After almost a month spent away from home and two weeks on a business trip in huge tropical cities of South East Asia with stormy weather, it was a blessing to land in Nice airport and to see the wonderful blue skies and blue sea of the French Riviera again early in the morning on the flight from Munich. This stunning view was taken whilst flying over Antibes where you can distinctly see the huge marina, the Fort Carré and the old town – to the left is the bay of Cannes with the Esterel mountains in the distance.
When you fly in to Nice airport from the west, it’s difficult not to notice the striking red rocks and bizarre shapes of the Esterel mountains, a volcanic mountain range that floated off Africa several million years ago and now forms the border between the Var and the Alpes Maritimes departments, just west of Cannes! Nowadays, in the absence of dinosaurs and other dodgy creatures, it’s a great place for hiking and also to relax on the lovely red beaches, the contrast with the blue of the Mediterranean makes it a truly magical spot. But this time of the year is perfect to visit when there are fewer crowds and it’s not too hot in the hills.
It may be the season of carnivals but this time of the year on the French Riviera is also the time of the mimosa tree, which colours the whole countryside in a beautiful bright and fragrant yellow which is wonderful for photos but horrible for people who are allergic to the pollen! Why not go for a nice hike in the hills this weekend, especially close to the village of Tanneron in the foothills of the Esterel just behind Cannes, where you can enjoy some fantastic views. If you need some inspiration on where to go, follow the recommendations in the dedicated article, have fun! PS. This photo was taken just across the border in Italy, in the beautiful gardens of Villa Hanbury, you’ll find more about this beautiful place soon…
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.
Whilst I ran Hotel Notre Dame in Nice, I often got questions from guests asking whether it was worth travelling over to Saint-Tropez and I basically told them no – given the hassle getting there from Nice (either a two hour minimum bus ride in summer traffic or an extortionate boat trip), people wishing to experience a snazzy and sophisticated French Riviera atmosphere could head off to Cannes or Monaco instead in under 30 minutes on the train.
But whilst writing this blog, I recently became curious about the near-mystical attraction that Saint-Tropez has over visitors and that’s why a couple of weeks ago on a bright Sunday morning I decided to get up early, see what all the fuss was about by visiting it from a tourist’s perspective and definitely figure out whether 8 years later, I would have replied the same thing to my guests. So here’s the lowdown on what Saint-Tropez is all about and what to see and do there.