Table of Contents for this Episode
[00:00:00] Annie Sargent:
[00:00:16] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 466, quatre cent soixante six.
[00:00:23] Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy, and news related to travel to France.
Trip Report with Michael McLaughlin on Relaxing on the Riviera
[00:00:39] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a trip report with Michael McLaughlin about relaxing on the Riviera and also about choosing where to stay on the Riviera to have a wonderful vacation. Choosing the right location can have a great impact on your experience. Different towns offer distinct vibes, activities, and accessibility to key attractions, as well as to the train.
[00:01:06] So your choice can be the difference between a good vacation, and a great one.
[00:01:11] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my Itinerary Consult Service, my GPS self guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app, or take a day trip with me around the Southwest of France in my electric car.
[00:01:28] You can browse all of that at my boutique joinusinfrance.com/boutique.
The Magazine Part of the Podcast
[00:01:33] Annie Sargent: For the magazine part of the podcast, after the interview today, I’ll discuss one more Paris scam you should be aware of. And now that I talked about the feasibility of renting an electric car next time you visit France, let me give you a list of what you’ll need to have an electrifying driving experience in France.
Annie and Michael
[00:02:03] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Michael McLaughlin, and welcome to Join Us in France.
[00:02:08] Michael McLaughlin: Oh, bonjour Annie.
[00:02:09] Annie Sargent: Lovely to have you on the podcast today, we want to talk about a relaxing time you had on the French Riviera. I’m sure that sounds good to a lot of people because it’s such a beautiful place.
[00:02:23] Michael McLaughlin: Oh, it sure was.
[00:02:24] Annie Sargent: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about who was traveling and when your trip was and that sort of thing?
[00:02:30] Michael McLaughlin: Oh, sure, I would go back to that moment in time in a heartbeat. It was April of 2023, and I was able to travel to the Riviera with my new wife, Jessica. So it was our official European honeymoon.
[00:02:46] Annie Sargent: Wonderful! Wow, that makes it even extra special. I’m so glad it went well for you. That’s, you know, sometimes you hear horror stories of people’s honeymoons going terribly wrong. I’m glad it wasn’t like that for you.
[00:02:58] Michael McLaughlin: No.
[00:03:00] Annie Sargent: All right, very good. So, you were coming in from Boston, right?
Flight mishaps before arriving in France
[00:03:04] Michael McLaughlin: Yes, well, I suppose, it almost started out like a horror story because we were sitting at the airport and we found out that there was a ground stop at JFK and there was going to be a delay of planes. And then when we ended up finally getting to JFK, we watched our plane, that was a direct flight to Nice, taking off down the runway as we were landing.
[00:03:31] But fortunately, we were able to get on a later flight to Paris, and then connect down to Nice, so we were really only, you know, delayed off of our plans by about six or seven hours. And then after that, everything really just went really well.
Don’t plan much on your first day in France
[00:03:48] Annie Sargent: Cool. Well, that’s good for people to hear because sometimes people plan, they are so excited, they’re going to be arriving in Nice or in Paris or something. And they plan their, the one thing that they’re most excited about that first day, which for most people coming from the US, it’s only going to be a partial day anyway, because you know, you land, even if you land at 8am, by the time you’re out of the airport and stuff, it takes a while. Never do that.
[00:04:14] Don’t plan anything important that day. That day you should just walk around, enjoy the view, don’t plan anything important because just like Michael and his wife, you can get delayed.
[00:04:26] Michael McLaughlin: Exactly. Yeah, just plan to rest and relax.
[00:04:30] Annie Sargent: Yeah, which you did plenty of it. But you still got to see a lot of interesting stuff. So tell us about the things that you enjoyed most on this vacation.
Jet Setting at the Cannes Series Film Festival
[00:04:40] Michael McLaughlin: Oh, sure. So we began the trip in Cannes and that was just fantastic. It happened to be the same time as the Cannes Series Film Festival. So it was really a unique experience. It made us feel like we were part of the jet set, if you will.
[00:04:59] Annie Sargent: You were.
[00:05:00] Michael McLaughlin: We were, yeah, especially, you know, arriving just like the day before, and next thing you know we were on the pink carpet, and we got to see the first two episodes of a French crime show BRI. And, you know, got to sit in the festival hall, and see the stars, make their entrance, and view the film, and then there were fireworks on the beach afterwards, so what a great way to spend an evening.
[00:05:28] Annie Sargent: Yes, so you had to get tickets for this, right? You can’t just show up.
[00:05:33] Michael McLaughlin: Correct, yeah, maybe a month or so before, a portal opened for you to be able to request tickets. And for this particular series, the tickets were free of charge, but you had to apply for them, and they came through email, and then we just had them on our phones to show when we arrived at the festival.
You Will Probably Need a Ticket Even if the Event Is Free
[00:05:53] Annie Sargent: Mm hmm. There’s a lot of things like that in France anymore. You know, like the Journées du Patrimoine, which are the, I think they’re called European Heritage Days, or something like that, for those, it’s almost always free, but you do need a ticket. So you have to think about getting a ticket. And usually you cannot get those tickets months in advance. You have to just go a few weeks before and look for tickets or apply for tickets in your case. But so do you feel like you lucked out?
[00:06:22] Do you know of people not making it in or were there plenty of tickets.
The Barrière Majestique Hotel
[00:06:27] Michael McLaughlin: It seems like there were plenty of tickets, and as it turns out, the hotel we were staying at in Cannes, just across the way, The Majestique, it was hosting sort of like a media convention of some sort. And so it seems like there were a lot of stars and producers and that whole set, kind of all over the area where we were, so it was a really neat way to begin our journey in France.
[00:06:55] Annie Sargent: Mm hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Fantastic. Tell us about the hotel.
