It’s the end of September. My 22nd birthday just passed, I recently graduated from college, and I have a full time job. It all seems perfect … but it’s not. I caught a serious case of “consistency”. Taking the same route to work every morning & back home at night, going to the gym, seeing the same people every day, every night, and every weekend – not my cup of tea. I need some spice, I need some spark. But I know that the only way to get over this feeling, is to go away. It is Wednesday night and I book my flight to Nice, France – leaving in 24 hours. Admittedly this is the first time I’ve booked something on such a short notice initially thinking that it’ll be a solo trip. I decided to message my best friend from Ukraine to see if maybe, by some chance she would like to come. Boy did I get lucky, because she booked her flight right away.
We airbnb’d a place there. Won’t go into much detail about that except I will say please dont airbnb a place in the Riviera unless you are 1000000% confident that it is up to par with what you want. I was extremely disappointed. Even thought that it’s a bad omen to the rest of my trip. Thankfully I was wrong.
I always try to catch a layover flight, especially in a small city where I can get off the plane and explore a little, so I picked Düsseldorf. Not only does a layover decrease the price of the trip, but it also gives you an opportunity to relax before catching the next flight. Dusseldorf is about 17 minutes away from the airport by train. Aside from reading the signs, everything went pretty smoothly. Can someone help me pronounce this ?!
Düsseldorf is a petit city. I had about 4.5 hours to spare. I didn’t know much about Düsseldorf but I knew that one of the main points of interest is the Rheintrum, situated on the brink of the Rhine River. My goal was to walk there.
The streets are small and I definitely felt like I was on European soil.
I stumbled upon the 5th avenue of Düsseldorf. For mid-september it was also chilly. I was wearing a cashmere sweater, leggings, and flats. I drew a lot of attention from locals – who probably thought I am crazy.
Since I had no working phone and no map, I walked into different hotels along my route to ask and confirm the directions to the Rheinturm.
Woo !!! I made it !
It was definitely worth the walk. Businesses are just starting to open (it was about 9 AM). The sun is slowly starting to peek from behind the clouds – and I was one of the handful of people outside.
I walked back through the Old Town. Königsalle street had many popular stores like H&M, Zara, and Victoria’s Secret. Düsseldorf is known for its fashion industry and artsy scene.
The Old Town is called Altstadt. Here is the Town Hall and statue of Jan Wellem. Always ask another tourist to take a photo of you! Can you tell that I’m getting cold now ?
I refuse to walk around with a selfie stick !
As I head back to the train station and ultimately the airport, I cant leave Germany without some sausage and beer.
Back in the airport, you can buy anything you want right in the bathroom!
And by anything – I mean literally anything.
I am ready to be warm and wear tank tops and skirts- next stop: NICE !
Well Hello there, Beautiful.
Since our flights arrived midday, we decided to take it easy and walk around Nice. Our apartment was within 10 minutes of the airport but we quickly realized that cabs are extremely expensive, no matter where you go.
After doing a decent amount of walking, we started snooping around the street restaurants to see what people were eating. Seafood was a go. Follow me on Snapchat: @elonachka !
We patiently waited for our entrees to arrive as we enjoyed a bottle of Chardonnay. And then… BAM!
Wait … So is this for the three of us to split or for one person ?
My best friend is tiny compared to her plate !
At night we decided to go to Cannes to one of my favorite nightclubs – Baoli.
We met a group of people who were just as fun and silly as us – with whom we ended up spending the rest of our trip ! Lesson learned: always make friends & always be a good judge of character. We got really lucky because we made lifelong friends.
Our cabs to and from Cannes amounted to almost 250 Euros. That was way out of our budget so we made the executive decision to rent this baby below – for 250 Euros for THREE days. Because its a diesel, we really saved on gas, too.
The next day we drove out to Paloma Beach in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. The ride was about 40 minutes from our apartment – but the views are so stunning that it doesn’t feel so long.
The downside of this trip is that parking was excruciatingly hard to find. And the streets are small so u-turns are not an option – we drove in circles for more than an hour.
Needless to say, lunch was fantastic.
This is one of the most luxurious places in the world – boasting some of the most interesting and expensive real estate you will ever find.
And some of the most expensive yachts.
