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Finding the Good Stuff in the French Riviera

The South of France has been on my bucket list forever, and I finally got to go there in October. My husband and I spent a glorious long weekend in the magical Cote D’Azure, and what follows are my best tips for discovering the Good Stuff if you have just four days in the French Riviera!

Disclosure: We may have received discounted accommodations, meals, or other experiences at the locations referenced in this review. As always, the opinions expressed in this article are wholly my own.

Four Days in the French Riviera Itinerary

We took a red-eye out of New York on a Wednesday evening, had a quick layover in Paris, and landed in Nice at about 10:00 a.m. Despite being warned against it, we opted to rent a car, and getting around was a breeze. One thing I love about the Cote D’Azure is how close everything is to the airport–as you’ll notice, we saw a lot with a trip of only four days in the French Riviera.

We spent our time as follows:

Day 1 (Thursday): We landed in the morning after an overnight flight, spent a few hours exploring Nice, and then headed to Cap Ferrat for dinner and an early bedtime.

Day 2: We enjoyed the outstanding services and amenities at the Grand Hotel, explored Cap Ferrat, and had a casual dinner in nearby Villefranche-sur-Mer before another early bedtime!

Day 3: We didn’t want to leave the Grand Hotel, so we lounged around all morning before heading to the hilltop town of Eze, where we explored the medieval village and then checked into the Château de La Chèvre d’Or.

Day 4: We drove the 45-minute route to Antibes for lunch, which was an unexpected delight. We then headed north for 30 minutes to check out Saint-Paul-de-Vence, before heading back to Eze to sleep.

Day 5 (Monday): Sadly, we had no time for anything besides breakfast and heading to the airport!

Note: While Monaco was within a 20-minute drive of where we were during our four days in the French Riviera, we scrapped it from our plans as you aren’t allowed to cross the border in a rental car.


Nice Highlights

I recommend just wandering around Nice, which is what we did immediately after getting off the plane. Most of our friends who have been to the French Riviera told us to skip Nice, but I thought it was totally worth at least a quick visit!

The market in the old town (along Cours Saleya) is open every day besides Monday, and was beautiful to browse.

We didn’t get a meal here other than a baguette in a random bakery, but I’ve heard amazing things about this organic/biodynamic wine bar, which serves healthful small plates.

We only spent a few hours in Nice, but I still feel we had enough time there. Some of the day’s highlights included:

 

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Nice’s small streets have the classic European charm that you just can’t find anywhere else!
Marzipan in Nice
We found amazing marzipan in Nice and bought our kids a cornucopia of “veggies.” (Turns out none of us likes marzipan, so I probably wouldn’t buy quite so much next time!)
Nice baguette gimme the good stuff
The best part of our time in Nice was walking around eating a baguette from a hole-in-the-wall spot.
Nice Boardwalk Gimme the Good Stuff
Walking the promenade in Nice is a must, even if you’re visiting in the fall like we were.
Soap sniffing Nice farmers market
The Nice farmer’s market is worth a stroll, even though every single “natural” soap was artificially-fragranced and failed my sniff test!
Hotel Negresco, restaurant Le Chantecler
We didn’t spend a night in Nice, but Hotel Negresco was highly recommended.

Saint Jean Cap Ferrat Highlights

After strolling Nice for a few hours, we drove about half an hour to the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, which is now part of the Four Seasons group. Of all the places we saw in our four days in the French Riviera, Cap Ferrat was for sure the highlight, and this is almost entirely because of how much we fell in love with the Grand Hotel.

