In just two days I will be moving back to France to start work in the Côte d’Azur and I am getting just a little bit excited!!
Naturally, I have been doing a lot of research so that I know exactly where to go on my days off. The more research I’ve done, the more I want to start exploring the region. However, as I’ve done so much research, I thought it would be useful to share some of the information I’ve learnt. This is basically my to do list for the next few months!
Chris and I will be living in the
département of Var, known for it’s hilltop villages, coastal views, Mediterranean climate and world-famous beaches such as St Tropez and St Maxime. It won’t surprise anyone to know that tourism is the largest industry in Var and the Côte d’Azur and here are just a few of the popular tourist places I am looking forward to visiting.
Nice is the seventh largest city in France and the fifth most populous. It was made popular as a holiday destination in the late 18th century by the English aristocracy and they also proposed the paved walk way along the sea front, hence the name “La Promenade des Anglais”. The promenade stretches for 7 kilometres and you can travel along “La Prom” on foot, bike, scooter, skates or even on a segway.
Many artists have been drawn to this region because of the beautiful and colourful landscapes. Picasso and Cezanne both spent time and produced masterpieces in the Côte d’Azur. However, it was Matisse who truly fell in love with Nice, spending almost 40 years of his life here. The Musée Matisse is dedicated to his work and is one of the largest collections of his paintings and sculptures in the world. I have been a fan of Matisse since having his posters on my wall at University many years ago and cannot wait to visit this museum.
St Tropez is about 100 miles west of Nice and there are numerous spectacular, sandy beaches to choose from, the most famous of all being Plage de Pampelonne. Home to the iconic Club 55, which provided on set catering for Brigitte Bardot and the rest of the cast and crew of And God Created Women, the beach has been frequented by A listers since 1956. Plage de Pampelonne is actually closer to the village of Ramatuelle which lies about 6km from the town of St Tropez. I certainly intend to spend some time working on my tan here and may even spot a celebrity or two!
Most people know about the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, founded in 1939, but there is much more to Cannes than this. If shopping is your thing, you can find a myriad of designer boutiques such as Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton in the “sister city of Beverly Hills”. The chic and glamourous Boulevard de la Croisette is the ideal people watching destination and I am looking forward to whiling away an afternoon with a coffee or glass of wine doing exactly that. Alternatively, if you are looking for history and intrigue, visit the Fort Royal on Île Sainte-Marguerite about half a mile off the shore of Cannes. The mysterious man in the iron mask spent 11 years in isolation here in the 17th Century.
The wealthy principality of Monaco is the second smallest country in the world yet has the world’s highest GPD per capita, with over a third of residents having more than a million dollars in assets. There are five lavish casinos to choose from here, including the Monte Carlo Casino, featured in the James Bond films Never Say Never Again and GoldenEye. The casinos were built with the aim of enticing foreign betting enthusiasts and citizens of Monaco are forbidden from gambling in the casinos, so expect to have your passport checked at the door. Whilst I don’t think this will be my favourite place in the region, I am certainly intrigued to see the glitz and glamour that attracts moguls and magnates from all over the world.
Grasse is known as the world capital of perfume and has had a prosperous perfume industry since the end of the 18th century, partly due to the microclimate which is ideal for flower growing. To give you an idea of how big the perfume industry is in this small town; 27 tonnes of jasmine are produced in Grasse each year and Chanel has their own plantation of roses and jasmine. Some of the oldest perfume houses, such as Galimard, Molinard and Fragonard offer tours and the opportunity to make your own perfume. My husband actually drove through Grasse just last week on his way to work and commented on how beautiful it was.
Port Grimaud is known as the Venice of Provence and is about 7 kilometres away from St Tropez. Built in 1966, there are four islands separated by canals and connected by bridges, to replicate the style of venetian canals. The houses were traditionally built as fishermen’s houses with space to moor a boat at the end of each garden. Each house was built to an individual design and the result is a unique, quirky and colourful marina. There are numerous restaurants around the Port and boat trips along the canal are a popular way to view the faux
GORGE DU VERDON
The Gorge du Verdon is the deepest gorge in France at 700 metres deep and 25 kilometres long and is said to be the most beautiful in Europe. It is actually in Provence not the Côte d’Azur, but it is still very high on my to do list which is why it is included here. At just over 2 hours drive from both Nice and St Tropez it would be possible to visit in just one day, but there are plenty of campsites around the Gorge if a day just isn’t enough. You could just drive there and take in the stunning views however, if you’re looking for something more adventurous you will be spoilt for choice with canoeing, rockclimbing, bungee-jumping, paragliding, horse-riding and fishing being just some of the activities that are available.
Let me know if you’ve already been lucky enough to visit any of these places or if you are planning on visiting this summer. Have I missed anywhere obvious off the list? Where would you recommend?