2019 European Vacation: Day Four in Antibes and Cannes during the Film Festival

We scheduled a morning to sleep in and take our time, which was necessary for happy moods and getting some laundry done. Once everyone was sufficiently awake, we packed up our Eddie Bauer packable daypacks, which I love, and headed for Billionaire’s Bay.

I knew Jeremy would enjoy every minute of the morning. He has loved the water since birth and could spend inordinate amounts of time just observing what’s down below. The water was cooler than he would’ve liked, but man oh man was it crystal clear.

We kept following the trail, which was virtually empty, save a couple of hikers here and there.

Jackson was the first brave soul to enter the chilly Mediterranean Sea.

You only live once! Jump in!

This is one of my favorite photos from the entire trip – Jeremy and Jackson jumping into the Mediterranean Sea together. Be still my heart.

I can’t get over how beautiful this place is. It was only a 20-minute drive from our apartment and it was free to the public.

We headed back to the apartment to clean up for Cannes, which was only one train stop west from Antibes. (The train fare was $3.20 per person.) We had zero expectations for Cannes because we had no clue how the film festival would transform the city and make it either less convenient or more convenient for travelers. So, we hopped the train and kept an open mind.

There was a lot of this in Cannes:

At least half of everyone walking around were in tuxes and nice dresses. Some had lanyards around their necks, which signified they could enter the festival, but others carried signs saying they needed a ticket or two. We supposed the film festival was invite-only.

The coolest thing by far was Jeremy’s pick-up game of chess. We came upon a chessboard surrounded by Frenchmen so we stopped to watch them play.

We encouraged Jeremy to play the next free game and were SO PROUD that he wasn’t too shy to jump in. He didn’t win, but he kept his opponent playing for a while and earned the respect of older onlookers.

Scattered throughout the square adjacent to the Palais des Festivals were imprints of movie stars’ hands, foreign and domestic. We stumbled upon a few American actors and actresses:

One thing we opted out of was staying to watch the Cinéma de la Plage (Movie on the Beach), which is free to the public during the Cannes Film Festival. Each night is a different film, and we crossed our fingers hoping it would be an English-speaking film (American or otherwise) the night we were there. Alas, it was a foreign film so we decided not to grab four seats and stay.

The previous night, however, they showed Boyz in the Hood. ?

We also decided not to linger in an attempt to see Sylvester Stallone, who would be walking the red carpet later that night. We did see Adrien Brody on the boardwalk though!

Dinner in Cannes was one of our best experiences on the entire trip. We chose a little restaurant on a side street where we could sit under an umbrella and people-watch. Our waiter was terrific and took care to help the boys with their French.

In this photo the waiter is teaching Jackson how to say “without lettuce and tomato” in French.
My husband drank rosé in France and I couldn’t have been happier.?

The boys wanted ice cream for dessert (we promised them we’d eat tons of ice cream on this trip!), but Chuck and I wanted Nutella crêpes. Holy moly. Get in my belly.

The night in Cannes concluded our time in France, and frankly, I was sad to leave. Everything about our French experience was wonderful. But, it was time to go back to Italy, so we packed up our things the next morning and headed to Levanto and Cinque Terre.

2019 European Vacation: Day Two in Antibes, Côte d’Azur (the French Riviera)

It was a genius move to sleep in the hotel connected to Gatwick Airport because our Easy Jet flight from London to Milan was incredibly early. Props to all of you who wake up at 4:30 a.m. by choice on a regular basis!

We got a beautiful view of the Alps from the airplane:

Flying to Milan was a financial decision, an inexpensive way to get us to Continental Europe. At $67 per ticket, it was a no-brainer. We landed by 9 a.m., grabbed our diesel Fiat rental, and headed for the Mediterranean.

We were all exhausted, but only the boys grabbed a catnap.

To be honest, our initial impression of Italy was nothing special, as we weren’t anticipating miles of rice fields outside of Milan. It wasn’t until we left the Lombardy region and entered Liguria that the terrain started to look pretty, like everything you see in photographs.

Knowing we had three days in Italy at the end of the trip, we didn’t make any stops and headed straight for Antibes, a small city between Nice and Cannes on the Côte d’Azur.

