After revealing to our friends that we were headed to the South of France, surprising them that we are eloping and picking up the bridesmaids dresses, we were headed for JFK!
I was a little concerned about getting my quite large Kleinfeld’s dress bag onto the plane in the garment closet vs the overhead bin, so I bought an $8 veil on Amazon and a Groom hat in hopes people would be nice to us. It worked!
Yes, you have to put your wedding dress through the security conveyer belt, which is comical. Meanwhile wearing the veil meant oodles of sweet strangers congratulated us. A number that grew when our flight was delayed, time which we happily passed at a Buffalo Wild Wings (cue that chain becoming a surprising part of a beloved memory) eating, drinking, and playing cards.
Eight hours, a face mask and some eye patches later we had arrived with all our luggage in tow. Beau and I alone had two carry-ons, a wedding dress bag, a garment suit bag, and THREE full size suitcases. One of which was our real luggage, the other two of which carried linens, candlesticks, and all manner of accouterments I had no idea when I started this one would need to take along!
We hopped in the 9 passenger van we’d rented and a few minutes later were at our magical rental house, Villa Collin. In the midst of modern buildings, right on the ocean, there’s a 3 story home designed like a villa. I wanted a place that didn't feel like we were in Brooklyn anymore and unknowingly rented quite a famous architectural home.
Surprisingly not jet-lagged, just hangry, we walked 10 minutes east down the beach from our house and were swiftly having lunch and lounge chair at La Voilier Plage staring out at the Cote d'Azur. All pinching ourselves this was real life. A beach club is one of my very favorite things (food, drink, and beach chairs to rent = sold), and being there with friends was absolutely beyond.
This was the first time we realized the bonus of having our friend Ramiyro, who speaks fluent French far beyond what I could have done, to negotiate a beach chair rate for us. And also the beginning of my few day stint feeling like I was on a reality show with a camera following along. Henry had flown to New York to film our reveal and traveled with us to capture the story for us through our wedding day. He swiftly became a dear friend and part of the crew.
After some floating in the ocean, we wandered the Vieille Ville, Nice’s old town. Those of you who followed along when I went on sabbatical two years earlier may remember that I spent a month in Nice.
It was so fun knowing my way around, pointing out the pink clocktower of Tour de l’Horloge at sunset just outside my old apartment balcony, and stepping into the gorgeous purple church, Elise Saint Jacques le Majeur I would visit to journal and pray.
Then it was back to our lovely home sweet where our friend Doug took this photo from his bed, capturing the sunset and the sea, as we fell blissfully asleep.
The next morning we piled into our van and headed east to a village none of us had ever visited, and all quickly fell in love with as one of the most beautiful places we had ever been! Menton. Just a 40 minute drive from Nice, it sits on the boarder of Italy and the residents speak both languages.
Sitting on a slope between the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea we climbed, climbed, and climbed up narrow twisting roads, trying to imagine how people get their groceries home to those houses! We hardly saw another person, and shockingly no other tourists.
At the very top sits a cemetery giving a lifelong home with an impeccable view to a global group of former residents including the inventor of rugby and a a Russian prince. We took in the breathtaking view of the port below where we'd head down to the beach shortly for lunch.
One travel style note: When everyone serendipitously walks out of the house wearing bright colors and patterns, your photos instantly have more joy and pop to them. And they say New Yorkers only wear black. (wink)
Two days, two beach clubs — my dream! This one, Les Sablettes, glamorously white and shockingly deserted on a gorgeous afternoon. After another delicious lunch — pizza being near to Italy of course, and giving our friend Alicia who speaks Italian her chance to shine in negotiating beach chairs — we grabbed a row to relax. Jade read, Roshan listened to music, Beau and I reviewed the next day’s wedding ceremony with Doug and Steph who would officiate.
Followed by an endless photo shoot that had us all in stitches. While the girls were being filmed by Henry (wearing swimsuits I found on Amazon), the guys had an impressive playlist of female lead songs like That Girl Is On Fire and Pretty Woman as our soundtrack.
