October 6-11, 2023
Côte d'Azur trip (October 6-11, 2023) is presently booked. To put your name on the waitlist, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s what’s included:
- Two trip leaders every day to help you enjoy your time on the Côte d’Azur
- All nights at the four-star Hotel Villa Victoria on the tree-shaded Blvd Victor Hugo
- Full hot breakfast every morning
- Admissions to every museum or other site mentioned in the itinerary
- Transit tickets for local trains, buses and tram
- Restaurant recommendations for lunches and dinners
- Wine and conversation socials several evenings with the trip leaders
What’s not included: lunches and dinners, tickets to museums and attractions not listed on the itinerary, your flight to Nice and back home or anything else not listed under “What’s included.”
Ready to pack your bags?
The price for the trip is $4,880. You’ll have your own room without paying an additional single supplement. To reserve your space, register here.
Price for the optional two-day extension is $1,775. We’ll stay on for another two nights at the Hotel Villa Victoria, so you won’t have to re-pack. (There’s an eight-person minimum group size for the extension.)
In the early years of the 20th century, many famous artists, including Matisse, Renoir, Picasso and Chagall, escaped to the small towns and cities along the Côte d’Azur (known to Americans as the French Riviera) and the hills that rose above the shoreline. They were attracted to the light and the stunning landscapes where sky met hills and hills met the sea, a coast studded with stately palms, sturdy olive trees and maritime pines.
On this trip, you’ll journey there with other people, who – like you – love to read and discover. We’ll anchor ourselves on the tree-lined Boulevard Victor Hugo in Nice, just a few blocks from the famous Promenade Anglais along the beach.
In Nice, we’ll visit the art museums dedicated to the works of Chagall and of Matisse, and we’ll enjoy sumptuous meals with a Mediterranean flavor and Italian influence (salade Niçoise, anyone?) and plenty of seafood. On other days, we’ll journey to some of the most dramatic landscapes outside the city: St. Jean Cap Ferrat, St. Paul de Vence, Cagnes-sur-Mer, and Grasse.
October is the perfect time for a visit to the Côte d’Azur. The summer heat has disappeared, but the days are still sunny and warm enough to eat outdoors for lunch and dinner.
Our trips are always made up of small (maximum 18 people) groups of congenial people. You’ll have two experienced trip leaders with you every day to make sure you’re having an experience of a lifetime.
Who should come on this trip?
Can I come early or stay on for some extra days?
I’m coming with a spouse or partner and we want to share a room. Do we both have to pay the full rate?
How many people will be on the trip?
Tell me about the trip leaders.
About Côte d'Azur
What is the Hotel Villa Victoria like?
What’s included in the breakfast?
Is there internet access at the hotel?
What will the weather be like?
What to wear?
Why aren’t lunches and dinners included in the price?
I don’t speak French. Can you help me figure out what to eat?
Is it safe to walk around by myself at night?
I’d love to come on this trip, but a friend has suggested a different hotel. Can I stay there?
Some friends are going to be in Nice while I’m there. Can they come along with us?
When do I need to sign up by?
I understand that Donna and Sheila will always be available by phone, but what if I don’t have an international cell phone?
This is the perfect trip to take by yourself; you’ll make new friends and will always have people to do things with if you like. Or come with a friend or spouse or partner. You can spend time with each other and also have time to pursue your separate interests. The trip is also perfect for any small group that wants to travel together but doesn’t want the hassle of planning it all in advance.
Do note that some of the villages are hilly. You should be able to negotiate stairs and walking on uneven pavement.
Absolutely. We suggest you come early, as the trip leaders will be around to help you plan your days. At the end of the trip, we’ll be handling the optional extension, so we won’t be accessible to you then.
Please let us know the exact dates you plan to arrive and depart, so we can alert the hotel. You’ll pay for your extra nights directly to the hotel when you get there.
For people who share a room, we offer a discount of $150 each. We’ve priced the trip primarily for people to have their own rooms, because French hotel rooms just aren’t as large as those in the U.S. But of course you can share a room if you prefer.
The maximum number of people is 18, so you won’t feel like you’re part of a huge group – especially since there are two trip leaders to break us up into smaller sections.
Sheila Campbell of Wild Blue Yonder has been organizing informal groups of travelers for years – originally on hiking trips in France, England, Italy and Spain, and now with Politics & Prose. In her day-to-day work, she was a group retreat leader who understands how to ensure everyone is involved and having a memorable experience. She lives in Washington, DC, where she has been a volunteer at the National Gallery of Art for many years.
