Côte d'Azur or French Riviera – Southeastern France
The Côte d’Azur or French Riviera is a well known stretch along the Mediterranean coast which has traditionally been the playground for the rich and famous. This sun-drenched region along the south-eastern coast of France is a popular holiday destination amongst sun-worshippers. If you haven’t been here before, you’ll find the crammed conditions on the mostly pebbled beaches rather fascinating. Coming from a country where we are fortunate to have huge stretches of beautiful pure white sandy beaches, I initially couldn’t see the attraction of jamming onto those crowded pebbled grounds that serve as beaches. However, I missed the point. With the sun and a correct state of mind, a beautiful beach experience can be imagined.
The Côte d’Azur hosts some 3,900 festivals and events a year, the most renowned of these festivals is of course the Cannes Film Festival. This 10-day event in May is attended by stars, movie producers and directors, and everyone who is anyone in the film industry. This of course attracts huge crowds of hangers-on, people who come to be seen and others who are hopeful of catching a glimpse of their favourite stars and to make their claim to fame for a day.
Along the French Riviera there are numerous towns and visitors can choose between the livelier towns of Nice and Cannes or to go for the calmer more discreet villages of Beaulieu, Menton or Cap Ferrat.
Antibes Juan-les-Pins is an ancient city whose varied and fascinating history goes back 2,400 years. Places of interest include the 17th-century ramparts, 12th-century castle with a 16th century tower, the old city, Archeological Museum, Picasso Museum, the Peynet Museum, Chateau Grimaldi, Marineland, Church of the Immaculate Conception and 25 kilometres of coastline containing creeks, escarpments, rocky areas, and sandy and pebbled beaches.
This village perched up high dates to 154 BC. Visit its antique shops, outdoor cafés, Fernand Léger Museum, glass museum, 6 glass factories and pottery factories
Originally a humble fishing village, Cannes is now a world famous city, thanks to Lord Brougham, former Lord Chancellor of England. In 1834, Lord Brougham came to the region, fell in love with it, and subsequently turned it into a booming tourist resort. With the introduction of the International Film Festival, Cannes’ fame is sealed and it has become the international capital of motion-picture arts and a bustling metropolis for film professionals. Cannes is also a popular convention and festival city, and other attractions include la Croisette, the old city, Castre Museum, the Palm Beach Casino and the beaches.
Rising from the hills above the Mediterranean, the city of Grasse is the perfume capital of the world. Approximately thirty perfume factories provide for a global market. Raw materials from all over the world are sent to Grasse to be treated. Grasse has succeeded in making an art of its industry, by combining refinement and quality in the products and transforming these into luxury items. When visiting a perfumery, you’ll have the opportunity to create your own perfume during a workshop. Apart from the perfume factories, you can stroll along the alleys in the historic centre or admire the charming Provencal landscape and villages of the Pays de Grasse, the regional name for this breathtaking and tranquil countryside.
This little village of 20,000 people is known for the Chateau of La Napoule, a fortified castle of the 14th century. In the 20th century, Henry and Marie Clews, a couple from a wealthy New York banking family, renovated the castle, which they then inhabited. Henry was a painter and sculptor and his work still fills the castle, which is now run as a non-profit arts foundation by his descendents.
Warmest of coastal cities year-round, visit the exquisite gardens of Menton and don’t miss the Greenhouse of Madonna, classified as a historical monument. Other attractions include Cocteau Museum, Parvis and Church of St. Michel, Promenade du Soleil, Bioves Garden
Anyone who watches James Bond movies will know Monte Carlo, the main city of Monaco. The casinos are the main attraction but do try and make time for the Napoleon Museum.
This superb medieval village is set amongst pines, olives and cyprus trees. Mougins has preserved their environment and offers visitors panoramic views of the “baie de Cannes”, the Lérins islands, Grasse and the Préalpes. Visitors are seduced by the charm of the narrow roads, with borders of colourful flowers and superb ancient houses. The houses are adorned by picturesque door-ways, beautifully designed window-frames and lots of delightful detail everywhere you look.
Nice has been a popular tourist destination for centuries, for royalty and ordinary folks alike. It’s a hub for transportation between Paris and the south of France. Stroll along its famous Promenade des Anglais or visit its fine arts museum, Matisse Museum or Chagall Museum.
This is another picturesque, medieval village with narrow streets, stepped-streets, stone steps, one-person-wide walkways and deep vaulted passages. Explore the lovely little squares and fountains throughout the village, wrought-iron balconies and other charming discoveries.
Things to see include the 18th-century Saint Marguerite church and the 10th-century chateau at the top of the village.
Fishing port, Tour Carré des Dames, Phonograph Museum, golf course
Saint Paul de Vence
This is a beautiful medieval village. Discovered by a host of painters such as Matisse, Soutine, Chagall, Renoir, Signac, Modigliani and Dufy, Saint Paul de Vence is a much painted village. View further pictures on this site.
Saint Raphaël is a large seaside town which isn’t very picturesque, being more of a resort destination than picture-pretty village. There is an old town here called the “village district”, and there are a fair number of interesting things to see by wandering the streets.
There certainly is a lot to explore along the Côte d’Azur and when exhausted, there’s the option of retreating to one of its stretches of beaches.