Nice, Côte d’Azur: There and back again. After reading my friend’s novel about the famous French Riviera town last summer, an idea came to me. Nice, she describes so beautifully in it, has changed her protagonist’s life for the better, even cast a mighty spell on her. How then, I thought, to visit Nice as well, together with some of my best friends, on the occasion of my 40th birthday?!
The thought of “Why not?” quickly turned into a fully-fledged idea. I went on to send invitations to my friends, made sure my two little boys could stay with my parents during the trip, and thought about turning the distance from Vienna to Nice into a road trip with the girls. The rest is history: Read on as to how we did it and what we experienced in and around Nice!
Roadtrip Part I: From Vienna to Trento in Alto Adige, Northern Italy.
In my belief, everything changes as soon as you cross the Alps. The southern lifestyle begins just beyond the Brenner Pass border: In our case, with a short stay in the city of Trento. In order not to have to drive the almost 1,200 kilometres from Vienna to Nice in one go, we decided on a stopover in the small town between Bolzano and Verona.
Trento, I have to say, thrilled us: Italian flair, a very pretty old town amidst imposing mountain landscapes, a modern “Trento Expo” campus with a great breakfast café and an AirBnB with a really good location for us ladies. Next time, I hope to stay longer!
Roadtrip Part II: 1,200 kilometres later, it’s birthday party time in Nice!
On the second day of our trip, we find it hard to part with Trento. We spend the many kilometres from the mountains of Alto Adige to the sea with stories, laughter, good music (Italian schmaltz, French chansons, squeaky pop music, Spotify recommendations, you name it) and a few stops at Italian rest stops that offer MUCH better coffee than in Austria. Siii!
The stretch along the so-called “Autostrada dei Fiori“, or flower highway, as the section from Genoa to the French border is called, is beautiful. Again and again we look out over the sea, read sounding road signs like Savona or San Remo. Aww! It’s almost a pity that we have to pass all of them in favour of Nice, the goal of our trip.
FYI: From the Brenner Pass to Nice you have to reckon with toll charges of about € 70. We always split the fuel and toll costs fairly between us: Splitit is a good app for this, but we also managed it by simple note-taking and calculations. 😉
Checking out Nice with the girls (and our French Riviera Card).
Nice, then. Finally, we’ve made it! My friend Janett, coming from Germany, was not in the car with us, but instead travelled the distance Düsseldorf – Paris – Nice by TGV train. Conveniently, she was able to check into our AirBnB in the Vieux Nice harbour district before us, just a few streets away from the beach. The location, the facilities, the welcome bottle of wine from our hosts – this accommodation was an absolute dream!
One day before my actual birthday, we are here to celebrate life as we love it: Full French breakfast, a stroll through the old town called Vieux-Nice, dipping in the wonderfully velvety-clean sea of Nice, exploring cute little Villefranche sur Mer. The “Nice Le Grand Tour” city bus conveniently takes us there, included in the French Riviera Card city pass. In addition to many reduced or free admission fees, Janett and I also treat ourselves to a little wine tasting included in the pass. Janett has written a blog about the many advantages of the French Riviera Card: Read more about it here shortly.
Day trip around Côte d’Azur: Visiting the world’s perfume capital Grasse & Saint-Paul-de-Vence.
“So what is it you want to do for your birthday, dear Elli?”, my friends keep asking me once we are all together in Nice. My first thought is this: A birthday swim in the sea to start the day with! Then, to have a really nice, large breakfast or brunch and … maybe a short trip to the hinterland of Nice?
Ever since I travelled to the Côte d’Azur with my parents many years ago, I have fond memories of visiting the perfume capital of Grasse, near Nice. My brother has also recommended we go to Saint-Paul-de-Vence, an absolutely lovely little medieval fortified town in the hills north of Nice.
These two destinations and their relative proximity to Nice clinch the deal: On y va, mesdemoiselles!
Roadtrip Part III: From Nice to Lago di Garda and back to Vienna.
After all the wonderful hours in Nice and the surrounding area, we feel pretty sad about having to pack up and leave again, starting the long journey home towards Vienna. It suddenly seems to us so far away, now that we have really arrived at the sea, in the south, all this joie de vivre of Nice.
October, I can assure you, is one of the best times to visit Nice: (much) fewer people than during the high season in the summer months, still very warm during the day, the sea a silk dream to swim in … since 2021, Nice has also been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which makes a visit to the city and its history all the more worthwhile.
So saying goodbye is really difficult for us. We decide to sweeten it by treating ourselves to an overnight stay at Lago di Garda. There, Magadalena and I actually jump into the lake again! It’s not the sea of Nice, but hey … for the purpose of a fun trip with the girls, it fits perfectly.
Last but not least, allow me to recommend some more travel blogs on France for you: www.creativelena.com/en/travel-blog/europe/france. I just LOVE this country, the language, the unique way of life and of course the many friendships I have made here over the years. France, and Nice, definitely deserves your visit!