Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community! I hope you’re enjoying my June series of newsletters about cruising Europe’s magical Mediterranean Sea.
As a reminder, the word ‘cruise’ is a catch-all term for multiple types of vacations by boat. It’s NOT just what you first envision when you hear the word which is often a huge mass.-market ship with thousands of passengers. If you enjoy being on the water, then there’s a type of cruise vacation that you’ll love. My personal preference is smaller ships on the higher end of the luxury scale with port-intensive itineraries; I use the boat as my floating hotel.
This week we sail on from the Italian Riviera and dock in Monaco and two ports on the French Riviera. Shifting from trying to understand Italian to French in one day was an interesting experience and at times confusing when I said “grazie mille” instead of “merci beaucoup” when thanking the locals. Quick preview to next week’s newsletter – I shift to ‘muchas gracias.” Knowing and using pleasantries in the local language is an important part of being a good tourist.
Read on for the scoop about my experiences in Monaco and the French Riviera…
Sparkling Monte Carlo, Monaco
One of my favorite moments of the Mediterranean cruise was pulling into Monte Carlo, Monaco early in the morning as the sun was rising and reflecting off the buildings that line the coast. It was a wow moment and an amazing way to start the day!
While I’m personally not into casinos or gambling, I appreciate Monaco’s luxury vibe and high lifestyle. The iconic Casino de Monte Carlo, a paragon of the Beaux-arts architectural style, is a bucket list check for casino lovers. For royal history, take a tour of Palais Princier de Monaco, the twelfth-century palace where Monaco’s royal family resides. You’ll find designer shopping and gourmet dining at every turn and every kind of luxury vehicle on the roads. It’s an experience!
💎Hidden Gem Tip: If you know generally when you can travel next year, think ahead and begin the planning process this fall for next spring and summer. You’ll get the best pricing and availability by booking earlier than everyone else. Yes, travel in 2024 is expected to be at high levels once again. While your family is together this summer, discuss where everyone wants to travel and what schedules look like. You’ll be glad you did.
Town Hopping Along The French Riviera
We had a long day in port in Monte Carlo, Monaco which was ideal for exploring the French Riviera. A private driver-guide gave me an epic, whirlwind tour of Eze, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and Nice. What a way to spend a sunny spring day! If you’re not on a cruise, each place is well worth consideration for a luxe vacation.
Eze is a fairy tale medieval village built 400 meters+ above sea level and is actually two villages on three levels. Eze-sur-Mer, the lowest village, is one of the most popular tourist sights on the French Riviera. Stay at La Chevre d’Or with its garden terraces that spill down the cliffside or opt for a meal or drink — reservations in advance are a must.
The ultimate place to stay in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is the Four Seasons Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, although there are other resorts you may consider with similar Hidden Gem Travel perks. The history of the hotel is iconic with celebrity clients from Elizabeth Taylor to Winston Churchill. The resort overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and is considered “the epitome of Côte d’Azur chic.” Rooms have views that range from Nice to Monaco, and you can take a ride on a funicular down the pool that’s adjacent to the sea. The views are beyond amazing!
My tour guide for the day was a Nice native, and he regaled me with stories from his years as a local. Nice is a charming seaside city with an old town by the coast and a newer city teaming with French charm. Le Negresco (pictured) is an iconic hotel across the boulevard from the beach. I was lucky to visit on a sunny market day with many vacationers strolling along the seaside promenade. I hope to return to Nice to spend more time.
Chic St. Tropez
My day and evening in St. Tropez was memorable for its French-luxury vibe. Upon arrival, the marina filled with luxury yachts and sailboats set the tone. St. Tropez is the home of legendary French actress Brigitte Bardot who is still alive and living there according to my tour guide.
An early morning walk around the historic port town called La Ponche before the many colorful, glamourous shops and restaurants opened was a lovely way to see this charming though upscale place. On the other side of the island, there are many beach clubs where sun and sand are the main attraction. I spent much of the afternoon touring some favorite hotels – one overlooking the sea and one an oasis in the Old Town. Both are very special but with different vibes.
Once back onboard, it was a treat to see two tall ship sailboats off my balcony that offer another way to visit the French Riviera. It’s a much more intimate experience and well worth considering for adults who love the idea of sailing. Hidden Gem Travel works with a few companies that offer this style of yacht cruising.
💎Hidden Gem Tip: If a cruise – ocean or river – or a land trip to Europe is on your travel bucket list, let’s talk about the best destinations and itineraries for you.
Marseille & Provence
Marseille is where ships dock, and you can enjoy a nearby excursion around this historic port city. I opted for a trip inland to Aix-an-Provence which didn’t disappoint! The home of impressionist artist Paul Cezanne, the town is picture-perfect save for the many tourists that you’ll find strolling the cobblestone streets.
Provence is known for its purple-hued lavender fields and many shops selling lavender merchandise. It’s also known as a city of 1,000 fountains and as Paris’s 21st arrondissement due to the excellent shopping. Foodies flock to Provence as it’s a French culinary paradise with outdoor food markets, quaint restaurants, and fine dining. Art, music, and experiencing the French countryside way of life (slow and laid back) are all huge draws. Having just been in Paris for a week in March, it was fascinating to compare the two experiences so close together. A trip to both places is a must-do!
Wishing you and your family continued good health,
Make your own Wanderlist for 2023! As a reminder, Wanderlist is an online portal where you can research, explore, and create shareable lists of destinations and experiences. Share your list with me so I can make it happen for you.