Checking off my bucket list one birthday at a time

Today I realized that my last blog post was over a month ago.  Yikes!

I have such good intentions and then LIFE sneaks in and well you probably know how that goes.

I love having a store and all the great, inspiring parts that come with it but some days it feels like there is no time for the extras....like blogging about fun, creative thoughts or ideas.

I have been meaning to write about my 50th birthday trip to the South of France but it seems that since I turned 50 I would rather sleep than blog.

The trip and all the aspects about the travel was AWESOME.  I have friends and family saying they are just going to cut and paste when they head to France.  So here are my tips for a successful trip.

1.  Research is KEY!

When we take a trip to somewhere new and somewhere far away (like on a plane and in different time zones) I am a crazy lady about my research.  But you know what it pays off.  And it was no different for this most recent trip to France.  A few months ago I spent a couple weeks googling towns, hotels, and reading a million reviews on both and then lots of travel guides.  This is how I found The Chèvre D'Or (the gold goat) in the little medivial town of Eze about 40 minutes outside of and high above Nice.

The grounds were amazing and the property had multiple levels of gardens nestled and terraced into the side of the hill.  And the view down to the Sea was spectacular...although in this picture its a bit foggy.

Everything was built out of stone.  The pathways, the buildings, the walls...amazing to think that this was all built SO long ago without the aid of modern technology.

What a treat to eat breakfast each morning with this view.

2.  Stay at least 2 nights in a hotel to be able to get the flavor.
 I find that 2 or 3 nights in a location is what you need to discover the rhythm of the staff, the locals, the area.  It allows you time to settle in and learn about an area as well as get to know the hotel staff which usually makes your stay more enjoyable.  The only time I recommend a one-night stay is if you have an early morning flight and want to be close/er to the airport.

I found this charming B + B from a online site called "Charming B and B's"....pretty simple right?!
It was a five minute drive outside of the city of Aix en Provence and centrally located to all the towns I wanted to visit while in the region of Provence.  The property was a former barn that the owner converted into 2 buildings...one housed 3 rooms which all led out french doors to the pool and the other house was the main living space where breakfast was served each morning.  She even had the original stone fireplace rebuilt in the kitchen of the main living space.

3.  Break the vacation up with different accommodation types

I initially did this because of budget restraints but have found it to be a really nice formula for a week long vacation.  2-3 nights at a luxury hotel.....2-3 nights at a modest accommodation and then we typically add a night in a city so we can access our flight easily upon departure.  And by modest I do NOT mean 2 star but rather a B+B, or an apartment in the middle of a town or city found through AirBnB...something that is different than a hotel.  Its a totally different vibe and lets you experience the local area from a different vantage point.

4.  Plot and Plan ahead of time your local travel
For instance for the first 3 days we didn't rent a car because I discovered that the town of Eze was very tricky to navigate when driving a car but easily accessible by bus or train.  I knew that Monaco was an 8 minute train ride from Eze and that the train and bus system was fairly easy to navigate. We hoped the local commuter train from Eze and once we got to Monaco we opted for the double decker tour bus.  The view from the top of the bus was perfect!

We had a rental car booked for mid week when we would be touring the Provence region and driving from town to town. I think you get the most our of  your trip when you arrive to a city or town and know your options and how to generally navigate the area.

While using the B+B in Aix as our home base we travelled to the fishing village of Cassis...

And then we drove up from sea level to the town of Gordes high in the hills...

We ended the trip staying in Nice for a night since our flight was early the next morning.  We arrived about noon so it gave us time to explore the city and we were so impressed with all it had to offer.

We walked the beach and were surprised how many people were sun bathing and swimming.

And then we climbed the historical tower that sat on the Eastern end of the beach.  With each level higher we climbed the beach grew smaller and you could view the entire Promenade des Anglais.

Here we are at the top of Bellanda Tower.  

It was an amazing way to end a 50th birthday trip.  And as luck would have it the sunset out our hotel window was pure perfection.