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Written by Savi, 81 Comments

What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of the French Riviera or the Cote d’azur? For us, the French Riviera is a colourful mélange of delectable food and the sunny promenade in Nice, dazzling villas and yachts in Cannes, extravagance in Monte Carlo, art and culture in Antibes, stunning drives along the coast, and isolated villages in the French Alps. But all this is in retrospect. When we first embarked on a road trip through South France, we had never imagined we would see such variety in landscape and culture.

 

french riviera road trip monaco
Yachts lining the gorgeous coastline in Monaco

 

Before you start swooning, a word of warning. This part of Europe is stunning but it can be notoriously expensive –  it might not be the place for you if you’re on a tight budget! However if you’re dead set on dilly-dallying with celebrities and millionaires sun-bathing on their yachts, here is a suggested 5 day itinerary for exploring the French Riviera that will take you the most breathtaking sights of this beautiful region of South France.

 

 

Day 1: Nice

 

Nice is a bustling cosmopolitan and thanks to its warm weather and terracotta sun, it is the second most popular French city amongst tourists. Hours can be spent meandering through the alley-ways, sampling the delicious Nicoise cuisine. The Promenade De Anglais (Walkway of the English) along the Mediterranean sea stretches till the eye can see and is popular amongst tourists and locals during the day. Stroll along the promenade as you absorb the atmosphere and marvel at the ever changing colours of the waters.

 

Most of the famous sites of Nice including the Castle Hill (the best vantage point), Place Rossetti, Opera De Nice, and the Notre Dame cathedral are within walking distance of each other. At night, the Promenade metamorphoses into a quiet hangout with people sitting on benches and enjoying the cool sea breeze. Although fine-dining is something one must experience in the culinary capital of South France, there is no dearth of reasonable places to eat in Nice for those on a tighter budget. This town has a very relaxed feel about it and we loved exploring it at a slow pace.

 

Highlight: For us, it was the exotic flavours of Ice Cream at Fenocchios. Delicate orange blossom, cactus, and lavender were just some of our favourites. We loved it so much, we devoted an entire article to it 🙂

Driving: Nice is 30 kms away from Vence, where we stayed. Parking in Nice can be expensive but is readily available at the dedicated parking spaces along the Promenade.

 

french riviera road trip ice cream
Ice-cream at Fenoccio’s is one of the highlights of Nice

 

 

Day 2: Grasse and Antibes

Ever since we saw the movie Perfume: The story of a Murderer, we have had a burning desire to visit Grasse. This medieval town, also known as the perfume capital of the world, had to feature in our French Riviera road trip. We set out for a tour of one of the oldest perfumeries in Grasse: Galimard and spent an unforgettable afternoon learning about the perfume making process. Grasse, thanks to its inland location and altitude, lends itself well to flower farming. Fields of flowers and perfumeries dot the town roads. Most perfumeries offer free tours.

 

french riviera road trip grasse
Galimard Perfumery in Grasse

 

From the fragrant town of Grasse, we made our way to the seaside resort town of Antibes. Everything about this quaint little town is mesmerising. From the walk along the harbour to the numerous squares that house cute little cafes and restaurants doling out exquisite dishes, Antibes is magical. No wonder Pablo Picasso spent six months in a sea facing Château painting master pieces. The same Château is now a museum dedicated to the world renowned artist, and for a reasonable entrance fees of 6 Euros, you can see an impressive collection of his paintings and sketches.

 

Once you have sampled your fair share of art, walk over to the Provencal market in Cours Massena in the Old Town to savour fine cheese, cured ham, and ambrosial wine. The best, however, is yet to come. End the evening by paying a visit to the ‘Green Fairy’ (Absinthe) at the Absinthe Bar, which is right besides the Provencal market.


Highlights: The tour of the Perfumerie in Grasse and The Absinthe Bar in Antibes

Driving: This drive (Vence- Grasse -Antibes- Vence) is 75 kms

french riviera road trip antibes
The two of us at the Picasso Museum in Antibes

 

french riviera road trip South france
Absinthe does funny things to people 😉

 

 

Day 3: Vence and Mercantour National Park

To get the real feel of a road trip and to explore the areas outside Cote d’azur, we reserved our third day for an impromptu drive to the Mercantour National Park, which lies further North and shares the border with Italy. First we fuelled our hungry tums with the buttery croissants and French coffee in the town of Vence. We went for a gander to the fortified village of St. Paul De Vence, exploring its  historical sites and monuments. Vence, with its fountains and intricately-carved buildings, is right out of a fairy-tale.

