crazy place.
And last, but not least…
The famous Monte Carlo Casino! When a country’s biggest attraction is a casino…. well, I guess you know you’re in Monaco!
This was the view on our drive back to Villefranche. That yacht with the three big masts over to the right is apparently some crazy expensive super yacht that cost like $80 million dollars or something equally outrageous. Next time I come to the South of France I think I’ll stay there 😉
We finally got back to Villefranche and had some time to wander around before we took the tender back to the boat.
Such a pretty scene!
On our way back we had a perfect view of St. Jean Cap Ferratt. You can probably see Bill Gates and Mick Jagger’s houses somewhere in there! When I become a billionaire I think I’ll get a place there, too.
Such an amazing day! Looking back at all of these pictures makes me want to run away to the South of France and never come back. I loved the towns, the people, the scenery, the food…. it was all incredible. I know that I’m going to come back to Nice in the future and explore more.
The next day we spent in St. Tropez!