Côte d’Azur, literally translating to ‘Coast of Azure’ is the perfect description of the French Riviera. With the ocean a bright cyan-blue colour that reflects the clear sky, this really is a stunning place to explore.
Although there seems to be no set boundaries of the French Riviera, it spans the coastline in the south east of France from the Italian border to around Toulon, with Nice being the largest city in this region.
I managed to bag myself some free flights to Nice courtesy of Last Minute. No, not a perk of the blog, just lucky enough to have been told of the deal they’d put on to launch the new lm card. They were giving free flights up to the value of £75 for those who signed up to the card by the end of April (sorry guys, you’ve missed it this time but subscribe & follow me on insta so you don’t miss out next time)!
Taking full advantage of the location, I also visited Antibes, Èze & Cannes as well as a cheeky 2 day trip to Paris (it was a tad dramatic, so you may want to catch up on that blog post if you haven’t already).
Enchanting, like a fairytale, the medieval village sits up high in the mountains overlooking the Mediterranean sea.
After you fight for a parking space in the very limited car park, you climb a labyrinth of staircases that lead you through romantic narrow walkways with galleries, shops and restaurants to keep you distracted.
Beneath the ancient cobblestone castle grounds lies a breathtaking backdrop of the glistening blue ocean on one side, and the mountains dotted with houses on the other.
Among other things, the ancient fortress hides an exotic garden, Jardin Exotique d’Eze, found by climbing to the very top. Before you reach the garden, however, you will meet a little church decorated with stunning artwork. Go in and have a look. And beside this church is a grave-yard, with delicately decorated stones remembering those who have passed. The church courtyard offers amazing views over Èze and the sea below.
Now, if you happen to have a spare few hundred euros lying around, then you could pop into the famous and most esteemed La Chèvre d’Or restaurant. This two MICHELIN star restaurant offers spectacular views over the azure sea and sky and exquisite cuisine based on regional produce. I had a peep at the menu in passing, expect to pay in the hundreds for a starter… Some of you are all like, yeah and? So enjoy, and just let me know how it tastes!
The main city of the Côte d’Azur, Nice has it all. Fly here to the third busiest airport in France, or get the train to the main station, Gare Nice-Ville where you will almost immediately be on the main high street lined with popular shops leading up to the Place Massena. If you don’t fancy the long stroll and a spot of window shopping, then you can jump on a tram that will take you straight to Place Massena.
This is the main city square where it’s all happening. First thing you may notice when you look up from the chequered black and white cobbles on the square would be the 7 meter marble statue of Apollo in the centre of the Fontaine du Soleil. He stands out even more in contrast to the pink (red ochre) Italian style buildings that surround the square.
You won’t have to walk more than a couple of minutes from here to get to other popular spots like the Promenade des Anglais.
Promenade des Anglais
This coastal promenade stretches all the way from the airport to the Quai des États-Unis, so a very long way. You need not walk the entire 7km, but do take a stroll along here if you want to drink in the absolutely beautiful coastal views.
Restaurants, shops and cafés line the coastal strip on one side, on the other side pebble beaches stretch where tourists and locals lay sunbathing, playing volleyball or having a dip in the clear blue riviera waters.
By the lifts and stairs to the famous castle hill where you will find the Colline du Chateau, is the popular “#I Love Nice” sign that is never void of tourists taking their iconic photos whilst posed precariously dangling off a “C”.
Make the most of this photo op before heading on up to the castle!
Colline du Château
Many tourists don’t realise that the stairs are not the only way to the top of castle hill, so I’m going to save you those steps (because let’s face it, by now-if you’re touristing as hard as me- your step count is already pushing 30k). There are lifts guys! Yes, there’s a queue to get the lifts, but it’s no longer than waiting for the Covent Garden lifts in London (those who know, know) and it will save you being a sweaty mess when you reach the top trying to get those insta-shots. Access the lifts via the Quai Rauba Capeu entrance.
Atop the castle hill sits the Château, remains of an 11th century castle built atop the hill for military purposes. This is the highest point in Nice; you can enjoy panoramic views over the whole city, the bay and even the Alps in the far distance.
A main feature of the Château is the waterfall built in the 18th century which crashes down spraying water across the path surrounding it and anyone who happens to be on it! You can do like me and pose for photographs by the spraying water, or you can head on up to the top and enjoy watching people getting sprayed from above. More panoramic views of nice are offered from this vantage point as well.
This Château offers a mini sanctuary from the city with tropical trees and the famous Parc de la Colline du Chateau, a lush green park offering shaded walks and even more breath-takinng views. A playground with climbing frames will keep the kids busy and the two cafés mean that you won’t go hungry (or thirsty in the hot Nice weather)!
