Having lived in Paris for two years, we had already spent a lot of time in the south of France thanks mainly to their awesome TGV (high-speed train) network. While we initially intended to drive directly from Spain to Italy in one day, it turned out we would be able to meet up with a good mate in Nice & Cannes. We had been trying to cross paths with Phil for awhile, who was also gallivanting around Europe (albeit mostly the east). However, given our ever-changing schedule (the awesome but also sometimes annoying part of #vanlife), trying to meet up with people had thus proven quite tricky.
En route, we parked up at an awesome little family run vineyard just outside Montpellier called Château de Fourques EARL. It was yet another great spot we had found on park4night. We love staying at vineyards or on farms, as it's almost always free to stay if you buy a few bottles of their wine, or eat at their restaurant. You can usually spend less on buying the wine or dining, than you would on a normal campground tariff (which are usually up around €25-35 during July / August). Therefore it's an absolute win-win, and you meet some lovely locals, eat fresh produce and drink excellent wine.
Following a lovely evening wandering around the vineyards, we awoke early the next morning in order to get to Nice as early as possible.
While we usually avoid tolls, we decided to take the hit this time given it reduced the driving time from five to three hours. We also lined up an excellent campground called Camping Park Maurettes (€35 per night), half way between Nice and Cannes with an easy short train along the coast to each (approx €7 return). If you are planning on visiting this area with a camper, we couldn't recommend this place more as it had plenty of shade, great facilities, friendly owners and is a perfect location for daily excursions.
Following a few delays with traffic and trains, we all managed to meet up for a late lunch around half time of the France v Argentina football world cup round of 16 match. A perfect spot to watch the 4-3 thriller as France booked their place in the quarterfinals. Needless to say the streets were all packed, every restaurant had a makeshift TV setup, and yelling and car horns ensued well into the evening following the epic victory.
Whilst we had been to Nice as recently as January 2018, and Dan had been several times for work, this was usually a transit area en route to somewhere else. So while catching up with Phil it was quite cool to actually have an afternoon to explore original village and the waterfront. Nice has a massive selection of restaurants, bars and shopping, but as we were all on budgets, we avoided the main tourist traps and mostly just wandered the streets. We walked all the way along to the "I LOVE NICE" sign at the end of the beach, whilst exchanging our latest travel stories from the past few months.
TIP: A great spot for cocktails is Waka Bar (although at €10 each, quite pricey). To save a few €, we also grabbed a few cans of Leffe (a great Belgian beer readily available in France) from a small store for about €2 each, and enjoyed these along the beach.
The next morning we caught up on some #vanlife admin, including handwashing a large load of clothes (which takes a surprising amount of time... don't take your washing machine for granted!). Phil had been exploring Monte Carlo that morning, and as we had been there a few times before (and only a few months earlier), we decided to meet later directly in Cannes for a cheap and cheerful lunch on the beach.
This is where we simply LOVE France. It's the best country in the world to easily enjoy a cheap and tasty fresh antipasto lunch, anywhere you like. Simply pop into a local Monoprix, Franprix or Carrefour, grab a few baguettes, sliced meats, cheeses, cherry tomatoes, salad, hummus (Dan insists) and bottles of Rose (€3-4 each), and you have yourself a beautiful meal with drinks for roughly €4-5 per person. Simply the best.
To be honest there isn't actually that much more to do in Cannes than enjoy the beaches, food and wine. But if you are looking for something to do, it's worth going for a wander along the the waterfront, and checking out the Palais des Festivals (where the Cannes Film Festival is held).
So following a feast, several bottles of Rose, great banter and some appalling paddle-bat skills, we jumped back on the last train heading towards Nice. As we jumped off at our earlier stop, it looked like Phil would sleep past his stop in Nice. We would later learn that he did get off at the right place, and got to his hostel, although he cannot remember any of it... ;)
Next morning, we were all a little dusty, and eventually we managed to hit the road, crossing the border into Italy on our way to Lake Como. To allow a few extra hours to catch up, Brigid drove while Dan & Phil put Gary's built-in fridge to good use, kindly making some room for groceries by cleaning out all the ice-cold beer. What had been a great little catch-up over two days was suddenly over, and we sadly had to say goodbye to Phil as we dropped him off in Milan, where he would later catch a flight to Dubrovnik in Croatia.
And that was that! Au revoir France, and ciao Italia! Stay tuned for our next updates from the simply breathtaking Lake Como.
Bidi & Dan :)