This year has brought so much uncertainty and stress. We have all been in lock down, lost loved ones, home schooled our kids with no idea what we are actually doing. We have also reconnected with people via zoom for happy hours, weddings, baby showers, and friends that we may only text with occasionally. At least I know I have. While I have hated 2020 so much I will not lie, I am grateful that it made it us slow down and connect.
The thing for Rob and I is that we didn’t connect during this time. We actually had a huge wedge come between us. So when restrictions started lifting here we decided after a lot of research we were safely going to road trip somewhere. We needed to, just for a moment, disappear from 2020. While we knew we couldn’t actually do this, because 2020 had a hold on every country, every person, and everything, we could, perhaps, pretend.
So we rented a car, grabbed our face mask and packed up to head to the Cote d’Azur , better known as the south of France. Its a 13 hour trip from Utrecht to Nice, mind you that is with no stops, and certainly no five year old. It would have very quickly turned into a Twenty hour drive if we did it straight, which we have done BZ (before Z). So we decided to break it up. The first leg was to Genk, Belgium where we stayed the night with our amazing friends Veronica and Jason. It was so nice to see them after so long and they truly are the best host. We enjoyed oysters that we shucked ourselves, and the most amazing lobster salad that Veronica cooked up for us. The next morning Veronica and I had to venture out because in true Landers fashion we loaded everything in the car, except Z’s shoes. We also made a special stop to get the most delicious Belgian chocolates, after all what is a road trip without good snacks?!
After saying our goodbyes, it was time for the second leg of our trip to Lyon. Its about a five hour drive from Genk. We stayed at the Ibis, which is just off the highway, nothing fancy just a clean place to lay our heads for the evening. Waking up rested and ready for the day we packed up and started our final leg of the trip.
There are a couple of different ways to get from Lyon to Nice. You can take the A7 which takes about four and a half hours or you can go the way we did, which was all back country roads through Provence. No way was I going to the South of France and not seeing the lavender fields. The fields are usually harvested the first week of August so technically we were late to the game. Lucky for us a friend of Rob’s lives in Lyon and his dad owns a few fields so he told us where we could go to still see them. This took us about two hours out of the way, it was completely worth it though.
Driving past the most charming villages, through the French Alps it is incredibly breathtaking. There are not many restaurants, there are however, lovely places to stop for a picnic. As well as little food stands. We decided to stop at one of these. It looks like a little shack but the food is good. The boys had burgers and fries, while I opted for a quiche and a glass of rose. It was delicious. The back drop was something out of a fairy tale. Next to the food stand there was the most adorable shop with amazing french wines and other treasures.
After our lunch break it was time to start the long winding drive to the fields. So with the windows down and a perfect soundtrack playing we hit the road. It can be a bit daunting of a drive as it’s essentially a one lane road for cars going in both directions. As we came upon the fields they were sparse as they had already begin harvesting them, then suddenly there was a smell in the air that was so intoxicating. I felt this calm come over me, a calm I felt I had been searching for this whole year. We pulled over and walked through the field, it was magical. We were the only ones around, all I could hear was the wind blowing and bees buzzing.
We arrived in Nice around 8pm, checked in and went to find dinner. Our first day in Nice we wanted to do a beach day. There are several public beaches, what you need to know is that beaches in the Cote d’Azur are all pebble beaches, so unless you travel with your own chair or beach mat it’s not going to be very comfortable. We decided since this was our only trip this year we would splurge and make a reservation at a private beach club. After much research we went with Blu Beach. There were comfortable beach loungers, and staff that were there for our every need. As we walked up we were all silent, yes even Z, in awe of such beautiful azure waters. We made our way to our chairs and were served Rose’ and frites and even virgin pina coladas for Z or as he referred to it, beach milkshakes. Spending a day at the beach was exactly what we needed. We just let the Mediterranean wash our worries away.
,We let Z choose what to do the next day, so we ended up at a water park in Antibes, which was just a short drive from Nice. After spending the morning riding water slides and splashing around, you would think a kid would be water logged but no, so we decided to hit the pool at the hotel, I am so glad we did. As Z made friends and showed off his cannon ball skills I sipped rose’ and Rob made friends with the bar tender who told us where to go for dinner. He sent us to the rainbow district of Nice. Its just before you reach the old town (which is where you should spend most of your evenings.) Where we had the best dinner of our entire trip at Asian Factory followed by the most heavenly ice cream from Fenocchio. They had every flavor you could imagine and a few that you would probably never be able to think up, such as avocado, olive, and thyme.
Our final day We decided to hike up Castle Hill to get the best view Nice has to offer. Its quite a walk up, but you are rewarded with a gorgeous water fall and a view that is just captivating. This time of year is usually very crowded but in these strange times when there are not a lot of people travelling we had the place pretty much to ourselves. We just took it all in, grateful that we were able to be there. Coming back down we decided to stroll through old Nice and find something for dinner. If you have been following us you know we miss good tacos probably more than anything so we found La Lupita and we were in heaven. Their fish tacos are to die for and the spicy orange margarita hit a spot that had been long forgotten!
This trip was exactly what we needed to get back to us. To take a break from the world. The food, the culture, the architecture, the lavender, the med, the time together, the adventure, that is what was so nice about Nice.
Stay tuned for more adventures of Rob, Z and I…