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Last updated : Nov 2009
Côte d’Azur
Côte d’Azur - TravelPuppy.com
French Riviera or The Côte d’Azur, is in the département of the Alpes-Maritimes. It runs along the coast from the Italian border, through Monaco, and continues to a point just beyond Cannes and reaches more than 50km (30 miles) northward into the steep slopes of the Alps, connecting the balmy coastal region with the ideal ski resorts of the lower Alps. This part of the Mediterranean coast has more visitors each year during July and August than any other part of France, although many of the summer visitors are French.

The two most famous French resorts, Cannes and Nice, are to be found in this region and the area is one of the most renowned resort spots in the world. Over the centuries, it has attracted a lot more than tourists with artists like Matisse, Picasso, Chagall and Dufy heading here. There is an abundance of palm trees, blue sea and beautiful beaches, sparkling cities and villages are set against backdrops of high green mountains. The weather is wonderful with long, sunny and hot summers. There is plenty of diversion here, especially in the spring, summer and early autumn months.

The coastal resort towns include Cannes, made popular as a resort by Lord Brougham in the 19th century when, because of a plague in Nice, he was forced to stop here. Nice, itself, the largest metropolis on the coast, a thriving commercial city as well as a year-round resort (the annual carnival and battle of roses perhaps date back to 350 BC. Napoule Plage, a small and exclusive resort with several sandy beaches, a marina and a splendid view of the rolling green Maure Mountains. Golfe-Juan, now a popular resort town with many expensive mansions and hotels. Juan-les-Pins, with a neat harbour, beaches and pine forests in the hills which protect the village from the winds in both summer and winter. Antibes and Cap d’Antibes, very popular but expensive resorts, Villefranche-sur-Mer, a deep-water port which has been used by pleasure yachts and navies for centuries, St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, an exclusive and expensive resort consisting of great private mansions and seaside estates. Beaulieu, much less exclusive, yet a fine resort town, and Menton near the Principality of Monaco, once a fishing village and citrus-fruit-producing area, now a pleasant vacation resort. Despite their reputations, there is no denying that the beaches at Cannes and Nice are poor, and many savvy travellers choose to base themselves at better spots like Antibes, which offers a combination of historic town centre and accessible, good-quality beaches.

The Côte d’Azur is an extraordinary playground with every kind of amusement. There are excellent museums, historic places dating from the pre-Christian era to the present day, hills, mountains, lakes and rivers, gorges and alpine skiing trails. The entire area has a generous supply of good, comfortable hotels as well as luxury châteaux, restaurants with every sort of food, and good bars everywhere. One of the greatest museums in the world, the Maeght Foundation, is located in St-Paul-de-Vence. Picasso, Braque, Matisse and Léger museums also feature and there is plenty of beautiful foothill countryside to explore.

Resorts further along the coast from Cannes include St-Tropez, a terribly crowded, hard to reach yet fashionable village and popular with the international jet set and their outrageously expensive yachts, and Port Grimaud. The ‘Port’, as many residents call it, sums up many of the worst parts of the Riviera with ostentatious wealth not making up for a lack of any local input, a dearth of nightlife beyond ‘British’ pubs and a largely ex-patriate population. Nearby are St-Raphael, at one time a Roman resort, and now a comfortable middle-class vacation town, and its twin resort of Frejus. Grasse, just north of Cannes, is a charming hilltop town famed for its perfume.