[00:06:59] Michael McLaughlin: Oh, the hotel was phenomenal. So we stayed at The Barrière Majestique for two nights. And it was just a real treat to arrive, especially after our plane fiasco. But we were treated so warmly upon our arrival. It was just a real beautiful area for rest and relaxation. I would say location wise it couldn’t be beat, it was, you know, and despite it hosting this conference, we felt like we were just treated so warmly by the staff in the lobby and at check in and by the concierge who was helping to make recommendations about where to go and eat, or how to spend our afternoon.
[00:07:46] It was just a really wonderful way to begin the trip.
[00:07:49] Annie Sargent: So was this a palace? I mean, was it a really expensive place or was it a kind of average price?
[00:07:55] Michael McLaughlin: It was, I would say a little bit more on the pricier side, certainly not the same rate that you might find down the street at the Carlton, but it was, you know, it was also a very special occasion with it being our honeymoon, so, you know, spending a little bit of extra money for the location and for the amenities at the hotel was certainly worth it.
[00:08:19] Annie Sargent: Sounds great. Did they know it was your honeymoon?
[00:08:21] They did, they did. Yeah, so, we had a nice room and yeah, they, they couldn’t have been friendlier. They were fantastic hosts. Wonderful. All right. So, what are some things that you enjoyed? The Cannes Series Film Festival sounds like it was a hit with you. How much time would you say you spent doing that?
[00:08:42] Michael McLaughlin: I would put that at maybe four or five hours. We, yeah, we arrived to check out some of the scene on the pink carpet. And then, seating inside was sort of first come, first served, so we wanted to get a decent seat so that we’d have a good view of the screen, and then it was about two hours or so of this crime show, two episodes of it. And it was in French with English subtitles, because neither Jess or I speak much French, and so we were following along on the subtitles, but we definitely want to, you know, check out the rest of the series, it was really good.
[00:09:22] Annie Sargent: It was good, huh? Fantastic. Do you know when it, I mean, is it already airing in France or… because I haven’t heard of it.
[00:09:31] Michael McLaughlin: You know, I couldn’t say for sure.
[00:09:33] Annie Sargent: Going to have to look for it. Yeah, I’m going to have to look for it. So The Brigade, La Brigade. Yes. Huh. Fantastic. Wow. Very fun. Okay. All right. What else did you enjoy in Cannes?
Enjoyed some shopping
[00:09:46] Michael McLaughlin: Oh, well, we really enjoyed some shopping. So, you know, that was just a real, a real treat. I mean, granted, a lot of the shopping was more window shopping, with all of the luxury boutiques. But with it being our honeymoon, we definitely each got a little treat for each other. I had been on the hunt for a particular watch for some time and we lucked out in finding a store that carried it.
[00:10:13] And then Jess got a special purchase from a boutique as well, that I know she was really excited for. So, you know, you being in, in Cannes, it was, I suppose that was sort of part of what you do in Cannes, the shopping. But the scenery was just incredible from the sandy beaches to just the excellent views in the old town.
[00:10:39] I really loved walking the narrow lanes there and the different shops and just how they were really just like built into the hillside. It was very picturesque.
Construction in Cannes
[00:10:49] Annie Sargent: Was there a lot of construction going on? Because I know they were redoing the Croisette in Cannes. Okay, tell me about that.
[00:10:58] Michael McLaughlin: Yeah, there was a bit of construction, but really wasn’t, yeah, when we exited our hotel and went to the left, there was a fair amount of construction on the street there, and I suppose because we were in Cannes at somewhat of an off peak time, with it being April, it seems like maybe that’s why they were doing construction then.
[00:11:20] But our hotel was set back far enough that we never heard any of the construction noise. And then sort of a benefit, I suppose of the construction on the road, is that there was very little traffic on the beachfront, so when we were able to walk down by the beach, we weren’t inundated with cars and things.
[00:11:41] Annie Sargent: Right. Yeah, that is a definite good point. I know that they, they were feeling like The Croisette in Cannes needed a refresh because, you know, it’s iconic, but it was getting long in the tooth as far as the kind of the style of the public areas. And I look forward to going to see it now, because it’s, apparently it’s much nicer.
[00:12:02] So, we’ll see.
[00:12:04] Michael McLaughlin: Yes.
[00:12:05] Annie Sargent: I’ll be very happy to go see it. So, you stayed in Cannes for three nights, right?
[00:12:10] Michael McLaughlin: Just, well, it would have been three, but you know, the plane, so it was just two nights, two nights in Cannes, which was super. I think if we, if we were to do it again, I think we would stay in Cannes longer and really felt like we could have made Cannes our home base, in terms of, you know, the train station is just a couple of blocks from the beach and the sandy beach was just super, plenty of restaurants to enjoy on the beach.
Five Nights in Nice
[00:12:42] Michael McLaughlin: We ended up spending, instead, five nights in Nice. Which was wonderful, and Nice has just so much activity happening, lots of variety of things. But sort of in thinking about it, if you know, looking for that more relaxing, kind of low key trip, it seems like Cannes would be our option for the future. You know, just really relaxing and still, you know, being able to get to some other locales from the train station that we didn’t necessarily have to make Nice the home base, but we did and we still had a wonderful time and made everything work.
Things to Consider in Choosing to Stay in Cannes or Nice
[00:13:24] Annie Sargent: So Nice, to compare the two towns, Nice is a city. It’s a big city and the train station is further away from the, it’s a mile away from the coastline.
Not recommended to have a car in the Riviera
[00:13:37] Annie Sargent: So in Nice, you have to make your way to the train station because I really recommend you don’t have a private car when you’re visiting the Riviera.
[00:13:47] It’s just going to get in the way. You won’t know where to park anywhere, even in April. I mean, in April, it might be a little easier, but you’ll end up paying for parking everywhere you go and sometimes struggling to find a spot, even a paying spot. So that’s something to consider. And because it’s a city, it’s also noisier, you know, more people, more things happening.
[00:14:11] So it depends. If I was going to The Riviera in January or February, well in February, you’d have to go to Menton because that’s when the Lemon Festival is. But you know, at low time like that, you probably would want to go to Nice because there’s more happening. But Cannes is absolutely fabulous.
