While I have and will write in greater detail about each individual property, meal and experience, I wanted to compile an overall summary of what was truly one of the greatest trips of my life. I flew to Europe mainly to attend the Cannes Film Festival and ended up spending time in Monte Carlo, in Paris, attending the Monaco F1 Grand Prix and visiting a friend in Provence. All this combined with a few nights in Istanbul and the great Business Class flights aboard Turkish Airlines. This post offers an overview, a daily schedule of this luxury travel bloggers adventures through Europe.
Day 1, Monday May 12, started at home in Los Angeles when I was picked up in a beautiful Bentley Flying Spur by Toro Ride to head to the airport. Toro Ride is like Uber, except they have luxury cars like Bentleys, a Rolls-Royce Ghost and even armored cars. The flight was on a Monday afternoon so there wasn’t much traffic and we arrived early. Check-in was flawless at Turkish Airlines, as always, and we headed to the Star Alliance lounge at LAX to await boarding and have some wine and snacks. Finally, it was time to head to the gate for our 6:20 PM flight to Istanbul and the start of my adventure.
I love to fly Turkish Airlines as I know what to expect, great food, a seat that becomes a bed and excellent service. I received all three and had a wonderful dinner, watched a few movies, then settled in to bed. I awoke to the smell of breakfast cooking, about two hours before we were to land.
We arrived in Istanbul at 5 PM and took a cab to the hotel, the Shangri-La Bosphorus Istanbul, a beautiful property right on the sea. Our room had a large patio and balcony overlooking the Bosphorus with a wonderful view. After changing and getting ready for dinner, we headed out for our brief walk down the street to the Ciragan Palace Kempinski to have dinner at the hotel’s Tugra restaurant. Dinner was over the top, a Sultan’s feast served on the restaurant’s patio overlooking the Bosphorus and the city’s Asian side’s skyline. This was an epic, four-hour affair and we finally took a cab back to the Shangri-La around 11 PM. As I never seem to leave myself enough time in each destination, I had an 8 AM flight the next morning to Nice, on the Cote d’Azur.
Day 2 started early as I quickly packed my bags and caught a cab to get back to Istanbul airport for the early flight. After a crazy fast, crazy driving cab ride, I arrived at the airport and was able to spend a bit of time in Turkish Airlines’ fabulous CIP Lounge. After a brief wait, I headed to my flight and took off for Nice. We arrived a few hours later and a took a cab from the airport to my hotel, the Holiday Inn Nice. With hotels so difficult to secure during the festival, this was a good option in Nice. It’s a $30 cab ride from the airport and within walking distance to the train station, which connects you with the whole of the South of France. It’s also only a few blocks from the beach and the city’s main shopping areas.
I got myself settled into the hotel and then walked up the street to the train station and headed to Cannes, about 30 minutes away. I had pre-registered for the film festival and it was quite emotional to step off the train and then step out of the station into Cannes. This is one of my favorite places in the world (especially during the festival) and I had not been there for ten years. It was truly wonderful to walk down those streets and recognize stores and places from my previous visits (I had been to the festival four times previously). I went to the famous Palais to collect my credentials and then spent the afternoon just walking around. I had dinner at my favorite restaurant, Da Laura and then caught the train back to Nice around 7 PM.
Day 3, Thursday May 15, started in Nice and I took the train to Cannes again to spend more time at the film festival. I returned to Nice around lunch time and packed up my bags to head to Marseille. I was very excited as I was booked to stay at what I knew would be an amazing hotel, the InterContinental Marseille Hotel Dieu, a five-star property created from an 18th century hospital building. I caught the 7 PM train from Nice to Marseille and it took about three hours, getting me into Marseille just as it was getting dark. I was hesistant when asking the cab drivers when exiting the station and one told me I could walk to the Hotel Dieu. I later learned the was a subway that would have taken me almost directly there. I walked from the train station, alone, in the dark, in Marseille all the way to the port and the InterContinental with no problems or issues. I was a bit tired from rolling my bag the whole way. I was shown to my room, which had the most amazing view of Marseille at night, as it was 11 PM by the time I got checked in. Finding the room service menu a bit pricey, I ventured out but by this time it was 11:30 PM on a Thursday night and everything was closed. The port is surrounded by restaurants but they were all closed, leaving me with McDonalds or Quick Burger. I chose Quick Burger and had a tiny “Jumbo” burger and fries, which was OK.
