Southern France – itinerary

WHEN – We left Singapore on the last week of June as we wanted to enjoy the summer vibes without jostling with the crowd. The days were really long by then! The sun sets are 9pm and we got back around 10pm every night, which worked well for us. We were really glad we decided on the French Riviera and Provence over the Almafi Coast because it was not as inundated with tourists.

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HOW WE GOT THERE – We flew in via Milan as it is the nearest airport to the French Riviera which is served by SQ – 4 hours drive away. We rented our car from Hertz which was located at the basement of Milano Airport. Hertz was reasonably priced but the wait was quite a bitch… we waited for close to an hour despite getting there before their opening at 7:30am. Charles said he read on some websites that the wait can be as long as 2-3 hours!

Day 1 – Menton

Our first stop was Menton and as usual, we knocked out the moment we got to our airbnb. No sleep during our 13 hours plane ride + 1.5 hours wait for our car at the airport + 4 hours car ride. I was totally disorientated from the jetlag, even after some rest. Since we had no time to waste, we got our lazy bones out of the apt, went around the little town and loved how serene it was!

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Day 2 – Monaco & Eze Village

We make it a point to try a Michelin star meal whenever we travel and we chose to go to Mirazur in Menton. We made a booking for lunch so we headed to Monaco in the morning. It was my second time in Monaco but I felt like a small little kid for the first time in Disneyland!!!

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We headed back to Mirazur Restaurant and had a 3.5 hour lunch consisting of 14 courses.

We ate till our stomachs were bursting and went back on to road to Eze, a mountain top village which dates back to the middle age. Eze is located between Nice and Monaco, and surprisingly, it was really quiet when we got there in the evening.

Day 3 – Nice & Cannes

We left Menton and drove towards Nice, arriving there in time for lunch. While looking for parking in the city, we saw a McDonalds and couldn’t resist checking out the Blue Cheese Burger on the menu. It wasn’t too bad… taste wasn’t very strong. We took a stroll at the beach for a bit before retreating back to the car to escape from the heat!

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On the way from Nice to Cannes, we drove past the Nice Airport and it got to be the airport with the most number of private jets parked there!!! It was one of those days when the heat really got to us so we didn’t do much other than just walked around Cannes, had dinner and continue our drive to our next Airbnb.

Day 4 – Gorges Du Verdon

We took a drive into the countryside to Gorges Du Verdon, a river canyon that is often thought of as Europe’s answer to the Grand Canyon in US. It is about 25 kilometres long and bustling with kayakers in summer. The colour of the water has a vibrant green hue, which made us feel like jumping in but too bad we didn’t bring our swim suits.

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Day 5 – St Tropez

We spent most of our day in Cap 21, a beach club located in the famous Pampelonne beach. We chose to go to Cap 21 instead of the other more “happening” clubs because we wanted some peace and quiet time. What was really interesting is how they have shuttle service to boats. Literally, there are people arriving on yachts! As the yachts can’t come too close to shore (due to depth requirements), there was shuttle service to bring the customers to the beach club. Talk about arriving in style!

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To be fair, the waters in Nice looked much nicer than Pampelonne beach. There was, however, a strange smell in Nice which made us glad we chose to spend our day at the beach here instead.

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The experience didn’t come cheap but thoroughly worth it! We spent around EUR150 for 2 cocktail, 1 beer, a serving of mussels and bread, two beach towels and rental of the beach seats (price differ for beach seats with umbrella or without, we chose with umbrella, of course). The mussels was really gooddd!

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There wasn’t a limit on how long you could occupy the beach seats so you could stay that as long as you wanted. We had a heavy breakfast before arriving there around 11am so we didn’t had much to eat. We didn’t make a booking but I highly recommend you should, especially if you come in the peak of summer and if you arrive later than 11am.

We left around 4pm and drove towards Marseille. We caught the sunset at Cap Canaille before heading to our airbnb in Marseille for the night.

Day 6 – Marseilles

Marseille was the only major city and it largely reminded us of Paris. The roads were challenging as there are inner lanes and outer lanes going in the same direction. We went to the Notre Dame and the Mucem to, but first, we filled our stomachs at La Passarelle (an outdoor garden restaurant with mediterranean food). Traffic in Marseilles was bad and we took almost an hour to get to the city including looking for a parking lot which was like winning a lucky draw.

Notre Dame in Marseille is located on top of a hill. Somehow Charles convinced me that there was no parking at Notre Dame and we took a 20 minutes uphill walk up in the heat. I almost died when I saw empty parking lots right within the premise of Notre Dame when we got there!

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We continued to Mucem which left us in awe of the architecture. There was a really chill area on the top which had a bar and we sat down there for a drink.

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We stopped by a Zara shop and obviously I got lost in the summer sale and the day ended just like that! We stopped by for dinner before calling it a night.

Day 7 – Provence

We really liked our airbnb so we only left around noon to head to the countryside. According to Google Map, it should have taken us two hours to get to Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, but somehow it took us almost four hours to get there including a 20 minutes coffee break along the way. When we got to Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque around 4pm, there were hordes of tourist crowding around. We left for our hotel as it was 30 minutes away and we were planning on heading back after dinner.

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After we check-in to Chateau de Mazan, we went out to look for dinner and grabbed a kebab to eat while we head back to Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque. Surprisingly, when we got there around 8pm, there weren’t that many people there. The sky was still bright, the air was getting cooler and we watched the sky go down on the most iconic view in Provence.

Day 8 – Provence

This was the day we drove 10 hours through Provence! Thankfully, Charles is used to such long hours on the road (ok, more like in the air) because I definitely couldn’t have done it without him! We took some pictures before our check-out at noon, had lunch and made our way toward Antibes.

Again, we got fooled by Google Map. The journey was supposed to be 4 hours and 30 minutes but it became twice of that. Given that we made multiple pit-stops along the way to take pictures of the lavenders and sunflowers, I reckon it should have added another 2 hours to the total time at most!

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We realise that the timing used for Google Map was around 80km/h… whereas in reality, because of the countless bends at every corner during most of the ride, we could only go at 40-60km/h.

Day 9 – En route to Milan

It was our last day at the French Riviera and I really wanted to pop by Nice and Monaco on the way back… and so we did! From Monaco, we took the highway all the way back to Milan which took us around 4 hours 30 minutes (yes, Google Map was accurate this time). We left around 4pm and had dinner in Milan close to 9pm. Totally reminded me of our trip to Milan just 7 months ago when I tagged along during one of Charles work trip.

Day 10 – Depart Milan

We chose a hotel really near the airport because we didn’t want to rush in the morning. The flight was at 1pm and we returned the car two hours later than the time we took it. Hertz did inform us when we took the keys that we would have to to pay for an extra day so that was expected. The airport was a lot more crowded this time compared to December because of the summer holidaymakers. And it sums up our unforgettable summer vacation!

 

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