“When at last I took the time to look into the heart of a flower, it opened up a whole new world;
a world where every country walk would be an adventure,
where every garden would become an enchanted one.”
– Grace Kelly of Monaco (Hollywood actress who married Prince Rainier III of Monaco)
Back when I was still in Singapore, I have one group of friends consisting of 4 girls, we all left Singapore now except for RH. I am here in Dubai, Ariane is in Amsterdam, and Monalee is in Nairobi now, but we are all still in touch even after we left Singapore.
Last year (2017), Monalee got engaged. Although her wedding celebration is set to happen on December this year (2018), she requested if we could have an all-girls holiday before she moves to Nairobi (from Dubai). Very timely, RH was also asking me that time if we could also push the holiday we were all have been planning in the last couple of years, especially now that we have a reason to reunite and celebrate!
We first plan to have it in Greece, but since the bride was having their civil wedding in South of France (her groom is French), we changed it to Nice. Very timely again, my husband and I planned to go back again to south of France (Prat) that summer to do some home improvement works for our little house we are building there, I see it as an opportunity to hit two birds in one stone.
We invited 2 more friends to our trip, Jane & Sheng, and right then I knew it was going to be a crazy girls’ trip, and it was!
We started our “hen holiday parties” here in Dubai, then we flew to Amsterdam and stayed at Ariane’s place for 2 days before we all flew to Nice to meet Jane & Sheng.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Nice is your gateway to the French Riviera, its airport is the closest international airport and one of the busiest airport in France because it’s a very popular summer destination especially in Europe. Since we only have 5 days, we only managed to go to – Cannes, Villefrance-sur-Mer, and Monaco.
We planned to go farther like in Antibes or Grasse or St.Tropez but since we are not driving anymore, we crossed these out from our initial plans. Maybe the next time I visit French Riviera, I would check these places. We originally planned to rent a car but when our number grew up to 6 girls, the rental rate for a 7-seater car is just way over our budget already. So we ended up using UBER most of the time. But Uber is widely used and very efficient in the French Riviera. It’s also more economical to request for a 7-seater Uber than hail 2 ordinary taxi cars.
Our Airbnb is around 15-20 minute walk to the old town or Vieux Nice. It’s a long walk but we booked this apartment because of the free parking space that is difficult to find in Nice. It’s a 3-bedroom old style apartment with only ONE bathroom! So with 6 girls sharing it, I knew at some point there will be loud door banging and yelling ahead, lol!
The next day, we hit the beach right away! Nice beaches, as we all know, is a pebbly one. So we didn’t really stay that long lying around and left as soon as it was time for lunch!
One thing I’ve noticed in Nice is that it is very challenging to find a good restaurant for the price you pay. I didn’t research about restaurants like I always do, because I thought we are in France anyway, so in any place we go, I assumed the food will be great! But that is not the case in Nice. After having several meals, I realised that it’s expensive for the price we pay because it’s not even good in a French standard. Unfortunately, we only started researching in Tripadvisor on our last day and the restaurant/s recommended by TA were all tucked away from the touristy areas where we always go to, haha!
My favorite part of Nice is the Old Town or Vieux Nice, because I love old towns especially if it’s narrow cobblestoned streets and alleys. I enjoyed going to small shops there but just by strolling around this area is already a treat for me. I don’t really like shopping but when you are with girls who enjoys this kind of “therapy”, you just kind of go with it as well and just have fun!
On one of our nights in Nice, we all had the hen party at this club in old town called, Baratin Nice. We went first to this other boring bar and we all thought that was it, we are going home early. Then we saw Nice Baratin on our way out, we went in and it was a blast! It’s an underground bar playing all tacky pop dance music, not my type of club music, but good enough for hen party!
Though it was a shame for me because I took some of my friend’s anti-histamine (I think!) so I was a bit slow and very sleepy even if I wanted to dance, lol! I don’t want to be a party pooper, so again, I went with it until we all decided to call it a night! Phew, I survived that one haha!
On our last day in Nice, we went up to Colline du Chateau which is a harbour that has a panoramic overlooking view of the city and the coastline of Nice. We went there just before the sunset and the view up there is breathtaking! I wished we have gone here on our first day instead and spend more time up there, but hey, I can always come back for it!
We did a daytrip to this popular posh city of French Riviera, the Cannes. It’s popular because it’s the venue of the Cannes Film Festival where celebrities can sometime be seen everywhere around this city. Unlucky for us, it was June and the festival was every month of May. So we didn’t spot any celebrity haha!
We took the train from Nice which is very convenient, accessible, and the cheapest option. As soon as we got off the train, there is a Visitors’ Centre just few steps outside the train station. But since we still need to take a taxi to go to the best spot in Cannes, we just head off to the closest beach in town.