 

Satiated, we left for our long drive to Mercantour National Park, without any fixed agenda in mind. The scenic drive took us through gorgeous valleys, quaint little French towns, and home-run restaurants where we sampled some locally produced cheese. Meandering through the Maritime Alps, we reached the sleepy village of Isola. It was eerie, probably because of the time of the day. We managed to find a small café and indulged in an espresso whilst enjoying the views of the majestic mountains towering over us. The best part of the drive was that it took us to unchartered territory, close to nature and away from the glitz of the French Riviera.

 

Highlights: Walk in the fortified village of Vence and a long drive into the Mercantour National Park

Driving: Approximately 125 Kms.

french riviera road trip nice
Menton, a tiny town at the French-Italian Border

 

french riviera road trip nice 2
Driving through Mercantour National Park

 

 

Day 4:  Èze, Villefranche Sur Mer, and Monaco

On the fourth day, we explored the Eastern side of Nice, starting with the picturesque sea-side town of Vellefranche-Sur-Mer. After having a hearty breakfast at a road-side café overlooking the sea, we went for a dip in the waters of the Villefranche beach which is one of the most pristine beaches of the French Riviera.

 

Continuing our drive on the Grand Corniche (A corniche is a road cut into the edge of a cliff), the highest of the 3 corniches that run from Nice to the Italian border, we explored the small medieval village of Èze. It boasts of one of the best views of the French Riviera. At one point on the Grand Corniche you get a spectacular view of the Mediterranean sea with the perched village of  Èze in the foreground. You HAVE to stop and take this view in – it is truly stunning.

 

french riviera road trip eze
The little village of Eze along the French Riviera

 

The last stop for the day was the municipality of Monaco, that is a city-state (so a new country to visit ;)) very close to the Italian border and famous for the F1 Monaco Grand Prix held annually. We spent our time in Monaco exploring Monaco-ville, a picturesque part of the city that is still a medieval village at heart with quaint cafes, pedestrian streets, and a magnificent Palace. If you are feeling particularly lucky, you should definitely place a bet or two at the Grand casino in Monte Carlo

Highlights: The drive on the Grand Corniche from Nice to Monaco and back as well as the view from the village of  Èze

Driving: 110 kms of pure scenic beauty.

french riviera road trip monaco
Yachts by the dozen in the French Riviera

 

 

Day 5: Cannes and Isles

World renowned for hosting a popular film festival, Cannes, which was once a quiet fishing village, has been transformed into one of the most opulent  towns in the world. Known for its fancy boutiques, Cannes is a shopper’s delight. So we had to go there and check it out for ourselves. To be honest, it wasn’t our favourite part of the road trip (it shouldn’t come as a surprise since we don’t like overcrowded places!), but once we ventured into the old town, we fell in love with the cobbled alleys and the street art on offer.

french riviera road trip Cannes
An artist pays homage to cinema on the streets of Cannes

 

Since the first four days of our French Riviera road trip had been quite busy, we wanted to end the trip on a relaxed note. And so we did. In the bay, off the coast of Cannes, lie Îles de Lérins (Lérins islands), that are accessible only by ferry. Two of the islands – St. Margaruite (the biggest and the closest to the shore) and St. Honorat (smaller and further) are accessible by ferry. We opted for St. Honorat primarily because it’s quieter than the other and has a beautiful monastery and a castle overlooking the sea. We climbed atop the castle, grabbed a few chairs, and relaxed in the afternoon sun.