[00:14:30] And like you said, the sandy beach, Nice does not have that either.
[00:14:33] Michael McLaughlin: No, it was a pretty rocky beach. Not that we were spending a lot of time out on the beachfront. It was. But I think what I didn’t appreciate about Nice is that really the hotels that are right there on the seafront you know, are right over a very busy road. And then there’s the promenade, and then the rocky beach, and then the water.
[00:15:00] Whereas in Cannes, there wasn’t that much distance between the two. And so definitely the hotel in Nice was louder as you said, it being a city and then, really, that sort of main drag, being right there. And so, yeah, that, it made for a bit of a challenge when we first arrived in Nice. Our first hotel, well, it being April, the air conditioning hadn’t been turned on yet.
[00:15:28] Our room was facing the sea, you know, so of course, beautiful view, but it also meant that the room got pretty warm during the day, and then there was the only relief of the heat was to open the windows, but then we had the noise of the traffic. But the hotelstaff was really accommodating.
[00:15:49] They helped us in the middle of the night to sort of switch a room so that we’d be able to at least sleep for the night. And then, we were able to transfer to a different hotel a couple blocks away, and this time we got a room on the backside of the hotel, sort of facing the mountains.
[00:16:09] And it was a completely different experience. We didn’t hear any of the traffic, and yet we were still right in the heart of everything. So, you know, it was one of those situations where you don’t know and until you’re there. It was just a matter of us being flexible and patient.
[00:16:29] And I found that being flexible and patient and kind went a long way with the hoteliers who were really, you know, happy to assist us when we explained what was happening.
[00:16:43] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So just for reference, the original hotel where you were booked in Nice was the Hotel Westminster, but then you switched to the Hyatt Regency Palais de la Méditerranée, yeah, for the rest of the time. Okay, yeah, so you didn’t really like the Westminster so much, right?
[00:17:02] Michael McLaughlin: Well, you know, had it had the air conditioning been on, I think we probably could have made it work. It was just a matter of, I think, you know, our personal preference for sleeping cold. But the staff, as I said, were just so helpful and accommodating and were really, really considerate and wanted to, wanted us to have a positive experience.
[00:17:26] So, I really appreciated everything that they did to help us.
Aircon Is Not a High Priority for French People
[00:17:30] Annie Sargent: Right. Right. Yeah. It’s unfortunate. I mean, air conditioning is never a high priority for French people. I think it might become more so, but it’s like, because they’re like, yeah, so what? It’s April, we don’t need it yet, you know. And the same thing might happen about swimming pools. So you go to a hotel that has a pool, but it hasn’t been opened yet.
[00:17:51] And so you’re like, Oh, well, when do you open it? Oh, we just opened it in July and August because that’s when people go to the pool. You’re like, well, but I’m here now. I want the pool now.
[00:18:01] So that’s something to ask. If you pick that hotel because of the pool, ask them, and air conditioning, same, you know, it would be good to ask them if that’s really something that you care about. But you’re totally right, if, I mean, sometimes you could open the window to get some cool air at night, usually, the nights cool off quite nicely in April, and even in May, but the problem is then it’s noise or bugs or something.
[00:18:26] Michael McLaughlin: Great.
Preparing for a Visit to Monaco and Getting a Note from Prince Albert
[00:18:27] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah. All right. So you, you had a day trip to Monaco. I want to hear what you thought about Monaco.
[00:18:35] Michael McLaughlin: Oh, Monaco was fantastic and I almost wish that we had split it in two days because there was just so much to do in Monaco. But we squeezed it all into one day. So, Jess and I are both really big royalists and history buffs. We actually went to the coronation of King Charles III, the week after our trip to France.
[00:18:59] Annie Sargent: Wow.
[00:19:01] Michael McLaughlin: I mean, we weren’t in the Abbey, we were out on The Mall, like everyone.
[00:19:04] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah, yeah. La plebe.
[00:19:07] Michael McLaughlin: Yeah, so, to be in Monaco and sort of explore the royal or princely family of Monaco was… It was really neat. So, yeah, we spent the morning up on the rock, and both of us had read a couple of books about Monaco, including one on sort of like the modern royal family. And it was like the ascent up the hill, it was pretty steep, but it was worth it.
[00:19:34] When you sort of emerge through these turrets of the castle and you come face to face with the statue of Francois Grimaldi, you know that you’ve arrived and have sort of like stepped in in history. From there you could see the main port and sort of the, the newer district, and then we watched the changing of the guard, which was a really neat ceremony to watch.
[00:20:00] And then we had tickets for a self guided audio tour of the palace.
[00:20:05] Annie Sargent: Oh, nice.
[00:20:05] Michael McLaughlin: And that was, that was really super. You know, just a great explanation of some of the history and some of the different artwork and the conservation work that Prince Albert has been doing in throughout his tenure, it was really neat. And in fact, we were so, like, moved by the visit that afterwards I wrote a note that I sent to Prince Albert. And a couple of weeks later we received a reply back, including a handwritten note because he went to college in Massachusetts, where we live, and he referenced that in the note.
[00:20:41] So it was, it was a really neat sort of like brush with royalty, if you will.
[00:20:46] Annie Sargent: That’s really special. That’s fantastic. But, I mean, you, you had done your homework. You had read the books, you knew the place. See, that’s really important. If you are excited about a place, I really recommend you at least watch some YouTube videos about the place, or read some books. And if you don’t have time for any of this, perhaps get an audio guide, that really works as well, or a real person guide as well, it really enhances the visit, I think.
[00:21:12] Michael McLaughlin: Oh, I couldn’t agree more. And, you know, certainly the documentaries were really helpful in preparing us for the visit. But then even some popular films helped us to be ready for what we did in the afternoon.
Enjoying the Casino in Monaco
[00:21:26] Michael McLaughlin: So, in the afternoon, I felt like I was stepping into a James Bond film, because we spent the afternoon at Monte Carlo.
