WHO: Cynthia and Scott Dorman, both 39, of Melrose
WHERE: French Riviera
WHEN: A week in September
WHY: When Cynthia was a junior at Chelmsford High School she was part of a French exchange program in Grasse. ''I was fascinated with the region and determined to go back someday," she said.
A DAY TRIP A DAY: The Dormans decided to stay put in Cannes and take day trips. Through expedia.com and Frommer's travel guides, they chose a package stay at Hotel Gray D'Albion, a block from the beach. Their luggage checked in two days later.
MEMORY LANE: Though Cynthia had lost touch with the family she stayed with for three weeks, ''I dug out my notes and journals from a box in the basement," she said. ''I wanted to see where did I go, what do I remember?"
EYE-POPPING RIDE: Their first outing was to Gourdon, where Cynthia had stayed. ''It's a little village in the mountains on a cliff. The views are spectacular, and you can see the Mediterranean," she said. Driving the Gorges de Loup, the curvy, mountainous road there and back, was ''a hair-raising experience," Scott said.
THE SMELL OF GRASSE: ''I tried to find my way around and remember things, and I could once we were in the city," Cynthia said. It's known for its perfumeries, and they toured one of them -- Fragonard. Cynthia collects paintings on their trips, and bought two small watercolors of Old Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer and four sketches of Monaco scenes.
FIT FOR A PRINCE: One of their favorite days was spent in Monte Carlo. ''On these little trains, you can take a tour of the city," Cynthia said. ''It's such a small place you can walk from one end to the other. We took a tour of the royal palace and we could see the royal apartments -- the portions open to the public." Said Scott, ''Monaco to me was like a perfect little place. I don't know if it's the money, or what."
CANNES HEAT: ''It was warm and sunny all week. We ate every single meal outdoors," Scott said. ''Our hotel had a private beach with a maitre d'. . . . We had front-row seats for the beach." As for the topless sunbathers, ''You got used to it," he said. Added Cynthia, ''The water was phenomenal, salty and crystal clear."
THE WAY TO SAINT-TROPEZ: Along the coastal route, ''there are red rocks like you see out West, rising right out of the ocean, and houses are built into the cliffs," Scott said. ''It was just incredible." About Saint-Tropez, ''you hear so much . . . and you think all these movie stars will be there. There's a town and then a little fishing village. But where all the people are is private and secluded. You can't see anything."