When you’re ready, get the lift back down and go check out the old town.
Vielle Ville (Old Town)
This quirky old town has charming buildings, a contrast of yellow paint and pale blue shutters, and a busy marketplace. You will see busy bakers rushing with carts filled with baguettes, pretty market stalls with neatly lined fresh fruit and veg, as well as open restaurants with chatty customers sitting outside in the warm sunshine.
Through the narrow cobbled streets, it’s a great place to get lost in the architecture, atmosphere and bustle of the area.
Keep an eye out for “Socca” crepe stands that sell this local Nice speciality; crepes made from chickpea flour. Half as sweet but twice as healthy!
Perhaps once you’re done weaving in and out of the narrow streets, popping into the cute little shops selling everything from soaps to cheeses, take an outside seat in one of the many cafés and enjoy a coffee whilst you watch the world go by.
A short 30 minute drive from Nice is the beautiful city of Antibes. Ideally located midway between Nice and Cannes, it has all the charm of Nice and the glamour of Cannes. There is plenty to keep you busy around Antibes, from the Le Viel Antibes’ (Old Town Antibes) Marché Provencal to the museums and art galleries. It’s entirely up to you how you like to spend your day!
See some Art & History
I started here, grabbing a cheap €5 uber from my cousin’s place near the Gare d’Antibes. I was dropped by the athletics training ground, Stade du fort carré, where a statue named ‘Le Poilu’ stood looming over the stadium. I soon realised that this was a world war one memorial as I read some of the 200+ names that were engraved on the base.
The walk alongside the statue offered fantastic views over Antibes’ coastline, many used this area for their daily jogging routine with some stopping to stretch by the statue.
Spotting the entry into Fort Carré across the fence, I didn’t fancy the long walk around to get in. Spotting a small hole at the bottom of the fence, supposedly made by others who also didn’t fancy the long walk around, I crossed the overgrown grass to squeeze myself through the gap.
The fort grounds lay out openly with areas restricted to allow for natural wild plants to flourish. Breathtaking views over the coast continued in nearly all directions, with the harbour on one side showing off the yachts of the rich and famous.
Cacti lining the narrow walkway told me I must be near the fort. Carved in the Cacti were the many names of friends and lovers who had visited this historical landmark before me.
The fort coming into view was a sight to behold. Built in the shape of a star, I had come out to one of the vertices in front of me. Looking up, I felt small compared to this huge structure, it also felt like I’d gone back in time.
On entry, I found out that the only way to explore the fort is with a guide for €3. Best €3 I ever spent! I definitely recommend this fort tour, the guide had excellent knowledge of the history and (for those not fluent in French yet) spoke very good English!
See for yourself the jaw-dropping views over Antibes.
From Fort Carré I walked along the harbour admiring the yachts and various types of boats that were docked along the shore. How can there be so many rich people in one place, I wondered as I dreamed of what life could be like aboard a yacht. A father and daughter were casually having dinner on their yacht as I walked past staring just a little too hard at them ha!
En route to the Musée Picasso, I entered into the main square of the Vielle Ville where tourists (presumably fresh off their boats) explored the charming alleyways. The little boutique shops that stocked trinkets and souvenirs were clearly priced for yacht owners, so it was window shopping for me! In one intersection between alleyways, restaurants serving local food and fresh produce competed with one another on each corner.
Art galleries in different styles were open for free viewing. One I explored had a picasso style to it.
Eventually, I made my way to the real Picasso museum of Antibes. In a 14th century Château, the Château Grimaldi, the museum is architecturally beautiful from the outside with stunning works of Picasso displayed carefully inside. Picasso spent around 5 months using this Château in Antibes as his studio for his varied artworks.
A definite must-visit, the entry was only €8 and gave you access not only to the works of Picasso but a number of other artists also such as Nicolas de Staël, Hans Hartung and Anna-Eva Bergman. Know who they are? Me neither, but the art was awesome so go look!
Get some Sun
Immediately outside of the Picasso museum you can enjoy a delightful coastal walk along the Promenade Amiral de Grasse, where not only will you have the azure coastline beneath you but gorgeous little homes to admire along the route.
If you keep walking along the coast, you will reach the little sandy shores where some restaurants expand out. A little further on tourists and locals alike sunbathe, swim and enjoy the sandy Plage du Pontail.
I stopped here to enjoy the rest of my afternoon, but if you continued down the shore you would have come across the more well-known Plage de Salis.
