Road Trip Part 1, The French Riviera

18:26 Melissa G 0 Comments

This year's family vacation called for an epic road trip that would last 2 full weeks, traversing over 4,000km from Barcelona to Dubrovnik and back.

Driving all the way from Barcelona to Dubrovnik in one go is technically possible but probably not recommended, so many stops were planned on our trip. Having to drive through the south of France its obvious that the best area to stop in is the French Riviera.

We left early in the morning from Barcelona to arrive, about 6 hours later, in Valbonne.

Valbonne is a small village in the mountains surrounding the riviera, the perfect location to stay close to the hotspots of Cannes, Nice, and Monaco while still being able to enjoy the calm and tranquility of the area.

The village consists of an old centre with many small stores selling local produce and french restaurants. The buildings were either painted in warm colours or with a rock façade, with french flags hanging from one side to another.

Tired from the long drive we spent the rest of the day exploring the small village while enjoying the warm sun and the local atmosphere.

After walking through the small cobbled streets and admiring the charm of Valbonne we settled for dinner at Le Cadran Solaire; a french restaurant that uses local produce to create surprisingly large portions. It's authentic and definitely affordable, however a reservation is necessary in the summer.

After a good night's sleep we headed out to explore the surrounding cities, starting with Grasse which was one of my favourite destinations on the entire road trip.

The town is known as the world's Perfume Capital and has been the centre of France's perfume industry since the end of the 18th century. Not only does Grasse produce perfume itself but also over 2/3 of France's natural aromas.

The main sights in Grasse all involve perfume in some way or another, you can visit museums about the history and origins of Perfume to factory visits of many companies producing essential oils and making their own scents.

We started off by visiting the Musée International de la Parfumerie which presents the history of perfume all around the world and its development from Antiquity to today.

I recommend visiting the museum as it is highly interactive; you get to smell recreations of popular perfumes from the 20s, compare the natural scent of fruits to those used in candy and other prepackaged foods as well as smell weird odours like cocaine and heroin. 

The climate of Grasse is optimal for growing flowers such as Lavender or Jasmine, used to make essential oils. The gardens of the museum show the location of important plants around the world and teach you to identify them. 

Our next stop was the Fragonard factory/museum visit. Fragonard is one of the biggest perfume companies in Grasse, if you visit the town you'll see that many buildings are owned by them or even named after them.

The visit is free and you can join a tour which explains the different techniques of extracting essential oils from flowers and other plants. It also explains how the "Nez" (or nose) are trained to identify over 2,000 scents as to mix and match odours to create the perfumes that we buy.

Afterwards we went off for lunch, there weren't many options at walking distance but we found a small family owned restaurant called Lou Pignatoun serving local dishes.

After a good meal we set off to walk around the rest of the town.

What surprised us the most and made Grasse one of my favourite destinations was the fact that they actually spray perfume in the streets. The entire town smells like flowers.

They really take their perfume seriously.

The town is incredibly charming, we visited the church and the view point which gives a panorama of the town and surrounding area.

After our visit to Grasse we headed off to Cannes for a walk by the promenade.
Cannes doesn't really need an introduction, its known as being glitzy and hosting the rich and famous. Being in the area a visit is a must.

The French Riviera is also called the Côtes d'Azur, named after the beautiful blue of the sky and the sea. 

We walked along the promenade spotting the yachts and people watching.

If you're quickly visiting Cannes I recommend taking a ride on the ferris wheel as you get a great view of the waterfront and the hills surrounding it.

The city itself is gorgeous, however I'm not a fan of the atmosphere or vibe since you can feel the snobbery of the people it attracts. However it's a must see, but a couple of hours, in my opinion, are enough.

After our long day trip we returned to our little calm village of Valbonne. We decide on Moroccan food at La Pigeot for dinner. I highly recommend this place as the portions were absolutely huge and the flavours were amazing.

In the morning  we made a little stop in the Principality of Monaco and visited Monte Carlo. You can definitely see and feel how rich this tiny country is, the streets are immaculate, buildings are in perfect conditions and there are flowers and art everywhere. Even the police men and women looked like models.

We actually drove past Kimi Räikkönen filling up the tank of his Ferrari. The most Monaco sight.

The French Riviera seen and done it was time to head on to our next destination: Italy.