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South of France – Need I Say More

November 11, 2011 by Chelsea Slone

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After spending a month in Paris, we couldn’t believe it was time to get out the suitcases and pack our bags to get on the road again. We weren’t quite ready to leave our little apartment that felt like home, but we knew if there was one place to leave the incredible city of Paris for it would probably be the South of France… And oh were we right!

Before our trip throughout the South of France began we made a slight detour to a quaint town in the northern part of the country by the name of Giverny to take a peek at Claude Monet’s beautiful home and gardens. With a passion for this impressionistic legend’s work we spent a good part of our day wondering through the infamous Lilly pad ponds and the unruly gardens we know so well from Monet’s work.

After our visit to Giverny we jumped in the car to begin our journey through the South of France with our first stop in the chateaux filled region of Loire Valley. It is said that this region is home to the most incredible chateaux surrounded with picturesque pastoral landscape, and our visit to the Chateau Chenonceau proved this to be a fact. The breathtaking Chateau, once home to the royal family, was everything you would imagine it to be… Surrounded by a moat, sitting on top of a lake, and looking over a beautiful garden with a maze for the children to get lost in. Only a few hours south of Paris and the landscape takes your breath away, it’s just unbelievable. The lavender fields weren’t at their tallest, but their shortest, and even then they were gorgeous.

Off to Bordeaux we go! We left the Loire Valley region to make our way down to wine country region of Bordeaux, where some of France’s finest wines are produced. On our way there we decided to make another little detour towards the coast to try some of France’s delicious fresh oysters at Archon Bay. As foodies we just couldn’t resist not listening to Anthony Bourdain and trying some fresh oysters just out of the water. So we found a local oyster farmer, pulled up some chairs to the picnic tables with the other local diners and ate a dozen fresh oysters right out of the ocean with just a little bit of lemon and a glass of white wine. What an experience!

Oyster filled and ready to go, we drove through the vine filled valleys of Bordeaux and settled in to our little bed and breakfast right outside St. Emillion, surrounded by vineyards further than the eye could see. Out of all the little towns and beautiful landscape we have come across I can truly say this place was my little paradise. We spent our time here driving and walking through the famous vineyards of Lafite and Latour, Chateaux Margeaux and Chateau Palmer, wishing we would never have to leave. The little tiny historic towns we would wonder throughout and the incredible wine we would enjoy with long dinners and long nights was something we knew we would never forget. Oh how we loved Bordeaux.

When it was time to go we said our goodbyes and began our next journey through the French Rivera. I had no idea things could get better than Bordeaux, but boy were we in for a surprise. Our first stop in the fabulous Cotes d’Azur was Saint Tropez. This little town of luxury had yachts packed into a tiny little harbor, cobblestone streets filled with designer boutiques, and outdoor cafes filled with the people who owned the Maserati’s and Bentley’s parked out front. We spent our days at Nikki beach getting some sun and walking around the cobblestone streets just pretending we were apart of it all!

Our next stop was in the famous film festival city of Cannes. This star studded summer party town is just what it sounds like. A stroll down the water front street of La Croisette with little day dreaming and you could just see Leonardo DiCaprio and Blake Lively living up their summer fling nibbling on a platter of fruits de mer a few months back. And just when we thought we had seen enough yacht’s in Saint Tropez, one look out onto the yacht collection at Cannes and you’d think you were the only one in the city without one.

Once leaving Cannes we stopped by a magical little mountain town by the name of Eze. This gorgeous place hardly seemed real when driving up to it from a far. We spent an amazing day climbing our way up the narrow winding stone streets to the top, stopping in all the little art studios along the way to admire their paintings of the French Rivera. This beautiful little mountain village overlooking the sea was such a special place to spend the day.

After leaving Eze we stopped at the port of Beaulieu Sur Mer to try the African Queen restaurant we had heard so much about. They, of course, have all the fruits de mer you could imagine but they are also known to have delicious pizza served with hot oil to die for and after our hike up Eze we couldn’t wait to try it. Oh my was it delicious, it was even better than any pizza we ever had found in Italy!

Our next stop… Monte Carlo, the playground of the rich and famous. This cliff side wonder is the crème-de-le crème of the Cote d’Azur, and any trip to the South of France isn’t complete without a stop at the Monte Carlo Casino and Hotel de Paris. So I pulled out my best dress, pretended I was Grace Kelly, and set off for one of the best nights of my life! (seriously) The casino was like nothing I’ve ever seen before…It was as if a Ferrari was your ticket in there were so many. After taking a hundred pictures for my Ferrari connoisseur little brother we made our way up the stairs and into the casino. Interesting little fact, you must have your passport to get into the casino because the citizens of Monaco aren’t allowed in!!! I don’t even like gambling in the least, but if I were one of 3,500 citizens of the second smallest country in the world (second to the Vatican) I would be a little upset. We asked the lady at the ticket office the reason for this and she said “one moment I have it written down for when people ask” she came back with her phone and read to us one line in her english “to avoid debt”… Hilarious! Maybe they should have done that in Vegas.

We got our tickets and made our way into the most gorgeous casino I had ever seen in my life! The long red curtains dramatically draped over the windows, gorgeous sparkling chandeliers hanging from the vaulted ceiling, and a room filled of well dressed men and women gathered around the different tables was like a scene straight out of a movie. So I made my way over to the bar and ordered a dirty martini “shaken, not stirred” just for laughs, the bar tender made it, handed it over, and said with a smile here you go Mr. Bond. Perfect start to our night at the casino! We then got our 50 chips limit and found one of the less expensive roulette tables to have a little fun. We sat there watching people slap down their 500 euro bills like it was monopoly money and we knew our few chips looked like a joke but we were just having a little bit of fun, right? While Tyler played roulette I made friends and plans for when our chips ran out. Tyler called me and my new friends over and said He had one chip left and to pick a number because I had to play one round at the Monte Carlo Casino before leaving. I walked over and said “eleven, for my birthday this year on 11-11-11 of course” and it wasn’t a minute later the ball landed smack dab on the number eleven and we were suddenly 350 euros richer! Needless to say we cashed out and celebrated. Oh Monte Carlo, there’s no place quite like it.

The next day we were up and off to our last stop in the Burgundy region before concluding our trip through the South of France. The temperature change from Monte Carlo to Dijon was quite dramatic so we weren’t able to bike through the vineyards of Burgundy, but we did have a great time in the little town of Dijon. We tried every kind of mustard you could imagine and soaked up all French culture we could before saying our goodbyes to this amazing country.

We hope through our blogs and photos we have made you fall in love with this incredible country just as much as we have.

Au Revoir!

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