[00:21:35] And, you know, from the luxury cars out front to the guards who were checking if you were dressed correctly and, you know, whether you were who you said you were on your passport along the way, you know. But we went in and we were able to enjoy a drink in the Grand Saloon and we tried our hand at roulette. Because, you know, in all of the books that I had read, it seems like that was the game to play when in Monaco, to do the Monaco thing, and then Jess came out ahead on one of the slot machines, and it basically covered our drink.
[00:22:13] We said, okay, let’s quit while we’re ahead and… because, you know, the house always wins, so we figured, let’s cut out now.
[00:22:22] Annie Sargent: Yes. Yes.
[00:22:23] Michael McLaughlin: It was a nice way to end the day.
[00:22:25] Annie Sargent: Yes. So Monte Carlo is the name of the casino and it’s a big glitzy thing. It’s beautiful.
[00:22:31] Michael McLaughlin: Yes. Yeah.
[00:22:32] Annie Sargent: It’s wonderful. All right. Fantastic. Before we move away fromMonaco, you went there by train, right?
[00:22:39] Michael McLaughlin: We did, yeah, it was really easy to get there by train. As you mentioned, the train station in Nice is about a mile from the coast. And in a place like Cannes, you’re only about two blocks between the beachfront and the train station, but either way, it was very easy to take the train.
[00:23:00] There was regular service. We were able to book tickets for the train right on our phones, but they also had kiosks available at the train station and plenty of attendance who were there to assist people who were maybe a little confused. But yeah, very easy to get to.
[00:23:20] Annie Sargent: So you should know thatas far as I know, I don’t think it has changed, no Uber into Monaco, they won’t let them in, they have to turn around. So they have to get you to the entrance and then move away. So just take the train, it’s much easier.
[00:23:35] Michael McLaughlin: The train was super. The station in Monaco is very centrally located and if you went out in one direction, you were sort of pointed towards the old town where we spent the morning, and then if you went out in another direction, you were relatively close to Monte Carlo and all of the sites on that part of the country. And the train was really user friendly.
[00:24:00] Annie Sargent: Fantastic. Yeah. And Monaco is very, very small and very, very hilly. So, there are elevators if you… and there’s a City Mapper for Monaco. So if you’re going and you want to find the elevators, install City Mapper and it will show you both, the elevators, the stairs, the bus.
[00:24:20] There’s a bus system in Monaco as well. So you could do that as well. And for those of you who think about driving to Monaco, there are parking lots, but spaces are limited and expensive. Everything is expensive in Monaco. So there you go. I think it’s the, per capita, the richest place on earth.
[00:24:37] Michael McLaughlin: Yes, yeah, I think truer words could not have been said, it is, you know, it’s expensive, but what a treat to be able to spend a day there and kind of dreaming about that.
Boat Cruise off the Bay of Angels
[00:24:49] Annie Sargent: Fantastic. All right. You took a boat cruise off the Bay of Angels. That sounds like my kind of thing. I would love that.
[00:24:57] Michael McLaughlin: Oh, it was tremendous. Yeah, that was about an hour long cruise, and it went out of the port of Nice, and then took us along the coast to Villefranche sur Mer. And we had gone there earlier in our visit, and so we were able to see the seafront and could see some of the mansions and gardens of Cap Ferrat, which was another destination that we did a little afternoon trip to.
[00:25:23] So it was sort of a nice way to see all of those places, but from a different perspective, the perspective of the water.
[00:25:31] And then on the way back, sort of in the distance, we could see the snow capped mountains on the horizon, we could see, there’s a really stunning World War I memorial in Nice, it’s on the cliffside of Castle Hill.
[00:25:46] When I would take my morning walk, I would walk up to that memorial to see it sort of like from the road, but seeing it from a couple hundred yards out from the water, it’s really striking to see.That was a really neat view, and then the boat went all the way down to the Hotel Negresco, and then ran that parallel along the promenade.
[00:26:10] So it was a nice way to really see all of Nice and some surrounding areas. And the commentary was very informative. We like doing those kinds of you know, either a boat ride or like a audio, like tourist train kind of ride in different places that we go to just to get an orientation and to kind of see a lot of sites in some comfort.
[00:26:36] Annie Sargent: Yes, and there is also a tourist train in Nice, which is very nice. It takes you up Castle Hill.
French Riviera Pass
[00:26:43] Annie Sargent: So you got a three day French Riviera Pass, right?
[00:26:47] Michael McLaughlin: Yes. That was a pretty good investment that we made, in the sense that, you know, there were a lot of different activities that were included on the pass, that if you had sort of paid for those activities individually, it would have been more expensive than the cost of the pass. So there was definitely a cost savings to doing the pass, but at the same time, because you know, you wanted to get the most bang for your bucks value, so to speak, there was almost like this pressure, if you will, to try and do lots of things. And that, of course, really wasn’t what we were ultimately looking to do on our honeymoon. But, you know, it did get us to try some different activities that we might not have done on our own. And I think that’s part of why tourist, you know, agencies put these kinds of products together, because it really does get visitors to explore different attractions and kind of piece together some different museums and sites that you might not have ordinarily gone to.
[00:27:55] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And those kinds of deals do kind of encourage people to do more things than they might have done otherwise. And, you know, I guess it’s good and bad. Typically, I don’t love the, like, if I have the pass, I’m like, oh, now I have to take full advantage of the pass and I’m going to run around and do all these things.
[00:28:15] And perhaps that’s not the idea, you know, just pay for the ones that you’re going to go to. That would also work very well.
[00:28:22] Michael McLaughlin: Right.
[00:28:22] Annie Sargent: Very cool. You went to the Rothschild Villa. Nice place, again!
[00:28:28] Michael McLaughlin: Oh, it was, that was a real stunning home. And again, like guided commentary on the architecture and the art. The second floor balcony just has this amazing view over the gardens and then to go out into those gardens, I think it was described as like almost a cruise ship parked in the middle of Cap Ferrat, if you will, with all of these different gardens.
