A weekend of driving along the French Riviera with breath taking views, a spot of lunch, a swim in the Mediterranean Sea, a few fun activities, followed by dinner at Le Mas de Pierre in Saint Paul de Vence before resting up in their luxurious 5-star hotel. All of this sounds incredibly exciting and would make for the perfect romantic getaway. But what about with children?
Well someone had to try it out.
As a family we love adventure and really like to make the most of our weekends. We are spontaneous. We like freedom. We love packing up and getting out there, exploring the world, even if we only have two days to do it. There are lots of places in the UK that we drive to but this time we went a little further to explore the beautiful French Riviera.
After an easy short flight of only an hour and a half (perfect with kids!) we stepped off the plane in to the warm, sweet smelling air of Nice. We were then ready to embark on our family adventure, driving through the beautiful roads of the Côte d’Azur with a few exciting activities planned along the way.
As we were going to be driving a fair bit, we needed a car which was capable to join this journey with us. Something durable (we have kids!) Something smooth (we have a baby!) Something comfortable (we were going to have quite a few hours on the road). We chose the new Ford Focus Active which was all the above and more. When you think of cars suitable for a family most of us think of a big SUV. While SUV’s are certainly the go-to car for large families, they are not always the most practical. We wanted a somewhat normal size car that was lovely and spacious inside but not too big for us to drive through the hills of Provence. It also has a sizeable boot, fantastic for fitting in prams, strollers and baby paraphernalia -including a boot which opens with the swish of your foot underneath – a feature which I found incredibly useful when I had a toddler hanging off one leg, a baby in my arms and bags to carry. With the key in my pocket, I just swung my leg under the rear of the car and abracadabra the boot opens! Such a handy and convenient little feature. The car also has isofix points for car seats. Brilliant!
So, once we were all loaded into the car our stylish French adventure began. We drove along the stunning coastal route from Saint Paul de Vence towards Nice. The drive was about 50 minutes but went very quickly with two sleeping children in the back. The children got the chance to nap after all the travelling, whilst we wound down the windows and took in the picturesque views. Always searching for the hidden gems and least touristy spots, we drove past Nice and on to a bay called Villefranche -sur-Mer which is a charming seaside village between Nice and Monaco. In fact, Villefranche -sur-Mer is reputed as one of the five most beautiful bays in the world. It truly is a jaw droppingly gorgeous fishing village surrounded by terracotta houses cascading down the hillside towards the sparkling clear sea. The warm orange and sandy colours are juxtaposed by the bright and vibrant bougainvillea climbing the cobbled walls. This pretty little village is so authentic and charming, with boats bobbing on the bay, crystal clear waters and a complete feeling of calm. It’s a wonderful spot for children to paddle and splash around in the warm Mediterranean Sea. The bay is small and contained which makes a safe and stress-free spot. Honestly, you feel like you have been hypnotised when you arrive as it is so peaceful. If you have older children, you may want to take them kayaking which is a lovely way to bond and relax whilst admiring the scenery.
Moving on through the Riviera we drove towards Monaco to La Tête de Chien which is the highest point on the Grande Corniche road. It overlooks Monaco and is another place for magnificent views. Driving up the steep hills was exhilarating and when we finally got to the top we cheered. The Focus ‘Active’ part of the car really came in to its own at this point where we had some winding snake-like roads to climb. We all felt incredibly safe and even with the tight corners the car felt smooth and sturdy. The steering is light, and the ride is quiet even across bumpy terrain. Finally, we were looking over Monaco where we had a little bite to eat, picking up local focaccia on the way. Here it is possible for the adventurous souls to do some abseiling, so if you have older children that want to post that perfect picture on Instagram #livingtheirbestlife this is the place.
After a full day we were ready to head back to our gorgeous hotel Le Mas de Pierre for a relaxing evening in the Scent Garden, followed by an exquisite dinner al fresco. The hotel is so peaceful and stylish but also caters for children. It has a spectacular pool with incredible views of the French Alpes all equipped with children’s floats and a funky wooden ice cream cart for some sweet treats after lunch. There is also a Kids Club keeping the little ones entertained during the summer months of July and August with various games and activities for 3-12-year olds.
The next day we ventured to Col de Vence which is a steep climb up the twisting mountain roads with an incredible backdrop. Before the ascent we drove through Vence village which looks somewhat like a movie set. Incredible hilltop houses, with flowers blooming at the windows, washing lines hung between buildings and shops and restaurants that look like they are from another era. It is a truly magical place; we had to stop the car to take some photos and grab some refreshments. After many twists and turns to the top of the mountains we wound our way up onto an enormous plateau where we had a glorious picnic with incredible views.
Here is the perfect spot to crack open the Rose (if you’re not the driver!) take it all in and look in wonder at the world around you. For the sporty ones in the family this is a fantastic spot for some cycling or mountain biking. An absolute cracker of a location which you find yourself having a bit of a pinch yourself moment.
After being refuelled and refreshed we were finally ready to head back to the airport after an amazing two days of fun, family and freedom. What a ride. It certainly is possible to enjoy an exciting road trip with children across the French Riviera. It was stylish, it was fun and above all it was easy! All thanks to Ford Focus Active for an incredible trip and a remarkable drive.