The French Riviera. Cote d’Azur. That Mediterranean Coast With The Croissants. No matter what you call it, there’s one image that comes to mind: wealth, in the form of private, pebble beaches; yachts with their own Wikipedia page that are worth $210 million and owned by Saudi billionaires; and bronzed French men, too. And while that’s all there – oh, is it there – you’ll also find a lot more that you wouldn’t expect. Having just returned from my mother-daughter bonding trip to the French coast, here are the top 10 surprising facts about the south of France.
1. Between the hours of 2pm and 7pm, no restaurants serve food, which completely explains how the French stay thin. For Americans (me), this is devastating. Bring trail mix.
2. But French people really do eat a lot. I saw so many fit women devouring –and finishing – dessert samplers filled with profiteroles and crème brûlée at lunch, which means either it’s probably all genetic, they only eat one meal a day, and/or their ingredients are just a lot fresher and less manufactured than ours so they don’t need to be vegan.
3. While St. Tropez is as glamorous as you think it is with its $12 cappuccinos from Sénéquier Café and white sand-covered floors in L’Escale, the serene cobblestone village Ramatuelle just 20 minutes away provides the calm you may crave amid the wild nights and opulence.
4. Five days in, and you realize you might as well be on the island of Manhattan, standing in the middle of the Meatpacking District with a bag of very fresh baguettes, because that’s totally what the coast feels like; the wealth, the rosé, the nightclubs, the fashion, and everyone looking like they’re ready to go out – at 2pm.
5. The cappuccinos really aren’t better than at NYC places like Bee’s Knee’s, and they’re a lot less strong. I missed that spot.
6. If you’re an American, you will feel both incandescently happy to be there and devastatingly insecure because no matter how many suede black heels, pastel blazers, and satin scarves you wear, you will fall short of looking like “them.” The French folks look both effortless and effortful, since they’re naturally good looking and, on top of it, impeccably put together.
7. Elton John bought a massive house in Nice that overlooks the entire city, can be seen from the main port, and is next door to a castle.
8. Nice feels like a mixture of Barcelona cosmopolitan and St. Tropez charm. And the building in Cannes where the film festival takes place – the Palais des Festivals – looks like a convention center in Kansas.
9. Monaco is its own country, and the language and food of choice: Italian. Want the best? Head to Le Pinocchio, right by the Prince’s Palace.
10. Leave your sneakers at home. You’re in French country now, suga.
Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.