meet me on the french riviera

…because I aim to return as soon as possible and never leave again. If someone could have my things and my dogs sent to Nice, I’d be eternally grateful.

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But seriously. The place is heaven.

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After an un-Godly 6 A.M. wake-up call last Friday, two friends and I made our way, eyes half open and in desperate need of caffeine, to the Gare de Lyon train station, where we promptly boarded our 7:46 train to Nice. I proceeded to spend the next five hours sleeping, reading (wait for it) Tender is the Night, and finally, as we drew closer to our destination, admiring the increasingly gorgeous views.

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Don’t mind the reflections and the dirty train window…you get the idea.

We arrived in Nice around 1:30 to deliciously warm weather and perfectly sunny skies. After grabbing a quick lunch and checking into our hostel, we made our way to–of course–the beach.

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The beaches in Nice are rocky, so it makes lounging a little trickier to do. But I’ll take any kind of beach, any time, any place. I happily spent the next few hours…well, sort of like I spent the first part of the day, now that I think about it. Reading, dozing, admiring the stunning views, and taking the occasional picture. I was in heaven. I never wanted to leave.

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The Van D’Go color ended up being a perfect choice, just as I’d anticipated. Never underestimate the power of a well-named polish.

The city of Nice itself had me at hello bonjour, too. It’s full of adorable streets and colorful old buildings that almost remind me of some of the beautiful old Floridian hotels. It really does feel like a beach town, and it takes full advantage of its location, with a wide walkway running along the crystal-clear ocean that I was absolutely dying to run on. Unfortunately, I intentionally left my running shoes at home due to an achy spot in my foot I was hoping a weekend of rest would take care of. It’s gone now, so I guess it was for the best, but still–I would have LOVED to have gone for a morning run there!

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Friday night we made our way to Vieux Ville (the charming “Old Town” part of Nice) for dinner where, lured by promises of free champagne, we chose a restaurant called Côte Sud.

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Unfortunately, the “champagne” was some kind of flat, sickeningly sweet stuff. I mean, I drank it. Who do you think I am? I guess I can’t complain because it was, as promised, free. But the food made up for the lousy beverage. I split the pesto gnocchi and the grilled salmon steak with my friend, and it was so delicious and wonderful after days on end of meals in the dorm.

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Bleh.

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That’s more like it.

After dinner, we walked around Nice…

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and Vieux Ville a bit more. I loved every street of it. Vieux Ville feels what I imagine Italy would feel like (I don’t know because I’ve never been–BUT I’LL BE THERE IN TWO WEEKS), with lots of impossibly narrow but charming streets, warmly-colored buildings, clothing drying on the balconies, and plenty of noise and festivities all around.

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We ended up stumbling upon this amazing and elaborately decorated church. It sprung up out of nowhere and when I happened to glance into the open door, my jaw dropped. Unfortunately it was really dark and none of my pictures were turning out well, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Of course, I lit a candle.

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We ended up settling into a bar that had an English band playing live music. I knew we’d made a good choice when I realized the band was playing “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” as we walked it. And followed that with “Fire and Rain”. So my thing. I was all over it.

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After an uneasy night spent snuggling with my purse in our hostel dorm room (um, yeah, I am NOT cut out for hostel living, something I wish I could change about myself but will reluctantly accept…I’m more comfortable in a tent than I am in a creepy unclean room with creepy unclean people…okay I’m being dramatic, moving on…), we spent Saturday exploring Vieux Ville by the light of day a bit more. It was even more delightful and picturesque in the sunshine.

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We also made the trek up to the grounds of an old chateau, which boasts truly STUNNING views of Nice.

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Just imagine. You’re standing by a waterfall that’s making rainbows all over the place. There’s not a cloud in the sky, the Mediterranean is sparkling like diamonds below you as it slowly fades from turquoise blue near the shore to a rich navy by the horizon. The sun is shining. You can see all of Nice–the majestic old hotels, the red and gold (cardinal and straw?) Vieux Ville, the mountains gently nudging the whole array of it closer to the sea–and beyond, down la Côte d’Azur to what feels like Antibes and Cannes and St. Tropez and all the way to Italy. There are flowers blooming all around you, you’re in France…is it so strange that I became convinced, at that moment, that I had died, gone to heaven, and thus would turn around and find the Kensington Whole Foods waiting for me? I think not.

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Proof of life photo for the Mamacita.

We made our way back down into the city and treated ourselves to some Fenocchio Glacier. Apparently this has been named the “best gelato in France” by numerous credible sources, so I of course had to try it out. They have over 150 flavors or something insane(ly wonderful) like that, so it took us forever and a half to choose. I eventually went with Vanilla Meringue and good old chocolate.

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The vanilla meringue was my favorite, because it was studded with huge chunks of actual meringue…be still my beating heart. The chocolate was rich and perfect and wonderful, and I wished with every bite that my sister was there to have some with me, because she would have loved it even more than I did–if that’s possible.