Grab a Bite
Now, I don’t want you to do all this exploring and miss out on the fabulous French cuisine. After all, why else are you in France?!
Here’s a couple of places I recommend!
Located in the Old Town, this unassuming restaurant hid behind others competing around it. But I was looking for real French cuisine, not the tourist-inspired Italian food that all the popular restaurants seemed to be doing.
When I saw the menu, I knew this was the place to grab some lunch.
Sitting outside, I unwittingly got myself the strongest V shaped tan lines because of my v-neck top, but the time passed easily whilst I enjoyed complimentary mini bruschetta bites with a delicate truffle paste whilst I waited for my Duck Confit main.
Sipping on my wine, I basked in the sunshine satisfied with the delicious lunch.
Le Golden Beef
Rated 4 stars on Trip Advisor and google alike, this restaurant is idyllically located near the waterfront right by the musée d’archéologie d’Antibes. With friendly staff and a good selection on the menu, this steakhouse had my mouth watering.
I enjoyed some a couple of their well-recommended cocktails whilst waiting for my beef skewers with a side of ratatouille. It did not disappoint! Tender and cooked exactly to my specifications, this was most enjoyable!
Not ready to leave, I decided to treat myself to a diary-free dessert; Le carpaccio d’ananas au sirop de verveine. Délicieux!
So if I had wanted to meet a celebrity in a serendipitous moment and fall in love living happily ever after on a fat-ass yacht with bare dollar to sprinkle into my bath tub (I have had no such fantasy…), then I would have spent a lot more time right here in Cannes!
Promenade de la Croisette Walking towards the water front from the train station, Gare de Cannes, I hit a number of white tents obscuring my vision of the sea. I was in fact on the famous Promenade de la Croisette. Spanning the shoreline for about 2km, this famous promenade is the home of the very popular Film festival held at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. As I faced the white tents that were being set up in preparation for the festival, I could just make out the ocean beyond. Further along to the right of me, Yachts of the rich and famous were already pulling in and docking in the very busy harbour that was looking more like a yacht car park… a yacht park?
A huge casino was conveniently opposite the yacht park and all along the promenade, high end shops, hotels and restaurants lined the road. Businesses were all preparing for the thousands of visitors that would soon flood Cannes from all over the world as I walked the Croisette. Famous film stars would soon be a common sight in this area as the festival begun on 14th May and lasted until 25th May.
A local taxi driver told me how easy it was to get hold of a VIP pass to get into these celebrity parties during the festivals. He explained that each invited guest would usually be given more than enough passes for their friends and family and usually give away the rest!
So guys, get your hustle on!
Once you get into one VIP party, it’s easy to get into the rest of them, and before you know it, you could be partying with Brad Pitt! Why wasn’t I there for the Film Festival!!!!
Shopping You’ve probably gathered by now that you’re going to need a bit of money to pay Cannes a visit – that is if you aren’t as keen on window shopping as I am! But if you are scraping the barrel a bit with your cash, don’t leave Cannes out, you can still have so much fun!
For those wanting to browse the many high end shops, a really nice street for boutique shops was Rue d’Antibes.
As you can see, it’s worth it even if you are just peeping in through the shop windows. I took this opportunity to pop into Pandora for another little travel charm. 🙂
Speaking of shopping, you absolutely must visit this gorgeous market in the older part of Cannes; Marché Forville!
Colourful fruit and vegetables are displayed in what would be anyone with “OCD” tendencies’ dream, neatly stacked and colour co-ordinated!
You can find all sorts of food products from cheeses to truffles to fresh fish! Most stalls give you free tasters, so if you already burned a hole in your pocket from the high street, you can still enjoy the market.
If you are planning on making any purchases, make sure you have cash on you.
If you’d made it to the Marché Forville, you will have noticed everything seems a little different than it was on the Croisette. That’s because you are now in Le Suquet, an older medieval part of Cannes, full of cobblestone pathways and charming architecture. Atop the hill, you will see the Clock Tower of Notre-Dame de l’Esperance.
Keep climbing the stairs that lead up the hill and when you eventually reach a Gothic-style church, the Notre-Dame d’Espérance. In the courtyard, steps up the wall brings you panoramic views over the Bay of Cannes. To one side, the harbour and it’s many, many yachts, to the middle, rooftops over the city, to the other side beautiful coastal views.
This hill is certainly not one to miss!
So, this concludes my very short tour of a very small part of the Côte d’Azur, France. I hope I’ve given you more than one reason to visit (even if it’s just in search of Brad Pitt at the Cannes film festival). Have you ever visited the French Riviera? Let me know your experiences in the comments!
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