Côte d’Azur: dream come true

Glitz, glamour and some of the most beautiful views of the Mediterranean — just a few things that sprung to mind the moment I step off my Air France flight at Nice’s Côte d’Azur Airport.

After stops in London and Paris, I was ready to “live it up,” in Côte d’Azur. For the next five days, I’d plan to just relish the atmosphere and revel in the glamour, charisma, and charm of the French Riviera.

As a child growing up in Compton, California, I wasn’t rich, so imagination and picture books were the only avenues I ever had to the French Riviera.

Fast-forward to 2019. I’m still not rich – though many people believe I am because of my travels. However, thanks to the Internet, a deep desire to travel, and a whole lot of fiscal responsibility and saving, the French Riviera is no longer a “Dream,” it’s “Reality.”

LE CLUB MOUGINS

Following a nice 30-minute drive from the airport, I arrived at Le Club Mougins, my lodgings for the next five days. My stay at Le Club Mougins was very relaxing. Check-in was painless and the staff provided very detailed information about the local area, activities, and transportation information to other cities like Antibes and Grasse.

However, the resort did lack activities and day trips and other amenities I expected, some of which were advertised on the resort’s daily activities schedules. Additionally, the resort on-site restaurant was not open, which was a bummer.

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However, the few activities and tours offered were exciting and enjoyable. Carolyn, the resort activities manager, was a delight and always trying to get more activities and day trips on the schedule.

Granted, the extreme heat forced a few cancellations, but Carolyn and the staff were always ready to help guide me to my choice of destination. Whether it was Cannes or Antibes, I always knew how to get to my location using public transport.

By the way – while having a rental car provides a lot more freedom and choice, I wouldn’t knock public transportation options. The cost for a trip from Mougins to Cannes was only €3 roundtrip. Not bad given the price for a rental car, insurance, and fuel.

Overall, I had a relaxing stay. I was a bit disappointed the resort didn’t quite live up to advertised expectations. Even still the accommodations and customer service were exceptional.

MOUGINS VIEUX VILLAGE: A hidden gem in the mountains

After checking in, I decided to visit Mougins’ Vieux Village, ready to “stroll along the winding streets and discover the picturesque scenery of this medieval village set amidst stunning vistas and sun-drenched hills.”

Oh Dear!

Now, when researching the village, I knew the village was perched on top of a hill, but my goodness, it never said a very “steep hill.” Believe me, I most certainly got my workout walking up those hills. My agony and pain were tempered a bit by the lush forests – the Valmasque forest covers 427 hectares. I was treated to dazzlingly and alluring views of Mougins, which took my mind off the pain in my legs – for about ten seconds.

View of Mougins
View of Mougins

Finally, I reached the top and Vieux Village. And to my horror, I saw something that made me curse and swear, and almost toss my camera down the hill. What was this dreadful abomination?

An elevator! That’s right – a freaky ELEVATOR!!

SON-ON-A-*****!!!!  😤 😡

I simply stared at the elevator, letting my internal rage boil over – the extreme heat not helping either. I took a few moments to calm down, and also let my legs recover from the steep hill shock.

Freaking Elevator
Freaking Elevator

Eventually, I turned around and was seduced by the charm of the narrow roads, enamored by sparkling colorful flowers and the ancient buildings. This town brought back on my favorite memories from the Golden Age of Hollywood films I adore.

Everywhere I walked, I was greeted by beauty and charmed unlike anywhere else I’ve traveled. It’s no wonder Pablo Picasso spent his final years in Mougins.

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Mougins has an international reputation for gourmet cuisine and lovely galleries. I’m a little sad I missed Les Etoiles de Mougins, an international festival entirely dedicated to gastronomy.

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Just imagine – for three days, the streets and squares of the old village is home to about 100 French and foreign chefs, who are delighted to share their skills and passion with the public. And gosh darn, I missed it. Oh well, there’s always McDonald’s, right? 😛

Important Note: Most of the restaurants and shops in Vieux Village are closed on Mondays. Check the restaurant’s website or with your accommodation’s concierge for hours of operations. Trust me, you don’t want to walk up that hill to Vieux Village only to discover your chosen restaurant is closed for the day.

The Musée D’Art Classique A Mougins was a nice treat. Nice art and statues, and the displays were very educational. The €14 price was a little steep for what the museum offers, but it was a lovely visit, if for no other reason than to escape the summer heat for an hour or two.

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This charming Provencal village is truly a Hidden Gem. Don’t be afraid to venture out from Nice & Cannes to discover this charming village. You’ll no doubt lose yourself in the narrow fresh streets, indulge yourself on the local cuisine and enjoy the mountainous views. Just remember to bring your Icy Hot & Lidocaine for your legs.

