Having time to explore the surrounding area of Nice, France this visit, we were able to get a better overview of the area. A long coastline with warm blue water and beaches, thriving small city, and history. Tourists lounging under a sea of umbrellas. Inland are small stone villages perched on hilltops and crowned with churches.The only other time we’ve been to Nice was a road trip with friends while we were on a ski trip to Les Trois Vallees. We’d stayed one night and splurged on a room at the Negresco, a historic grand hotel on the waterfront promenade with a glass dome designed by Gustav Eiffel. They upgraded us to a connected suite looking out at the Mediterranean with antique furniture, artwork, and gold toilets. After that single night, we knew Nice needed to be on our list of places to explore on our trip around the world with our children.
We stayed in the hills up the Var River, between two perched hilltop villages. They sit, tippy-toe on the crest of hills all around the valley, secured from attack by terrain. Stone walls continuing skyward where stone hillside ends. From each, the valley sweeps down, an open mouth leading to another summit with another village perched on top. The Var River twists through a channel, dykes build alongside to keep it from changing course through roads and structures on the valley bottom as gravity pulls it to the sea.
As we drove in, we stayed the night on the Italian side, in a little town called Pietra Ligure. We happened into a sweet little hotel called the Villa Marina, which happened to have a room for four waiting, overlooking the water. They spoke almost no English, and I speak no Italian, although my rusty Spanish helps. They were, however, happy to try to communicate through gestures and smiles. The town is small and charming, filled with mostly Italian families on vacation. It would be a perfect combination of sea and quaint resort town that is neither overbuilt nor filled with English speaking people.
On another day, we visited Cannes. Having heard the name so many times over the years, our curiosity’s siren call brought us for a brief look. We found it have the look and feel of any destination built seaside town; rather generic in comparison to other places on the coastline. Similar looking apartment buildings sitting in a line across the street from beaches.
Similarly, I felt our trip to the area would not be complete without at least showing Monaco to the children. We had spent a night here, as well on our road trip with Kris and Becky two years ago, in the Fairmont, a stark, modern building that was a sharp contrast to the ornate Negresco. I wanted the girls to see this small kingdom, a monument to materialism. When I was shocked by the conspicuous consumption, Becky explained it to me this way: it is important, because these expensive luxury items get the money out of the pockets of the rich, and flowing back through the economy.