The beach in Cannes is better than Nice because it’s sandy, however, it is NOT free. We know Cannes is expensive and we had to pay just to lie down on the sand (not lounges!) for a single entry. So we had to be a little bit naughty and brought in some food and wine so we could stay a bit longer, lol! We were of course just discreet about our ‘smuggled goods” because the beach police are everywhere! Oops…
But our smuggled goods weren’t enough for our always-starving- tummies. So we all decided to leave when it was time again for late lunch. But whilst looking for a place to eat, we did a little bit strolling and window shopping first along the streets of La Croisette and Rue d’Antibes, seeing fancy cars and yeah, also fancy people.
Cannes is a perfect place for wealthier travellers I guess, those with fancy yachts or just have lots of bucks to burn. As for people like myself, if you are not there for work or any festivals, it’s only a good stopover just to see the glitz and glamour of this posh city.
On our last full day in French Riviera, we did a day trip or rather half-day trip in this very tiny little town between Nice and Monaco. We only took an Uber to get there and asked him to drop us to the top of the town so we can just walk our way down to the winding alleys towards the waterfront. The view up there is what I imagine French Riviera would be because it’s very similar to those photos I saw online.
Since I love tiny quaint towns, I enjoyed the stroll and most especially the view on top of the Mediterranean coastline. This time, we were lucky to find a good restaurant by chance! We looked for recommendations from Tripadvisor already but since it was in demand, we didn’t get a seat without a reservation. But the other restaurant we ended up to is quite good as well and I think finding a good restaurant in this town is not difficult as in the more touristy places like Nice and Cannes.
It was only a short visit as we already need to go back to Nice because our friend, Sheng, was already leaving that afternoon. Even if it was just short, for me, it was the BEST place I’ve been in this entire French Riviera holiday.
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Although we went on a day-trip to Monte Carlo on our 3rd day, I put this last on this list of French Riviera towns we visited because, well it is a separate country. Although it is within France, it’s an independent state, but yes still part of the French Riviera.
Similar to Cannes or yet much more extravagant, Monaco is a very posh country, popular for wealthy tourists and the Europe’s Formula 1 Grand Prix. It is known as the mecca for luxury cars that can be seen as an ordinary sight on any streets of Monaco. It is that posh that you cannot find a decent accommodation here that is lower than 100 Euros! So again, it’s not a place for people like me, and just a quick daytrip sightseeing just to see how extravagant this place is.
We took Uber to get here and asked to be dropped in Monaco-ville or the old town. If you only have a day to spend in Monaco, this is the best place as this is where you can find the Prince’s Palace and a picturesque view of the 2 main ports for private yachts – the Port Hercule and the Port Fontevieille.
The stroll along the narrow cobblestoned alleys of the medieval town is what I enjoyed the most (as always!) the shops were all window shopping worthy and the restaurants are all on-point regardless of the hefty price you pay for your meal.
We had a full day wandering around Monaco-ville before we head off back to Nice before sunset. This was the day we planned to celebrate the hen party for our friend, Monalee – the main purpose of this whole girls’ trip.
I guess 5 days is really too short to see and enjoy the French Riviera especially if you don’t have a car. Travelling from one city/town to another could be time consuming. There are too many places much more beautiful to visit in the south-east of France that is outside the French Riviera already, like Aix-en-Provence, in which we thought the civil wedding of Monalee will take place, but we didn’t realise it until we have booked everything already that the civil wedding will be in south-WEST of France, just a neighbouring town from the little house we are building in Prat, haha!
Anyway, no regrets though, I can always go back to south-east of France if I want to especially whenever we spend summer in Prat. I enjoyed and loved this holiday, merely because I got to spend a fun holiday with my dearest friends. For me, that’s enough reason.
There were no disappointments on my part because I wasn’t really expecting to see and do much for this trip actually, I did not plan anything which I always do when I travel, and I’ve told myself that this trip will only be good fun with my girlfriends, so don’t plan anything. I was supposed to have a trip to US and Mexico to fulfil my 2017 travel goal of visiting the 7 New Wonders of the World, but I had to postpone it to this year (2018) because having a holiday with my close friends is already a WONDERful experience in itself.
I have learned a lot already from my several experiences travelling with big a group, and I tell you – IT’S NOT EASY! There will be clashes of personalities and there will be disappointments of not getting what you want for the trip, worst is, sometimes you fall out with your friends even if you have been friends for a long time. I still get disappointed now but not as much as during my early travels in the past. Now I have learned to set my expectations low when I travel with big groups. (And this is why I prefer to travel solo sometimes, haha!)
For this trip however, this is not just any other big group I’ve been with, these are my friends that I treasure despite our distance, so falling out with any of them is not an option for me regardless of our differences (well, unless they asked for it of course). I believe that when you travel with special people in your life, the time you wasted and the money you’ve spent does not matter anymore, when you travel with them – every country walk would be an adventure and every garden would become an enchanted one.