After a long trip last week back from Asia, there was nothing better than to take a quick hop across the port on the electric Boat Bus, with some stunning sunset views of the buildings of Monaco. It was a great feeling and surprisingly peaceful to glide silently over the calm waters of the Mediterranean after the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong and Taiwan.
A perfect walk to do in the spring is to enjoy a 30 minute stroll along the coastline from Beaulieu to the port of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat – it’s a fully flat footpath and affords stunning views along the eastern part of the French Riviera and its dramatic mountains. Why not combine with a visit to Villa Kerylos in Beaulieu and then either go to Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on top of the hill or else a nice lunch by the quaint port of Saint Jean? Enjoy the weekend!
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.
As the weather gets warmer, the mountains get more appealing and spring is the perfect time to go hiking on the French Riviera! Indeed, the coastline is only the tip of the iceberg and the “département” (county) is called the Alpes Maritimes for a reason as most of it is covered by the southern Alps. This is the view from the top of the Col de Tende, the mountain pass at around 1000m above sea level that marks the border between Italy and France up in the hinterlands, looking south down the Roya valley towards the coastline and Ventimiglia. Find out more about the opportunities to explore the mountains and make the most of the great outdoors with my practical guide!
Another flashback to somewhere away from the French Riviera and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited: Lake Como in Lombardy, northern Italy, the smallest of the three famous Italian lakes but probably the prettiest. This picture is taken from the gardens of the lovely Villa Balbianello in Lenno, on the western coast of the lake. Formerly known as the Lario, Lake Como has been a reference for natural beauty ever since the Roman times and is the birthplace of the author and naturalist Pliny the Elder, famous for recounting the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. It is also a prime location for shooting films, for obvious reasons and the Villa Balbianello is best known for harbouring the lawn and beautiful tree where James Bond recovers from a rather gruesome torture experience in Casino Royale (2006). Lake Como is only a 4 hour drive from Nice so don’t hesitate to include it in a European road trip if you have the opportunity, you won’t regret it!
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.
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.
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.