 

Highlights: The leisurely stroll on St. Honorat followed by a relaxing nap atop the castle

Driving: Vence- Cannes- Vence is a 60 Km drive

 

French Riviera Road Trip
The view from the castle on the tiny island of St. Honorat

 

french riviera road trip
Turquoise waters and medieval villages make the French Riviera special

 

There you have it! Our favourite itinerary for an unforgettable French Riviera Road Trip 🙂

 

Fact File

  • If you’re flying to the French Riviera from London, Nice Cote d’azur airport is the most convenient. Cheap tickets are available on EasyJet and British Airways throughout the year.
  • We flew into Nice, but since we had rented a car, we had the flexibility of staying away from the expensive city centre of Nice. We chose a small family run Auberge (Inn) just outside the picture perfect village of Vence, a short 25 minute drive from Nice’s airport. We stayed at Auberge des Cayrons. Prices were approximately €30 per person per night without breakfast. Free Parking was available on site which was a big bonus since finding free parking in and around Nice is next to impossible.
  • Car rental can be quite expensive in South France. It’s best to compare rental cars in Nice before boarding your flight as companies can charge really high prices on the spot.
  • Nice Cote d’azur airport is the most convenient to fly into from London and cheap tickets are available on EasyJet and British Airways throughout the year.
  • The ferry ride to St. Honorat Island costs 13 Euros.

 

 

Dreaming of France or planning your trip to France? Here’s a selection of our favourite articles on France :-

1) A Day Trip to the Perfumeries of Grasse in South France

2) We found the Best Ice-Cream in the World in South France

3) Where to go drinking in South France

4) 5 Must Eats in Nice, France

5) Finding the perfect accommodation in France

6) Offbeat Paris  – Top 10 Must Dos

 

81 thoughts on “French Riviera Road Trip – Driving Through South France

  1. Only you guys discover these gorgeous destinations, quite different those the usual world tours. Menton seems to be a gorgeous place!

    1. Hey Laks,

      You are right 🙂 We love discovering some of the offbeat places ! Menton was very pretty, but the drive from Nice to Menton on the Grand Corniche was prettier 🙂

  2. Seems like an awesome road trip! We were in that area in May last year and my mom and I drove from Marseille to Nice and Cannes and back in one day — we were low on time so didn’t get to stop by all the places but it was still a great day! Would have LOVED to go to Grasse — and I’ve seen the movie too!

    1. Hey Vicky,

      That’s quite a bit of driving for a day 🙂 well, I am sure you’ll be back in France very soon so you should definitely visit Grasse and Antibes then 🙂

      The French Riviera is fantastic for driving, isn’t it?

  3. Great itinerary guys! I absolutely adore this part of the world. I have the most amazing 3 days in Nice, relaxing on the beach, walking the promenade and wandering the laneways of the old town.

  4. This is awesome!!!!! Not sure which of these things would be unavailable in December but this is a great read for someone like me trying to plan 3 days in South France without a clue!

  5. Absolutely love reading your blogs! And I can connect to that unconventional way of travelling.
    My girlfriends and I are planning a 10 day trip to France in April. All these places look quite exciting. We also wanna do Paris and probably take a train to Bruges. Any suggestions – must dos and places we can leave out? (Cannes & Monaco are lower on my list after the read)

    1. Hey Anisha,

      You could spend 4 days in the French Riviera – make Nice your base and explore Antibes and Vence as day trips. You can leave Cannes and Monaco out. Then you could take the train to Paris and spend 3-4 days there. Then a train to Bruges and 2 days there 🙂

      How does that sound ?

    1. Hi Lorenzo,

      It depends on what you are used to 🙂 Nice and Monaco both are slightly crowded cities, so finding a parking spot can be a challenge sometimes. That said, we didn’t really have any troubles driving in Nice, Monaco, Antibes, and Cannes. Expect a lot of traffic during office hours though 😉

  6. Would like to spend 3 weeks in France – of that 6 days in Paris and the rest we are open. Love the coastal area s. Any suggestions.? Would love a driver but could drive ourselves. Didn’t know if there is a 3 day cruise to add

    Thanks for the wonderful tips.

    1. Hey Terri – hope you’ve read our suggestions for offbeat things to do in Paris 🙂 Spend a week in Paris, a week in the French Riviera, and you could catch a Mediterranean Cruise which will take you around France, Spain, and Greece/Turkey for the third week.

  7. I just returned from a Riviera trip. Reading your advice beforehand was very helpful to adjust my speed. That is, it’s a place to enjoy at a leisurely pace, not the typical American one.