Day 4 started in Marseille as I enjoyed the amazing Hotel Dieu. I met the hotel’s PR person for a tour and got to experience this historic building. My tour ended in the spectacular Presidential Suite and with an interview with the property’s GM. A beautiful friend came to visit and we enjoyed lunch at the hotel’s les Fenetres restaurant overlooking the port. Later that afternoon I had a chance to interview the chef, Lionel Levy, who also oversees the hotel’s world-famous Alcyone brasserie. The hotel was amazing, I wish I had spent more time there. I loved the old books about Marseille in the lobby library area and would like to spend a week just reading the books and enjoying this unique city.
Day 5 would take me from Marseille to Monte Carlo, again via the train. My friend drove me around Marseille a bit then dropped me off at the train station. The train to Monte Carlo took three hours, I arrived around dinner time. In Monte Carlo, I stsyed at the beautiful Fairmont Monte Carlo, right on the ocean. After asking for a cab outside the train station, the drivers told me I could walk and since it was downhill and my big bag had wheels, I decided to try it. It really was all downhill and took me about 30 minutes. It was very cool to see all the fancy apartment buildings and shops, as this was my first trip to Monaco. This was Saturday May 17, eight days before the Monaco Grand Prix and the city was just getting set up for the race, with barriers and signage going up. The hotel sits right on the track and has its own hairpin turn right in front. My seaview room had a large patio with a deck chair and a view over the bay and a huge yacht parked outside.
Day 6, Monday May 19 also started at the Fairmont Monte Carlo with a plan to head to Paris, something I was very much looking forward to. I had a great breakfast with Claudia, the Fairmont’s amazing PR person at Horizon, the hotel’s restaurant with a three country view. You can see France, Italy and Monaco from the deck. The breakfast buffet was vast and one of the best I’ve had. I checked out and the hotel kindly provided a car to drive me from the hotel to the Monaco train station for my six hour trip to Paris. It takes about three hours to get from Monaco to Marseille and then three hours from Marseille to Paris and the train goes fastest on this section of track.
The TGV arrived in Paris around 5 PM and we took a cab to Le Meurice, our home for the next three nights. We were welcomed into a palatial suite, with sweeping views over the Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the entire city skyline. This was the most luxurious suite I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in, in the most luxurious hotel I’ve ever visited. After enjoying the hotel and our welcome bottle of Alain Ducasse champagne, we headed out to dinner. Dinner was at Shang Palace, the Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant at the Shangri-La Paris. The Shangri-La is housed in the 19th century former mansion of Roland Bonaparte, Napoleon’s nephew and it was fascinating to get a tour of this palace hotel. Dinner was a Cantonese adventure as they always are at Shang Palace. Each Shangri-La hotel around the world has a Shang Palace and I’ve experienced a few of them now.
Day 7 was a foodie fantasy as we had plans to have lunch with the great chef Alain Ducasse at a special luncheon introducing his new Spring menu. We headed down to Le Meurice’s magnificent Restaurant Le Dali and there was the great chef himself. We experienced a salmon-centric meal with a demonstration by Ole Hansen of Hansen and Lydersen who are artisinal salmon smokers in London.
Day 8 was all about Paris and just spending time in the suite and enjoying the luxury and ambiance of this great hotel. Parisian restaurantuer Johnny Goldstein came to visit us in the suite and then we headed out in his vintage Fiat 500. We met friends at Tres Honores restaurant in the Opera district and had a delicious, fun dinner. We hopped back into the Fiat 500 and headed back to the hotel.
