In Barcelona, we said farewell to the comforts of family and friends. From Nice onward, we rolled solo.
During our trip planning months earlier, we considered skipping around Europe from one AirBnB spot to another. But the thought of displacing the kids and packing and unpacking stuff every few days sounded about as much fun as a bleeding ulcer. So we settled on two weeklong stays: Nice and Positano. Besides giving the kids some semblance of routine, most AirBnB locations offered modest discounts for weekly rentals.
Nice is a great anchor point – right smack in the heart of the fancy-schmancy Côte d’Azur or the French Riviera. Within 30 minutes are some of the most luxurious places in the world, including Cannes and Monaco. But equally appealing to us: Nice is the cheapest. It’s like staying in Santa Monica versus Beverly Hills. You’re close enough to smell the Chanel without the fumes melting your wallet. But just as with Santa Monica, you’re not talking about a dump either. Nice is quite easy on the eyes.
Deniz scored a sweet flat directly across from the Promenade des Anglais, where every morning we threw our shutters open to let the Mediterranean join us for breakfast. We’d cross the street to walk on pebbly Sainte-Hélène beach and stroll the boardwalk where old men with little dogs and svelte runners with littler waistlines made their rounds.
In the evenings, after we put the kids down, we enjoyed a few glasses of something-something on our balcony, and enjoyed the sensation of being out without having to leave the kids. It would have been perfect, if not for Boris the Bat, who enjoyed taking evening laps off our roof with the pure intent of scaring the bejesus out of me. Because what’s not to love about, a blind, screeching mouse with wings whom despite his super sonar is bound to fly into something or someone at some point?
Without a local to show us around, it took a few days to get our bearings. But it took me no time at all to pull my first Clark Griswald-move right out of “European Vacation.” After our AirBnB host greeted us, handed us the keys, and thought he left us in a good place, I headed back to the car to start unloading our junk. With what felt like not-quite-the-Earth on my back, but perhaps a little bulkier, I managed to contort through the lobby doors and miraculously cram myself and our little world of crap into one of those old wooden elevators. After unloading said crap and letting out a premature sigh in front of our door, I tried to wiggle my key in. Nothing. Hmm, maybe the wrong floor? I tried one floor up. Nope. One floor down? Nada.
A French man walks out of one the apartments I jabbed with my key. He stairs me down suspiciously. If not for all the parental paraphernalia adorning my mountain of crap – a pink, cute, Little Mermaid backpack, for example – there’s no telling what this guy would have done. Sweaty with my bandana and scruffy goatee, I didn’t exactly look like someone you’d invite in. But I could read in his eyes that he knew exactly what was up. With a smile and few hand gestures, he escorted me and my hefty globe of kiddy-adorned shit to the adjacent apartment building. Turns out, Atlas was in the wrong building.
A few days later, another tenant proceeded to strike up neighborly chitter-chatter with me, in beautiful-sounding French and with articulate hand gestures, about the a-holes who come into our apartment building and forget to close the manual elevator doors – inadvertently putting the lift out of service. The a-hole, naturally, was me.
It also took Deniz and the kids a couple of days to get settled in, but – not surprisingly – they managed without embarrassing themselves. Subtracting the fact that Aylin and Emilio are simply tireless, rambunctious 4 and 3 year olds, who love to egg each other on, they’re good, adaptive travelers and easy customers. It doesn’t take much to please them: a carousel, public transportation or a park and they’re in heaven. For example, for them, it didn’t get better than the mirroir d'eau (water mirror) at the Promenade du Paillon in Old Town Nice.
We took easy day trips to all the nearby places Cannes, Antibes, Monaco, Juan-les-Pins, Eze. By far our family favorite was the beach in Villefranche-sur-Mer. Apart from it being nestled in a picturesque cove surrounded by well-preserved old shops painted in a rainbow of pastel colors, its beach was easily accessible with kids. Also accessible: cheap beer. And of course, Aylin and Emilio frolicked on the shore to no end.
In Nice, we found our vacation rhythm. We settled in, took our time, went sightseeing and struck the elusive balance of what is fun for the kids and what is fun for the parents.
Oh, and bats still suck.
Nice in photos (Click on this link or the photo below to view all of our photos):