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!

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Discovering the beautiful Ile Saint Honorat, one of the Iles de Lérins: an unknown gem off the coast of Cannes

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The Abbey of Ile Saint Honorat

When enjoying the spectacular landing at Nice airport and approaching from the west, you are bound to notice the two small islands off the coast of Cannes, Ile Sainte Marguerite and Ile Saint Honorat, known collectively as the Iles de Lérins (along with two much smaller and uninhabited islands). Both car free islands offer a huge contrast to the hustle and bustle and frenetic pace of the French Riviera and in this article, I will focus on the smaller and less visited of the two, Ile Saint Honorat. Famed for its historical and still functioning medieval abbey run by Cistercian monks and for the special wines and liqueurs that they produce locally, this small island of just 40 hectares is full of bucolic charm and splendid views and can be visited all year round. Carry on reading this article to experience a total culture shock, just 25 minutes from the port of Cannes and for full photos of my visit, please visit the Ile Saint Honorat album on the French Riviera Blog Facebook page.

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The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco: the Principality’s legendary temple of the sea!

 

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For over a hundred years, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco has been one of the jewels in the crown for tourists in the Principality thanks to its famous aquarium and an international reputation. However, there is much more to this venerable institution than just a spectacular shark tank and some exotic stuffed animals – walking around the impressive marble walls of this beautiful building, you are treated to a journey through time and space and can really sense the passion of the man whose brainchild this museum is, Prince Albert I of Monaco. This in-depth article will obviously guide you through the main attractions of the museum but first it’s important to understand the historical context and the contribution that the museum is still making to the conservation of the oceans around the world.    Continue reading

For the people of Nice and of the French Riviera… Special thoughts for the victims of the 14 July 2016 terror attacks on the Promenade des Anglais

13692886_10157154409000440_5652352969906851616_oI was deeply saddened by the shocking terror attack last night on the Promenade des Anglais, especially as it hit so close to home. I was in Monaco when it happened but had just flown back to Nice airport in the afternoon after a JCI visit to Luxembourg and stopped in the city centre a few hours before the incident to do some errands: walking around Place Massena and avenue Jean Médecin on a lovely sunny public holiday afternoon, it was impossible to imagine the carnage and fear that were to follow.

The French Riviera Blog offers its heartfelt condolences to all the innocent victims of this senseless tragedy and strongly condemns the mindless violence that has hit this beautiful part of the world and many other cities and countries in recent months.

I am certain that the people of Nice will rise to the occasion and show the true spirit and resilience of this beautiful, tolerant and international city, welcoming visitors from all around the world with open arms and showing that terror cannot prevail. With heavy hearts, the French Riviera remains open for business.

Take care everyone and stay safe wherever you are, all the best,

Kevin

 

 

Eze Village and its idyllic Botanical Garden: the true essence of the French Riviera

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The terracotta roofs of Eze Village looking south towards Corsica, note the tiny cross marking the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs (protective coating because it was still technically winter when this photo was taken)

The sparkling Mediterranean sea, blue skies, soaring mountains and beautiful colours – these all represent the true essence of the French Riviera, encapsulated by the stunning village of Eze. A few weeks ago, I decided to take advantage of a spectacularly sunny Sunday afternoon to take a short drive to Eze Village and especially explore the Botanical Garden at its tip, mainly due to the fact that I hadn’t been up there for a while. The experience was beyond my wildest expectations and I was truly overwhelmed by the beauty of the setting and the peaceful atmosphere that filled me with positive energy after an exhausting month travelling around Europe. I therefore figured that I would share with you my feelings, impressions and some photos of this magical afternoon.  This slightly more in-depth section on Eze Village can also be combined with the broader article I wrote quite a while ago about the Nietzsche trail so read on to find out more and live the dream, the French Riviera Dream!

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Enjoying a hassle-free Monaco F1 Grand Prix experience: a full practical guide for first-time visitors

(C) K. Hin

The Monaco Grand Prix is probably the biggest and most prestigious regular event on the French Riviera calendar, ahead of the Cannes Film Festival and the Carnival of Nice. Each year, it brings a magical atmosphere to the Principality, really kick-starting the summer season with plenty of private parties on the yachts in the harbour, a very cosmopolitan atmosphere and huge amounts of visitors (and therefore VAT income for the Monegasque government!). Of course, the Grand Prix completely changes the face of the Principality for 3 months, as the roads are full of temporary grandstands, crash barriers, tyres and blockades which are prepared two months in advance and take a month to dismantle afterwards, so there are huge logistics behind the event, the statistics provided by the Automobile Club of Monaco are impressive (see the “presentation” tab). Since the turn of the millennium, there has also been a Historic Grand Prix, which runs every even-numbered year two weeks before the main race, rather interesting to remind spectators of the race’s heritage as the first Monaco Grand Prix was run in 1929, though the first official race in the Formula 1 calendar was in 1950. And in 2015, the first electric Grand Prix, run by FIA under the name “EPrix” took place took two weeks before the F1 event and now also runs every two years.

