Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I’m road tripping my way through France/Switzerland/Italy at the moment, sharing back moments through this blog and my Instagram account.
This post is week six and covers time spent on the Cote d’Azur.
So far, I’ve won big at a casino in Monaco, experienced what it’s like to live in a campervan with 36-hours of torrential rain, explored the cultural side of Nice, captured a sun-set in Antibes, and picked up a parking fine.
The good (and bad) continues and I’ll cover both in this post along with something I learnt on karma. If you enjoy what you read please share it out to your family, friends, and connections.
Even better, consider taking a look at a book I wrote and published last year, which tells the first half of a story of transition from a thirty-seven-year-old corporate worker of twenty years, to something very different now.
Into week six…
The French Riviera is more, and less, of what I expected. There are casinos, resorts, beaches, sunsets, art, culture, history, over-population, wealth, poverty, expense, and indulgence, crammed into what feels like a long-thin-strip of over-developed land!
But it does have charm, and I found this first on the steep slopes and damp streets of Menton.
Menton was my first stop after an afternoon drive from Cuneo (Italy), up and over the Martine Alps, through the Col de Tende road tunnel, and down into France.
I tracked down a free-camp spot overlooking the ocean and old town, felt the warmth in my bones after five weeks of less-than-warm-temperatures, and explored what is nicknamed the ‘pearl of France.’
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such steep streets and tall houses! Most were five-stories-high and had warrens crisscrossing levels of the old town. Menton is also set to the backdrop of the Maritime Alps.
It was quiet, being out of season, so after two nights I moved onto Monaco.
This wasn’t a place I expected to enjoy so much. But I did. I mean, it’s Monaco right!
Well, it was just big enough to pay off a parking fine and buy a new umbrella. Because is also rained whilst I was there. For thirty-six hours. Non-stop.
Joking aside, the weather has been extremely unsettled over this part of France and Italy. The pier below was shut moments after I filmed the video below.
I also read other parts of north-west Italy / south-east France were hit hard…once again, another example of changing weather patterns.
As much as I enjoyed the vibrancy of Monaco, free-camping started to become difficult here, as did parking my campervan close to the centre of town.
I understand why, and I got around it by parking forty minutes walk from the centre, but it started to add extra stress to exploring a place. And no-one needs a parking fine and a threat of being towed away…
From Monaco, I continued west into Nice and timed my arrival as the rain started to clear and the sun came out.
Culturally interesting, Nice was easy to walk around, explore, or just sit and watch the world go by. There was also the usual big-city problems of crime, poverty, and homelessness. Quite a contrast from Monaco and I’m glad I stopped to take a look.
Similar to Monaco, it proved difficult to park in the centre. Most cities are tight but this was hectic! The best approach was to find a central spot close to an area to explore, make use of the maximum 2-hour parking time, and keep returning to buy a new ticket.
Free-camping for the night was impossible in the city, and I found the best approach was to drive out to the suburbs and use Park4night to find a place. This app has been so useful on this trip.
From Nice, I continued to Antibes.
I’d read this was less developed than other parts of this coastline, and that held appeal. However, I was met with this sign as soon as I entered the area…
Once again, I get it, campervans and motorhomes are not wanted (or needed) here. But it is frustrating – especially as there is also a distinct lack of both campsites and motorhome services areas (aires) along this coast.
So much so I doubt I’ll return here in my campervan.
On a positive note, Antibes was a cool place. Much less developed than Monaco and Nice (but this is relative) with some incredible sunsets from the Cap d’Antibes.
There were also some stunning looking boats and I even managed a cheeky (but sketchy) kitesurfing session. My first one of the Mediterranean!
I decided to explore one more area before leaving this coastline behind and my final stop for this week was a lucky find.
Situated between Cannes and Saint-Tropez, I stumbled across Saint-Raphaél. I only stopped here to see if I could kitesurf but it was what happened that convinced me to stay.
As I parked my van up I noticed a local workers truck had broken down, and he asked if I had jump-leads he could borrow.
I initially said no and then remembered I had some buried in a cupboard. I was about to use my van to help start his truck when his mate turned up. 20-minutes later he’s up and running, said thanks, shook my hand, and off he went.
I didn’t think anything of it until I went to find a new place to kitesurf. I saw a carpark, noticed the barrier was open and motorhomes were allowed out of season.😀
I then met some friendly local kitesurfers, found out parking was free and rolled into my best free-camp spot of the past two weeks.
If I ever had doubts about karma they’ve been put to bed. Moral of that story – let people borrow your jump leads. You never know what might happen…
A few tips from this week.
Park4night continues to be a useful app for finding places to sleep. I highly recommend it. I have no affiliation, I’m just sharing.
I doubt I will return to the Cote d’Azur in a campervan.
Perhaps a way around the restrictions to park out of town, and use trains and buses to explore the city…
Perhaps there is something in karma. And if there’s not, it’s still a nice feeling to think you’ve helped somebody out.
This may be stating the obvious but it’s beyond nice being consistently warm and dry. Especially whilst in a campervan!
As much as previous weeks have been good for exploration/snow/culture, it’s a real mood-lifter to have the sun warming my face. I don’t think this should ever be underestimated.
I’m happy to be reunited with the ocean (and the sun),