    Nice – Monaco – Cannes – St. Tropez – Aix en Provence – Avignon – Montpellier – Perpignan – Argeles sur Mer – Barcelona – Vielha (Spanish Pyrennes) – Pau – Bordeaux – San Sebastian and Biarritz (Spanish/French Basque regions) – Arcachon

    These are the cities we visited by rental car over a two week period. If I had to recommend one place above all others, though, it would be the Pyrennes. I live in the Rocky mountains it felt like home. But if I were to recommend a seaside destination, then it would be in the Basque region not the Riviera. The cities are not as hectic yet the beaches are more dramatic. But everyone has different tastes.

    1. Hey Cameron,

      Thanks for the suggestions – they sound amazing. I spent quite a few months in Provence and absolutely loved it 🙂

      Cheers!

  8. Thank you for this information! I am going to visit Nice with my mom. I can`t wait. Probably we are going to rent a car, too. It sounds as a better option. Thank you for sharing your post! Best regards!

  9. Delightful photos & blogpost! 🙂

    Did you guys go in May? Are there a lot of tourists and how warm was it? (Warm enough to take a dip in the water hopefully?)

    1. Hi Divya,

      We went in the beginning of April. There were lots of tourists and the water was warm enough for a nice dip 🙂

      Cheers

  10. Hi Savi Vid liked ur posts..have a question though would you recommend to add greece also in this trip. I’m planning for 10 days trip in April’16.

    1. Hi Rachana,

      Thanks 🙂

      You could definitely add Greece to this. For e.g. 5 days in the French Riviera and 5 in Greece!

  11. Hello,

    I have been following your website for some time and it is beautiful and i’m awed at your travels, fashion, writing style and everything around!

    Thanks for this post. We plan to do South France end of April – 1st week of May. Along with the riviera we also wanted to add a drive from Nice to Chamonix through the French Alps. Is it advisable to drive at that time of the year? How difficult is it to drive in the south of France?

    1. Hey Sheetal – so happy to hear from you. We’re so glad you enjoy Bruised Passports. It’s absolutely ok to drive at that time of the year. Roads in France are well marked and well maintained 🙂

  12. Hey! Thank you so much for sharing this. We are planning our trip end of this year. And we ll definitely try and cover maximum. Well described itinerary. Can you guide me which is the alternative route to reach Nice (except London and Paris). As I plan to exit from Paris. And will be advisable to drive around in December ?

    1. Hey Janvi – it’s absolutely fine to drive in December 🙂 There are cheap flights to Nice from most parts of Europe. If you’re flying from elsewhere, the cheapest option will probably be to fly to Paris first!

  13. Hi Savi-Vid,

    We will be in France for our honeymoon in late June this year. The last leg is south of France where we we have 2.5 days. Could you suggest which places to see and which to miss?

    1. Hey Sid – that depends on the kind of stuff you like. If you enjoy luxury then Cannes and Monaco should be on your list. If you enjoy culture and sights, we’d recommend Antibes, Vence, Eze and Grasse 🙂

  14. Hey Savi-Vid

    Great post! very helpful! I know you had your base in Nice but would you recommend this or staying in the various towns you visited? Is it feasible? Would we have to book rooms ahead in July? Or could we just wing it? Thanks!!

    1. Hey Chris – it’s pretty convenient to stay in one place and explore the French Riviera. We’d suggest doing that. We’d definitely recommend booking rooms ahead of time because July is a very busy month and most places are fully booked or expensive. You can grab some pretty cool deals if you book online in advance 🙂

  15. Hi. Great travel blog. Keep it going. Curious.. any road trips through Italy or the famed Amalfi coast? I was planning that and wanted help. Thank you

    1. Hey Karan,

      Thanks a lot 🙂

      We haven’t driven in Italy yet so won’t be able to help out on that 🙁

  16. Hi. Thank you for your descriptive & lovely post about driving around Nice. My wife & I will be renting a car in Nice for 5 days in mid-July. You’ve basically told us what to do within our time frame. Fabulous 🙂

  17. hi thanks for the lovely information. i want to know one thing. i am from india and haven’t driven anytime in europe. is it very difficult to drive there. And what about the parking . we are landing in nice & going to montecarlo for two nights & then to cannes for three nights. kindly suggest. Also do i need a international permit for driving in french rivers. regards rohit

    1. Hi Rohit,

      No, it’s not very difficult to drive in Europe however it does take getting used to driving on the other side. Be extra careful on the first couple of days and stay away from crowded areas. To be honest, French Riviera might not be the easiest place to drive in Europe for the first time 🙂 The roads are narrow, there’s lots of cars, and parking can be a bit difficult.