The next day we drove out to St. Tropez to visit the Bagatelle Beach Club. After Sunday brunch in Bagatelle NYC – I was really curious to see what Bagatelle in St. Tropez would have in store. The drive was almost 2 hours.
Truffle pizza for lunch with a hint of rose
We spent the rest our day in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea on a friends yacht. No phones. We lived in the moment without a single care in the world. One of the best decisions we made.
Although we initially planned to take a day trip to Paris for $60 a plane ticket each way – we decided to go for a full day of wine tasting in my favorite wine region – Châteauneuf-du-Pape. After 4 hours of driving, we finally made it.
Because it was still harvesting season, we weren’t able to visit the wineries themselves – but we had a few private tastings in the cellars of this small town.
You turn a corner on a tiny street and see a jaw dropping view
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a village for connoisseurs, not tourists. Some people spoke just enough English to talk about wine, but most didn’t. As a matter of fact, they felt offended when I even asked something in English.
Basically, in most places if you are tasting – you are also expected to make a purchase. Out of the six or seven wine cellars we visited , I only enjoyed speaking to about 2 people. Unfortunate turnout !
I did end up purchasing 4 bottles that aren’t available in the U.S – so I was happy – and so were my parents
My only regret is that we didn’t have enough time to spend in Avignon, a medieval city in the southeastern French Provence region. This region has a rich historical significance because it was the seat of the Papacy. We had an early dinner right in front of The Palais des Papes – one of the most important Medieval Gothic buildings in Europe.
The epitome of “meal with a view”. I can’t lie, a four hour ride to Avignon and back to Nice was not easy. By the end of the day I was exhausted. Having had little sleep over the last three days, and a lot of activities – I was absolutely drained. But we had dinner reservations in Monaco, and it was our last night, so we stuck with our plan.
Here is the greatest story, ever. Our car had no navigation, or at least so we thought. I bought a sim card for 40 Euro’s and my 1 gig of data was gone by our last night in the French Riviera, so we had to load our maps via wifi prior to driving – yes, I know this is probably not the most efficient way of doing things when you are in an unknown city. We had absolutely NO idea what the toll prices were, or how we had to pay them. The toll to get into Avignon was 3 Euros in change, meanwhile the toll to leave Nice was 10 Euros in cash. We got stuck in the toll booths THREE times ! Meaning we drove up to the booth with no change, or no “ez-pass equivalent”, and had dozens of cars stuck behind us. We had to ask other drivers for change and it was an absolute mess ! I guess we should have done our research. Excitingly enough this story gets better. Our car ran on diesel so it was efficient enough that we didn’t have to fill up for the whole time up until the last day. We are driving to Monte Carlo for dinner, with no formal navigation but a downloaded map, and we are low on gas. And by low I mean we have about 10KM left in the car, and 20KM to drive. Our downloaded map has no gas stations along the route so we pull over and start looking for the navigation built in our car. We find it – but it’s in french. The good thing is that we see a gas station sign on the map, so I start driving towards it. And then the navigation re-routes due to construction. The woman won’t stop talking in French and I understand none of it. At this point we have 5KM left and no gas station in sight, no cars around us, no working phones, and we don’t even know what the emergency number is to call in the worst case scenario. It was honestly a miracle – in 4KM, a dim gas station light appeared. We literally made it to the gas station with 1KM worth of gas left in the tank. Now that we are an hour late for dinner, at least we have enough gas to get us anywhere we want to go. Following the foreign navigation in our car, we head to Monte Carlo. The roads start to get darker, and I am having a difficult time driving even with high beams. We pass through a mountain tunnel, then another, and another. Ok, something isn’t right. The map re-routes AGAIN. AGAIN she keeps talking in French and at this point I am panicking. I continue driving down the road and on the right side I see a sign : “Benvenuto in Italia.” No, no no. This can’t be right. We are driving into Italy ?! At this point we start hysterically laughing. We are so screwed. We have no passports with us, and a flight to catch early in the morning – and dinner reservations that at this point we already knew we weren’t making. We made it to Italy for 2.50 Euros, cheaper than the intercity tolls we paid inside of France. I made a u-turn and drove right back into France, for another 2.50 Euros.
FYI, we did make it to dinner and were the last people to be seated. All of our phones were dead at this point, so I only have one photo memory from Monte Carlo though I remember the entire time like it happened yesterday.