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 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.
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 →
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!
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.
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.
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
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 →
The legendary ancient Provençal village of Saint Paul de Vence is an ideal destination for a day trip away from the coastline of the French Riviera, especially if you are feeling in an arty mood and want to discover a different side of the area without having to travel too far. Saint Paul ticks all the boxes of Provence stereotypes, as depicted in Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence – old men playing pétanque, beautiful views over the hills, manicured gardens, communal laundry troughs, squares with brown stone fountains, small alleyways and expensive art galleries – but does it all in incomparable style. In the following itinerary, I combine the fairytale beauty of Saint Paul with the more down to earth charm of nearby Vence, both easily accessible by public transport from Nice, but if you are travelling by car, I’ve added an extension to the surprising village of Saint Jeannet.
The city of Nice, lying directly on the Mediterranean Sea
Most visitors to the French Riviera will pass through Nice at one point or another, given its central location, the fact that it is by far the largest city of the region and its role as the main transportation hub of the region. But Nice is far more than just a transit zone, it’s honestly a very beautiful city which is well worth spending at least a day visiting. Here are some tips about what to see and do…
The summer season is fully upon us and the French Riviera is filling up with tourists: this means fireworks, music festivals, farniente beach time and outdoor dinners, amongst plenty of other activities, so here’s a quick guide on how to enjoy a fun-filled week here.
Of course, plenty of visitors just want to relax and enjoy days at the beach, but feel free to pick and mix according to your centres of interest. These day-long excursions are ideal if undertaken from Nice, located bang in the centre of the French Riviera, but plenty of them are also feasible if you are based further down the coast, either east or west, as long as you have access to the main railway line.