In depth: the Hanbury Botanical Gardens in Ventimiglia, a trip back in time

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! 

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Picture of the Day: Nice train station

Hardly the most exotic or beautiful part of the French Riviera but probably one of the places that most visitors transit through at least once during their stay as the main transport hub, the Gustave Eiffel-designed Nice Ville train station is just about getting to the end of an extensive renovation process. Granted, the neighbourhood still isn’t the safest (which is why hotels are cheaper than elsewhere in Nice) but at least it’s improved a lot since they created this pedestrian square in front (as opposed to the hell-hole it was 15 years ago during my hotel-owning days). Soon there’ll also be a new shopping centre and hotel where those cranes currently are, so should make things improve even more, whilst there are now even escalators and lifts (at long last!) to get to the platforms 🙂 To find out why this station is so useful to transit through, check out my practical guide to getting around efficiently on the French Riviera!

Picture of the Day: the village of Peille

The hinterland villages are a great way to escape the crowded coastline, especially on a nice quiet spring weekend like this one. Peille is a great example – only a 20 minute drive inland from Nice or Monaco, it houses ancient architecture, good food and is the starting point for the hike up to the spectacular Cime de Baudon summit that dominates the French Riviera. I’ll be writing an article with a hinterland village day trip soon so watch this space!

Picture of the Day: Belle Époque vibes in Monaco

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!

Picture of the Day: the Riviera above the clouds

It’s sometimes important to take the higher ground! This is the high altitude view I’ll be enjoying quite a lot of over the next 6 weeks, with 12 flights lined up across 3 trips and 5 countries for various business and leisure trips, the first stop being Hong Kong… This particular lovely sky was observed last month just above the French Riviera when landing on the Lufthansa flight from Munich, the second leg of my trip back from Sofia in Bulgaria.

Picture of the Day: sunset over Eze

Pure serenity in the Mediterranean air on a blissful evening! Driving back home after a perfect afternoon this weekend in Villefranche, Cap Ferrat and Beaulieu, I stopped over on the quiet road at the entrance of the Cap Estel Hotel and snapped this lovely sunset looking back over Cap Ferrat and Cap Roux in the foreground. Wishing everyone an amazing week!

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!

Picture of the Day: Ile Saint Honorat

Despite appearances, this bucolic scene of vineyards and a monastery is not taken in the middle of the Provençal countryside but on an island off the coast of Cannes. Ile Saint Honorat, one of the two Lérins islands, has been populated by a community of Cistercian monks for hundreds of years and is well worth a day trip on a sunny day. Check out my detailed article to find out more and plan your visit of this stunning and surprising destination!

Picture of the Day: quick run along the coast in Cap d’Ail

I recently got up early on a beautiful Saturday morning just before heading to Genoa in Italy for the weekend to go for a 5km run on the coastal path just west of Monaco, following the Mediterranean from Plage Marquet in Cap d’Ail to the magical Mala Beach: this stunning view is just an example of what you can see on this trail which is perfect both for walking and for running, perched between the mountain and the sea with stunning Belle Epoque villas – for more information, check out this article!

Picture of the Day: sunset in Monaco

Beautiful February sunset captured in Monaco! One of the unfortunate particularities here is that you never actually see the sun set as the Principality faces east towards the sea and the sun drops down in the evening behind the 550m wall of the Tête de Chien mountain located to the west. However there are certain evenings, especially in winter, where the cloud patterns over the Italian mountains capture the final rays of the setting sun and set the sky on fire in a truly splendid manner – this is a perfect example and great to reminisce over as I fly towards Sofia in Bulgaria, my home for the next 5 days (perhaps some of the next daily pictures will come from there!).