As mentioned previously, I chose to break my travel guide up in to two parts when I saw how long the post was becoming. I also think that when people travel to the South of France, they often choose one area of the southern coast to visit, either Provence or the Cote d’Azur and pair it with a trip to Paris. I had already gone to Paris, so Drew and I passed on that portion of the trip and chose to visit the entire South of France. Hopefully the organization of the posts make sense to readers.. I’d love to know if you find these travel guides helpful by leaving your thoughts in the comment section below the post. 🙂
I’ll start by providing you with a quick overview of the trip, which is actually a recap from Part 1 of my travel guide to South of France.
First of all, I would say the key to conquering the South of France would be to pick a couple places to “settle” for 2-3 nights and rent a car so you can spend your days taking small trips to other local towns. This allows you to capitalize on a short amount of time in one area without feeling hectic and rushed to pack up your bags and move on to the next place. After all, the South of France is very small (about 8 hours driving distance from Provence to Nice), but each town is very different, so you want to make sure you soak up all of the different cultures.
I personally think Drew and I could have done a better job planning our day trips so that we could have seen more towns, but we were happy with what we saw because we never felt rushed throughout our trip. We spent nine total nights in the South of France, and we felt it was the perfect amount of time to be away and still see the majority of what we would have liked to see. We spent four nights in Provence, two in Saint-Tropez, and three in Nice.
I absolutely recommend that you rent a car, a very small car (parking is limited, but they drive on the right side of the road, thankfully) in order to maximize the trip. It will make it very difficult to see what you want to see in a short amount of time if you don’t have a car because most of the cities are anywhere from 15-30 minutes apart. Taking the train would require you to travel north back to Avignon in order to get to both Saint-Tropez and Nice, which could take hours. It’s simply not practical in a 9-day vacation.
HOW WE TRAVELED, WHERE WE WENT:
We traveled from Charlotte to Paris on a direct flight. Once we arrived in Paris we jumped on the TGV train from the Paris train station at the airport and took it to Avignon train station. The train ride was close to 3 hours. You could also take a flight directly into Nice and do the trip backwards from Nice to Provence, but flying into Paris was cheaper for us. We bought our train tickets on the SNCF website HERE.
Avignon is one of the larger towns in Provence, and Provence is essentially the countryside of the South of France. Upon arrival in Avignon we jumped in our mini car and we were on our way to our first hotel in St. Remy, Vallon de Valrugues. While in St. Remy we took day trips to Chateaneuf de Pape, Gordes in the Luberon Valley and spent time in the center city of St. Remy, which was the most adorably charming town.
From St. Remy we took a 2-hour drive to Saint-Tropez, where we stayed at our splurge hotel, Chateau de la Messardiere. The hotel was incredible, so we decided to take this time of our trip to relax by the pool and enjoy the hotel’s beaches. We didn’t do any day trips while in Saint-Tropez.
Following our time in Saint-Tropez, we traveled on to the larger metropolitan city of Nice where we stayed in Old Town on the Promenade at Hotel La Perouse. While in Nice we took a trip to the Villa Ephrussi as well as the medieval town of Eze, which was incredible. Eze is essentially the Santorini of the South of France. Breathtaking views and gorgeous passageways. One place I would have liked to travel to that I heard great things about was St. Paul de Vence. Unfortunately we were out of time and didn’t want to pack too much into Nice without actually enjoying the city of Nice itself, so we chose to pass on that day trip.
ST. TROPEZ TRAVEL GUIDE
Where to Stay: Our hotel in St. Tropez was the Chateau de Messardiere. Let me start by saying that this was our SPLURGE hotel. It was very expensive and extremely luxurious. St. Tropez is known as the billionaires palace, so we wanted to soak in the lavish, 5-star lifestyle, and get a taste of the culture of the city. Hence the reason we were only there for 2 nights. There are many other amazing hotels in St. Tropez if you’re not wanting to spend this kind of money to visit. Some other hotels we looked into were Hotel Villa Cosy, Villa Belrose Hotel and Hotel Byblos Saint Tropez. Those are also luxurious hotels, but at a much lower price point. Keep in mind, any hotel you stay at in Saint Tropez is going to be expensive because it is an extravagant city.
Photo Source: UniqueHotelSpa.com
As you can imagine, the hotel was absolutely stunning. It was more than I would expect from a 5-star hotel in terms of customer service, dining, atmosphere, cleanliness of rooms, the list goes on and on. We truly got what we paid for and I wasn’t disappointed one bit. I was also shocked by the size of the rooms. They were bigger than typical American hotels, which is unusual for Europe. I couldn’t say enough good things about this hotel if you’re willing to spend the money to stay here.
