Millionaires’ coastal villas, exclusive boutiques, casinos, ostentatious cars and luxury yachts are some of the things that come to mind when I think about the French Riviera. To others, Côte d'Azur is an overdeveloped victim of its own hype. Whichever side you land on, I think we can all agree that it captivates.
I visited the South of France at the end of April, which was right on the cusp of the low and high seasons. From mid-April to mid-May, there's a lot of construction in Cannes and Monaco, as setups for the Film Festival and Grand Prix are in full swing. Off-season, many restaurants and beach clubs are closed and the weather isn't guaranteed to be as beach friendly. However, once 'season' begins, the coast gets a lot more expensive, crowded and booked-up, so pick your poison.
My southern France mini tour began in Cannes, a sleek and glittery pleasure garden for the world’s wealthy, and a honeypot for people seduced by the glamor.
I stayed, very centrally, in an Airbnb, in the quaint old quarter (Le Suquet). If you want to get a sense of where the city started, over 400 years ago, take a stroll through these steep, cobbled streets, and enjoy a drink and/or a meal at any of the subterranean bars and family-run restaurants.
At the foot of the Le Suquet district, you'll find Marché Forville. Get yourself some fresh picky bits from this market to snack on. You'll thank me later!
Continue your wander along Rue d’Antibes, a particularly nice place to window-shop and people watch. Then, slip on your most chic set of heels and stroll along Boulevard de la Croisette, one of the most iconic streets in France, which separates upscale boutiques from the beach. Nearby La Croisette, be sure to walk the red carpet at the Palais des Festivals, the site of the well-known Cannes Film Festival.
If it's a sunny day, pop into one of the beach clubs: Hyde, CBeach or Stephanie and enjoy an Aperol (or two).
Carry on with the libations at Vertigo Rooftop, located on the seventh-floor of the Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel. Don't forget to take in the views of the Mediterranean.
If you're feeling hungry and you want to carry on the party from day into night, into day again, book a table at Bâoli Beach Cannes (things don't really heat up before 9/9:30pm). At midnight, the restaurant transforms into a roaring nightclub where sparkler-filled magnums are the norm. Dress to impress.
After Cannes, it was onwards to Antibes, a cute port town tucked on the coast between Cannes and Nice. The train from Cannes took about 8-minutes and cost about €3.
I crossed the street from the Antibes train station and walked along the marina, until I found myself in the Old Town (Vieille Ville).
I could have easily spent an entire day strolling through Vieille Ville's weathered stone arches and cobblestoned paths, but I had a lunch reservation, so I had to limit my time.
After walking another 35-minutes or so, I arrived at Cap d’Antibes, the southernmost point in the Antibes. Here I dined, overlooking the sea, at Plage Keller's Restaurant Le César.
The final destination on my Côte d'Azur mini-tour was Nice. Often considered nothing more than a stopover town, because it is the Riviera’s main point of entry, Nice is actually quite pleasant. there’s lots to see and about 320 days of sunshine a year.
In terms of where to eat, Le Plongeoir was not to be missed. It was such a unique and beautiful setting. And the food and wine was on point!
I stayed in the Old Port, where I was able to admire the mega yachts and the colorful houses built into the dramatic cliffs.
As far as French Riviera Old Towns go, Nice was my least favorite, but it was still worth getting lost in its labyrinth of streets for a little while.
When you're done there, head over to the Promenade des Anglais – The 7km seaside boardwalk. You can stroll along here with the blue sea and rocky beach on one side, and a string of palm trees on the other. When feeling toasty from the Riviera sun, relax and enjoy a drink at Plage Beau Rivage, or one of the other beach clubs along the seafront.
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