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Transport on the French Riviera : a practical guide to getting around by train, bus and car

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Monaco’s spectacular railway station

I have always believed that one the greatest wishes that all frequent global travellers such as myself have is the ability to teleport in order to avoid the hassle of getting from A to B and just enjoying the stay in B instead of wasting time getting bored in some random means of transport without a decent wi-fi connection… Unfortunately at the time of writing, this is somewhat impossible (perhaps it won’t be the case in a few decades or so), so the best one can do is to try to optimise travel times and make the journey as smooth as possible!

The French Riviera is no exception: the destinations listed on my blog may be in a pretty small geographical area, but getting from, for example, Cannes to Monaco at the height of the summer might be a rather sweaty, crowded, time-consuming and unpleasant experience if you don’t play your cards right.

In this short practical guide, I would like to share my experience and tips on how to get around the French Riviera with as little hassle as possible (and even perhaps squeeze out just a tiny bit of enjoyment!) so that you can enjoy your time in the actual destinations that I describe elsewhere. I will cover the three major means of transport, which are the train, bus and car, but will leave out the snazzy methods such as water taxi, limousine and helicopter, which are reserved for the elite. The same applies for taxis which are a rip-off and therefore also an elite mode of transport unless there is no other choice.

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The Greek Villa Kerylos in Beaulieu sur Mer and a walk along the Cap Ferrat coastline

The lovely town of Beaulieu sur Mer is often overlooked, despite being exactly half way down the coast between Nice and Monaco, which is a shame as it has all the different elements that embody the charm of the French Riviera: beautiful and refined Belle Epoque architecture, spectacular mountains, pleasant beaches and luxuriant vegetation thanks to a very mild microclimate similar to that of Menton.

But the main draw for visitors is the splendid Greek Villa Kerylos, a villa built in the early 20th century in a strategic location by the sea, that is now a historical monument… One may wonder why there is a Greek villa on the French Riviera – the answer is particularly interesting, giving a real insight into what the Belle Epoque was like and this is what I will be explaining in this blog article, which also provides practical information and will take you on a nice walk afterwards along the coast of Cap Ferrat.

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Facade of the Villa Kerylos

This itinerary can easily be explored in half a day and combined with some of the visits described in other articles covering half-day excursions in the area, such as the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Cap Ferrat (you can buy a combined ticket for both monuments), the village of Villefranche sur Mer or the Nietzsche trail from Eze sur Mer to Eze Village.

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Villefranche sur Mer and its beautiful harbour in a one hour walking tour: so much more than just a cruise stop!

Villefranche lagoon (C) K. Hin

First impressions often count and for many cruise passengers visiting the French Riviera, the first glimpse of the region is of the beautiful fishing village of Villefranche sur Mer with its stunning ochre colours reflecting in the large bay, whilst others may wake up to a great view of the green peninsula of Cap Ferrat and its luxury villas with the rocky slopes of the Maritime Alps looming in the background.

Then after breakfast, they either take the shuttles to the cruise terminal and jump on a guided coach tour to “do” the French Riviera in a day with Eze, Monaco, Nice and perhaps Cannes (the mere thought of such a superficial visit makes me cringe), whilst the more independent minded walk straight to the train station and head off to Monaco or Nice. Of course, there’s nothing wrong at all with the second option, or even the first if you’re very limited for time and have deep pockets – however, Villefranche does have dollops of charm and is well worth an hour or two of your day to soak in the medieval atmosphere of the old town, explore the free museums in the imposing 16th century Citadel (castle), check out the surreal atmosphere of Jean Cocteau’s chapel on the harbour and especially enjoy the stunning views over the Cap Ferrat… All these added together make for a perfect French Riviera experience, so read on and follow my 1 hour whistle-stop walking tour to optimise your visit!

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Visiting Monaco on a tight budget: yes, it is possible!

Monaco: gorgeous, but not as expensive as you may think. Follow the advice below for a rip-off free experience!

Monaco: gorgeous, but not as expensive as you may think. Follow the advice below for a rip-off free experience!

No, Monaco is not as expensive as you may think… Some of you may be contemplating a trip to Monaco in the near future but have this impression of the Principality as a place where you cannot get by with under 1.000€ per day. Naturally, if you do have the desire to spend that amount, you can easily find hundreds of exotic ways of getting rid of large sums of money in a couple of minutes!

The good news is that Monaco is also a place where normal people, not just multi-millionaires, live and work, and that there are therefore plenty of ways for the common of mortals to have a wonderful sample of what the country can offer on a very reasonable budget. Follow the advice below and you’ll find that, contrary to popular belief, Monaco is much cheaper than most major cities in Europe on several different levels.

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