As promised, here is my travel diary with what we did in France and recommendations on what to skip and things to see if you ever find yourself heading to wine region or the French Riviera! I decided to break this post into two parts so that you can see enough pictures and get a clear idea of what to do without the post being way too long and overwhelming.
To begin the trip, I flew into Lyon and headed to Cluny, a small village in the French countryside with old cobblestone streets, pastel buildings, shops and patisseries. It always makes me jealous that some people get to live in such inspiring, gorgeous, and historical places that have an authentic and innate charm about them. The drive took about an hour and a half. Things I would recommend:
1. Rent a car if you are outside of a big city like Paris and plan to see multiple regions. Its way easier getting around and you can find great deals on day rates.
2. Research the hotel you stay in to make sure that when it is hot, the AC works really well and the reviews of the hotel are all great. Not that you should be at the hotel hardly at all, but at night in the summer it can get toasty and uncomfortable if there is a weak AC or none at all. Ours was called Hotel Le Potin Gourmand was great but the AC was a little weak but so cute and had an amazing restaurant as part of the hotel. The breakfast was included in the room and was so delicious.
3. If you are looking to visit and see a small town but also have other more populated areas you are heading to, like the South of France, I would keep the smaller villages to a couple days and move along. They are amazing, but very small and you can see everything in the matter of a couple hours.
4. Many restaurants and cafes in smaller towns and villages close down at 2 and don't open up again until dinner time, so be sure to get lunch before then and plan accordingly. I skipped lunch one day because we were busy walking around and wine tasting and was thinking I could get a bite when I got back. I was hungry for hours waiting for something to open!
5. Cluny Abbey is a former Benedictine monastary in Cluny and is gorgeous. Its definitely worth a peek or even just a stroll nearby to check it out. You can't miss it, its huge. Like I said, the town is very small so everything is a short walking distance away.
6. Make sure to plan a day for wine tasting in the area. It took about 25-30 minutes to drive to Pouilly Fuisse where they are known for their white wine. There are many little regions in this area that you can wine taste in. I would ask my hotel concierge for their personal favorites. I would also highly suggest planning for this and looking up which winery to go to and what time is best for each. We went for fun without doing any research and only found one estate that was open. The wine makers go up into the vineyard at certain times in the day and no one is manning the wine tasting room, or at least we couldn't find anyone. It felt like we were trespassing on their property vs. entering a winery where you felt comfortable walking around. It differs from Santa Barbara, Los Olives, and Napa in that respect. It's not as laid out and obvious for you to know where to go. I wish we would have had a French speaking person with us or had planned to go with a small group or tour.
It was worth it thought because the town was picturesque and just breathtaking! I'm so glad I got to see it.
There are a few bed and breakfast spots in these towns so it could also be fun to stay there so you could walk to all of the estates and drink to your hearts desire! I would love to do a trip with my family for a couple days in this region!
From here, we ventured south to The French Riviera. I was most excited for this part! I have always wanted to visit the South of France, and I have to say, it looks like how you would imagine. There are parts that are just breathtaking and by far the areas you would want to spend your time, especially if you have just a few days. I was surprised by a few places I expected to be way better than they were, and pleasantly surprised by other spots that far surpassed my expectations.
We stayed in Theoule Sur Mer, a small seaside village in Cannes that is mostly residential and very relaxed. Its 15 minutes from the main area of Cannes, but also secluded enough to feel like you were getting a genuine South of France experience without all the tourists and crowds. We were told its one of the wealthier areas in the South of France where people live which makes sense as to why it was so manicured and picturesque. The homes on the hillsides overlooking the mediterranean were all gorgeous villas in different pastel colors with columns ornate details. I was in HEAVEN.
This is a view from our hotel, Hotel Tiara Yaktsa Cote d'Azur. I cannot rave about this place enough. It is a small boutique hotel with 20 rooms on a huge property that is terraced featuring an eternity pool, day beds, and the most beautiful restaurant where we ate breakfast every morning overlooking the coast. The staff was the best part however as they truly made it feel like home and took care of EVERYTHING that we needed. From booking day beds at their sister hotel on the beach to making reservations for dinner and lunch in town, they took care of everything and anticipated our needs. I was so impressed! They also upgraded our room to this gorgeous suite with a huge bathroom,sitting area, and french doors leading our to a terrace overlooking that gorgeous view! Here are some images of me around the property.
As you can see, this hotel and area is absolutely picturesque. Some things I would recommend regarding the French Riviera:
1. Definitely have a car to be able to come and go as you please, explore nearby towns and villages, and be on your own schedule.
2. Do not go over the speed limit even a little bit! We were good here because we had areas been warned, but you will get tickets in the mail from the radar if you speed at all. Those tickets can rack up!
3. Cannes is cute and has high end shops and hotels, but like any popular tourist town, its overcrowded and touristy. I was not overly impressed by the main area of Cannes as it was flat with no views like our hotel had, so it felt similar to a nice California beach town. Of course beautiful and fun, but not overly impressive. I loved Theoule Sur Mer for this reason! It truly was breathtaking! I would suggest having a hotel in a small village like TSM, and then drive into Cannes for an afternoon to shop and see and be seen (or whatever you wanna do!) .
5. St. Tropez was not a place we got to go as we didn't have time to see everything, but if I could have, I would have done an entire day there. There is one small road that takes you in and out of town that gets crazy backed up so I would either go early or get a hotel for a couple nights to be camped there. A close friend who has been there a lot said to definitely book a bed at the beach club in advance and visit L'Opera for a late dinner.
Part two of my France trip will be posted Monday, so stay tuned! Ill be going over our time in Eze and the small towns I will definitely make time for when I go again! If you guys have any recommendations or things to know while in the South of France, post in the comments below! I'd love to know what you think!