      Not discouraging you from driving, just making you a bit more cautious 🙂 We weren’t asked for an IDP when we drove there.

      Have a great trip

  18. Hi Savi Vid,

    I will be reaching Nice on 14Aug,6:30pm by flight and I have to take next flight from Marseille on 17th Aug,1pm.

    I am thinking for a road trip, Can you suggest me the city of stay and places to visit.

  19. I cannot thank you enough guys! I still remember reading your Igloo article and thinking, I want to do this! Both: Staying in Igloo and writing about it! Few months later, I am trying to be a blogger myself! Lots of love to you guys!

    About this article, We are flying to Nice this weekend and will be there for about 4-5 days! So, thanks again for the amazing tips! Love, love love!

    1. Thanks a million for your li’l note Nisha – all the best with blogging 🙂 Have fun in Nice and send us photos

  20. The French Riviera is simply stunning. My boyfriend and I have just returned from a two-week trip through the south of France and we’ve had such a great time there. We’ve been to most of the places mentioned here – my favorite one was Eze. I also fell in love with the secluded beaches of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, which I highly recommend visiting.

  21. Hey lovely article. Just added gasse to our plan.languagedoc – Marseille-nice – gasse-corsica -annecy . About 10 days . Should I rent a car and drive all over or should I rent and leave and rent again ? Not too keen on driving if i can avoid it.

    1. Hey Paras,

      That sounds great. Personally, I’d just keep the car through the duration of the trip to make things simpler but that’s a decision you’ll have to make depending on your preferences 🙂

  22. Hi Savi & Vid,
    Love your blog! Since you have travelled Europe so extensively, what would be your favorite country among all? I am planning a 8 day trip (flying into London/Frankfurt as i found a good deal) but i am not that much into visiting cities but smaller towns/seaside villages etc. I visited Cinque Terre in Italy & Cappadocia in Turkey and absolutely loved both of those towns! I am very much into visiting wineries and breweries. I want to balance my trip my doing 1 or 2 large cities and 1 small town..What would you guys recommend to do if flying in to London or Frankfurt?

    1. Dear Preshtha,

      It’s difficult to pick a favourite country in Europe, but we’d say Slovenia and Iceland top the list of favourites 🙂 You could fly from London / Frankfurt to Slovenia and spend a few days there. We have a detailed article on Slovenia on our blog so do read that for ideas 🙂

  23. Hi Savi and Vid,

    Absolutely love your blog. We are planning to visit Europe around December and the french riviera around the first/second week of Dec.
    Will the weather be good for the trip ? We are looking towards a drive and visit to Nice, Antibes and Vence and Grasse.

    1. Hey Apoorva – if you don’t mind the cold and the occasional grey day, December is a great time to visit France. There are fewer tourists and Christmas markets are all around 🙂

  24. Hi guys we are from Sydney and also planning to visit Nice in December . We are going to follow ur 5 day trip & accomodation suggestion It’s perfect . Did it have a pool and is it warm enough to swim in December Thanks guys

    1. Thanks a ton Martin – unfortunately this accommodation doesn’t have a pool. Hope you have a great time in France 🙂

  25. Hi Savi and Vid.. love reading your posts.. very informative.. M planning a 10 day trip for my honeymoon to France starting August 6th.. will start from nice – 3 days ( pls suggest places I must see around nice)… go to chamonix and Annecy for 4 days and Paris for about 3 days.. could you suggest if there should be any change in plan or is this good? ..cos we could still alter it.. while in nice it would be my husbands bday and in Paris would be mine., would you be able to suggest anything special we could do? Thanks a lot.. lots of love to my favourites!!

    1. Hey Deepika – that sounds like a great plan. There’s tons of special Michelin Star restaurants in Paris where you could go for a special dinner. Alternatively you could visit Moulin Rouge or go for a boat ride on the Seine 🙂

    1. Hey Niharika – we always use Economy bookings to compare prices and then book the most cost effective option that shows up there. Here’s the link goo.gl/cXDa3g

  26. Hey Savi and Vid,
    Loved reading your ideas and suggestions.
    We are planning a road trip from Nice to Barcelona through French Riviera over a span of two days. Since it’s such a short a time and so much beauty to see. Can u suggest best place to stay and how to cover most.

