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!Continue reading
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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 Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
In addition to being a fantastic museum with great content, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco is also an architectural gem – purposely built in a strategic location in the Old Town of Monaco ahead of its inauguration in 1910, it really looks like it was slammed into the side of the cliff side. You can check out this amazing perspective from the entrance to the Parking des Pêcheurs public car park, accessible by lift from the museum esplanade. To discover the museum in more detail, check out the dedicated blog article!
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: the eastern coastline of the French Riviera viewed from Italy
Some inspiration for the weekend… This amazing view was taken in late February (basically last Wednesday), from the village of Grimaldi Inferiore, just across the Franco-Italian border, on my way to the Villa Hanbury botanical gardens. Across the turquoise water, you can basically see the Tête de Chien mountain that overlooks Monaco, the luxuriant Cap Martin and in the foreground, the old town of Menton. Wishing all my readers an amazing weekend 🙂
In depth: the “Fête du Citron” in Menton, an avalanche of bright colour and vitamin C during winter on the French Riviera
For over 90 years, the Fête du Citron in Menton, has been one of the major winter events on the French Riviera, rivalled only by the Carnival of Nice. Despite having been around here now for the best part of 30 years, until now I had never bothered to go to visit it, so this week I decided to take advantage of the fact that I have more spare time than I have had over the last 7 years to check it out and I really loved it: the friendly vibes, the bright colours, the amazing creativity, the positive energy radiating from the town, clearly the fruit (pardon the pun) of thousands of hours of hard work.
This article will first explain the background of the festival and how it’s organised, then I’ll share some photos from my recent visit for you to get a general feel of it and I’ll finally finish up with some practical information on how to make the most of your visit and avoid some easily avoidable logistical mishaps.Continue reading
Picture of the Day: One Monte Carlo, the new face of Casino Square
A blend of old and new, this is the brand new face of the Casino Square in Monte-Carlo, with the inauguration of the “One Monte Carlo” complex on the former location of the Art Deco (and slightly Stalinist) Sporting d’Hiver building that was demolished in 2014. The whole “neighbourhood” houses residences, a conference centre and especially a host of luxury boutiques such as the 3-story Louis Vuitton store you can see here. Personally I’m still undecided if it’s cool or not, ie. a real asset to the Principality or just a monstrous carbuncle (to quote Prince Charles talking about Canary Wharf in London) – time will tell, though I have to admit it’s a relief for the construction works to be over, just waiting for the gardens to be rebuilt and Casino Square will again be the centrepiece of Monte-Carlo…
Picture of the Day: alfresco lunches in Menton
The “winter” weather this February has been exceptionally mild and beautiful on the French Riviera, especially compared to this time last year when it snowed at quite low altitudes and I had to go to Belgrade where it was -17C… After my Monday morning visit to the Fête du Citron in Menton, I just took an hour to wander around and soak in the sunshine, it was pretty amazing and everyone else in the town seemed to agree, given how full the terraces were, long may this weather continue!
Picture of the Day: sunset over Nice
Palm trees, the Mediterranean Sea and the sky on fire… Another spectacular winter sunset over the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, captured last month just in front of the Meridien hotel, the clouds were particularly stunning that evening and the atmosphere was absolutely magical. The weather’s already getting warmer and the days longer, spring will soon be with us… Have a great week!