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And speaking of Cannes …

CANNES: Shining a spotlight on cinema since 1946

Cannes, the host city of the annual Cannes Film Festival, Midem, and Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

As a filmmaker, I’ve always wanted to visit Cannes. Yes, I would’ve like my visit to coincide with one of my films being shown during the film festival, but if I were to wait for that to happen, I’d never visit.

Anywho, I joined a tour of Cannes hosted by Le Club Mougins. Carolyn, the activities manager facilitate the tour, showing us the sites like Promenade de la Croisette and Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. Most importantly, she showed us where to shop and eat.

Alas, I mistakenly left my Platinum credit cards back home in the USA (😂), so I stuck with the “budget street” shops. Oh shucky darns! 😜

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The Cannes market was the highlight of the day. While I’ve been to a few farmers markets in the USA, they can’t match up to the European markets, and Cannes market was one of the liveliest and most diverse I’ve seen during my travels.

Cannes Market
Cannes Market

A funny thing happened during the tour. During a stop at Eglise Notre Dame d’Esperance, I turned to take a few photos of the surrounding area. When I turned back around, the tour group was gone. They just left me. As it turned out, that was the best thing that happened all day.

I didn’t get angry or frustrated at being left. I simply did what I always do – I explored. I took advantage and walked around the little known parts of the city – just me and my trusty camera – loving every moment and every photo snap.

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REST DAY

The day after visiting Cannes was my “travel rest day.” This is a day where I tend to just chill and relax. It sounds funny I know – “relaxing on vacation? Isn’t relaxing the point of the vacation?” True, but my rest day is the day where I simply don’t do anything. No sightseeing, no writing, no exploring – nothing. I simply rest. Traveling, while enormous fun, is also a gargantuan pain. Thus, I take a day to do nothing but relax.

Relaxing at Le Club Mougins included sitting poolside, playing mini-golf, and watching movies. Sounds like I wasted money traveling to France to play mini-golf, doesn’t it? Trust me though, my rest days serve a unique purpose. It gives me a day to relax, refresh and recharge – readying myself for the second half of my travels.

GRASSE: The world’s perfume capital

Now relaxed, refreshed and recharged – I made my way to the city of Grasse. The town has been synonymous with perfumery since the 16th century, and is still home to nearly 30 makers (or more).

Grasse was actually one of Le Club Mougins’ daily tours, but the extreme heat forced the resort to cancel. I didn’t let that stop me. I grabbed my travel backpack, two bottles of H20, and my €3 bus fare and forged ahead.

The city is beautiful and smelled wonderful (I wonder why, haha). I decided to take advantage of the free tour offered by The Parfumerie Fragonard. The tour showcased the historic factory and perfume shop, allowing guests to discover all the steps in perfume making, from the gathering of the flowers to the bottling.

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Unfortunately, I visited on a day when they weren’t allowing visitors to create their own perfume. I think this is done on Saturdays, but best to check with the museum. Whether you’re a fan of perfume or not, creating your own signature scent is so much fun.

360° view of Parfumerie Fragonard factory
360° view of Parfumerie Fragonard factory

NICE: Capital of the French Riviera

A mixture of real-city grit, old-world lavishness, year-round sunshine, vibrant street life, and magnificent seaside location, Nice is what I pictured when I imagined the French Riviera.

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On top of all the stunning beauty – my visit occurred on my actual birthday. 🎂

And while Nice is a great sightseeing town, I wasn’t in the mood for sightseeing. Not on this day. On this day I just wanted to walk up and down the Promenade des Anglais.

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I know this sounds strange, but the moment I set foot in Nice, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Since I was thirteen, I’d dreamed of visiting Nice & the French Riviera. I dreamt of walking down the Promenade des Anglais and seeing the Opéra de Nice. Knowing I’d finally made it to Nice when most of the people I grew up with are either dead, in jail or unwilling to travel more than 10 miles from home, I fought back tears of joy.

For lunch, I dined at the Hard Rock Cafe, Nice. Yes I know, but it’s Hard Rock and I wanted to eat there. And I’m glad I did. The staff added a cherry to the top of my special day by singing Happy Birthday and offering me a free birthday sundae. 😍  🎂 

Afterwards, I rode on a carousel – something I haven’t done since I was ten.

So Awesome!

RETURN TO USA

Nice marked the end of Birthday Extravaganza 2019: French Riviera.

Before heading back to the USA, I had a 24-hour layover in London. 🇬🇧

I took advantage of the layover and visited Legoland Windsor. Mini-Land was so totally worth the entry price.

Okay, not really, but it was still fun. Hey, when you just began a new decade of life, it’s nice to try and relive your younger days.

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Alas, I returned home to the USA. Once again, my adventures brought fun, education, joy, and relaxation — everything I ask for from my travels.

What a glorious way to begin a new decade of life.

 

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