France: Driving Along The Riviera

The French Riveria, or Côte d’Azur, is the name for the coastline along southern France which meets the Mediterranean. This whole area definitely has a reputation as being an attraction to tourists, and it’s easy to see why.

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After spending a couple of days in Nice, Adam and I decided to hire a car and drive along the coast to Spain over the course of 3 days. While not something I’d usually do when I’m trying to stick to some sort of budget, the pros outweighed the cons in this situation. As opposed to taking trains, hiring a car would provide us with better views as well as the flexibility to stop when we felt like it and be able to explore more of the coast. And as it turned out, the cost was pretty similar to taking trains anyway. Bloody good.

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The first thing we did after collecting our not-so-flash Renault was to head north before driving south along the coast. There’s a cool little town named Eze that is worth a look, especially from a high viewpoint. The car was paying itself off already!

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After Eze, we turned around and began heading down the coast. We didn’t really have a plan, other than to make a certain amount of ground each day and stick as much to the coast as possible.

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Near Antibes (which is another place worth visiting) we paused for an oyster break. I was of the opinion that it would be rude to pass through this region without partaking in the masticating of some quality oysters. And they were good. Real good. 5/7.

We ended up staying the night in a place called Fréjus, which is a little inland from Saint-Raphaël, another coastal town which boasts a large number of boats. The next morning we smashed out some admin work (a necessary evil when you’re travelling, apparently accommodation and transport doesn’t book itself) while I ate some of the smallest mussels of my life. Word of advice if you’re into seafood: flag the mussels and stick with the oysters.

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The rock faces along here are all red, which adds to the picturesqueness of practically this entire area. We saw some Flintstones houses along this area but I wasn’t able to get a photo, unfortunately.

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It seems that every few kilometres there’s a beautiful town with a massive marina that’s full of very expensive boats. The good thing about having a car was we were able to stop in where we wanted and check out the expensive places, like Saint Tropez here, without forking out for accommodation and overpriced food.

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I’ll take this one below, thanks.

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After visiting Saint Tropez, we started looking for a place to stay and decided we may as well check out Marseille as we passed through. We booked a place in a hurry without really looking too hard at the reviews or location, then arrived after dinner to the ‘Hotel De La Renaissance’ and promptly left again. We were in such a hurry to leave that I didn’t take any photos, but I’ll let this review on Booking.com speak for itself.

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So yea, don’t stay at that joint. After making ourselves scarce we set up camp for the night in the basic but reliable Ibis, which happened to be positioned next to a Maccas (McDonald’s for anyone that isn’t from New Zealand). Adam and I decided to see if what Vincent Vega says in Pulp Fiction about Quarter Pounders being named a Royal with Cheese is actually true.

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With that being settled, we hit the road again and made our way a little inland towards a town named Arles. Arles is on the tourist map but nowhere near as busy as the more well known spots on the Riviera. It’s home to the Arles Amphitheatre, which looks like a smaller Colosseum. No surprise really, being a Roman structure and all.

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We stopped in at a place called Aigues-Mortes to check out the castle walls that house markets and restaurants inside, which was quite cool. After that we headed towards he water to find some seafood restaurants as it had been a good day or two since we’d eaten oysters which was unacceptable.

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We also had sea snails, which is something I’d highly recommend, they’re bloody good. Didn’t try the land snails this time round, so I’ll have to leave that for next time. It was at this time that I also realised I’d never eaten a crepe in France, so we fixed that too. Yes, that’s Nutella, and yes, it all went straight to my ass.

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After adding a few kilos to the mid section, we crashed at the  beach one night in a place called Sète before dropping the car off in Perpignan and catching the train to Valencia, in Spain. I didn’t actually take many photos on this last day, I must have been too busy enjoying myself, or driving. It turned out to only be 7 Euros more to travel 1st class in the train as opposed to 2nd, so that was a first for me too. Here’s a shot out the window of the train as we cruised on through to Spain at 280 km/h.

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As you get closer to Spain, there’s a definite change in vegetation; everything seems to become a lot drier, but it’s still a great countryside nonetheless. Driving down the Riviera was a great experience and I’m glad we rented the car, I’d definitely recommend it. Next time I’m here I’m going to properly research areas to visit as this area has so much going for it that it’s worth spending time on a proper itinerary.

As I write this, I’m in Valencia doing a s**t load of f**k all and taking it easy before I tackle a week in Ibiza, followed by Oktoberfest. If you don’t get any blog posts for a couple of weeks, you know why!

Thanks for reading!

– Damo

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