[00:28:54] And I think our favorite one was the one that you could see right from the balcony, which was like almost these singing fountains. There was music that played and then the water seemed to jump from like one area of the garden to the next in time with the music. It was really a nice way to spend an afternoon.
[00:29:15] Annie Sargent: Yeah. How did you get there? Did you take the train again?
Making Their Own Fragrance in Eze
[00:29:19] Michael McLaughlin: So, for that day, we strung together a couple of different Uber rides. We had started at our hotel in Nice, and took an Uber to Èze. And then sort of spent the morning thereexploring the old city Èze village, and then we went to a perfumery to do a workshop and got to make our own fragrance.
[00:29:43] That was a fun experience. I almost felt like we were on the American TV show The Bachelor. It was like, you know, just the two of us and the nose from the perfumery explaining how to put it together. It was a nice little date activity on our honeymoon. And, you know, gave us this souvenir, this scent souvenir, so every time we smell it, we can think back to that moment. But from there we then ubered to the Rothschild Villa, and then had another Uber that took us from the Villa back into Nice. I know that there were some, there were some buses that were available, but the Uber, at least in that area, was really convenient, and we didn’t have to figure out timetables. And, you know, when you’re on vacation, sort of, you only are in that location for so long, so it was worth it to spend a little bit of money on the Uber as opposed to, you know, being on the bus for a while, but I think if we were staying longer, we’d likely would have used more of the public transit.
Comparing the Price of Uber vs Taxi
[00:30:51] Annie Sargent: Sure, sure, yes, and this is true in a lot of places in France, yeah, you spend a little more on Uber, but you get there faster, you don’t have to figure it out, and usually, I mean, there is surge pricing with Uber, so depending on the day, you know, you’ll pay more or less. But typically, did you find Uber to be prohibitively expensive or was it something, yeah, it’s a bit expensive, but it’s fine.
[00:31:13] Michael McLaughlin: It seemed pretty comparable to, like, we took a taxi a couple of times. And they seemed pretty comparable, and perhaps it may have been, like, the timing that we were taking the cars, and you know, I would imagine that there would be surge pricing around the ports with all of the, you know, the cruise goers all hopping into or out of Ubers at the same time when a ship pulls in, whereas we were sort of like a one off. So I didn’t find them to be terribly expensive.
[00:31:47] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And it wasn’t hard to find an Uber that was driving by when you needed it to go from Èze to… I mean, they’re always around. It’s a big area where there’s lots of visitors, there are always Ubers driving around looking for a ride, I guess, a job, not sure what they call it, but yeah, fantastic.
Going to the Nice Opera for the Ballet Cinderella
[00:32:05] Annie Sargent: All right. Oh, you went to the opera. Ooh.
[00:32:09] Michael McLaughlin: That was a fun experience. As you were mentioning earlier about kind of being on the lookout for tickets and experiences, as we approached the dates of our trip, I started looking at some theater performances that might be happening. And as it turns out, it was the opening night of the ballet Cinderella. And so it was, you know, in sort of reading about Nice, we had read about the Opera House and it being a place that society figures of Queen Victoria’s age would have visited when she and, you know, some of the Russian czars would visit Nice in that time.
[00:32:48] So we said, okay, how can we get into this building? Oh, well, you know, they had some tours available, but we really enjoy going into buildings and getting to experience them as they were designed. So to be able to go into the theater and see a show was preferable to going on a tour backstage. Yeah, we were able to get tickets and sit in a box, and so we could imagine that, you know, just like we were in the jet set in Cannes, we could imagine that we were, you know, maybe a high society aristocrat back in the day. It was a neat interpretation of Cinderella. It was very, kind of like, avant garde. There were references to modern French fashion, the dancing, of course, was fantastic.
[00:33:38] And it was helpful that, you know, Cinderella is one of those stories that sort of, almost everybody knows, so we could follow along the plot very easily. It was, again, a nice way to spend the evening, we were able to arrange our dinner beforehand, in the Cours Soleil, and then just walk, a short distance to the Opera House.
[00:34:00] Annie Sargent: Fantastic. Yeah. If you like the ballet, they’re good. I mean, they do a really nice job with a ballet and it’s a lovely time. I mean, you get to go into the Opera House and look at it from the inside. It’s fantastic. I love it. Fantastic.
The Tourist Train to the Top of Castle Hill
[00:34:14] Annie Sargent: You took the tourist train to the top of Castle Hill. Yay!
[00:34:20] Michael McLaughlin: We did. Well, I didn’t realize how high up Castle Hill really is. Because I sort of have this routine when we travel that I’ll wake up and go for a walk and sort of explore the lay of the land. Usually the walk ends with me bringing some iced coffee and maybe a pastry back for Jess and I to share as we get ready for the day. But on the first day I climbed all the stairs practically to the top of Castle Hill and I was, I took some photos and, you know, it was an amazing view of the Bay of Angels, but in order to really appreciate it a second time, I wasn’t keen to climb all those stairs again.
[00:35:04] And so we lucked out that one of the tourist trains takes you up to the top and gives you time to go and take some pictures of the ruins at the top and of the bay. So that was a nice addition.
[00:35:16] Annie Sargent: There is also an elevator that you can take, but it closes at 5pm. I think it’s like 10 to 5 is the elevator. It’s not on all the time, but yeah, there’s that. Fantastic.
Russian Orthodox Cathedral
[00:35:29] Annie Sargent: You liked the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Yeah, I thought it was, I was surprised. I haven’t been in many Russian Orthodox churches, so it was surprising, but beautiful.
[00:35:39] Michael McLaughlin: Oh, very beautiful. I mean, a little bit out of the way compared with some of the other sites, which all seem pretty centrally located to each other, but nevertheless, it’s a really important part of the, I think, the story of Nice in terms of the number of, you know, the Russian czar and the court that would spend time in Nice.