Donna Morris is president of Best Friend in Paris, where she creates customized experiences for travelers to Paris. She has lived in France since 2006 and is one of the founders of the Politics & Prose travel program. She’s fluent in French and is an expert navigator of European cities and sites.
About Côte d'Azur
It’s a small hotel, located on the shady tree-lined Boulevard Victor Hugo, and close to many restaurants.
The bedrooms are simply furnished, and typically small as is common in Europe. Windows open to the air, with classic French shutters to close at night for privacy and quiet. All either look out into the garden or on to the quiet street in the front of the hotel.
What most people adore about the hotel is its large private garden at the back. It’s a great place to relax or have a drink – and you can even take your breakfast there if you like. The hotel staff speak English and are terrifically friendly and helpful.
At this time, there aren’t any direct flights from Washington, DC to Barcelona. Since you’ll have to change planes somewhere, we strongly recommend that you book a flight where the change is in Europe, not the U.S.
You might want to look for a flight that arrives around noon, since your hotel room in Barcelona won’t be ready till the afternoon. United has a flight that changes planes in Frankfurt and arrives at 12:05pm. Delta’s best flight changes planes in Amsterdam and arrives about 12:15pm.
Yes, free wifi comes with your room.
It’s hard to predict these days. Usually early October is warm and sunny, but the days cool off in the evenings. Our advice is to come prepared for just about anything. Bring an umbrella, a light jacket and – most important of all – very comfortable walking shoes.
What to wear?
It’s impossible to predict any weather accurately these days, but generally late March in Barcelona is terrific for walking around – cool and sunny during the day (highs in the high 60s), cooler at night. Rain is always a possibility, of course.
Restaurants that accept tour groups are usually the last places we want to eat. And there are just so many delicious choices for meals in France that we want everyone to be free to eat where and when they want. Nice is particularly offers many options besides French food. As it was once part of Italy, you’ll see lots of Italian options, plus Greek, Turkish, Persian, Vietnamese and lots more. Alternatively, we often make lunch the biggest meal of the day, maybe even eating at a restaurant that would be too pricey at night. You’ll choose where you’ll eat, and with whom and how much you want to spend.
I don’t speak French. Can you help me figure out what to eat?
Restaurants that accept tour groups are usually the last places we want to eat. And there are just so many delicious choices for meals in Barcelona that we want everyone to be free to eat where and when they want. One day you might eat a sandwich for lunch, sitting out on a plaza; or you might choose to browse the local food markets.
Alternatively, we often make lunch the biggest meal of the day, maybe even eating at a restaurant that would be too pricey at night. You’ll choose where you’ll eat, and with whom and how much you want to spend.
As in any city, it makes sense to be aware of your surroundings after dark. But in Nice it’s usually quite safe to be out on your own or with a friend in the evenings. One reason we chose the Villa Victoria is that we love the neighborhood. Within a few blocks are little bistros and cafés, take-out food, charming bars for cocktails. It’s near a tram stop and also a short walk to local buses, and near casual and high-end shopping.
What you do have to watch out for is pickpockets in the areas where there are lots of tourists. They’re wily, so we recommend that you leave most of your money, credit cards and passport in the safe in your room, just taking with you what you need for one day. A handbag that you can sling over your shoulder and tuck high under your arm (with a good zipper) works better than bags with long straps that dangle below your waist. And remember not to sling your handbag over the back of a chair in a café; that makes it a very tempting target.
Because we’ll be doing so much coordination from the Villa Victoria, and all our walking and transportation directions start there, we don’t think it’s practical to stay in another hotel. Plus, staying elsewhere would make getting to the evening wine and planning meetings difficult. Of course you can stay somewhere else, but the price of the trip wouldn’t change, so it wouldn’t be a good value.
Some friends are going to be in Nice while I’m there. Can they come along with us?
Because we want to keep our groups small, we can’t invite your friends to come with us on our daily excursions. But you can bring them to our evening get-togethers. Please give us a day’s notice, and there’s a €10 per person charge for the wine and snacks.
The sooner you put down your deposit, the better. The Villa Victoria is a small hotel, and the rooms go quickly. We’re limiting the size of the group, so it’s best to reserve as soon as you think you’d like to come. We’ll allocate the rooms with garden view to the first few people who register and pay their deposits.
Check with your cell provider to see if you can buy an international calling package for the time you’re here. If you bring a laptop, smartphone or iPad, you can always use Skype or What’s App over wifi; those are some of the least expensive ways to reach people. Please don’t come without any kind of useable cell phone, so that we can contact you quickly if needed.