I wish we’d had more time to just enjoy the hotel itself, and if I were to go again, I would definitely stay at least three nights. Here is some of what we enjoyed most:

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Our room was smallish but still felt super luxe.
welcome champagne four seasons cap ferrat
The welcome “snack” at the Grand Hotel was amazing and pretty healthful–the dessert was mostly berries and lightly-sweetened cream.
Bathtub champagne grand hotel cap ferrat
The best part of our room was this tub with a view–I spent a lot of time in here, usually with champagne.
tea in bed grand hotel cap ferrat
My second favorite place was this luxurious bed–anyone with kids knows the immeasurable pleasure of lying around with a newspaper in the morning.
Ocean view four seasons cap ferrat
October in the French Riviera is kind of the perfect temperature if you don’t like blazing sun.
Martini in grand hotel Cap Ferrat
If you go: Try the Garden Martini and the Bouillabaisse in La Veranda restaurant–both are excellent.
tea with a view grand hotel cap ferrat gimme the good stuff
Breakfast was my favorite part of each day at the Grand Hotel. The green tea and the view alone…
juice at grand hotel gimme the good stuff
Fresh juices, including some with vegetables, are part of each morning’s spread.
chia pudding grand hotel gimme the good stuff
Breakfast always offered several healthful pots, including overnight oats, chia puddings, and unsweetened yogurt.
veggies grand hotel gimme the good stuff
The vegetables were also an amazing part of every breakfast.
cliff hike cap du ferrat gimme the good stuff
If you stay at the Grand Hotel, definitely walk the the hiking trails around the peninsula.
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The hike offers lots of places to stop to admire the ocean.
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The only town on Cap Ferrat, Saint Jean is tiny but worth a quick visit.
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Daylon ordered a beer at a restaurant on the port, and it had corn syrup and tequilla in it. So skip that if you go.

 

Bike Fitness on Cap Ferrat Gimme the Good Stuff
We did one morning of training at the Grand Hotel–despite some jet lag, it was great and the views were killer.
Personal training four seasons cap ferrat gimme the good stuff
Pierre Antoine was amazing, and the equipment was top-notch.
 
Spa lunch at Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat Gimme the Good Stuff
After we had our butts kicked, we were treated to the most incredible lunch at the spa.

 

spa lunch cap ferrrat gimme the good stuff
Chia pudding, poke bowl, carrot soup, fruit and grain salad, and date stuffed with maple cream cheese.
ocean cap ferrat gimme the good stuff
A little rain couldn’t keep me from getting my toes in the ocean.
facialist room grand hotel gimme the good stuff
One of the very best facials of my life happened in this gorgeous room on the morning that we checked out of the Grand Hotel.

Villefranche-Sur-Mer Highlights

The tiny fishing village of Villefranche-sur-Mer is a very short drive from Cap Ferrat, and because options on the cape were limited (beyond the Grand Hotel), it was an obvious choice for dinner.

Unfortunately, it was raining the evening that we took our stroll around Villefranche-sur-Mer, but it was still charming.

We went to a small spot called Le Cosmo for dinner that I can’t recommend, but there were other restaurants that were probably better (L’Aparté looks promising!).

rainy night in ville france sur mer gimme the good stuff
This classic little French Riviera town is charming even in the rain.
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Don’t order salad at Cosmo. It was an odd combo of items, including lots and lots of bean sprouts.
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Daylon once again tried to find a beer he could tolerate, and concluded that France is just not the place beer-drinkers

Eze Highlights

The hilltop village of Eze is impossibly charming, and definitely worth a visit. That said, I wouldn’t spend the night in Eze if I were to visit again—you can “do” the teeny-tiny town (it has only 33 permanent residents!) in a couple of hours.

We stayed at the highly-acclaimed Chateau du Chevre d’or, and it’s amazing how they’ve incorporated the hotel into the city itself. Still, this hotel just didn’t compare to the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat, so I wish we’d reversed the order of our stay!

If you are in the South of France in the summer, nearby Eze Sur Mer sounds lovely. I was bummed that the healthful restaurant Anjuna was closed for the season during our four days in the French Riviera.

My photos hardly do justice to Eze’s charm, but you’ll see what we enjoyed most here:

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The weather was gloomy when we explored Eze, but that only added to its magical feel.
room at chevre d’or gimme the good stuff
Our room was sizeable but somewhat dark.
bathroom chevre d’or gimme the good stuff
The bathroom was beautiful, but the plumbing was old and didn’t work perfectly.

