My Trip to France: The French Riviera

Aug 21, 2021

If you follow me on Instagram you know we just got back from France a couple of weeks ago. It was an amazing trip! We took our 19 year old son along for his high school graduation present. I would have taken our younger two boys if they wanted to go as well, but they don't like to travel. I know, they are weird!

I promised a few of you that I would write about how to travel on a budget. It's not my first time in Paris so I had a little insight this trip on where to spend and where to save. We wanted a new experience and a little beach time so we decided to go to the south of France and then head up to Paris. This started to get a little long so I'm dividing this up into two parts, The French Riviera and Paris.

So our first leg of travel was the French Riviera! We decided to stay in Nice. I chose this location because it is in between Monaco and Cannes. It's also a larger city and I wanted to make sure there was enough to do. 

We semi-splurged on a hotel room here so we could have a balcony overlooking the ocean. The room was just okay, but the location and view were perfect. We were right on the Promenade, which is the main thoroughfare along the ocean.

My son wasn't happy when he saw our view and the size of the room compared to his. Sorry, dude!

Nice is very close to Italy so there is a heavy Italian influence. Almost all of the cafes served pizza and there is gelato everywhere. That's great if you have a picky eater like my son. 

TIP: Ask for a carafe of water, which is free of charge. When they ask you if you want sparkling or still water, they will bring you a bottle of water that can be pricey. You have to be clear that you want a carafe.

TIP: Waiters will not come by your table to take your order if you are still looking at the menu. Be prepared to order your wine and dinner all at once. This gives you time to pair your wine with dinner. That's so smart! Sometimes I regret ordering a glass of red when my dinner would pair better with a white.

We stayed just a block away from the fanciest hotel in Nice, Hotel Negresco. We walked by the bar area and decided to go in because it looked so nice. We were blown away! It's not cheap, but the wine is really good and they give you little extras to accompany your wine or champagne. I've never been much of a champagne fan because it's a little too rough on my stomach, but I discovered that's not the case with Moet & Chandon. 

We actually went here two nights it was so nice!

TIP: Don't stay at the fancy hotels, just have a drink or dinner there. I love a great hotel if I actually have time to enjoy it, but in Europe the goal is to just sleep there!

Nice is fun to walk around and there is a small shopping avenue with all of the high end stores. Most people are there to go to the beach, eat and walk around in the evening. The Ruhl Plage behind me is one of many beach clubs on the French Riviera. You can eat, go to the bar or rent a sun bed. They aren't cheap, but it's worth it. The biggest downside is the beach is rocky instead of sandy in Nice. 

We took two side trips from Nice. The first was to Cannes to eat lunch and rent a sunbed at a beach club since they have sandy beaches. The Carlton is the most famous. It's where Grace Kelly filmed To Catch a Thief. It's also extremely expensive so we went to what I thought was the second nicest beach club, Plage du Festival. Everyone else must have thought so too because they were booked for the next two days. We went next door to Long Beach and they said they might have sun beds after we finished lunch since people would be leaving. We had a long lunch with a bottle of rosé, which is what everyone drinks since we were in Provence. The waitress told us this wine was the most popular in France. We did continue to see it on menus throughout our trip and it was really good. 

TIP: Make reservations at the beach clubs.

My son asked me why everyone was so thin the first night we were in Nice. I started to pay attention to what everyone was eating at the cafes and it wasn't hard to figure out. 

TIP: The reason why French women are really thin is because they only eat salads. I'm okay with that if my salad looks like this!

Thankfully, after we had lunch there were sun beds available. My son had trouble adjusting to the time change and went right to sleep. My husband and I enjoyed the turquoise water, people watching and the beach service. I vowed to only eat salads sitting on that beach. Update: I've had only a few salads since being home. 

Cannes or Nice? Cannes is more upscale, has better shopping and sandy beaches. It's also a lot quieter. Nice has more restaurants and is more lively, particularly at night. I prefer Cannes and knew that would be the case going on this trip, but I still chose Nice because it is in the middle of Monaco and Cannes. Another factor is that the closest major airport is in Nice. We had a short stay of only three nights so I didn't want to be traveling half my trip.

Monaco/Monte Carlo was our next day trip. It is beautiful! It is an extremely clean and well kept city. This is the famous harbor where all of the yachts dock.

It's a mix of historic and contemporary buildings all set on the cliffs. 

I was excited to see Casino Royale. This is our view from the famous Cafe de Paris. It's the perfect place to people watch. 

Not the best photo because of the heat. We also had to hurry because Monaco requires masks even outside. 

The back of the casino is just as impressive. We considered going in the evening so we could check it out, but none of us really wanted to get dressed up and hire a car service. We took the train and walked around the city instead. 

There's not a lot of sightseeing to do in Monaco. It's great for the traveler who is more interested in gambling, fine dining and high end shopping. One to two nights here is all you need. I've heard that a lot of people will have a short stay here and then hire a car service to take them to Saint Tropez. Unfortunately, we just couldn't fit Saint Tropez into our trip. It's very difficult to get to because of traffic. If we get to go back we will focus on Saint Tropez and the wine region of Provence.

TIP-Don't stay anywhere more than two nights in Europe if you haven't been there before. That way you get to experience the city, but aren't stuck if there isn't much to do. Exceptions would be large cities like Paris or London. You can still hit the highlights in 2-3 days. Plus there's so much to see in Europe!

Travel Information:

Trains-I didn't love traveling by train for short trips. It's a 30 minute walk from the Promenade in Nice to the train station, especially in the summer when it's really hot. Then there's the waiting for tickets and the train. In retrospect, we should have bought our tickets online and hired a car to take us to the train station. The trains took a lot longer than what's stated on the ticket. It took about an hour to Cannes and Monaco each. About four hours of our day were taken up by traveling. It really wore us out. I made sure on our way back to the Nice airport we had a driver instead of taking the train. It was so much nicer! It might be more economical to travel by train, but it's worth it to splurge on a driver or a rental car.

Flights-We fly to Europe for free! It takes about three years to save enough credit card points to have first class or business class seats round trip. We charge everything we can to our United credit card and pay it off at the end of the month. One benefit of having a United card is the access to airport lounges (depending on the credit card), extra free bags and priority check-ins. Those lines can get long sometimes at the ticket counter. We always get to board first as a 1k member too. It's important if the flight is full and you need to make sure there's enough room for your carry-on in the overhead compartment. 

If you don't want to go that route, one tip I learned from a travel book was to view the best rates on flights at It gives you all of the carriers and prices in one place. 

I hope this gave you insight if you are looking to travel to the French Riviera. Paris is coming up next!

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