We very strongly encourage you to purchase travel insurance. Please read our Terms and Conditions carefully to see our cancellation policy. Be aware that trip insurance companies are very strict about what they will and won’t reimburse you for, so read their policies closely. If you’re on Medicare, remember that it doesn’t cover medical treatment outside of the U.S., so you’ll definitely want healthcare coverage.
Please read this information carefully, as payment of a deposit represents your acceptance of the following Terms and Conditions.
Trip prices include hotel accommodations on a single or double occupancy basis, breakfast at the hotel, daily transportation as mentioned in the itinerary, entrance fees to museums if with the group as listed in the itinerary, evening socials to plan the next day’s activities, and the services of the trip leaders as outlined in the trip description.
Not included in the trip price are entrance fees to museums and other attractions not expressly included; taxis or other forms of city transportation; airfare and airline baggage fees; lunches and dinners; hotel, restaurant or airport tips; costs of passports and visas; personal expenses such as beverages, laundry or room service; internet wifi except as established in the trip description; airport transfers or any other services not specified in the trip description.
Please note that we cannot guarantee any special requests for hotel rooms.
Registration and Payment
The payment of your deposit confirms your reservation. Deposits may be paid by check made out to Wild Blue Yonder, Inc., or credit card via PayPal. There is a 3% surcharge for PayPal.
Your deposit is refundable for two weeks from the date it is received by Wild Blue Yonder, except for deposits made less than 60 days before a trip departs; those deposits are completely nonrefundable. Two weeks after the receipt of the deposit by Wild Blue Yonder, deposits are not refundable for any reason and will be forfeited if you cancel your trip reservation. Cancellations must be in writing by either letter to Wild Blue Yonder or email to email@example.com. Cancellations become effective on the date they are received by Wild Blue Yonder.
Please note that, should a covid pandemic recur after trip deposits have been paid, no refunds will be possible (the funds will now be in France), but we will reschedule the trip as soon as possible with no change in price.
Once your reservation deposit has been paid, you will receive a confirmation email and further information to help you plan your trip.
We reserve the right to cancel any reservations that are not paid in full at any time after the final payment is due. If you make your reservation after the final payment due date, payment in full will be required immediately.
Full final payment is due July 1, 2023.
'Cancellations and Refunds
For any cancellations made before June 1, 2023, you will forfeit your deposit but will be refunded any other payments you have made. If you must cancel your trip, the effective date of cancellation will be upon our receipt of your notification, which must be made in writing either by email or letter. No refunds are possible after June 1, 2023.
We strongly recommend that you purchase trip cancellation insurance when you pay your deposit for this trip.
Changes to Your Reservation
If you would like to stay on for longer than the official days of the trip, we will make reservations for you at the hotel. We will not charge you for any changes to your reservation outside of 90 days before the trip start date. From 30 – 89 days before the trip start date, if you make any changes to your reservation, a $100 per person administrative fee will apply. Changes are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed. If your reservation changes from double occupancy to single occupancy, you will be charged the single occupancy rate.
You are responsible for securing your own passport, valid for at least six months after the completion of the trip.
Health and Medical Issues
We welcome all travelers, but you must be in good health to participate in our trips. The trips require a reasonable amount of walking, possibly several hours a day, uphill or on uneven streets or streets without curb cuts. You must be able to climb stairs and board trains and buses on your own. We regret that we cannot provide individual assistance if you have mobility issues; in such cases you must be accompanied by a companion who will assist you.
If you are unable to navigate this amount of walking, you will not be able to participate fully in the trip, and we suggest you choose another type of trip. We cannot provide individual alternatives to the planned group activities. If your fitness level does not allow you to keep up with the group and/or travel on public transportation, you will be responsible for planning your own activities and for any additional costs incurred (for instance, but not limited to, personal taxis, train tickets, and entrance fees).
We strongly recommend that you purchase both trip cancellation insurance and traveler’s medical and evacuation insurance for your trip. Should you have to cancel your trip after you have paid in full, we cannot offer refunds other than specified above, because we will have already paid the costs of your trip to our vendors.
Arrival and Departure Dates
It is your responsibility to make sure you arrive on the specified trip start date. We cannot refund part of your trip if you arrive late or leave early, unless you have notified us of your different start or end date 90 days before the trip start date.
The liability of Wild Blue Yonder and Politics & Prose, individually or jointly (referred to hereafter as Trip Planners), is strictly limited. In no event will the Trip Planners be liable for amounts in excess of the amounts payable to the Trip Planners in accordance with the terms hereunder, nor will Trip Planners be liable for any consequential indirect or incidental damages arising from this agreement. Trip Planners purchase accommodations, transportation and other services from independent suppliers not under our control. We serve only as agents for these suppliers in securing trip arrangements, and therefore will not accept responsibility and liability for wrongful, negligent or arbitrary acts or omissions of these independent contractors, their employees, agents or representatives.
