côte d’azur

The French Riveria is another of the Mediterranean’s crown jewels, especially for summertime seaside leisure. Natalie and I spent the weekend in Nice, a perfect coastal town with enough charm and character for endless exploration. The narrow streets give way to bustling plazas and plenty of locals at this time of year. Situated right on the water, Nice’s rocky beaches are perfect for picnicking, people watching, and basking in the sunshine. We were anticipating prime weather with forecasts of 68 degrees and abundant sunshine, so you can imagine our surprise when we initially touched down to heavy winds and endless clouds. The better part of our first day was spent coat shopping, in part to find more suitable attire and also to take advantage of the refuge from the wind provided by various department stores.

The next day was beautiful weather as promised. While wandering through the city center, we stumbled onto a farmer’s market right by the water and picked up lunch before picnicking right on the beach. I’d forgotten how indulgent a simple French baguette and some cheese can be. Our afternoon adventures took us further along the coast to Castle Hill, a vantage point that offers a perfect view of the ocean and the entire city. From there, we hiked up to the cascade (waterfall), visible from the beach below, and admired the view and the rainbows resulting from the unobscured sunshine and wayward water droplets.

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On Sunday, at the advice of our host, Alain, we took the bus from the Nice port right into Monaco. The drive was incredibly scenic, weaving along the coast and through perfectly pastel-colored towns. The municipality is surprisingly small, walkable from end to end, but for what it lacks in size it makes up in grandeur. This place is the definition of boujee – the supersized yachts, the luxury boutiques, and the impeccably dressed people. Even the dogs are well-dressed (yes, they wear sweaters) and perfectly presented. I was mostly interested in visiting Grace Kelly’s old haunts, what with my little knowledge of the late Hollywood and American icon, who married Prince Rainer III thus becoming the Princess of Monaco. I was surprised at how much influence she had during her all-too-short a life; there are numerous monuments dedicated to her memory, my favorite of which was the Japanese Zen Garden. On the surface, she appears to have lived a real-life fairytale. It doesn’t take much digging, however, to learn that her life was plagued with infidelity and unhappiness in the role she assumed as a royal. We visited the cathedral overlooking the sea where their wedding was held, a union that was not conducive to mutual happiness but ultimately succeeded in catalyzing her already iconic status to immortality. As picturesque as Monaco seems, it’s hard to imagine a life confined to such stifling standards of perfection. That said, I was pleasantly surprised to uncover such a wealth of exploration bound within its limits.

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