Living the French Dream

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August 11th 2016
Published: April 27th 2017
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I met Stefano last year through Couchsurfing when he kindly hosted me at his place when I travelled around Luxembourg and he told me I must visit him sometime at his holiday apartment in France. Almost a year later, Stefano reminds me if I would be visiting him. He says just pay for your flights, I'll host you and we can go out at sea on my boat. Sounds like an opportunity to not be missed so I book my flights.

Day 1

On my arrival to Nice airport, I am greeted by Stefano and another Couchsurfer called Diego who is visiting from Uruguay and travelling around Europe. We first visit Stefano's lovely apartment in Antibes. His apartment is in a luxury secured area with it's own communal swimming pool. I have time to freshen up whilst Stefano prepares packed lunch for our boat trip.

When we arrive at the port, I'm shocked at how many boats I see. Antibes is clearly the place to be if you can afford your own boat. I soon start to learn boat duties with untying the ropes for our cruise out on the Mediterranean sea. Stefano warns us of the large waves since it's slightly windy. As we drive out, the sea starts to get a little choppy. We take a turn around a bay and Stefano has to slow right down as we go over large waves. Occasionally we take turns getting splashed by the cold sea water which is quite refreshing with the basking sunshine. Once we overcome the waves, we find a popular bay where boats are stationary. The area seems popular with people either sunbathing on boats, swimming, snorkelling or jumping off rocks into the sea. There is a small beach nearby too. To think only yesterday I was sat outside in my lunch break with an average British summer temperature of 20c to literally an hour flight down to the south of France for 34c. Living in the south of France and owning a boat has to be the French dream, I am sure of this.

I decide to lean towards the end of the boat dipping my feet into the cool, refreshing, turquoise water. I face the sun, feeling the sun's rays heating my skin. I feel so relaxed but the turquoise water is calling my name so I decide to put my snorkel mask on and have my underwater camera in hand. I take a jump, splash, I am in the sea. I start snorkelling and straight away fish are swimming around me, so many fish, just amazing.

After our boat trip, we go up this steep hill to the Garoupe Lighthouse for some amazing panoramic views it provides of the old Antibes, as well as Cannes and Nice. We then head into the old part of Antibes and wonder around the town enjoying walking down the quaint streets. The streets are lively and packed with so many cute little shops selling all things Français.

In the evening Stefano cooks a meal back at his apartment. We have some drinks, sit outside enjoying the sunset and talk lots of travelling.

Day 2

The next day we head out at sea and go out a lot further to an island called Île Saint-Honorat. This island is the second largest of the Lerins Islands and about a mile off shore from the town of Cannes. It is also home to a community of monks. We do not explore the island, but I jump off the boat and swim to the rock pools. Plenty of fish about for snorkelling.

Mid-afternoon we head back to shore. Once freshened up, Stefano drives us to Monaco, which is the second smallest country in the world. This will be country number 31. I am getting close to my target of doing more countries than my current age. The drive from Antibes to Monaco only 45 mins.

Once in the main part of Monte Carlo, everything looks familiar from seeing on the television. Since 1929, the Monaco Grand Prix has been held annually in the streets of Monaco. The area is really busy with people and everyone taking selfies with flashy cars parked outside the casino and hotels. James Bond is a particular fan of the casino, having visited it in Never Say Never Again, GoldenEye and Casino Royale.

Nearly every car that drives past us makes me wonder if someone famous is driving it. As we keep walking around, we find many pavement slabs with famous footballers foot prints. As well as nice cars everywhere, seems everyone here has either a luxurious boat or yacht. This must be the Monaco dream... which surely has to be better than the French dream?

Next, we walk up many steps and head to the Prince's Palace of Monaco which located on a hill. The official residence of the Prince of Monaco. It's getting late so we cannot visit inside, but during daytime it's possible. The views of Monte Carlo impressive from the top of the hill.

To eat in restaurants can be very expensive in Monaco but Stefano takes us to a reasonable priced Pizza place. After dinner, we enjoy the night views of Monaco and potentially miss noticing a celebrity drive past us as many people chase after this stunning car.

Day 3

Another day out at sea and this time we cruise towards the biggest of the Lerins islands called Île Saint-Marquerite, which is next to Île Saint-Honorat. I decide to stay on the boat and chill, but Stefano tells me that the island is definitely worth a visit as it's beautiful and relaxing.

In the late afternoon, Stefano drives Diego and myself to Nice. Only one month ago to the day took place a terrorist attack in this beautiful city. Stefano tells us what the terrorist did to kill so many innocent people who were out enjoying Bastille Day. 86 people in total, murdered right here.

As we drive along the promenade, there are so many flowers everywhere. Stefano parks up and we head towards the beach and notice a round monument in the garden completely covered in flowers, flags, children toys... such an eerie feeling. You can sense the atmosphere that people are very upset and afraid... I fight the tears that start building up as I read loved one's messages to the victims of this pointless and awful attack.

We stroll around the town, soaking up the sun. Nice seems a very popular city and there are many people about. Stefano knows Nice well, but we still find ourselves getting lost among the narrow, winding alleyways of the old town. Apparently the layout of the old town has barely changed since the 1700s, which is packed with delis, restaurants, bars, boutiques and souvenirs shops.

Next, we find ourselves walking along the paved promenade, probably the most famous stretch of seafront in France. Still soaking up the sun as I feel it burning my back. The stony beach packed with so many people, the sea water so turquoise and blue skies above us. I really do feel like I am on holiday! From the promenade we end walking up Castle Hill for some stunning panoramic photos and selfies.

For food, we walk back to the old town and find a nice restaurant down some alleyway called Le Choucas that specializes in French cuisine. The steaks here are amazing and the French fries are pretty good too

Day 4

We say goodbye to Diego as he leaves us to head off to Vienna. It's a strange feeling for Stefano and myself as we had got used to his company. We decide to give the boat a miss and Stefano drives me to Cannes.

We first visit shops and explore the old town of Cannes. This city is picturesque and well known for the Cannes Film Festival that takes place each May. Cannes seems similar to Nice with it's popularity for tourism, sunny weather and a beautiful Mediterranean beach.

As we stroll around, I can't help but people-watch. It seems Cannes attracts many rich and famous people from around the globe. Now I say globe because the number plates on these stunning cars parked outside equally nice looking hotels have come from Europe, Middle East and USA. Seriously, I feel so poor right now!

After strolling around Cannes, we go fast food for dinner and stop off at Steak N Shake for a dirty burger and of course I cannot resist the salted caramel milkshake from the menu.

Day 5

A late afternoon flight means I get to go out at sea one last time on Stefano's boat. The weather again so warm and the sea still calm, I am not ready to leave this French dream. When the boat is stationary, I enjoy basking in the sun, relaxing and dreading the thought of reality the next day with going back to work. I try to forget work and live for the moment, making sure I get that nice golden tan. It seems the sea breeze has given me a nice glow, but wonder if I got my baseline from Peru.

When the afternoon arrives, It's time to thank Stefano for his generosity as he drops me off at the airport. Next time I hope to host Stefano as well as he's hosted me and take him on an adventure to new places in England he has never visited before.

Additional photos below
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29th April 2017

An opportunity not to be missed!
The Antibes Marina looks lovely. I'd love to go on this trip. Monaco would be fun as we are big James Bond fans. Stafano is a marvelous host. I'm glad your paths crossed. Now back to reality.
2nd May 2017

South of France
Hope you guys get yourselves down to south of France someday and explore Antibes and Monaco

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