Then it was the guys turn. I was beside myself with joy when they ALL walked downstairs that morning wearing printed button-downs, in the most clashing color combos ever. Photo comedy perfection.
As the sun set we headed over to Monaco for dinner on our way home. I’d been to Monaco before and to be honest it’s not really a must see in my opinion. There are some wildly expensive cars and yachts to observe, and the old town near the palace is pretty, but heavily overwrought with tourists. I think there are much more captivating spots in this region, but it was fun to be able to take everyone to another country for dinner on the way home!
For our final day of touring, we started the morning at the Ephrussi de Rothschild Villa and Gardens in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. I’d seen this breathtaking pink mansion on Instagram and it was just as beautiful in real life, including a musically timed water show. Many of the Instagram posts were of weddings and I can't imagine the large guest count you would need to have this gem your own for the day!
The interior of the house was dreamy to imagine living in, including the swoon-worthy view of palm trees on the sea. The marble, the paintings, plus balcony’s overlooking the breathtaking grounds.
We wandered through all manner of gardens, ponds and statues. We could have easily spent hours relaxing and taking in the view if we didn’t have such a full itinerary. The grounds were so large we lost each other for a while, doing our own explorations. Everyone agreed it was one of their favorite stops of the trip.
After our classy morning we headed to a town I’ve always wanted to visit, Eze. The village is so tiny you have to park outside and que for little shuttle that takes you down.
At the base of town we picked up coffees from the most charming little van shop, fistfuls of nuts and fruits as snacks while we walked, and satchels of lavender to have guests through at the wedding.
The town is so small, with pedestrian only lanes so narrow, winding and twisting up the hill with little shops tucked into every corner. I was absolutely charmed. Though admittedly it was far more packed and touristy than Menton, it has a quaint Hosgmead (Harry Potter reference) vibe.
At the top is a beautiful lookout point. One of my favorite parts of the French Riviera is how many opportunities there are to be on or overlooking the sea, especially in these hillside towns. The stretch from Nice to Menton has great elevation for views.
We grabbed sandwiches to go from a little shop and headed to yet another new town. Villefreche Sur Mer. This was our final chance to use our heart-shaped floats, which I would like to say are the best $10 you could spend at the beach. A ten minute walk later we were back in the water.
The mountains and palm trees behind us, with sherbet colored houses made it the most beautiful view I’ve ever had from the water. Floating in the ocean is my happy place. The peace of the water, with zero effort, cold rose poured into little plastic cups, with some of my favorite people.
We headed back to our house, Villa Collin, for a whirlwind of showering and cleaning up, as well as running through details of the next day with some of our vendors who stopped by to chat. Then we were off to our rehearsal dinner on the east side of the Nice port at a stunning restaurant jutting out over the sea, Le Plongeoir.
With the best seats in the house on our own private terrance, we watched the sun set over the water. I gave Beau a present, a watch he has wanted for as long as I can remember, the Nomos Tangomat. Engraved on the back is "Je t'aime pour toujours" (I love you for all time) and our two wedding dates. He first wore it on our wedding day, has worn it everyday since, and it will be a beautiful heirloom.
At the end of the night I realized I hadn't taken a photo in my darling five-tiered dress, so snapped this with the girls at our front gate. Then within minutes it was time for a bridal hydrating face mask, while I worked on my vows, and laid out Beau's suit to be steamed.
And I took this self-portrait I titled: Woman on the Eve of Marrying.
Then it was off to bed for a very very short night of sleep before our wedding day. Coming up in the next post...
In the meantime, I hope this inspires your own adventure to the South of France! One of my favorite regions overall. Though having previously explore west from Marseille to Nice, I'd say east from Nice to Menton is my favorite. And with a non-stop flight from New York to Nice, and a short ride from the airport, I'd say "oui oui" to a long weekend here again anytime!