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September 2021 – Côte d’Azur, France
It was finally that time of the year for another epic roadtrip. Maybe the most long-awaited one, after a whole year of uncertainty about where we can travel or not.
If last September we were hiking in Switzerland, the French Riviera was the winner for this start of autumn.
From glamorous beach resorts to national parks, with a flavor of historical cities on the way and sinuous paths connecting coastal villages and towns, the Mediterranean coast of France (or Côte d’Azur) has it all.
Personally I found the area to have a bit for every taste. It can be very chill, by staying in a remote village uphill, where hanging by the pool and going to the boulangerie are the only concerns for the day (beware, this can easily lead to a croissants overdose). It can be a bit active by visiting historical cities. Or you can make it more adventurous by taking the national parks by foot, one by one.
Whatever you want, you have it.
So if you’re looking for ideas to do a roadtrip itinerary to the French Riviera, here are some hints for you. Bonne route!
- Saint Tropez
Let’s start with what we came for, the coastline. It was one of the first modern resort areas for the upper class in the 18th century. In the 20th century it started to be frequented by artists and after the World War II it became popular among the large public.
So obviously we were intrigued by what’s the big deal about it.
Well, I initially imagined an endless succession of silky sands, azure seas and of course, French glamour.
The reality is that during high season it’s quite difficult to navigate between all the coast famous cities and especially to find a parking space. So, not so glamorous as I thought, but a perpetual movement of cars, yachts and crowds. Only the French vibe remains intact.
After driving around Saint Tropez for about half an hour to find a parking garage and another half to actually find a parking spot inside it, we were grateful to just sit by the beach and enjoy the last rays of sun of the day. Just in time to catch the sunset.
There is something magical about sunsets. As you stare in awe at the spectacle on the sky, everything washes away, all the noise is muted. It all gets reduced to one moment. Breathe in, breathe out. One single moment of living the Now.
Meeting old friends by the beach made it worth coming here afterall. 🙂
- Verdon Natural Regional Park
- Parc naturel régional des Préalpes d’Azur
- Mercantour National Park
Saying Côte d’Azur will never lead you into thinking about national parks. With all the hustle and bustle for the coastline, travelers often miss the green paradises hidden within.
Once you’re there, you find it has much more to offer than just sand and sea. Exploring mountain villages or just having a great hike were the surprises of our trip. And with 2-3 days of being in nature, we only scratched the surface.
So walk, stroll, crawl and climb some more. Walk until the destination is not the purpose anymore. And then you’ll realise it’s about the journey itself.
If you’re coming by car you’ll probably have to divide the route into smaller pieces. Driving directly from the Netherands in one go was simply too tiring. And why not taste a bit of the city vibe as well?
For this route, Dijon and the nearby smaller cities like Chalon-sur-Saône are exactly half way. Dijon was one of the great European centres of art, learning, and science. Not to mention the connection with the famous mustard with the same name. Which made it perfect for an overnight stop.
Here was the first time we tried saying out loud a timid bonjour or merci after many many years. And also in Dijon we had the first dinner that was a feast for all senses. It gave a pretty good indicator of what it was about to come next.
And indeed, catching the start of autumn on the French Riviera did not disappoint. 🙂
To be continued.
All in all, grateful for the privilege to move around and get to know other cultures, lands, people. There’s a certain freedom of being on the road, that i cannot compare to anything else. And the more you do it, the more it all connects. As i learned, no matter the country, people want the same: to feel safe, be happy.
Another thing about long term travel is that it forces you to leave nothing behind. There, in the fleeting moment facing danger or the unknown, you have to fight own demons and in the end come to terms with your true, raw Self.
So walk your way. It’s gonna be ok in the end.