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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.