We spent the rest of the afternoon doing some more relaxing on the beach…

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…before tidying up and heading out for dinner. Our destination? Le Speakeasy, a tiny establishment run by a California expat that serves up VEGAN FOOD. I was 1000 kinds of excited.

I know, I know. I might be one of the few people that would desperately search for and happily pay any price for a giant plate of vegan goodness while in France. But luckily, my friends were of a similar mindset, and I got to gorge on this amazing FEAST of a meal:

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That would be quinoa with sauteed zucchini, tempeh, a Hugh Jass salad with creamy slices of avocado, summery-tasting tomatoes, and homemade black olives to boot. On top of all that, the owner, who cooked our meal to order, served it up with a side of wheat bread.

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.

They don’t have wheat bread in this country. Okay, fine, they do, but it’s not all that plentiful, and frankly, while I’ll admit the white bread is unsurpassed, you can practically taste the French disdain for whole grains in every bite of the wheat bread I’ve had here so far. It tastes almost like cardboard and nothing like the soft, honey-sweetened loaves I buy at Greenlife all summer. This wheat bread was a nice change, and so, so welcome.

I even had a delicious little oatmeal apple tart for dessert. It was heavenly. My heart was turning backflips by the time I’d finished this meal. I know I’m in a country with one of the best culinary reputations in the whole world, but I have to be honest–sometimes I just miss my food. What’s that? You sort of got the feeling that was the case after my daily moaning and whining about the lack of organic peanut butter? How intuitive of you.

Sunday, we decided to mix things up and took a train to Antibes!

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Antibes is something of a yachting capital, so as we walked towards the old part of town, we were greeted with this view:

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Antibes itself was gorgeous and felt surprisingly different from Nice for a town that’s so close. It’s much smaller, though, and we were also there on a Sunday (France sort of shuts down on Sundays), so that makes sense. It felt much quieter and more quaint than Nice, and while I have not one single bad thing to say about Nice, it was a fun change. I don’t have anything bad to say about Antibes, either!

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The colors of the actual buildings in Antibes were more muted than in Nice. I liked this, though–it made the whole town seem sort of sun-bleached and frozen in time.

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The views around Antibes are incredibly beautiful. The mountains are even more apparent than they are in Nice, and a nearby fort (Fort Carré, built by Henry II in the 16h century) adds to the historical charm of the town. We spent most of the day wandering around, with a little bit of (sandy!) beach lounging thrown in there somewhere. I absolutely loved it here and was missing my whole family because I just KNEW they’d completely love it as much as I did. Some places just strike me as oh-so appropriate for family vacations…Antibes is one of them. (Totally weird, because obviously Antibes just isn’t a very likable place for most people.) Next summer, mes parents?

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And here’s a solo shot…you know, to encourage that family trip to Antibes. I’m a good daughter and took this picture for you, Mom and Dad.

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We celebrated the last night of our trip with Indian food (MAIS OUI…the Tess’s-Favorite-Foods Fest continues) before heading back to Nice…where we continued to celebrate (a.k.a. avoid returning to our hostel) with warm drinks. Which, surprisingly, came with this delightful (free!) plate of sugary delights…

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Don’t mind if I do.

We woke up and went pretty much straight to the train on Monday morning. I was sad to leave…but I mean, when you’re going back to Paris, life just isn’t that rough, is it? I was seriously smitten with the South of France (duh) and would happily return any time. It’s just one of those places that’s so uniquely beautiful you almost can’t believe it’s real.

Paris greeted me with open arms and newly chilly weather. I’ve come home the past two nights with rosy cheeks and a rosier nose. It’s that lovely fall temperature where you only need a light jacket, but scarves and boots are more than appropriate. I celebrated with a new plaid wool scarf (I just can’t get enough) and a blissfully chilly and blissfully foot-pain-free twelve-mile run yesterday. This is my first real fall since my senior year of high school, so I intend to soak it up. (The only problem I’ve found with New Orleans is that it skips the season of delightfulness that is fall…the joke is that the four seasons there are almost summer, summer, still summer, and Christmas.) The only thing that could make this October better is a pumpkin spice latté.

Oh yeah…and this little care package I had waiting for me upon my return.

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I love you, Mom. Sunbutter, my favorite peanut butter, Twizzler’s, candy corn (the kind with the little pumpkins!), Pretzel M&M’s, Annie’s mac & cheese, my very favorite Nature’s Path oatmeal, and a giant pile of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Larabars (if you haven’t had these, go buy this flavor and Blueberry Muffin STAT). What can I say, the woman knows me well….

Although I’d really appreciate it if you’d send the dogs now, thanks.

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4 responses to “meet me on the french riviera

  1. Great post and photos. Nice and Antibes sound like my kind of place. Have fun and be safe!

  2. I keep wondering how you can keep this travel thing up (AFTER a long visit home). Latest ideas: plan your itinerary based on nail polish names and get funding from OPI or Essie (maybe you could sideline with your old fantasy as a nail polish namer?). Or, doesn’t someone want to pay you to write a runners/vegetarian guide to Europe?

  3. Nice and Antibes look a lot like Cinqueterre towns and Portofino. Ash, la Mediteranee!

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