 

Chevre d’Or sculputres gimme the good stuff
The hotel grounds are stunning, and only accessible to guests.
Pool at Chevre d’Or Eze
It wasn’t pool weather, but it didn’t look all that tempting anyway.
clams chev’re d’or eze
We had dinner at the onsite restaurant Les Ramperts, and the clams were a highlight.
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The breakfast buffet was healthful and I can imagine the views would be wonderful in warmer weather.
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You don’t need to sleep in Eze, but you should definitely spend time wandering the straight-from-a-fairytale streets.

 

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All of Eze’s shops are built into the walls of the medeival village.
toy store in eze gimme the good stuff
Eze had some charming stores, including one with really sweet toys.
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Restaurants in Eze are very limited, especially in October. My husband continued his search for a potable beer—and continued to fail at finding one.

Antibes Highlights

We only spent a few hours in Antibes, but if (when!) I return to the South of France, I would stay a night or two in Antibes. It’s super close to the airport, and centrally-located for day trips to St. Tropez, Eze, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, and more.

Antibes is also smaller and more manageable than Nice, but still big enough to offer plenty of restaurants, as well as an excellent Picasso museum.

My favorite Antibes experiences are captured here:

The sun came out while we were in Antibes, and it was glorious!
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The Antibes market was gorgeous and weirdly devoid of other tourists.
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Not my jam, but so very French.
Graze antibes gimme the good stuff
Graze is a cool little organic spot for healthful lunches!
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My Antibes experience was rounded out when the world’s longest yacht just happened to be docked there during our visit.

Saint-Paul-de-Vence Highlights

I didn’t think this was possible, but Saint-Paul-de-Vence tops even Eze’s charm. There’s not much to do in this town besides shop for art (none of which was really my style).

Still, I think it’s worth the trip for the simple beauty of the town itself, which appears to be plucked straight out of your favorite children’s storybook.

The Maeght Foundation museum is also well-worth a visit, especially if you’re a fan of sculpture. (The museum houses an impressive collection for its size, including works by Miró, Chagall,  Giacometti, and Calder.)

Aside from our visit to the Maeght Foundation, just walked around the village, as you’ll see here:

Sniffing Soap in St. Paul de Vence
I did some more smelling of artificially-scented soaps all over Saint-Paul-De-Vence.
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Every single street looks like this!
doorway st. paul de vence gimme the good stuff
I have dozens of photos like this, where I tried to capture the crazy sweetness of this town, but you probably have to see it for yourself.

Have you been to the French Riviera? If so, please share your own recommendations for where to find the Good Stuff! And, if you have suggestions for what to eat/do/see in St. Thomas, Stockholm, or Copenhagen, please send them my way, as those are the next spots I will be visiting.

Stay sane,

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PS: For those of you riveted by this storyline, Daylon finally found an actual IPA on the flight home. So he drank three.

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4 responses to “Finding the Good Stuff in the French Riviera”

  1. Looks fantastic, had no idea there was a Four Seasons there. Will definitely book a stay next time we’re across the pond.

  2. That looks heavenly! My husband and I went to the South of France 13 years ago and I spotted the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat for the first time. It’s a bucket list hotel (along with Hotel Il Pellicano) for me! We’re planning a trip for our 10th wedding anniversary this summer to France or Greece and this review just might have tipped the scale! Thank you for reviewing the area since I’m sure much has changed in the last 13 plus years!

  3. Dreamy!! That bathtub view and the cozy bed look like heaven.

  4. Oh my this looks like so much fun I have been planning a bucket list trip to the Riviera, but was so focused on St. Tropez and Monaco that I never considered such great options close to the Airport. Had no idea there was a Four Seasons there it looks AMAZING – maybe neutralize all the wine and butter that is built into each evening in Cote d’Azur. Love your reviews can’t wait to see where you go next!
    J

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