[00:36:02] And so, to really get that full story, and I think it really helped to illustrate how Nice is sort of this beautiful mosaic of different cultures and influences and you can see that in the architecture, like at the cathedral, and you can taste it in the food, it was a really, you know, an important site to add to our itinerary.
[00:36:27] Annie Sargent: And it is beautiful. So yeah, there’s a lot of, I mean, Nice is famous for its baroque churches. So any church you’re going to in Nice is going to be just gorgeous. They hired a lot of Italians. Very close to come and do all the decorating and let me tell you, the Italians, they’re good at it.
[00:36:46] It’s just beautiful stuff. All right. In your guest notes, there’s going to be a long discussion about food and restaurants. Do you have one, one or two restaurants that you want to tell us about that you particularly enjoyed?
The Mademoiselle Gray Restaurant
[00:37:00] Michael McLaughlin: Oh, sure. I think one that we really enjoyed was in Cannes. It was The Mademoiselle Gray. And it just had, like, a really cool vibe, had amazing views, really creative cocktails, the food was tasty, and just was presented in such a, a nice way. Jess had ordered like a kebab skewer that came out on a hanging rack that was like, just really impressive.
[00:37:29] I had, like some Moroccan pie, like a veal knuckle Moroccan pie with these truffle mashed potatoes that like, wasn’t necessarily like, what one would consider beach food, because it was actually really quite hearty. But, I mean the view was just amazing, and we really enjoyed that.
[00:37:50] And then we liked, I guess also in Cannes, we were able to visit one of the hotel bars at the Hotel Carlton. And that hotel had been closed for some time doing renovation work. And, um, so it was, It was neat to go in and sort of see some of the updates of the hotel.
[00:38:10] We, of course, had seen the film To Catch a Thief, which, you know, in which that hotel features. And so, you know, to go through some of those same spaces, it was like you could picture Grace Kelly walking out of a room. And, you know, there we were enjoying a nice drink in the courtyard.
[00:38:29] So, we really, we lucked out getting to, to go into that space and you know, it was just really nice and quiet and a nice place for us to just take stock of our time together.
Mistakes and warnings
[00:38:42] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So are there any mistakes that you made that you want to warn people against, you know, like, oh, don’t do this. That was a mistake. That was a problem or whatever.
[00:38:51] Michael McLaughlin: So, I think, you know, doing a little more research on our hotels would’ve been helpful. As you mentioned, like some of the different amenities are not necessarily available year round, so like air conditioning for example. So I think maybe doing a little bit more homework on the hotels would have been helpful.
[00:39:10] We mentioned before about the Nice, or the French Riviera Pass, there is a good value for the money of it, but as you said, you sort of then also feel like you have to do all of the different activities. And that of course, changes the pace of the trip, and for us in the end, really wanting to have time where we were relaxing and kind of taking things moment by moment, that pass sort of worked against that, so it sort of created like this I don’t know, tension, if you will, that didn’t need to be there. So I would say, you know, those would be a couple things that I would do differently.
[00:39:53] And who knows, we’ll, we hope to return to the Riviera in the future, and we’ve learned a couple of good lessons, but we had so much fun. As I said at the beginning, I would go back to April 23 in a heartbeat.
[00:40:09] Annie Sargent: That’s fantastic. That’s wonderful to know. Yes. And perhaps you can go back on a special anniversary or something like that, you know? You’ll have plenty of occasions to go.
[00:40:19] You know, Cannes, we haven’t talked about Cannes so much on the podcast. Because it’s a smaller city and typically people don’t, and it’s also viewed as an older city.
[00:40:31] So it’s really interesting to me that it was a great place to… that you think it would have been a perfect place to do your whole trip for your honeymoon, because it was so pleasant.
[00:40:41] Michael McLaughlin: Yeah, we loved it, you know, in some of the reading that we had done beforehand, there were maybe some of the guidebooks didn’t seem as keen on Cannes, but once we got there, we really just fell in love with it.
[00:40:53] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a beautiful place.
[00:40:56] Well, it sounds like you had a wonderful honeymoon and you’re ready to go again.
[00:41:01] Michael McLaughlin: Oh, absolutely.
[00:41:02] Annie Sargent: it was a success all around. That’s fantastic.
[00:41:06] Michael McLaughlin: Yes.
[00:41:07] Annie Sargent: Michael, thank you so much for talking to me on the podcast, especially since we had a bit of a, last week, we were supposed to record last week and didn’t, and it was my fault.
[00:41:16] So thank you for being patient with me and thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I don’t say this often enough, but I truly could not do this podcast without people like you because I don’t go on all these trips all the time. I mean, I do as many as I can, but it’s great to have other people’s perspective and things that you really tried and you really, you can just tell us this was better than that.
[00:41:42] It’s fantastic. Thank you so much.
[00:41:45] Michael McLaughlin: Well, thank you. It was really a treat to be able to relive some very happy memories, and thank you for all of the tips and tricks and perspective that you share. We love listening to the podcast and we were glad that we were able to, you know, join in France, as you might say.
[00:42:04] Wonderful. Wonderful. Thank you, Michael. And hopefully, if you, after 20 years, we’ll still be doing this and we can talk about your 20th anniversary in Cannes. Sounds great.
[00:42:14] Annie Sargent: Merci beaucoup.
[00:42:16] Michael McLaughlin: Merci. Au revoir.
[00:42:17] Annie Sargent: Au revoir.
Thank you, Patrons
[00:42:25] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for giving back and supporting the show. Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing so, one a week, typically. You can see them at patreon.com/joinus. Thank you all for supporting the show, some of you have been doing it for a long time, you are wonderful.
[00:42:43] And a shout out this week to new patrons, Megan McKay, one of the wonderful people I got to meet in person at the 2023 bootcamp. Wonderful to have you on board, Megan.
[00:42:55] This week I published a Patreon French history brief about Nostradamus. Good old Nostradamus. He still makes the headlines once in a while, 500 plus years later. So, he did something right.
