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The French Riviera
The Riviera is France's playground, the famous Cote d'Azur. The
French Riviera stretches from Toulon to the Italian border and is dotted
with famous spots: Nice, Cannes, Menton, Beaulieu, Cap d'Antibes,
Juan-les-Pins, St.-Tropez, Eden Roc and of course, Monte Carlo in the
principality of Monaco.
Nice, the capital, is partly Italian in character, and all the year it has a varied and lively existence of its own, regardless of visitors. The alleys of the old town contrast with the resplendent hotels along the Promenade des Anglais. Cannes is smaller and smarter than Nice, and more particularly devoted to visitors. In summer it is overcrowded; in winter it remains exclusive and aristocratic. Menton, a town of lemons and palm-trees, has an old-fashioned elegance, and many sedate hotels adapted to quiet English tastes. Some of the smaller resorts are pleasant - Juan-les-Pins, St Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and the ports of Villefranche and Antibes.
Monaco, one of the world's smallest independent states, has a population of 23,o00 on not muchmore than 2 sq. m. Its ruler, Prince Rainier, and his wife, Princess Grace, live in their castle above the old town. There are no customs or frontier formalities with France, and French coinage is valid, but you must use Monegasque postage stamps. Within Monaco's frontiers lies Monte Carlo, now mainly devoted to business. The Casino no longer draws the elite of Europe, but is amusing to visit.
A main attraction of the Riviera is its hinterland. A very few miles from the modern resorts you can find lovely, ancient hill-villages beloved of painters - St Paul-de-Vence, Cagnes, Eze; or interesting old towns like Vence, where
(Opposite, above) The lights of Cannes French Government Tourist Office
(Opposite, below) Juan-les-Pins Henry Grant
D. H. Lawrence died; Valbonne, with its Spanish-style arcaded streets; and Grasse, the perfume centre, in its valley full of flowers. The scenery all round here is glorious. A little further inland are some splendid mountain resorts, such as Peira-Cava, amid subAlpine glades and forests.
The Riviera is not ideal for bathing - Cannes and Juan have sandy beaches, but E. from Antibes the shore is pebbly. All the year round, however, there are masses of distractions - casinos, galas, festivals, exhibitions. And today the Riviera is one of the world's finest centres for modern art. Many of the great painters who lived here have left their work behind them. The Fondation Maeght, at St Paul, with its Miros and Giacomettis in the open air, is as striking and lovely an art museum as you will find anywhere. Do not miss, either, the Picasso collections at Antibes and Vallauris (where he worked), the Leger Museum at Biot, the Matisse Chapel at Vence, the Cocteau Chapel at Villefranche, or Renoir's villa at Cagnes. Picasso helped to revive the Vallauris pottery industry, and nowadays you can buy excellent pottery, often quite cheaply, there or in neighbouring towns. Perfumes and cut flowers are other local products. The food is the same as in the rest of Provence, plus a few specialities from Nice, notably ravioli and the delicious salade nicoise.
There are fine restaurants along the Riviera. La Bonne Auberge, La Reserve de Beaulieu and Ch&teau de Madrid (on Middle Corniche) are the best restaurants on the coast. Da Bouttau in the old town of Nice (with a branch in Cannes) is an amusing restaurant for local and regional dishes.Chateau de la Chevre d'Or (with a splendid view) in Eze Village. The Riviera is both a summer and winter resort these days. But the winter weather is not as warm as Florida. More like Southern California. You can take a delightful 7-day drive from Paris to Cannes by way of Avalon, St.-Seine-L'Abbaye, Vienne (home of the famous La Pyramide restaurant), Valence, Vaison-la-Romaine, Les Baux, Marseilles and along the coast to Cannes. There are marvelous restaurants, charming hotels along the way.
|2007 travel guides|