The French Riviera-Such a Deal!

Saint-Tropez. Antibes. Cannes. Nice. Monaco. Monte Carlo. The names roll off the tongue, and, especially when spoken in their native language, elicit images of easy luxury, sun-drenched beaches, and French panache.

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I spent 4 nights in Nice, and yes-I can tell you it’s nice. The old town is worth exploring, but the beachfront promenade is the real draw here. Nice’s crescent-shaped shoreline makes for a perfect stroll. There on the sand some 10 feet below the wide walkway, you will find sun-worshippers and swimmers, some topless, soaking up the last rays of the autumn sun in spite of the greying skies, cool temperatures, and even colder water.

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In Monaco, home to the highest per-capita incomes in the world, royalty still rules the tiny principality with a velvet glove. Tourists are advised not to venture out in public without appropriate attire, and at Monte Carlo’s casino, gentleman are asked to wear jackets after 2PM.

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So that I do, and Lady Luck smiles at me. The roulette wheel hits my number twice, and I’m smart enough to quit while I’m ahead. Maybe in the future I will wear my coat of good fortune when I gamble.

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In lovely Antibes, mansions dot the hills above the sea, but there is a spectacular oceanfront trail for those mere mortals like me that can’t afford the 8-figure price tag for a home here. The waves meet low-hanging rocky bluffs here, and a concrete path extends to the edge of it, connecting a brace of beaches nearly two miles apart. It is a surprise. I expected more villas, restaurants, beaches, and luxury hotels. What I got instead is like something out of coastal Oregon or northern California: a wild and rugged seascape.

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The living here is grand. The food is superb. Transportation is a snap. The weather is phenomenal. It’s even affordable to vacation here. A typical meal costs $50 with some mighty fine wine. Gourmet dining is twice that, which is an incredible deal. A room in a 4-star hotel in the city center is $150 a night. Bargain luxury living on the French Riviera? Who would’ve guessed it?

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Yet I find Europe in general, and France in particular, to be a relatively good value compared to the USA, especially at today’s exchange rates. Next time, I think I’ll stay awhile. Why not? The good life never seemed so affordable.

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