  27. Hi Could you please advise places to stay on french rivera road trip night stops. Love your nice accommodation option!!Planing a trip with my family in july first week. Thank you

    1. Hey would suggest looking up Air BnB for the same. We have a detailed video on choosing amazing Air BnB accommodation on our Youtube channel 🙂

  28. Hi,
    Loved your itinerary.
    I will be on my honeymoon in February 2019 and will be flying to Paris from Istanbul.
    I am planning to stay 2 nights in Paris, then take a train to Nice.
    so i get 3 nights in Nice after which i plan to go back to Paris for one more night after which we will fly back to Delhi.

    Please advise if its good to visit Nice in February.
    Where should I rent the car since we plan to spend one day in Nice and Monaco and rest two days driving around visiting other towns.
    also the parking might be an issue so what do I do.

    Awaiting your reply.

    1. Nice is gorgeous in February but it can get very cold, so make sure you are comfortable with that. As mentioned finding parking is hard in cities, so choose an Air BnB or hotel that offers free parking

  29. Hi, love your blog!

    I’m flying into paris next june and would love to do the French Rivier, i also want to visit italy so from paris which would be the first destination? Marseille perhaps?

  30. Hi Savi Vid, Do buses travel along the French Riviera? Is there any transport like the hop on hop off buses, that are found in cities?
    We are travelling from Barcelona to Rome and would like to visit the French Riviera on the way. We will be travelling by bus or train and would like to break the journey along the way. I drove around Europe including this area about 50 years ago but I’m not feeling very confident about doing so, now! Thanks

    1. Hey public transport connects major towns like Nice, Cannes etc but you will need a car for the smaller villages 🙂 Hope that helps

  31. Hi. There is also a really charming small village called Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. A place really worth a visit when on French Riviera! Not so crowded as e.g. Eze and Saint-Paul de Vence but also beautiful :). Best regards from Nice! Tom.

  32. Hi guys! Had a quick question about driving a rented car into Monaco. Are there immigration checkpoints on the road? Do we have to have a multiple entry visa or would a single entry visa suffice? I’d read somewhere that cars rented in France aren’t allowed in Monaco or something.. please reassure??? Thanks a ton!

  33. All sounds great, we’ve bought a house in the midi Pyrenees 2 years ago & are trying to spend 1/2 our time there which is mostly taken up refurbishing the place & 1/2 our time at work in the UK. This year we’ve got family coming over & are planning a road trip. First day driving to Nice which is our only booked accommodation then on to Florence, we then have 9 days to slowly meander back along the French Riviera & are looking for information & recommendations, the initial searches are coming up from companies trying to sell excursions etc what you have blogged is brilliant & seems very unbaised & exactly what we’re looking to do ourselves. Given more time is there any places you would have loved to get to but didn’t have the time? I’m trying to put a an itinerary together.
    Shaun.

    1. Hey Shaun,

      Happy to hear that 🙂 We probably would have driven further west towards Aix En Provence (one of my favourites in South France) and spent a couple of days doing nothing in Vence – such a gorgeous little village.

      Have a great trip 🙂

  34. Hi Savi and Vid,

    That’s one of the best blogs i’ve read.. loved the way you have described your experience!
    I’m planning an all girls trip (4 of us) to Paris and southern France in November first 2 weeks. We have been skeptical about the weather during that time, but that’s the only time our holidays coincide. Would it be a good idea at all to be planning this in first place? What all can we cover in 10-12 days? We are less monument/museum kind of people and more of nature/culture enthusiast.

    Looking forward to hear from you soon! 🙂
    Regards,
    Neha

    1. Hey Neha – you should be able to pack all this in but yes, the weather can be hit and miss in November. You might get sunny days but then again, you might get windy and cold ones too, so pack accordingly 🙂

  35. Hi Savi and Vid,

    Thank you for sharing your adventures with the rest of the world and help us with trip planning 🙂
    Can you please share your thoughts about driving and parking in the French Riviera? I have heard that it can be a challenge.

    Thank you,
    Nancy

    1. Thank you Nancy!

      Yes, driving and parking in French Riviera can be a challenge, especially in popular places like Nice and Cannes. Best to base yourself near places like Vence

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