Trip Planners are not liable for injury, damage, loss, accident, or delay that may be caused by events not within our control, including but not limited to, without limitation, acts of terrorism, war, strikes, defects of any vehicle, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters or the negligence or default of any third party.
Trip Planners reserve the right to correct errors in advertised prices. We reserve the right to cancel an advertised trip, decline to accept a reservation or remove a person from a trip if it is determined by us to be in the best interests of the health, safety or general well-being of other trip participants. We will make every effort to conduct our trip as planned, but we reserve the right to make itinerary and other changes as necessary. If unforeseen circumstances require us to change a hotel, we will make every effort to select alternative accommodations of the same quality. The forgoing terms and conditions and all aspects of the relationship between Trip Planners and you shall be governed by the laws of the State of Maryland.
Please note that we may make changes to this itinerary in response to unexpected closings, road conditions, weather or other unforeseen events. And, although this is a very full itinerary, remember that you always have the choice to take a day or part of a day off to pursue your own interests, or just to stroll the beautiful streets of Barcelona.
Wednesday, October 4
Depart from home for your overnight flight to Nice, France
Thursday, October 5
Arrive at mid-day or early afternoon to our hotel, the Villa Victoria. There are many restaurants nearby for a late lunch, or you might just want a nap or lounge around in the hotel garden.
6pm We meet for orientation and a glass of wine in the garden of the Villa Victoria
Friday, October 6
10am We depart for the peninsula of St. Jean Cap Ferrat, home to some of the most expensive houses in Europe. We’ll visit the historic Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, home in the 1920s and ‘30s of the eccentric Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild. There’s a film with details about life on the Riviera and the parties at the villa – including the wedding of two of the Baroness’s dogs. You’ll have an audioguide for going through the house.
The lavish gardens were designed to resemble a ship; they include French, Spanish, Japanese, Florentine and many other styles, including a fountain that plays to Vivaldi and Mozart. Everywhere are views out to the sea dotted with white sailboats and yachts.
You can have lunch in the villa’s garden (specialties of the restaurant: salads and desserts) or in the high-ceilinged dining room. And of course there’s a gift shop.
2:30pm We depart for home, and you have some free time to explore Nice on your own. You might want to visit the nearby Villa Masséna, a mansion that looks out over the sea. Today it’s a museum dedicated to the Belle Époque period of history in Nice.
6pm We walk together to the Promenade Anglais along the sea, and then stroll to a street with many restaurant choices for you.
“…the Promenade des Anglais – a charming place; for the wide walk, bordered with palms, flowers and tropical shrubs, is bounded on one side by the sea, on the other by the grand drive lined with hotels and villas, while beyond lie orange orchards and hills.”
-- Louisa May Alcott
Saturday, October 7
9:45am We depart into the hills to Cagnes-sur-Mer, where we visit Renoir’s home and atelier. Unlike many artists’ home museums, this one features a number of original paintings by Renoir. He spent the last 12 years of his life here. It’s set in a grove of olive and citrus trees with a view out to sea.
“What a beautiful place this is! It must surely be the most beautiful place in the world.”
- Auguste Renoir
Renoir suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis, but he kept working. In the house we see a painting room with his wooden chair with wheels, where assistants often had to insert a brush into his tightly closed fist.
There are two films at the house – one an interview with his movie director son Jean Renoir, and another with one of his favorite models.
Afterwards, we’ll continue on to the nearby village of Villeneuve-Loubet for lunch and to visit the former home of the famous chef L’Escoffier, known in his time as “the king of chefs and chef of kings.”
Besides the rooms set up as they were in his lifetime, there are also exhibits about haute cuisine in France – including a room of chocolate sculptures. You’ll have an audioguide to take you around.
2pm We depart back to Nice, where you can simply enjoy a drink in the hotel’s garden, or explore more of Nice: Port Lympia (the old port), the Musée de Beaux Arts with its many pictures by Raoul Dufy, or some shopping.
Sunday, October 8
10am We head out for the Cours Saleya, Nice’s food and flower market. You’ll be tempted by all the cheeses, olives, salamis and other specialties. Now might be your chance to try socca, a chickpea bread served hot off the grill. Warning: you’ll want more whenever you see a socca stand. Remember that Nice was at one time part of Italy, and it’s not that far from the Italian border.
There are lots of restaurants bordering the market, so you can choose what you’d like to have for lunch: seafood, pasta, salads – or you might even just want to collect a picnic and eat it sitting on a bench looking out at the Mediterranean.