Day 9 was Thursday, May 22 and it was time to head back to the South of France for the last few days of the Cannes Film Festival. I returned with a smile on my face as I knew I would be staying at the Citadines Croisette Cannes, one of my favorite places in the whole world. I took a cab to the train station to catch the TGV back to the South of France. I arrived in Cannes in the early evening and made my way up the hill to the Citadines, which is on Avenue Carnot, just beyond the train station. It was great to see they had renovated and it was now quite stylish. I settled in for a four-night stay, the longest time I was anywhere during this trip.
Day 10 was all about the film festival and just enjoying the atmosphere. I ventured into the trade show area and checked out the various booths.
Day 11 started off in an exciting way as I was up at 8 AM to enter the online lottery for screening tickets. I scored a ticket to the evening’s closing screening of Fistful of Dollars, the Sergio Leone spaghetti Western starring Clint Eastwood, a movie I actually wanted to see. As an evening screening in the festival’s main Grand Theatre Lumiere, this would be a black-tie event and I would be able to walk the red carpet.
Day 12 was Formula One day as I made my was from Cannes to Monte Carlo for the F1 race, the first one I had even attended. I left the hotel early and took the train to Monte Carlo, feeling quite confident as I had done this only a few days before and knew my way around the city. Even at 7:30 AM the train was packed and there was already an excitement in the air. After the 30 minute train ride, I arrived at Monte Carlo station and began the walk to the Fairmont, this time much easier without my luggage. The Fairmont sits within the race zone, so I actually had to make my way to an apartment building a few blocks away where I was to pick up my credentials. I watched the race from a VIP suite overlooking the track, while enjoying fine champagne and delicious snacks (and macarons!). After the race I headed to the Fairmont rooftop pool deck for the city’s biggest party.
After the race and the partying, my friends walked me to the station so I could catch the train back to Cannes. It was almost the last train and it was quite crowded with drunk, rowdy, race fans. The best part were the drunk English guys yelling about how they hated the French, as we rolled through France.
Day 13 was Monday May 26 and I was headed to Avignon via the TGV train to visit my friend’s place in Provence. He lives in Les Gaps, near a village called Flassan, near Mazan and Carpentras. Amazingly beautiful countryside filled with vineyards.
Day 14 was Tuesday and it was time to get back on a train to head from Avignon back to Cannes for a night at the Grand Hyatt Cannes Hotel Martinez, a fabulous art deco property on the Croisstte. This is a great, historic hotel that is a key part of the film festival, which had ended three days before. During the festival, it’s a hub of activity with rooms booked years in advance. The least expensive room during the festival is about $1,800, per night, no sea view.
Day 15 was my last day in the South of France and I had a 6 PM flight to Istanbul so I spent the day walking around and just enjoying my last few hours. Cannes is a special place for me and
My Turkish Airlines flight from Nice to Istanbul was very nice, I flew their Business Class and the food of course was wonderful. I met a Turkish family on the plane and we talked the entire time. They have a house on the Prince’s Islands, just off the coast of Istanbul, something I had just written about. They invited me to visit and I look forward to doing that on my next trip to Turkey.
I arrived in Istanbul and took a cab from the airport to my hotel, the Vault Karakoy, The House Hotel in the city’s Karakoy neighborhood. I arrived around 10 PM and was quite surprised as they ushered me upstairs to the hotel’s fabulous penthouse suite, with views across this ancient city.
Day 16, Thursday May 29, brought the end of this luxury adventure and I was scheduled on a 12:45 PM flight from Istanbul to LAX. I enjoyed the morning at the hotel, but was quite tired as I stayed up late writing and enjoying the suite. I took a cab around 9 AM and knew I would be able to spend some time at the lounge at IST. I got checked in and made my way to the golf simulator, which I’d been wanting to try since my last visit. I played a quick nine holes at Pebble Beach and then went to explore the always delicious and vast food offerings. I spent an hour or two in the lounge and then finally it was time to board the flight back to LAX. The flight back was smooth and delicious and Toro Ride was there with the Bentley to pick me up, as I arrived around 5 PM, the same day, Thursday, which is always weird.