Our two-bedroom AirBNB apartment was perfectly situated with a view of the Mediterranean and only a short walk to a small grocery store and the train station.

The weather was perfect, so we unloaded our things and headed for the coastline and Old Town.

The water was as blue as I hoped it would be, but little did I know that in two days we’d explore another spot in Antibes that’s even more gorgeous.

I don’t know if there were more boats in town than usual on account of the Monaco Grand Prix, but I never tired of looking out into the Mediterranean Sea and watching massive yachts float by.

The Old Town of Antibes is everything you think a small French town would look like. This is why you have to get out of the big cities and explore where regular people live. Paris doesn’t fully represent France, just as London doesn’t fully represent England, just as New York City doesn’t fully represent the United States. I will always advocate for staying in small towns!

Vive la France!

We eventually found a spot for dinner and the boys ordered their meals entirely in French! I was so proud.

We attempted everything in French first, even if it was simply asking the waiter if he spoke English (“Parlez-vous anglais?”). Knowing simple questions, including please and thank you, will get you very far in a foreign country. By making an honest attempt, it shows you respect the people and country hosting you. We were always greeted and treated graciously by everyone we encountered in France.

After dinner, we explored the narrow streets of Old Town and found a beautiful square to get the boys gelato and us another glass of rosé. (Chuck discovered he enjoys wine in France!)

We had a big day planned for Monaco, so we watched the sunset from our balcony, enjoyed another glass of rosé, and pinched ourselves to make sure everything was real.

So we went to Europe.

At some point during winter, Chuck and I started talking about where to take the boys on a summer vacation. We like to travel as soon as we’re done with school, which ends at the onset of Mother’s Day (a lovely gift I give myself). Also, traveling before Memorial Day weekend tends to save a little money and definitely cuts down on the crowds.

Our original thought was to take the boys to California since they’ve never been. Rent a car, drive the coast, venture into L.A. so Jackson can marvel at the Hollywood sign… It sounded like a good idea.

But then we started seeing unbelievable fares out of Chicago, which is where we planned to fly out of since we were going there for Jacob’s graduation. When a fare to London showed up at $398, we decided to jump on it. We’d fly roundtrip from Chicago to London and see what could happen in between.

Leaving Chicago

By mid-March, we’d made loose plans. We knew we didn’t want to stay in the UK since Chuck and I just did that in October, and we knew Easy Jet could take us almost anywhere in Europe for cheap. When a fare to Milan popped up for $67, we decided Italy was as good a country as any.

Milan, Italy

Then we started researching where we could drive to from Milan. The Mediterranean Sea was a four-hour drive from Milan. We thought, let’s go there! Why not! Let’s go to France! Is Spain too far away? Where else could we go?

Antibes, France

At the same time, Chuck and I had discovered “Drive to Survive”, a Netflix docu-series on Formula 1. On a whim, we googled races. Most of them happen in Europe, so maybe there was a race when we were already scheduled to be there.

Sure enough, the Monaco Grand Prix was scheduled for the exact week we planned to be in the French Riviera. We researched logistics and bought tickets for the first two practices. Unreal.

We had seats directly across from pit lane.

Our trip started to take shape by the end of March, but it was on the road to Nashville for the Mumford & Sons concert when Chuck and I wondered when the Cannes Film Festival was – because wouldn’t that be funny if the Cannes Film Festival was during the same time as our vacation to southern France!

Sure enough, it was.

After France, we went back to Italy and explored two towns that make up Cinque Terre’s five towns. Stunning, stunning.

We finished the trip with an afternoon in London and caught a flight back to Chicago the next day. We wore ourselves out, but every second was worth it. Yes, we are already talking about where to go next.

Outside Buckingham Palace. Yes, the Queen was in residence. No, she didn’t wave to us from the balcony.

I took an obscene amount of photos (of course I did!), so it will take a week or longer to sort through them and upload posts that fully describe the trip. Since this blog serves as a scrapbook for our family, I will include all the highlights. I did the same thing with our Iceland trip in 2017 and our UK trip in 2018, and I still enjoy going back to read those posts.

Stay tuned!