“There, in the south, for the first time in my life, I saw that rich greenness – the like of which I had never seen in my own country.”
-- Marc Chagall
After lunch, we’ll travel by city bus up into the bourgeois neighborhood with beautiful houses where the Musée Chagall is located. These paintings, a Biblical series, were created for this space; they’re large and luminous. At 4:30pm there’s a very interesting film in English about his life.
After we return, we’ll have wine and conversation in the hotel garden.
Monday, October 9
9:45am We leave for hotel for a short walk to the Nice train station, where we’ll board for our ride to Beaulieu-sur-Mer. There we’ll visit the Greek Villa Kérylos; you’ll have an audioguides visit. The house was built in the early 1900s in an authentic Greek Revival style by the French archeologist Theodore Reinach. The family was related to the Ephrussis nearby. It sits on a promontory surrounded by water on three sides. (Note: this house and its Jewish family is described brilliantly – and tragically – in the book The House of Fragile Things by James McAuley).
After lunch in Beaulieu, we’ll return to Nice to spend the afternoon at the Musée Matisse, which contains one of the largest collections in the world of the works of Henri Matisse. It sits in a garden of olive groves, studded with busts of American jazz musicians, and with the ruins of a Roman amphitheater. Across the street is the 800-year-old Cimiez Monastery. We’ll walk in the cemetery to see Matisse’s grave.
Tuesday, October 10
9:45am We leave the hotel for the drive up into the hills to visit the Fondation Maeght art collection just outside of the perched village of St. Paul de Vence. Its beautiful gardens include many sculptures by Joan Míro and other modern artists, and – overlooking the hillside, a “labyrinth” of stones, fountains and art designed by Míro. Inside is a magnificent collection of modern and contemporary art by such masters as Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Diego Giacometti, Wassily Kandinsky, Barbara Hepworth, Fernand Léger, Christo, Ellsworth Kelly and Joan Mitchell.
Afterwards we’ll descend to the charming village of St. Paul de Vence for lunch and to stroll through the Medieval streets. The village has many art galleries and shops and in its cemetery, the grave of Marc Chagall.
On our return to Nice, we will visit the Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence, one of the last creations by Matisse, beloved for its stained glass windows evoking the colors of the sea.
“What I have done in the Chapel is to create a religious space…to give it, solely by the play of colours and lines, the dimensions of infinity.”
-- Henri Matisse
Wednesday, October 11
9:45am We depart for our day in Grasse, the town most famous for its perfume factories. We’ll begin with a guided tour of the historical factory of Fragonard, which opened in 1926. Afterwards, we’ll have plenty of time to discover the charming boutiques in the town, plus – depending on your interests, several other small museums – the Musée International de la Perfumerie, the Provence Art and History Museum, the Musée Provençal du Costume et du Bijoux, and the Musée Villa Fragonard, devote to the French painter.
When we return to the hotel, we’ll have farewell drinks in the hotel’s garden.
Thursday, October 12
Depart for your flight home, or you might want to stay on for a short trip extension.
Optional Trip Extension
Thursday, October 12
10am We depart for the Principality of Monaco, which is surrounded by France on three sides and the sea on the fourth. We’ll stop first for a tour with audioguide of the famous Monte-Carlo Casino. It’s over-the-top architecture and décor were designed by Charles Garnier, the same person who designed the Palais Garnier Opera House in Paris.
“Monte Carlo is a sunny place for shady people.”
- W. Somerset Maugham
Afterwards, we’ll drive up the hill to the old town, where we can have lunch and enjoy the views. Then we’ll have a tour of the Prince’s Palace, the primary residence of the princes of Monaco for hundreds of years – and it still is. Of course, today it’s also quite well-known because of the American Princess Grace. Afterwards, if you like, we can walk to the cathedral to see where she is buried.
Friday, October 13
10am Today we drive along the coast to another celebrated city on the water – Antibes. Among many others, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Graham Greene loved Antibes. We’ll begin our day there with a walk through its celebrated Provençal Market (here’s another chance to taste socca hot off the grill). Then we’ll walk along the water to the Musée Picasso. Picasso was actually given space for his atelier in this historic building, and, in gratitude, left a number of paintings and ceramics to the city.
Not far off is a string of working artists and glassblowers, their open studios situated under the arches of the ramparts walls.
You’ll be spoiled for choice where to have lunch in Antibes, and we’ll have plenty of time to stroll through the small shops offering tempting colors and tastes.
Saturday, October 14
Depart for home or another onward journey.
By purchasing ticket(s), you affirm that you and tour attendees accompanying you fully understand and agree to the following:
- I am at least 18 years of age.
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