Vacationing in South of France in general sounds fancy and evokes visions of indulging in extravagant, celebrity-like activities. While that may be true for some, for the rest of us it quickly becomes clear that while Cannes is great for lazy days on the beach, taking relaxing walks, and enjoying meals along its boardwalk area (Boulevard de la Croisette), it otherwise lacks the excitement that you might want while on an exotic vacation. So, if you have some spare time while in Cannes, and you want to see what else the region has to offer, here are 4 day trip ideas you can consider.
1. Perfume Crafting in Grasse
A short 20km drive away from Cannes is Grasse, a small commune in the mountainous region of the French Riviera. The city wields a long-storied pedigree in the art of perfumery since the 18th century, and is home to 3 well-regarded perfumeries, 1 perfume museum, and an international school of perfumery. Needless to say, booking a perfume making class at one of the 3 perfumeries is a must-do. Our perfumery of choice was Molinard, which was established in 1849, and had a well reviewed perfume making course, in addition to offering very attractive glass bottles to take home your concoction.
The entire process took a little over an hour (cost ~60 Euros when we went) and was truly an enjoyable experience. We were lucky as there were no other guests at the time (making it more personal), sans a tour group walking through the perfumery gallery during our workshop. The staff was also patient in walking us through the various steps to creating our own perfume, and gave us plenty of time to smell the 90 essences on offer for the perfume mix. After finishing our custom formula, the staff stored our personal ingredients and formula so that we can always call and order a refill in the future.
2. Paddle Boating in Gorges du Verdon
A bit further away from Cannes to the Northwest (~2 hour drive) is the wilderness surrounding Gorges du Verdon (Verdon Gorge). The Verdon river spider webs throughout the national park, and creates a network of canyons, or gorges, that visitors can hike along, swim in, and paddle through (in a small boat or a kayak). We did not make advance reservation for a paddle boat, although it is generally recommended given the limited availability. If you want an electric boat, they have even fewer fleets, so advanced booking may be necessary (but in all honesty, the manual paddling is not too arduous, so no need to fret if you can’t get an electric boat). The rental was about 30-40 euros in total, with very minimal operating guidance and simple instruction of returning the boat before 5-6pm when they close up shop.
There were several boats and kayaks along the gorge as we were paddling through, and many people stopped along the way (water is quite still so not an issue) to climb along the rocks and engage in some cliff jumping. Please do take care as some of the rocks are quite slippery, but the adrenaline rush is certainly worth the effort! And trust me, on a hot summer day, diving into the clean and refreshing water was wholly welcomed.
3. Cliffside Dining in Èze
Assuming you flew into Nice to get to Cannes, you may already know the lure of its beaches, bustling cobbled streets, and excellent museum selections making for an easy day trip idea. While I do not disagree, I would urge you to look even further east, and take a drive along the beautiful southern coast to Èze (~40 minutes from Cannes). Apart from offering breathtaking views of the best coastal scenery that the French Riviera has to offer, Èze is home to some of the most extravagant summer homes of celebrities and European royalty (think the Hamptons on steroids). In an effort to blend in, we opted for a lunch at La Chèvre d’Or, which is a hotel perched atop the hills of Èze, and also hosts a 2-Michelin star restaurant.
The dining experience was as you’d expect of renowned restaurants, but the beautiful surrounding is really what made the meal amazing for us. In fact, we found later that you could just eat at the Le Café du Jardin and enjoy your meal and the scenery outside, rather than sitting in the proper restaurant. Although the fixed course meal was both unique and delicious, if we were to go back, we would certainly opt to sit at the Cafe, and save not-so-few Euros in the process!
4. Living Out Your Best 007 Life in Monaco
Any Formula One racing fan worth a lick will know of Monaco – a small, sovereign city-state sitting on the Mediterranean coast and landlocked on three sides by the French Riviera. Every year, the F1 Grand Prix takes place in the city circuits of Monaco, boasting a guest list that often comprises the crème de la crèmes of the world. Regardless of your tax bracket, the colorful buildings and cobble-stone streets intricately carved into the coastal landscape are truly a marvel to experience and walk through.
The city-state is also the home of the world-famous Monte Carlo casino, which is especially well-known from the multiple features on James Bond 007 films. The casino is indeed open to the public, but you will need your passport, and “proper attire” is required (no shorts, flip flops, or trainers).