How to Spend a Long Weekend on the French Riviera
This article by Amy Lynne Hayes is from the French Quarter Magazine.
The French Riviera. The phrase conjures up images of crystal blue waters and golden sunshine. Beautiful people are strolling down the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, and the ladies are looking effortlessly chic. Surely there is someone famous hiding behind those fashionably large hats and designer sunglasses.
“Nissa la Bella,” or Nice the Beautiful, lies on the cliffside overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The mild climate of southeastern France makes this a popular destination year-round for both French natives and tourists alike. Gone are the gray winter skies of the north, replaced by the welcoming rays of the sun.
Located on the Mediterranean with a backdrop of the Southern Alps, Nice is not just bella but stunning. Nice lies at the centre of famous French Riviera towns Antibes, Juan les Pins and Cannes to the west and St Jean Cap Ferrat, Monte-Carlo and Menton to the east. The horseshoe-shaped Baie des Anges stretch out in front of Nice. It’s here where you will find locals out for their early morning or sunset swims when the water is calm. The rest of the day you will find holiday crowds sleeping on lounge chairs or testing their water sports skills.
Nice the Modern City
Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast and the fifth-largest in France. However, it has anything but a large city feel. Much like Toulouse, the majority of the city center is entirely accessible by foot.
Naturally, any visit to Nice absolutely must begin with a stroll down the Promenade des Anglais, one of the most famous avenues in all of Europe. There is an Italian-inspired architecture to one side, and a view of the Mediterranean to the other. Make sure to allow time for a dip into that gorgeous water at one of the many private beaches along the 7km stretch of coastline. Do note that the beaches are not sandy, but rather a collection of small, lightly coloured stones.
Of course, Nice has much more to offer than just the beach scene. This is a food lover’s town! There are several markets in Nice, but the Cours Saleya (closed Mondays) in Vieux Nice (the old town) is lively and filled with a mixture of fresh products and souvenirs. If you want to find out where the locals really shop, jump on the tram and head to the food market at Place de Liberation.
Liz writes about the options for vegetarian and vegan dining on the French Riviera.
For those looking to escape to the great outdoors for a day, it doesn’t get more picturesque than Saint-Martin-Vésubie. Nestled at the foot of the Mercantour mountains about an hour outside of Nice, this small medieval village serves as an excellent starting point for almost any sort of outdoor activity imaginable. Choose from hiking, hang gliding, paragliding, rock climbing, fishing, as well as downhill skiing and cross-country skiing during the winter months. Explore the Parc National du Mercantour, or tour the gorgeous Boréon region, with its alpine lakes and 30 mountain peaks which are perfect for adventure. Fuel up beforehand at La Treille, a traditional French restaurant with fabulous terrace views.
Read more about this naturally beautiful park in two articles by Liz Lord. Space Between Walking and Adventure Holidays is a boutique travel company run by Liz and Mel Lord, who have spent years hiking, horseback riding and exploring Mercantour National Park. Their latest offering is a long distance hiking along the newly opened Grande Traversée du Mercantour – join them on this unforgettable guided tour.
A short distance away from Nice lies the town of Cannes. This is a sleepy little seaside village, made more glamorous each year with the internationally renowned Cannes Film Festival held in the month of May. Fans and celebrities alike flock here to see and be seen and to be entertained. This social scene makes Cannes the epicenter of excess for the rich and famous. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed by those who may not have their names flashed across the big screen.
Visitors looking to soak up the Hollywood vibe won’t want to miss the Palais des Festivals. It’s here where the stars gather to screen the films shown during the festival, and serves as a perfect photo backdrop. Of course there are the beaches, which also serve as the perfect place to watch scheduled fireworks displays over the bay in the evenings. There is, as usual, a quaint Old Town, and a popular covered market called the Marché Forville for foodies in search of a gourmet experience. Remember all that glitters is gold, and Cannes in no exception. This city can be pricey, so plan accordingly with your budget. Or splurge for a meal in the Art Deco dining room of La Palme D’Or, located at Hotel Martinez.
Please refer to the original French Quarter Magazine article for the references and details on locations mentioned above.