Villefranche sur Mer, France, between Nice and Monaco. Note the typically tiny beach and railway line that provides easy transport along the Riviera - providing the staff are neither on strike nor out to lunch.
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Driving to the Côte d'Azur, hints and links on ferries, tolls, speeding controls, insurance.
Côte d'Azur (Blue Coast) is the Mediterranean coast in the south
of France that stretches from Hyeres to the Italian Border, while
the French Riviera is the popular beach resort section that occupies
the eastern part of the Côte d'Azur from Cannes though Antibes and Nice, past the Monaco principality and on to the last French Town
before Italy, Menton.
and Cannes are slightly frayed clichés of the Côte d'Azur that are heavy with traffic these days and sport some unattractive
developements - Anthony Peregrine in the Sunday Times calls Cannes
a 'tawdry patch of urban blight messing up a nice coast' - but that's
a little exaggerated as the three main Riviera towns - Cannes, Nice
and Menton - all have magnificent sea fronts, warm summer water, many
lovely old buildings, lively, agreeable locals, sensational food (from
restaurants or supermarkets), stunning weather and some terrific beaches - as well
as some blight, but where doesn't have some blight these days?
The Riviera - in our opinion - is less snooty than you might think and still terrific for eating, partying and people watching on the
promenades. Some fine museums, too. And there's the mad Nice Carnival...
best time to hit the Côte d'Azur is pre and post summer, i.e.
May, June, September, October, when the heat is off and the crowds
are at work. Just after summer is better for swimmers as the Med will
still be warm then. Winter is not too bad, with short days but frequent
blue skies and not cold.
Tropez is probably the snobbiest part of the Côte d'Azur, with
big money, big crowds and big traffic jams yet still glamorous. The
in-vogue beach is Nikki, where you have to pay - or even book in advance,
but there are plenty of superb cafés and restaurants as well
as the outstanding Musée de l'Annonciade (20th century masters
such as Rouault and Matisse).
escape from the busy Côte d'Azur, try the views and activities
of the magnificent 'Grand Canyon' of Verdon Gorge a couple of hours away
inland, the îles d'Hyères (resort islands
with more wildness and less motors), the superb Provencal towns of Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and Arles, or even a bit further away off the French mainland, head for the great landscapes, walks and beaches of Corsica (car ferries from Nice or Marseilles).
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