The terrain of the Alpes-Maritimes, in the south-east corner of France, is largely rugged and mountainous, with around 90% of the population concentrated into the coastal area, the Côte d’Azur. Tourism in the French Riviera is by no means a modern phenomenon. In the late 18th Century, the English nobility were the first to appreciate the benign climate of the little town of Nice. They returned so often that the boulevard, Promenade des Anglais, was named in their honour. Nice “La Belle” duly prospered and has now grown to be one of the busiest cities in France, annually welcoming more than ten million visitors, the majority of whom arrive at the city’s thriving airport.
Accommodation And Transport
Tourists hoping to discover the Alpes-Maritimes in more depth are likely to find that accommodation in those much sought-after villages and the sparsely populated countryside is almost non-existent. However, Nice, with dozens of purpose-built hotels suiting every budget, can offer the perfect solution. Centrally located with an excellent rail link to all the main resorts along the entire Côte d’Azur, Nice is the ideal base for those wishing to explore a little further. With much of the area being hilly and the narrow streets of many of the villages entirely unsuitable for traffic, tourists usually prefer to rely on taxi services rather than hiring a private car. Besides, reliable local taxi drivers are very knowledgeable about the French Riviera as a whole, making daily excursions out of Nice a pleasure in themselves. Don’t forget that you’ll need to book a transfer from Nice airport when you arrive.
Villages And WalksPhoto by Karen Green
Although Nice itself has many attractions, including museums and art galleries, many tourists are eager to visit the numerous cliff-top villages, with their narrow streets of painted houses adorned with shutters and wrought iron balconies. Several are connected by coastal walks. Villefranche-sur-Mer leads through the rocky beauty of Cap Ferrat to the village of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Mandelieu-la-Napoule, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and Antibes are all worth visiting. Saint-Paul-de-Vence is a Mediaeval village, Mougins near Cannes has a museum with Roman artefacts, Jaun-les-Pins has a casino and Cagnes-sur-Mer boasts the Riviera’s only racecourse. The picturesque harbour of Port d’Olivette annually holds a festival in honour of Saint Pierre, the patron saint of fishermen. Menton on the border with Italy has a festival dedicated to lemons.
Outward BoundPhoto by Subherwal
Further inland, amidst a rugged landscape, Breil-sur-Roya, Guillaumes, Thiery and Revest-les-Roches all have magnificent views. Gréolières, reputedly the oldest hilltop village, has a ruined castle, while Belvédère dates back to the Bronze Age. For those in search of something more adventurous, the Mercantour National Parc offers a wide range of outdoor activities including mountain biking, hang-gliding, canoeing, fishing and horse riding. Saint-Jeannet is a favourite with hikers, Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey is a centre for caving, Siagne Gorges is popular for rock climbing and Le Broc for white-water rafting.
On their evening return, tourists will discover that Nice can offer an extensive range of restaurants, cafes and wine bars that provide excellent cuisine and refreshments. Hidden behind the modern development lies Old Nice, criss-crossed with winding alleyways of antique houses painted in the brightest of colours. Here there are smaller restaurants offering delicious traditional dishes such as Petits Farcis, a mix of local vegetables served either stuffed or mixed together in a ratatouille. It is often accompanied by Old Nice’s Socca, a type of dense pancake made from chickpea flour. Anyone bounding with energy after lazing all day on one of the Côte d’Azure’s many beautiful beaches will find that Nice, like any other cosmopolitan European city, has a flourishing nightlife scene with nightclubs and theatres offering live entertainment.
Don’t forget to book your airport transfer with Holiday Taxis when you visit!