My whole South of France and Geneva itinerary came about because I had a persistent daydream of my husband, toddler and me playing on a beach in the French Riviera. (Note that I don’t want to say “relaxing” because there’s a toddler involved.) I envisioned us strolling through a beautiful Old Town and swimming in the Mediterranean. There were plenty of fabulous Cote D’Azur towns to choose from but once I realized that a sandy (as opposed to rocky) beach was a must, my choices narrowed considerably. Antibes, a family-friendly, yacht-loving, Picasso-honoring, town became the clear choice. So now all we had to do was find a vacation rental in Antibes … in less than two weeks from our departure date!
On the vacation rental website, I was able to select my July dates and required rental amenities: internet, air conditioning, parking and at least one bedroom (no studios because having a separate sleeping space is greatly preferred when traveling with a toddler). Without too much trouble, I found the winner, a one-bedroom condo in Antibes that was just outside of the Old Town and a 10-minute walk to the nearest sandy beach. The owner, Sarah, responded immediately to my query, and then quickly responded to my subsequent questions. There were several positive reviews for this condo that also helped put my mind at ease.
We had rushed around a lot in the beginning of the trip and we were very ready to relax (in relative terms) when we arrived in Antibes. We had spent the past three nights in three different places: an overnight flight, a hotel in Annecy and a hotel in Avignon. We couldn’t wait to spread out in our one-bedroom apartment rental for the next three nights. Through texting, we arranged to have Sarah’s lovely father, Taffy, meet us by the garage door, where he helped us figure out the parking (two doors — very secure!), gave us our keys and showed us around the place.
The place was immaculately clean, and actually looked even better than the photos on the website. The living room and dining room area was spacious enough for our toddler to play in, and there were even some toys for him! The bedroom was big enough that we had no problem fitting in our Bjorn Travel Light Crib, which we take everywhere. The kitchen was nice and bright, as it bordered the large, triangular terrace. Although we never ended up cooking, it was nice to have a fridge to store my son’s milk and our fruit. And it’s much nicer to wash bottles and pacifiers in a kitchen than a hotel bathroom.
All of the promised amenities were there, but I never could have imagined what my favorite amenity was going to be: motorized blackout shades. The French Riviera takes its blackout shades very seriously. They keep them closed during the day if they’re out so the place stays cool, which is very environmentally friendly. The blackout shades are also there for security reasons during the off-season. These shades kept the bedroom so delightfully dark and, more importantly it kept our toddler asleep hours after the sun had risen! I’ve never seen blackout shades like this anywhere else. Maybe I could be the one who introduces them to America? We have no idea what we’re missing… sleep!
We really felt right at home in our rental, and it was easy to pretend that we were a French family en vacances. We were a short walk to the lively Old Town, which was full of great restaurants, a surprising number of which was Italian, which was excellent for our pizza-loving son (who am I kidding — we’re all pizza fanatics). Our favorite way to get to Old Town was to walk along the harbor so we could admire the yachts. These docks have earned the name “Millionaire’s Quay” for a reason, and it’s the kind of place where a 40-ft yacht looks small because it’s next to a 60-ft yacht. A 10-minute walk along the water also brought us to the small but picturesque La Gravette beach, and then about another 10-15-minute walk brought us to La Salis beach which we preferred because it was much longer and the sand was softer. We had some wonderful beach-filled days and then just as we were settling into our routine, it was time to move on…