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

img_7057

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.

Continue reading

Restaurant review – Attimi, Nice, a taste of Italian slow food in the heart of the French Riviera

Attimi facade (C) K. Hin

Yesterday I took advantage of a beautiful sunny spring day to visit Nice and wanted to try somewhere a bit different for lunch, so a friend of mine brought me to Attimi, one of his favourites… Now I understand why!

The area in which Attimi (which means “Moments” in Italian) is located is extremely central but very touristy, which generally means that the quality of the location is inverse proportional to the quality of the food: just off Place Massena on the southern side of the Promenade du Paillon, at the entrance of Old Nice and a short stroll away from the Promenade des Anglais. In general, when I see a large colourful terrace in the heart of Nice packed with tourists, I do the opposite of the aforementioned tourists and escape.

Place Massena, the heart of Nice

Place Massena, the heart of Nice

However, a quick chat with Fabio, the friendly owner from Alassio, just down the coast in Liguria, Italy, quickly removed these doubts though: his concept is to bring quality Italian “slow food” to Nice. As its name indicates, this concept, that originated in Piemonte, Italy (also ironically the kingdom that dominated Nice for several centuries) is the antithesis of fast food, involving authentic recipes, local ingredients and mainly taking one’s time both to prepare and enjoy the meal to the full. Continue reading

Restaurant review: la Montgolfière-Henri Géraci, Monaco (Old Town)

Montgolfiere outside (C) K. Hin

The Old Town of Monaco isn’t really renowned for the quality of its restaurants: between the souvenir shops, you can find snack bars and different restaurants which, without being bad, aren’t particularly memorable, with a few exceptions – until the summer of 2011, when a very notable “exception” opened up.

La Montgolfière isn’t your run of the mill tourist restaurant – if you are looking for very well-executed traditional Mediterranean fare but with a slightly exotic twist and a charming location, this is the place to go. This tiny and very quaint establishment, located on a small pedestrian street in the very heart of the old town of Monaco, a few steps away from the Prince’s Palace and the town hall square, only seats about 20 people and it is staffed exclusively by the Monaco-born chef, Henri Geraci and his wife Fabienne.

Continue reading

Inland to the Mercantour National Park: visit of the Vésubie valley and the Alpha Loup Wolf Park

The countryside behind Nice is a world full of hidden treasures, especially for nature lovers: these include hiking trails, beautiful villages, mountain peaks, pristine streams, wild mountain animals and great restaurants full of natural products. I recently decided to combine most of these on a day trip into the beautiful Vésubie valley, the main aim being to head to the Boréon lake to visit the Alpha Loup wolf park, where wild wolf packs are kept in their natural habitat at an altitude of 1500m.

Continue reading

Restaurant review: Restaurant d’Angleterre, Nice

Restaurant d’Angleterre, unbeatable value for money for traditional French food in central Nice

For the first individual restaurant review on the blog, what better choice than one of my favourites in Nice for traditional French cuisine, the Restaurant d’Angleterre. This small, family-run place is absolutely unbeatable in terms of value for money, quality of food and service and when I was running my hotel, just a few minutes away, this is where I sent my clients who asked for a good recommendation – none of them never came back disappointed.

Located on rue d’Angleterre, close to avenue Jean Médecin and to the train station, behind Notre Dame Basilica, the neighbourhood is very uninspiring and rather grotty but don’t let that dissuade you.

The entry-level menu of 16.50€ is already great value with three very filling courses that change every day. On a recent visit, this involved delicious salmon ravioli, followed by duck breast with mushroom and redcurrant sauce then a mango and strawberry pastry, there are in general 12 different dishes that you can choose from. There are also some excellent menus at 26.50€ and 31€, including foie gras, south-western salads (involving plenty of duck) and other delicious French specialities. Naturally, all the classics, like steak tartare, are executed to perfection.

Starter of a warm goat cheese salad on toast, a French classic

Main course duck breast done just right with mushroom and redcurrant sauce, part of the 16.50€ three-course menu, great flavour and unbeatable value!

The decor is pretty unassuming but the place is full of locals and is run by a charming family: incidentally, the Tripadvisor reviews of the place don’t lie (apart from the person who was complaining that the portions were too big, which is true, but hardly something that warrants complaints). In any case, as I mentioned, one of the best addresses in Nice and strongly recommended so do not hesitate.

This restaurant ticks all the boxes for a quality meal on the Riviera: minimal investment in decor, family-run and full of locals, all recipes for a good address!

Restaurant d’Angleterre, 25 rue d’Angleterre, Nice, 0033 4 93 88 64 49. Closed on Sunday evenings and Mondays, annual holidays mid-November to mid-December.

The Italian hinterlands: Dolceacqua and the villages of the Nervia Valley

The villages of Pigna and Castelvittorio in the beautiful Nervia valley, a short hop from the French Riviera and a great culture shock!

An effortless excursion through the Nervia valley in Italy to the villages of Dolceacqua, Rocchetta Nervina, Isolabona, Apricale, Pigna and Castelvittorio, as well as some recommended restaurants.

Just across the border into Italy, the valley of the Nervia river (more colloquially known as “Valnervia”) is located just behind the eastern sections of Ventimiglia and is one of my favourite coastal valleys of the Riviera, with a winning combination of beautiful scenery, picturesque medieval villages and great Ligurian food at reasonable prices, all within only about 40 minutes drive from Monaco or an hour from Nice!

Continue reading

A walking tour around the Old Town of Nice and restaurant guide

Global view of Old Nice from the Bellanda Tower on Castle Hill, you can see Cours Saleya on the left, running parallel to the waterfront

The Old Town of Nice (or Vieux Nice as the locals call it) is one of the city’s main attractions and a must-see for any visitor… Not particularly because of a huge amount of unmissable historical sites, but because it is a hive of activity, buzzing both day and night, which is ideal to wander around, to get lost in and to get a drink or a good traditional meal whilst enjoying the unmistakable baroque Mediterranean vibe. So here’s a quick walking tour to make sure you don’t miss any of the nicest parts, even though I’d advise the most adventurous to just get lost in the meander of streets and follow your instincts to make the most of the place – after all, it’s too small to get really lost and the sea is never too far away!

Continue reading