Outfit I wore on the grounds of our hotel, full post HERE
Where to Play: As I mentioned in my previous travel guide, we did not spend a lot of time exploring the center city of Saint Tropez. We had one dinner in the city at an AMAZING restaurant, and then spent a couple of hours exploring the center-city of Saint Tropez right before we left for Nice. We were exhausted from our time in Provence because we had spent a long 4 days taking day trips to various places and wanted to take this time to relax and enjoy the hotel that we had invested in. We spent our first day by the pool, drinking overly priced cocktails and taking in the gorgeous view. When in France, right? 🙂
Our second day was spent at hotel’s local beach club. You take 5-minute shuttle down to the beach, and the hotel provides you with beach chairs and towels right in front of their partner restaurant. I knew we couldn’t go to Saint-Tropez without exploring the many beaches, so this was an easy and convenient way to get our feet in the water. We had lunch at the beach club and then returned to our hotel for dinner that evening.
Since we only had 2 nights in Saint-Tropez, we packed up our bags on the third day and spent a couple of hours exploring the center-city of town before heading on to Nice. Saint-Tropez town is very small, but it is definitely worth taking a few hours to check out the Saint-Tropez Port where all the billionaires dock their yachts. Drew and I had an amazing time walking the boardwalk and enjoying the beautiful artwork that local artists were painting along the marina. We grabbed some gelato and made sure to make a stop at Laduree, of course. Who could resist? If you’d like to shop, you can check out the many winding streets of lavish and expensive European clothing stores. There is even a Louis Vuitton if you’re looking for your next Neverful bag. 🙂
Outfit I wore while exploring Saint-Tropez, full post HERE
Where to Drink Rose (lots of it, and eat): On the first night in Saint-Tropez, we ate dinner at the main restaurant of the Byblos Hotel (which is actually one of the other hotels we looked into staying at), and the food was top-notch. I don’t believe we took any photos because we ate it so quickly, but it was small plates and their menu rotates often depending on what local fish they’ve caught. Talk about YUM! Here’s a photo of the restaurant so you can appreciate the amazing ambiance.
Photo Source: Byblos.comOutfit I wore to dinner in Saint-Tropez, Full post HERE
On night two we ate dinner at our hotel restaurant and it was again outstanding food and locally caught seafood. I remember being really impressed by the service, but I wouldn’t expect anything less of this hotel. Of course, the grounds are gorgeous as well, so the view was perfect. The key to choosing what to eat in Saint-Tropez is to always order the fish of the day. It’s always the freshiest catch, and prepared perfectly.
Outfit for our second dinner in Saint-Tropez, Full post HERE
Our breakfast and lunch was always eaten either at the hotel or at the hotel’s beach club. Once again, our hotel had an amazing spread for breakfast including croissants, french breakfast items, antipasto, you name it, so we made sure to wake up early in time to eat every morning.
One of the things I was most excited about was that I officially got my first French creme brule in Saint-Tropez at the beach club. If you know me personally, you know I am a creme brule queen! I can’t make them, but I’ll be your taste tester all day long. I have to admit I was a little scared I would be disappointed because I had built this amazing dessert up in mind that was first created in France. This dessert did not disappoint and needless to say there was not a bite left in my ramekin. 🙂
NICE TRAVEL GUIDE
Where to Stay: Our hotel in Nice was called Hotel La Perouse. It was located right on the Promenade des Anglais of Old Town (Vieux Nice), which is the historical area of Nice located on the water. The promenade is a gorgeous road that runs along the beach and Mediterranean coast that extends from the airport and ends at our hotel. The location was amazing because it gave us close access to the beach, while also being in great vicinity to open air shops and restaurants. The rooms in the hotel were once again very small, but there is so much to do in Nice that you won’t find yourself spending a lot of time in your room. The staff were very friendly, and extremely helpful in giving us information about the city including areas that were safe vs. unsafe.
Photo Source: hoteldelaperouse.comPhotos I took right outside our hotel on the Promenade, full post HERE
Where to Play: The city of Nice itself is absolutely amazing, and there are tons of things to do here that you wouldn’t necessarily need to take day trips out of the city unless you wanted to see other places. Drew and I spent most of our time touring Nice and then spent one day visiting the Villa Ephrussi and the local town of Eze. The only other place I would recommend visiting if you have time is St. Paul de Vence. We heard incredible things from everyone we met that had traveled here, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to add it to our itinerary.
Villa Ephrussi is a large pink house (my dream!) owned by a rich family in the financial industry of the 1900’s that turned their home into a National Landmark following their death. It is known for its historical art, gorgeous architecture and stunning gardens that are worth visiting. Outfit I wore to tour the Villa Ephrussi, full post HERE
Eze is a beautiful medieval town on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Many people claim that it is the Santorini of South of France. I would agree in terms of views, but it has a much darker feel to it. Obviously, you will not expect to see white concrete passage ways and blue top buildings, but rather dark cobblestone and brick. However, it was probably my second favorite day of the trip, and absolutely worth taking a short drive to visit (it is only about 20 minutes from Nice). Make sure you visit Creperie Le Cactus – sweet or savory, they have it all. We went with the traditional banana and nutella… YUM!
