Côte d’Azur: Menton, Monaco, Cannes & Nice

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We spent last weekend in Côte d’Azur to celebrate Gui’s 30th and gosh did we love it. The southern French architecture is full of character and elegance, and the area just has a really fun, relaxed vibe. And despite what our skeptical friends told us about the French Riviera in July, the crowds were completely manageable and added to the whole atmosphere. So yes, fellow Geneva-dwellers, book that 40-minute flight now!

We arrived in Nice late Friday night, went straight to bed and — after a slight alarm-never-getting-set-so-we-slept-two-hours-too-late incident — headed to the train station Saturday morning. This was by far the biggest madhouse we encountered all weekend, but I think it’s because the station needs to install more ticket machines rather than being a true overcrowding issue. After a 15-minute wait, Gui made it to the front of one of the queues and purchased two tickets for our first stop: Menton.

To be completely honest, the only reason I had heard of Menton was because I saw a lovely photo of the town on Instagram, but it ended up being my favorite destination of the weekend. The very last stop in France before the train crosses into Italy, Menton has a quieter beach than Nice and its downtown is a rainbow of pastel-colored buildings built into the hills. We walked around the boardwalk, explored the old town and then sat down for a delicious lunch (and one of my favorite Aperol Spritzes yet) at breezy outdoor table in the main square.

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After Menton, Gui and I took a 10-minute train ride to the Principality of Monaco, which was not nearly as fancy as I envisioned. We walked up to the prince’s castle and then crossed town to see the famous Monte-Carlo casino, but I just didn’t feel Monaco had the same charm as Menton, Cannes or Nice. Clearly most other tourists feel otherwise, because it was the most crowded location of the day. Hmm…

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Our final stop of the day was Cannes, famous for its annual film festival, after a little under an hour-long train ride from Monaco. We did a bit of shopping at Galeries Lafayette — success for both of us! — before heading down to the boardwalk to check out the stars’ handprints and walk the red carpet outside of the theater. Dinner that night was at a relaxed outdoor bistro with excellent live music and darn good food for a pretty reasonable price — quite the pleasant surprise for a town with such a shmancy reputation.

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On Sunday, we woke up on the early side to spend the morning at the beach and then had a traditional niçoise lunch of socca and other fried vegetable goodness. Afterward, we took the elevator up the hill to Parc du Château for an aerial view of the city and wandered back down through the old town with gelato in hand (yogurt and lemon flavored for me). Gui wanted to see the movie Dunkirk, so we spent the evening catching the original version at the Rialto theater for less than the price of what a single ticket would cost us in Geneva. Then we hopped on the bus to the airport with a lovely weekend and Gui’s twenties in the rearview mirror 🙂 Enjoy the photos!

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