Itinerary Consultation Services
[00:43:09] Annie Sargent: If you’re planning a trip to France and need some expert advice, I offer two levels of Itinerary Consultation Services. The Bonjour service gives you an hour long conversation on Zoom to ask questions and get tailored recommendations.
[00:43:24] It’s a great choice if you need immediate answers to specific questions.
[00:43:29] For those wanting a more detailed guide, the VIP service offers the same, minimum one hour consultation, the longer the trip, the longer we talk, but also includes a follow up document that outlines everything we discussed, plus a roundup of all the best advice featured on the podcast.
[00:43:48] To begin, visit joinusinfrance.com/boutique and follow the email instructions. Your perfect French vacation is just a click away.
[00:43:59] No worries if you can’t schedule a 1-on-1 consultation, you can still experience Paris with me through my self-guided GPS tours on the VoiceMap app.
[00:44:11] These tours can take you to the Eiffel Tower, Le Marais, Montmartre, Saint Germain des Prés, The Latin Quarter. It allows you to explore Paris at your own leisure and not run around like a chicken with your head cut off, trying to see all that Paris has to offer, with a long list of things you want to see, and no sense of what goes where.
[00:44:34] Just today, I did an Itinerary Consult with Mike, (Hello Mike!) who clearly has listened to a lot of episodes, and did his homework, but the tentative itinerary he sent me was all over the place, because he does not have a good grasp of how long things will take. And why would he? It’ll be his first time in Paris.
[00:44:58] And the tours can greatly help you avoid that.
[00:45:03] For a seamless experience, download the tours as soon as you purchase them. Feel free to listen at home if you’d like, look around the VoiceMap app at all the info that I share within each tour.
[00:45:15] When you arrive in Paris, just open the VoiceMap app, go to the starting point of the tour, and my voice will start guiding you. These tours are more than just a stroll. They include curated restaurant recommendations, practical tips, such as where to get tickets, and how to find the things you would have never found by yourself.
Special Listener Discount
[00:45:37] Annie Sargent: For a special listener discount, purchase the tour codes from joinusinfrance.com/boutique The discount may take a few hours to process, so please be patient.
New Scam in Paris: Metro “Helpers”
[00:45:49] Annie Sargent: Let’s talk about a new scam that I hadn’t heard of until today, but I’m not surprised that it’s happening.
[00:45:56] The gist of it is, when someone insists on helping you buy Metro tickets from the ticket machines, do not let them. Okay? Even people who are experienced traveler in Europe, you know, they arrive in Paris, they want to get tickets, they are not sure how to do it. It’s their first time.
[00:46:16] It’s not that complicated, you can put the machine in English, but perhaps you’re hesitating a little bit. Okay. What you want is T tickets that you put on your Navigo Easy Card. So you have to buy the card from somebody at the booth. That person at the booth can put however many trips you would like that for that day you buy it, then you need to charge it up again.
[00:46:40] And to do that, you go to the vending machine, and there’s a purple circular thing, you tap your card on that purple thing, it’ll tell you how many trips you have left. There’s usually a credit card machine right by there. You tell the screen that you want to buy T tickets, and follow the screen instructions.
[00:47:01] But there are some people who get frazzled and people can tell, you know, I mean scammers they can tell. And so they come to you and they say: ‘Oh, let me help you with that, and they’re probably going to sell you bogus tickets, they can insist that you buy some passes.
[00:47:19] Here’s one actual story that happened to someone, I read this on Reddit:
[00:47:23] I’m a pretty experienced traveler, in Europe at least, and I knew what to expect. A few weeks ago, we, my mother and I, arrived in Paris, not for the first time.
[00:47:34] Once we got to the metro station, there were five or six or seven people ‘ organizing’ the queue for the ticket machines and offering to help in English. There were also two counters with actual sellers in the immediate proximity. Anyways, ‘the assistants’, with lanyards and all, were approaching everyone.
[00:47:56] This was already super dodgy and we immediately started avoiding them. One minute later, I heard two of them interacting in Romanian, not going to lie, this put me on high alert. Yes, it should! And we got even more careful with our luggage. Anyways, as we got to the machine, the guy didn’t even let me touch the screen.
[00:48:18] He started zapping around the options and lying that the tickets I wanted to buy, just the 10 trips, were not being sold in Paris anymore. I knew for a fact that that was not the case, then he insisted we needed to buy five day passes for all zones because otherwise we would have to pay more daily.
[00:48:38] In the meantime, my mom pulled out her card and the guy saw it was a Romanian card. So he said, Oh no, this machine only takes French cards and said, we need to pay cash.
[00:48:51] It doesn’t matter if your card is Romanian, American, Italian, English, whatever. It’ll take your card, okay? You don’t need to pay these people cash.
[00:49:00] And so, of course, once they’ve convinced you that your card isn’t going to work, and that you need to give them cash, then they’re going to give you tickets that don’t work, okay? Let me tell you the bottom line.
[00:49:11] The people who are paid to work at the metro station probably don’t want to be there all day. So, don’t let anybody try to be helpful. You can manage the screens. It’s really, really not that complicated.
An electrifying experience driving an electric car in France
[00:49:24] Annie Sargent: All right. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what you need to have, to have an electrifying experience driving a car, an electric car of course, in France.
[00:49:36] There are six things I’m going to mention.
Have the ChargeMap App and card
[00:49:38] Annie Sargent: 1. The first one is to have the ChargeMap App and card. You have to pay 20 bucks to get that. Get a card sent to you in your home. Allow a month to receive it.
[00:49:52] In France, it takes like a week, but it’ll take longer going abroad. There are other RFID cards that will start most of the machines in France, but the ChargeMap is really the one that works everywhere and completely seamlessly. Just this week, I wanted to try to use my ChargePoint card, which I ordered long ago, and I haven’t used since.
