VOL. 132 | NO. 163 | Thursday, August 17, 2017
The Daily Traveler
Finding Glamour, Beauty on The French Riviera
The French Riviera is an intoxicating mix of sun, glistening blue water, romance, fast cars and beautiful people wearing oversized sunglasses and stylish clothing straight from the world’s greatest designers.
Nice, Monaco, St. Tropez, Cannes, Villefranche-sur-Mer – the names trip off the tongue with hints of sun, money, romance and glamour. These are the cities that shine along the south of France along the Mediterranean Sea, where the rich go to play and we commoners go to observe.
But the beautiful French Riviera isn’t just for the wealthy, even if tiny Monaco is filled with more sports cars and yachts than should be possible for this 0.75-square-mile principality.
It all started for the Cote d’Azur in the 1800s when English and Russian tourists flocked to this stretch of pebbly coastline where the foothills of the Alps lazily give way to the sea. The beautiful Promenade des Anglais stretches four miles along Nice’s seafront, named from the days when wealthy British tourists filled this grand stretch of seaside. Today, Nice’s promenade is filled with joggers, cyclists and strollers enjoying gentle breezes wafting in from the beautiful blue seas below. Sound like a tourism ad? Nice doesn’t need much to sell its beauty.
But there’s much more to Nice than a beautiful seaside and promenade. We only spent 24 hours there on our way driving east from Provence to Cinque Terre and the Italian Rivera. We strolled part of the promenade, spent a couple of hours lounging on the pebble-covered beach and enjoyed the alleys of Vieux Nice, the charming old part of the city.
Nice is much more than a beautiful seaside town. In fact, it’s France’s fifth-largest city and a true headache with a car. Of course on this Mediterranean road trip, a car was a necessity so I just dealt with that headache.
Nice sits at the heart of the Riviera but there is an abundance of villages and small towns that dot the seaside. If, like us, you only have a couple of days, spend it in Nice with a quick jaunt to Monaco. This whole region is an art lover’s dream; it once was home to artists such as Matisse, Renoir, Chagall and Picasso. Nice has museums dedicated to Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall, and visiting at least one is a must.
The region’s exquisite food is in nearby Provence, but the Riviera blends some of those same tastes with touches of seafood and hints of nearby Italian cuisine.
We only had a few hours to spare, but as we drove toward Italy on our second day we did drop down into Monaco for unmatched views of the Mediterranean. We visited the land of Princess Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier just a couple of weeks after the Grand Prix de Monaco sends F-1 cars screaming around the tight turns of the city’s streets.
I drove some of those sharp turns near the grand casino of Monte Carlo, and gazed out at the ultra-luxury yachts at the harbor. Monaco is a playground, one that is for the world’s elite who sit at a much higher income bracket than my own, but one worth seeing all the same.
Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.