Outfit worn touring the town of Eze, Full post HERE
While in Nice I would recommend you spend at least one day on the beach. The sands are a lot different in that they are rocky, so make sure to bring shoes you don’t mind getting wet so that you can wear them walking into the ocean (you’ll thank me later). When we visited the beach we spent 40 euros for beach chairs at a beach club and received drink and food service for the whole afternoon. It was definitely worth it. We just picked the first beach club closest to our hotel called Castel Plage, but there are plenty of options to choose from. If you want a view by the water, make sure to get there early or call to reserve chairs the day before.
Drew and I spent a lot of time wandering the streets of Old Town, checking out all the local shops the lined the street and stopping in occasionally to grab a bite to eat along the Marche aux Fleurs Cours Saleya. We also really enjoyed going for morning runs along the promenade. Nice is such an active city that we were amazed how many people were riding bikes, walking the streets, and playing sports on the beach. I think the best thing you can do is get out of your hotel and do something active outside.
Where to Drink Rose, (lots of it, and eat): Our timing in France couldn’t have been better because the night we arrived in Nice was the night of the France vs. Germany futbol game for the UEFA EURO semi-final. We decided we wanted to enjoy the game like the locals so we scouted out an amazing burger pub and watched the game with the French. We painted our faces and had a blast. At this point in the trip, we had eaten French food for about 7 days. All we wanted was an American burger and beer, so we went to the best spot in town called Waynes. If you’re feeling the same way while visiting Nice, definitely go here, the burger was excellent!
Night 2 was spent in Eze, so we decided to make reservations at the most famous restaurant in town called Chevre D or (The Golden Goat). It was a very swanky place. As you would expect, the food and the view were the best we’d had our whole trip. It was the one restaurant where we got quintessential modern french food, and splurged on our meal. I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for an unbelievable French restaurant experience.
My Meal at Chevre D or
Our final night in Nice, we decided to grab a meal along the Promenade and at at a restaurant recommended by our concierge called Safari. We must have picked a really popular place because the line was out the door 20 minutes after we had been seated. We were able to grab a seat outside in the open air of the street and enjoyed listening to live music while tasting traditional Nice cuisine.
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW: (recapped from part 1 of my travel guide)
Tips: Tips in France are not expected, though they are appreciated for exceptional service. Any time Drew and I had an outstanding meal with amazing service, we left a 10% gratuity on top of our bill. Generally the bill will not automatically include itinerary but you should still check the bill to make sure it was not already included.
Cabs: Cabs were not difficult to come by, but thankfully we did not need to use one due to renting our own car and using our hotels’ shuttle services. Our concierge told us that cabs generally only take cash, and there is a possibility they may rip you off if they realize you are a foreigner. If you use a cab, make sure to ask how much the ride will be prior to entering the cab, so that you’ve settled on an agreement.
Currency: None of the businesses or restaurants accept U.S. dollars. I recommend you have anywhere from 30-50 euros on you at anytime for tips and small purchases (a lot of places require a minimum purchase price to use a credit card and you don’t want to be stuck in that position). For the majority of our purchases, we used an international credit card that doesn’t charge an exchange fee. My personal favorite is the Capital One Venture credit card (it is the navy blue card). Disclaimer: I do not have a endorsement with Capital One, and all opinions are strictly my own.
Language: Neither Drew nor I speak French. Because the South of France is a touristy area, most of the locals speak English. If you do encounter situations where they do not, it is likely in some of the smaller towns in Provence. My best recommendation is to learn a couple of small intro phrases in France our of courtesy prior to switching over to English to ask your question. Something like “Bonjour monsieur, parlez-vous anglais, or no? (hello, sir, or madame, do you speak english or no?)” generally does the trick to ensure you’ll get an answer to your question.
Culture: One thing Drew and I were incredibly surprised about is that the French stick to their schedule of opening and closing hours regardless of their incoming business. There were times throughout the day where we were ready to sit down and eat lunch or have a snack and the bistros and cafes were closing and kindly declined additional business. Generally in the U.S. we continue to stay open if it means we were serving someone. I found this refreshing because they truly valued their break and rest time over additional revenue. We could use a little more of that in the U.S. With that said, definitely pay attention to opening and closing hours and don’t assume a restaurant will stay open for you to eat there. Along the same lines, make sure to make reservations. The French love to sit and enjoy their meals without being rushed, so there is no guarantee you will get into a restaurant if you put yourself on the waiting list.
Safety: Honestly, Drew and I felt incredibly safe the entire time we were in the South of France, but at the same time, we made sure to listen to our concierge and never ventured into risky areas of the towns we visited. I think this was most important in the city of Nice. Our concierge was very strict to tell us not to venture out of the Old Town area, and I definitely understand the concern. Be sure to check in with your hotel and get an idea of the surrounding area before making risky travel decisions.
I think that wraps up our trip to the South of France. If you are planning a trip to the Cote d’Azur, I hope you find this travel guide helpful. Or at the very least, I hope you enjoyed reading and I provided you with some travel inspiration for the future! As always, if you have any questions about our trip, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below. Hope you have a wonderful day, and thanks for dropping by! XoXo