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
Category Archives: What to see on the French Riviera
This sections covers all of my recommendations about sightseeing and basically have to spend a good day out.
Picture of the Day: the waterfront of Villefranche sur Mer
It certainly already feels like spring, now that March is upon us and yesterday I decided to go on a lovely day trip around Villefranche, Cap Ferrat and Beaulieu under the sunshine. Why not do the same today and enjoy a nice lazy Sunday lunch sitting on a table by the water, like the people on this picture? Check out l’Oursin Bleu there, lunch there was amazing and I’ll be posting a full review on it soon. In the meantime, to optimise your day in Villefranche, check out this in depth blog article and have a wonderful Sunday!
In depth: the “Fête du Citron” in Menton, an avalanche of bright colour and vitamin C during winter on the French Riviera
For over 90 years, the Fête du Citron in Menton, has been one of the major winter events on the French Riviera, rivalled only by the Carnival of Nice. Despite having been around here now for the best part of 30 years, until now I had never bothered to go to visit it, so this week I decided to take advantage of the fact that I have more spare time than I have had over the last 7 years to check it out and I really loved it: the friendly vibes, the bright colours, the amazing creativity, the positive energy radiating from the town, clearly the fruit (pardon the pun) of thousands of hours of hard work.
This article will first explain the background of the festival and how it’s organised, then I’ll share some photos from my recent visit for you to get a general feel of it and I’ll finally finish up with some practical information on how to make the most of your visit and avoid some easily avoidable logistical mishaps.Continue reading
Restaurant review: Valentin, Monaco, a hidden gem in the heart of Monte-Carlo
It’s not easy to find good, reasonably-priced places to go out after work in Monaco, especially in the Monte-Carlo neighbourhood where plenty of offices are located, unless you are willing to break the bank! But I recently discovered Valentin, a wine bar and restaurant and a little gem of a place hidden in the heart of Monte Carlo, just behind the Allées Lumière bus stop at the back of the mini shopping centre opposite the tourist office.
Opened in 2012 by Pier and Simona, a couple of passionate Italian restaurateurs who used to run a hotel-restaurant in the village of Triora just across the border in Liguria, it’s a great place for a quick and reasonable lunch if you are working in Monaco, with a new “plat du jour” every day. Continue reading
Picture of the Day: Monaco’s new sea extension
If you have already visited Monaco, you will have noticed the intense building work that is constantly taking place, it’s part of the life here that keeps the Principality independent, prosperous and dynamic, even though things can sometimes get pretty noisy and cause traffic jams! There are currently huge ships in the sea just off the Fairmont hotel and the Grand Prix tunnel, these are here to build a new land reclamation shaped like a peninsula which will take shape over the next 5-10 years and will change the appearance of this very central neighborhood, hopefully in a positive manner. These huge concrete blocks currently being shipped in are going to be ballasted and sunk into a positive to create an underground sea wall. It’s a massive project using interesting construction techniques, you can find more information here on this video in English – Monaco never shies away from progress and new ways to innovate!
Picture of the Day: Genoa, Italy
This is a beautiful photo illustrating the elegance of the city of Genoa in Italy and the lovely Piazza Ferrari. Located only around 2 hours drive from Nice, this lovely coastal city, the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, has had plenty of influence on the historical development of the eastern part of the French Riviera, notably Monaco. Its UNESCO heritage city center is unforgettable, as are the views and the food. I’m planning to write a proper article over the coming weeks about my recent visit, so watch this space!
Picture of the Day: 3 February 2019
This rather bizarre lunar landscape caused by both sea and wind erosion can be observed at the tip of Cap Martin, between Monaco and Menton. On a stormy day, the views looking west towards Tête de Chien and Cap Ferrat in the distance are particularly stunning! The walk from Monaco to Menton via the tip of Cap Ferrat takes around 3 hours along the Sentier des Douaniers and is a great breath of fresh air, just make sure that you bring plenty of sun cream and water in the summer – find out more in this article.
The Sistine Chapel of the Southern Alps: exploring Notre Dame des Fontaines and medieval La Brigue in the upper Roya valley
The hinterlands of the French Riviera are absolutely outstanding both in terms of natural beauty and architectural splendour and give an extra depth to a visit to this beautiful part of the world. Each valley has its own particular character, none more so than the Roya river valley that stretches in the extreme eastern part of the Maritime Alps, between France and Italy. A summer visit is an ideal way to escape the summer heat and there are some absolute gems, such as La Brigue, a medieval village tucked away just off the main road, and Notre Dame des Fontaines, also known as the “Sistine Chapel of the Southern Alps” thanks to its beautiful 15th century frescoes, which I will be covering in this article although there is much more to see.
This excursion that can easily be done in a day from the coastline in Nice or Monaco or else on the way up to Turin and Piemonte in Italy and will enable you to discover some spectacular mountain scenery without having to take any difficult mountain roads, whilst enjoy some great food and drink and simply enjoy the culture shock compared to the busy resorts of the coastline.
Summer on the French Riviera – the Monaco international fireworks competition, a practical guide
Every summer all across the French Riviera coastline, the night sky is lit up by hundreds of spectacular colours and festive bangs to celebrate the balmy weather and the holiday season. The Principality of Monaco is no exception, since pretty much every evening around midnight, a short fireworks display is launched during the Sporting Club summer festival after each concert for the benefit of the viewing public who have paid for the privilege.
But in terms of fireworks, the centrepiece remains the Monaco International Fireworks Competition (officially the “Concours international de feux d’artifice pyromélodiques de Monaco”) which blocks off the whole town for 20 minutes of magic set to synchronised (the organisers hope!) music, highlighting the talents of fireworks artists from all around the world – obviously everything is free!
Monaco and Cap d’Ail during my Sunday evening sunset run – a photo gallery
The start of 2017 hasn’t been wonderful in terms of weather on the French Riviera, at least from what I’ve been told as I’ve been travelling for 5 consecutive weeks so far for work to some much colder parts of Europe, namely Paris, Vienna, Munich, Stuttgart, Berlin, Düsseldorf and Cologne. However, this weekend was hopefully a sign of better times and after a lovely day yesterday in Nice (see the carnival pictures and video I shared on the French Riviera Blog Facebook page), I decided to enjoy the afternoon with a very pleasant 45 minute run around some of the major sights on the western part of Monaco and therefore enjoyed a beautiful sunset.
I figured, in the spirit of this blog, that it would be nice to share the pictures as it’s a really nice tour that takes in plenty of the most beautiful views of the Principality, just be warned that it does go uphill and downhill a lot so I did this at a very slow pace given my appalling fitness condition!
Enjoy the photos! Next week if the weather is still decent, I might go and check out the last weekend of the Fête des Citrons in Menton, if so I’ll share my experiences soon!