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The Fun of Driving Down

Wednesday a friend and I are hopping in a rental car and actually driving down to Nice. This sounds nuts considering the train was only 86€ and takes 5 hours 40 minutes. According to Via Michelin, the trip is 933 kilometers, will take 9 hours 35 minutes (without stopping), cost 105.79€ in gas and 75€ in tolls…and that’s without the added expense of the rental car.

Why are we doing such a foolish thing? I keep asking myself the same question, except the answer started out as simple…but got complicated along the way.

The buyer of my studio apartment “Le Provençal” (who happens to be my niece) decided to redecorate it in her own style, leaving a few pieces of furniture up for grabs. One item was a classic café table that had been hand-tiled by mosaic artist Véronique Husson in Provençal colors that is too precious to give up. It is a perfect table for the balcony at “Le Matisse” in Nice.

The question was: What was the best way to get the table down to Nice?

While SNCF will ship certain items door to door, the table is fragile and heavy, not to mention awkward in shape. It seemed logical to just drive it down. In addition, it enabled bringing a few other things that are large or heavy…such as a new a “demi-lune parasol” to shade the table on the sunny balcony, a big new bedspread and a huge and heavy coffee table book about the Riviera.

The car rental was cheap when I booked it — about 60€ for the one day. At least that’s what I thought it would be. In the middle of the night, one of those flashes came to me (don’t you do your clearest thinking in your sleep?), that perhaps I better check on the rental car to make sure it was ‘for real.’

Lo and behold, if I had not phoned the car rental company to inquire, it would have been a rude awakening on the spot to discover that 1) there is a big drop-off fee, 2) the rental only allowed for 250 kilometers per day and the other almost 750 kilometers would be charged at 40¢ per kilometer and 3) the only location at which we could drop the car was at the airport instead of the rental office one block from the apartment. Ugh.

The agent was quite helpful and with some creative thinking, we were able to change the rental to a three-day booking with a return to the airport just in time for our flight to Corsica on Saturday, thereby increasing the number of free kilometers to 750 (so, only about 250 kilometers would be charged at 40¢ each) and she was able to find a diesel fuel car so that the fuel charges would be greatly reduced.

Sounded good, but while I was on the phone with, my personal assistant called AutoEurope and got a much better deal. Not only was the kilometerage unlimited and free, but the rental rate was one-third of the other’s, the drop off charge lower and so was the second driver rate. So, we SCORED.

This still doesn’t make it cheap or worth the hassle, except that now we realize a) we don’t HAVE to be in Nice to drop off the car in such a rush and can leisurely drive down, even stopping along the way or overnight if we want to, b) can drive up to the door the next morning on the pedestrian street to unload the heavy table, parasol, etc. (the street closes to vehicles after 11 a.m.) and c) we’ll have the use of the car to explore the Riviera the rest of the week and go to the airport for our flight to Corsica. Yep, we SCORED.

The recommended route to Nice is via Lyon to Marseille and then on to Nice. I’ve already purchased a big bag of sunflower seeds to crack and eat along the way (a bad, old habit) and fired up the iPod to plug into the sound system for great music. Ye ol’ iPhone doubles as a GPS, but I’m sure all of you already know this, except that when the sweet voice says “turn left onto blah, blah, blah,” her pronunciation of French names in English can be totally unrecognizable! It always gets a laugh, even if we can’t make out what she says. We rarely lose our way since road signage in France is exemplary anyway.

This is Nice’s highest of high seasons and it’s doing all it can to change every season to a high tourist season. If we didn’t have the car, we could take advantage of the “French Riviera Pass” that makes a stay on the French Riviera so much easier. “With a single card, admire the bay of Angels from the top-deck of the Open Tour Nice sightseeing bus, stop off to visit the main sights and museums, go on a guided tour or do some regional wine-tasting. Make off to Antibes-Juan-Les-Pins, Biot, Cannes, Mougins, Villefranche-sur-mer, Beaulieu, Cagnes-sur-mer, St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Eze, Monaco, St Martin Vésubie, where more sights await you with free access. Stroll around and make the most of the exclusive advantages of your own address book where you can continue your discoveries…”

With three versions to choose from, 24-hour, 48-hour or 72-hour access, the pass can be purchased for €26, €38 and €56 and comes with a 80-page guide translated into English and other languages. For more information and purchase your pass, visit French Riviera Pass.

This past Sunday afternoon I strolled along Paris Plage, but while it makes a great effort to create a boardwalk beachy atmosphere, it’s still not quite the same. I’m already dreaming of the moment we land in Nice when the real vacation begins. Just the sight of the palm trees and glimmering water will have me swooning. It is sure to be over-the-top with tourists and we’ll have to part the stream of Brazilian dancers on rue Masséna to enter my door…but I don’t care.

In fact, that’s part of the fun of it.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group

(in Nice)

Respond to Adrian

P.S. Preview Announcement: “Moving Your Passion onto the Page: An Intensive Workshop for Writers in Paris, France” with Cecilia Woloch, September 28 – Oct. 2, 2015. More details coming soon!

P.P.S. If you would like to visit the Riviera, be sure to visit our luxury apartment offerings in central Nice at Parler Nice Apartments


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