Published on August 15th, 2014 | by Amy Lynne Hayes0
A long weekend in the French Riviera
The French Riviera. The phrase conjures up images of crystal blue waters and golden sunshine. Beautiful people are strolling down the promenade, and the ladies are looking effortlessly chic. Surely there is someone famous hiding behind those fashionably large hats and designer sunglasses.
“Nice la Belle,” or Nice the Beautiful, lies on the cliffside overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The mild climate of southeastern France makes this a popular destination year-round for both French natives and tourists alike. Gone are the gray winter skies of the north, replaced by the welcoming rays of the sun.
While the sea is the undeniable main attraction, Nice holds the good fortune of having a prime location. The beach is a few steps away, and the mountains are less than an hour away, bordered by Antibes and Cannes to the west and Monaco to the east. There’s something to satisfy every whim.
Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast and the fifth-largest in France. However, it has anything but a large city feel. Much like Toulouse, the majority of the city center is entirely accessible by foot.
Naturally, any visit to Nice absolutely must begin with a stroll down the Promenade des Anglais, one of the most famous avenues in all of Europe. There is an Italian-inspired architecture to one side, and a view of the Mediterranean to the other. Make sure to allow time for a dip into that gorgeous water at one of the many private beaches along the 7km stretch of coastline. Do note that the beaches are not sandy, but rather a collection of small, lightly colored stones.
After visitors have soaked up sufficient rays, the rest of Nice lies waiting to be explored. Head over to the Place Masséna, a pedestrian-only Mediterranean square that’s hugely popular for public events. Stop for lunch or dinner there at Attimi, that serves the freshest Italian cuisine in town. Other popular pedestrian squares include the Place Garibaldi and Place Rossetti. For those looking for a panoramic view, go up to L’Observatoire de Nice, perched up on Mont Gros overlooking the city towards the west.
Once that Mediterranean sun starts slipping lower into the sky, Cours Saleya starts to come alive. Home of a flower market during the day, this lively square also hosts other markets as well as scores of restaurants and pubs. It’s located in the heart of the Vielle Ville, or Old Town. Try the traditional Niçoise cuisine at Nissa Socca, then pop into one of the bars for a digestif, or two.
For those looking to escape to the great outdoors for a day, it doesn’t get more picturesque than Saint-Martin-Vésubie. Nestled at the foot of the Mercantour mountains about an hour outside of Nice, this small medieval village serves as an excellent starting point for almost any sort of outdoor activity imaginable. Choose from hiking, hang gliding, paragliding, rock climbing, fishing, as well as downhill skiing and cross-country skiing during the winter months. Explore the Parc National du Mercantour, or tour the gorgeous Boréon region, with its alpine lakes and 30 mountain peaks which are perfect for adventure. Fuel up beforehand at La Treille, a traditional French restaurant with fabulous terrace views.
For those truly itching to commune with nature, take advantage of Alpha, Le Temps du Loup, or Alpha Wolf Park. Get the chance to see three packs of gray wolves in their natural environments. These creatures are rare due to heavy hunting that has since been controlled, so make sure to bring a camera.
A short distance away from Nice lies the town of Cannes. This is a sleepy little seaside village, made more glamorous each year with the internationally renowned Cannes Film Festival held in the month of May. Fans and celebrities alike flock here to see and be seen and to be entertained. This social scene makes Cannes the epicenter of excess for the rich and famous. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed by those who may not have their names flashed across the big screen.
Visitors looking to soak up the Hollywood vibe won’t want to miss the Palais des Festivals. It’s here where the stars gather to screen the films shown during the festival, and serves as a perfect photo backdrop. Of course there are the beaches, which also serve as the perfect place to watch scheduled fireworks displays over the bay in the evenings. There is, as usual, a quaint Old Town, and a popular covered market called the Marché Forville for foodies in search of a gourmet experience. Remember all that glitters is gold, and Cannes in no exception. This city can be pricey, so plan accordingly with your budget. Or splurge for a meal in the Art Deco dining room of La Palme D’Or, located at Hotel Martinez.
L’Observatoire de Nice
Boulevard de l”Observatoire, 06300 Nice
+33 4 92 00 30 11
Wed, Sat – Sun 2:45 – 4:45 pm
Closed Mon – Tues, Thurs-Fri
Cours Saleya, 06300 Nice
+33 4 92 00 30 11
Various markets open daily
Tues, Thurs Fri 6 am – 5:30 pm
Wed, Sat 6:30 am – 6:30 pm
Sun 6:30 am – 1:30 pm
Weekly closing Mon, Sun midday
Parc National du Mercantour
Siège Administratif, 23 rue d’Italie, 06000 Nice
+33 4 93 16 78 88
Alpha, Le Temps du Loup
Chalet d’accueil du Boréon, Route
Départementale 89, 06450
+33 4 93 02 33 69
Open daily 10 am – 5 pm
Palais des Festivals
Boulevard de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes
+33 4 92 99 84 00
Open daily 7 am – 12 am
Place du Marché Forville, 06400
Tues – Sun 7:30 am – 12:30 pm
10 Place Masséna, 06000 Nice
+33 4 93 62 00 22
Open daily 12 pm – 00 am
7 rue Sainte-Reparate, 06000 Nice
+33 4 93 80 18 35
Tue – Wed, Sat – Sun 12 pm – 2 pm,
7 am – 10:30 pm
Thurs 7 am – 10:30 pm
68 rue du Dr Cagnoli, 06450 Saint-Martin-Vésubie
+33 4 93 03 30 85
Opening times vary by season
Call for availability
La Palme D’Or
73 La Croisette, 06406 Cannes
+33 4 92 98 74 14
Tues – Sat 12:30 pm – 2 pm, 8 – 10 pm
Telephone for reservations
Appropriate dress required
No shorts, no open shoes