[00:50:17] Now, I know that ChargePoint is big in the US. Well, in France, it’s not. It didn’t work. I called the Helpline, they weren’t very helpful. The card, I could never get it to work. So, just go with ChargeMap, it works perfectly in France.
[00:50:33] What you’ll need to do is, once you get the card, you need to activate it, you need to create an account, you’ll enter a valid credit card, and now your ChargeMap Card is going to be good as long as that credit card is current. You know, if it expires, obviously you’ll need to give it a different credit card number.
Make sure the car has a combo CCS plug
[00:50:53] Annie Sargent: 2. If the car you’re renting is not a Tesla, I mentioned the Teslas last week, if you’re in the Tesla universe, it works exactly the same, you don’t need any help from me. Just rent a Tesla. Your app will work. The cables you’re used to are there. It’s easy.
[00:51:09] But if the car that you’re renting is not a Tesla, make sure that this car has a combo CCS plug. That combo CCS lets you use fast chargers, T2 chargers, which are alternative current chargers, and domestic chargers. You want to rent an EV with a combo CCS plug.
Don’t get a car that’s meant for the city if you’re going to be taking longer trips
[00:51:33] Annie Sargent: 3. Don’t rent an electric car that’s meant for tooling around town for your road trip to France. Even if there’s just one of you. Because, you know, in the gas days, you could do a long trip in a Renault Twingo or a Fiat 600.
[00:51:52] I mean, it wasn’t comfortable, but you could do it if you fit, but with an electric car, it will be very, very painful because those cars come with small batteries that cannot charge fast. So obviously, if there are several of you, you’ll need a bigger car.
[00:52:12] But, if it’s just one of you, still don’t take the Fiat 600 electric. You’ll be waiting for the car to charge a lot.
Make sure your car can charge on a DC charger at least 90
[00:52:20] Annie Sargent: 4. How fast can the rental car charge? You need to know how fast it’ll charge. Mine can only do 92 kilowatts on a DC charger, which is not super fast, but it’s enough. I mean, I don’t mind stoping somewhere for 40 minutes if I’m having lunch. But it’s the lower end of the usable range when using the freeway, anyway. Many EVs charge at 150 and up, and that’s great.
[00:52:49] So, the higher that number is for DC charger, the better it is.
AC charging to be 11 kilowatts
[00:52:54] Annie Sargent: 5. On an AC charger, you want the car to be able to charge at 11 kilowatts. You sometimes find cars that charge at 7 kilowatts, but you’d be better off avoiding those.
[00:53:07] Because when you stop in a village in the Gers or some other rural place, you’ll probably stop for an hour or two, because there’s a museum to see, there’s a charger in front of the museum, perfect. But if you only charge at 7k, you’re not going to gain very much back. 11k is much, much better. Because at 7k, you need to stop for three or four hours before it does you any good.
Two types of cable T2 and a domestic charger
[00:53:33] Annie Sargent: 6. Make sure your car comes with two types of cable. You need a T2 cable for AC chargers, because at some of these AC chargers you have to pull out your own cable. Some you don’t, but many you do. And also, you need a domestic charger to plug in overnight at your B&B.
[00:53:56] That domestic charger is going to come with a regular old French plug on one end, and you need that because at your B&B, probably, that’s all you’ll get is a plug. So, you want to plug it in overnight. DC chargers always have their cable attached in France, I’ve never seen one that didn’t.
[00:54:14] So you don’t need to carry one of those around.
[00:54:17] All right. So these are the six things:
[00:54:19] 1. Get a ChargeMap card.
2. Make sure your car has a combo CCS.
3. Don’t get a car that’s meant for the city if you’re going to be taking longer trips.
4. Make sure your car can charge on a DC charger at least 90, higher is obviously better.
5. You want to have your AC charging to be 11 kilowatts.
6. And you need two types of cable, the T2 and the domestic cable. And that’s it. You’re ready to go.
Personal update 1 – trip with Elyse
[00:54:54] Annie Sargent: So a quick personal update this week, Elyse and I went on a wonderful trip to the Gers. It was a fantastic day, so we went exploring the western side of the Gers and we’ll do an episode to share all the beautiful places we found.
[00:55:11] There’s this wonderful, kind of series of nice places to visit around a town called Montréal du Gers, so like Montreal, but in the Gers. So we’ll do an episode about this very soon.
Personal update 2 – trip to Spain Renovations
[00:55:24] Annie Sargent: And the other personal update is that I’m heading back to Spain tomorrow because these renovations are taking longer than I figured. I really now feel for people who renovate a place in France when they don’t speak the languagevery well, because that’s exactly what’s happening to me.
[00:55:43] I’m renovating a place in Spain and I don’t, I mean, I’m continuing with my Spanish classes, but I’m still not at the level of fluency that would be ideal. And so sometimes the workers that I meet with and the people who give me bids, they mention things that go a little bit too fast.
[00:56:01] And then later when I realize, that something is not going to work out, I say, but why didn’t you tell me? And they say, but we did tell you.
[00:56:10] So maybe they’re lying. I don’t know. I will never know. I feel for them and this is exactly what’s happened. I need to go back to get some, a door measured and I’m not certain if I’ll need to stay just a few days or if I’m going to have to stay longer because, you know, if they tell me, oh, now we have the measurements, we can order it, get it done in a week, come back next week to get it installed, you know, it takes me five hours to drive there.
[00:56:36] So, as much as I like driving, I would rather not do that twice a week. Anyway, that’s the news from me.
Thank you podcast editors
[00:56:44] Annie Sargent: Many thanks to podcast editors Anne and Cristian Cotovan, who produce the transcripts and make the podcast sound good. You should search the transcripts, they have all sorts of wonderful information.
Next week on the podcast
[00:56:57] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, an episode about the Musée des Arts Forains in Paris.
[00:57:03] This is a wonderful place that you especially want to visit if you’re going to be in Paris between Christmas and New Year and I’ll explain next week.
[00:57:13] Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir!
[00:57:20] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France Travel Podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2023 by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.