Just across the Italian border from Menton even before reaching the centre of Ventimiglia, you will find one of the hidden gems of the Riviera, the 19thcentury Villa Hanbury Botanical Gardens built by British entrepreneur, philanthropist and botanist Sir Thomas Hanbury. Fair enough, the term “botanical garden” may conjure up a dry and boring place full of signs with Latin names to designate some obscure inanimate objects ie. plants and flowers and may not exactly set the pulse racing but believe me, this is one of my favourite parts of the area to just get out, relax and see something different amidst nature. This is thanks to the beautiful setting, the lovely microclimate and most importantly, the mystical Oriental vibe of the place, soaked in a melancholic and nostalgic atmosphere where time seems to have stood still. In this article, I’ll try to help you travel through time to 19thcentury China to understand the history and convey why I love this place so much, why you should spend a couple of hours of your time visiting it and some practical advice about how to optimise your visit… Enjoy the journey!Continue reading
Hardly the most exotic or beautiful part of the French Riviera but probably one of the places that most visitors transit through at least once during their stay as the main transport hub, the Gustave Eiffel-designed Nice Ville train station is just about getting to the end of an extensive renovation process. Granted, the neighbourhood still isn’t the safest (which is why hotels are cheaper than elsewhere in Nice) but at least it’s improved a lot since they created this pedestrian square in front (as opposed to the hell-hole it was 15 years ago during my hotel-owning days). Soon there’ll also be a new shopping centre and hotel where those cranes currently are, so should make things improve even more, whilst there are now even escalators and lifts (at long last!) to get to the platforms 🙂 To find out why this station is so useful to transit through, check out my practical guide to getting around efficiently on the French Riviera!
I’ve been away for a couple of weeks due to work between Asia, Switzerland and the Balkans and returned to the French Riviera this week to see Monaco transformed into Grand Prix mode, especially around the port. This year’s event begins on Thursday 23 May and finished off with the big race on Sunday 26 May, while the electric ePrix, which has become more and more successful in recent years, takes place on Saturday 11 May. Find out more and avoid getting ripped off using my practical guide to the Monaco Grand Prix : I’ll be missing/escaping all the action as usual this year, with another business trip to Asia!
The hinterland villages are a great way to escape the crowded coastline, especially on a nice quiet spring weekend like this one. Peille is a great example – only a 20 minute drive inland from Nice or Monaco, it houses ancient architecture, good food and is the starting point for the hike up to the spectacular Cime de Baudon summit that dominates the French Riviera. I’ll be writing an article with a hinterland village day trip soon so watch this space!
After a long trip last week back from Asia, there was nothing better than to take a quick hop across the port on the electric Boat Bus, with some stunning sunset views of the buildings of Monaco. It was a great feeling and surprisingly peaceful to glide silently over the calm waters of the Mediterranean after the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong and Taiwan.
I’m currently on my way back to Europe from a really nice trip to Asia, which included 3 days in the lovely metropolis of Hong Kong. I think it was about my 20th time there but there is nothing more satisfying than arriving after a 20 hour journey and walking along the newly-renovated Kowloon waterfront, enjoying the fantastic views across Victoria Harbour towards the spectacular skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island – it’s title as “Asia’s World City” is fully justified!
When I’m asked what sort of typical dishes one can eat in Monaco, the barbaguian is the first thing that springs to mind! This delicious snack is made out of a very light pastry stuffed with a mix of Swiss chard (blettes in French, a kind of spinach), then fried until golden brown. The origin is of course under debate between the local villages but the general consensus is that it’s mainly a speciality from Monaco… You can find them in the market at the Place d’Armes and in the A Roca stores amongst others but generally the best ones are to be found at the Bar Américain of the Hotel de Paris or at the Café de Paris, bon appétit!
In addition to being a fantastic museum with great content, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco is also an architectural gem – purposely built in a strategic location in the Old Town of Monaco ahead of its inauguration in 1910, it really looks like it was slammed into the side of the cliff side. You can check out this amazing perspective from the entrance to the Parking des Pêcheurs public car park, accessible by lift from the museum esplanade. To discover the museum in more detail, check out the dedicated blog article!
Walking down a major shopping street in Monaco last week after a dentist’s appointment, I looked up and noticed some nice classical Belle Époque architecture from the 1920s. Sadly more and more of these buildings are being knocked down to make way for more modern and functional buildings but it’s important to stay close to the heritage of the area as the past often contains the keys to future success!
The influence of the French Riviera truly stretches all around the world! I’m currently touring around East Asia and was pretty surprised when I came across a subsidiary of the glamorous Café de Paris of Monte Carlo, not on Casino Square but in the lobby of the palatial Galaxy Hotel in the former Portuguese colony of Macau in southern China, also a global gambling capital. Was very happy to see a nice sculpture of the late Princess Grace and some vibes back from home, even on the opposite side of the world by the Pacific Ocean…