Our two-and-a-half-week honeymoon in Provence and Cote d’Azur afforded us with the time to really relax and experience life in France. It was the perfect antidote to the extremely stressful time before our do-it-yourself wedding, when everything had to be done all at once just before the event, as well as the typical stresses of two very different families meeting for the first time.
The honeymoon didn’t start out as well as expected; Our flight went through strong turbulence and was struck by lightening just before our arrival in Nice. It was very strange because it hardly ever even rains in the south of France in the summer – usually they have more problems with drought than rain and floods. Once we landed in the French Riviera’s main hub, we took a bus downtown and walked around the picturesque old town just long enough to find some delicious gelato before heading to our guest house, MOMA.
We took the futuristic tram through Nice’s busy, polished streets and got off in front of the small street where we’d be staying the next two nights. We were greeted by Peter, owner and artist who showed us the house and explained his art to us. The place was very comfortable and uniquely decorated with artistic flair. We had the Jazz room, which was quite small, but did have a separate sitting room and bathroom, though it was down the hall. We were so exhausted after our overnight flight and long stopover that we decided to skip dinner and go to bed early and we slept until 10 a.m. and didn’t make it out to breakfast until 11:30. This didn’t faze Peter or Valerie, his wife, at all. He said, “You have perfect timing, the rain has stopped, so you can eat in the garden – we had to eat inside.” We had good French bread, homemade jam, yogurt and coffee.
Then we went exploring – we walked across the university area to the Matisse Museum, Monastere de Cimiez, and the Parc des Arenas de Cimiez filled with ruins and kids playing soccer. Next we took a bus downtown to the cobblestone pedestrian pathways that lead to the expansive main square, Place Massena, with its large fountain, red buildings, and lots of people about. We stopped at a bakery for fruit tarts, then walked up to Parc de la Colline du Chateau for its views. On one side is the port filled with yachts and on the other is the boardwalk that rings the long beach. Exploring the graveyard area in the back, there is a bowl shaped view of Nice’s rooftops stretching all the way to the far hillsides.
We meandered back down the many stairways to the old part of the city and ate on Rue Rossetti, a popular street filled with outdoor café’s and restaurants. We chose Le Resto, which had good food, but the best part was definitely the atmosphere, people watching and impromptu shows that came through every 10 minutes – from accordion music to Brazilian acrobats. We wandered the lively old town streets past markets, cafes, numerous gelato shops and the fountain in Place Rossetti just a few steps away from the nicely lit Cathedrale Sainte-Reparate. After walking up the Promenade des Anglais along the beach, we visited the small, sleepy Palais de la Mediterranee Casino for a few minutes – it was mainly slot machines and we needed ID’s or passports to get in.
We repeated our late breakfast the next day and again, we’d missed the rain. In fact, even though France recently had more rainfall on record than in the past 200 years, we hardly ever saw rain during our three weeks in France.
Reluctantly, we said goodbye to pedestrian friendly Nice, which has such a fantastic feeling and a multitude of shops and café’s, and picked up our rental car for the next two weeks.
We drove to Monaco and Monte Carlo along the dramatic coastal road with villages perched on cliffs that plunge into the azure sea. Monaco is one of the most opulent parts of the entire Mediterranean coast, and Monte Carlo its showpiece. Tourists line up to take photos in Place du Casino and enter the grand building, but it is necessary to bring a passport and pay in order to go into the gambling halls. Usually a 10-euro entry fee would not deter me from seeing an attraction, but it did in this case – It just seems wrong to have to pay to go into a casino and then loose money!
We made our way back toward Nice and just beyond it to St Paul de Vence, which is a picturesque hilltop village. We checked into our hotel, Le Hameau , which is a beautiful place only about half a mile from the old town. It has a pool with a view over the valley and lush flowers everywhere. The old farmhouse has been beautifully restored, and it has many unique touches. Our room had an arched ceiling over the bed, antique furniture and tile floors with oriental rugs. It also had its own terrace and a bathroom with provincial tiles with a bathtub built for two – perfect for a honeymoon.
We walked around the thin pedestrian streets of the old town and then went to La Cocarde for dinner on the recommendation of the very friendly front desk person at our hotel. It was a small restaurant that was completely packed – and it was easy to see why. We had fois gras for an appetizer, then delicious cod with a tomato chutney, shredded vegetables and polenta sticks, and finally tarte tatin (French caramelized apple tart) and chocolate mousse for dessert.