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8 top tourist attractions on the French Riviera and in Provence
Best places to visit and see in Southeast France
South East France, particularly the French Riviera area, is one of the most beautiful region to visit in Europe and a favourite destination of millions of tourists from all over the world every year. In this hub I highlight 8 top attractions for tourists in Provence and Cote D'Azure that I personally find impossible to miss for anyone wandering out and about the region.
Saint- Paul De Vence
You can start to visit the French Riviera, just outside Nice airport, in Saint- Paul De Vence, a perfect example of a quintessential Provencal village perched on the hills surrounding Nice . Sant Paul is a medieval village with cobble streets, ancient walls, and on the edge of a hill from where you can admire the view on the breathtaking Provencal countryside. If you are an art lover you can’t miss Saint-Paul De Vence. It is in fact one of the most important art centers in the region where artists from all over the world have congregated here and have set up many truly outstanding show rooms, galleries and art shops, building up a reputation for Saint Paul De Vence as an important centre for les connaisseurs. Not to be missed is the important Marguarite and Aime’ Maegh Foundation dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Even the building that hosts the museum is a beautiful example of modern Architecture where monumental masterpieces are collocated inside and outside in the the surrounding gardens. There are works of Giacometti, Chagall, Chillida, Leger, Miro’. Exhibitions are organised all year around. Back in Saint Paul my suggestion is to wander in the side streets and get away from the overcrowded main road to discover picturesque hidden corners and unexpected secret views.
Let’s be honest! Saint- Paul De Vence is truly picturesque but you have the feeling that it is too posh to be a genuine French village The artists’s fine and sophisticated galleries and the stylish boutiques, amazing showrooms and the houses’s facades too perfect that are almost pompous, give the image of a place forged by what a tourist expects to see not of what a French Provencal village really is. Therefore, take the road going to to the less known Vence, a village full of French charme that gives you the opportunity to learn a little bit of history too. A vibrant and lovely little town, Vence is famous for its fountains the ancient wall the markets and...... yes! It’s an art and history important site. The old town is quite compact surrounded by Medieval buildings, still intact and original, protected by the famous Portues (gateway) of the city. Inside the ancient historical centre, there are many beautiful squares. The main ones are Place Clemencau where you can admire the beautiful church and is a great place to have a cafe’ and La Place Du Grand Jardin a busy square with lots of things going on. Vence it is a great, important Art centre where many famous artists stopped here and left a sign of their passage in the city. For instance Henry Matisse around 1947 decorated the Chapel Du Rosaires Des Dominicaines De Vence also known as Chapelle Matisse. The town has also hosted many other artists therefore you can admire works of Chagall, Dubuffet and many more. Dante Alighieri stopped here too and Nostradamus cited Vence as Marvel of Provence.
Vence, it is always been a market town for centuries: the principal core centre of this is Rue du Marche inside the centre. Colorful, vibrant, full of fresh fragrances and endless kind of vegetables, the markets make Vence a very lively and busy place. Even the water here is famous. The source of this special mineral water located just outside the village is available through fountains displaced everywhere in the town centre. The impressive fountain of the Peyra place has got a marble plaque with the list of minerals contained in the water and you can see by yourself what benefits you can have by drinking that water.
Vence has got so many attractions to offer that you can spend an entire week-end in the area and enjoy every single minute of it but I would leave this is truly beautiful place and move toward the coast and go to Saint Jean Cap Ferrat one of the most smart and upmarket place of Cote D’Azure.
Villa Ephurussy De Rothschild:
Immerge yourself in one of the most sophisticated and finest villa on the French Riviera and imagine for a day to be one of those very wealthy people having a vacation in one of the most sought after place of the high society at the beginning of ‘900 century. After all, Cote D’Azure is famous for being one of the favourite places for the very riches to holidaying. Have a go at it and pretend to be a millionaire by visiting Villa Ephurussy De Rothschild in Cap Ferrat, a masterpiece of Architecture and art. The villa dominates the golf of Villafranche and the bay of Beaulieu therefore the view on the coast is truly breathtaking. The villa was build in 1905 and it is inspired by the Renaissance Italian palazzi and parks. If you wander in the gardens of the villa you will have the experience of a lifetime: in fact the beauty of these astonishing gardens around you would leave you speechless! The villa has no less than 7 different themed gardens: French, Traditional, Spanish, Japanise, Provencal, exotic and lapidary and musical fountains which amuse the visitors every 20 minutes. For those who love Art, the villa has one of the most impressive art collection, paintings and sculptures to admire. The apartments of the Baroness Beatrice, the genius behind this truly gracious palace, are one of the finest example of aristocracy at its best, surrounded by exquisite piece of arts, precious and sophisticated furniture, a truly Bel Epoque atmosphere . Thanks to Baroness Beatrice for having fallen in love with this 7 acres of land and deciding to make it home for her art collection, we now have one of those amazing place that makes Cote D’Azure famous for what it is: an extraordinary scenary of beauty.
Moving along the coast, one of the most beautiful places in the area is Cap D’Antibes. Originally it was a Greek military town and was called Antinopolis from 5 century B.C and later became a Roman town. The port is interesting because it has been there for centuries and was one of those ports where soldiers of the crusades expeditions set off for Jerusalem. Today Port Vauban it is the largest marina in Europe and it has been renewed in 1970 as a modern port where you can admire the most beautiful yachts and modern boats. Napoleone also moved to Antibes in 1794 taking charge of its defences till it was arrested and taken to the Fort Carre which si the Fortress looking port Vauban. Fort Carre’ is builded on the remains of Chapelle St Laurent which sat on the ruins of Temple of Mercury. The old town in the centre of the village it is the most characteristic part, protected by walls and arches. There are plenty of narrow and picturesque streets to adventure in and lot of traditional shops and boutiques. Antibes- Juan Le- Pins is the seaside resort where there are plenty of beautiful sandy beaches, clubs and hotels that make Cap D’Antibes Juan Le Pins, one of the most attractive place in the area. It is here that some very well known V.I.P, like Madonna, prefer to come during the Cannes Festival avoiding the much more chaotic Croissette. Around Cap D’Antibes there are some of the most lavish and expensive villas even for the Cote D’Azure standard.
If you are around Cap D’Antibes and you have kids to entertain don’t miss a chance to take them to Marineland a dolphinarium and acquatic Park among the biggest in Europe. It is literally spectacular and there are plenty of activities to do for all the family. Among animals to see there are killer Whales, seals and...Polar Bears. The animals seem to be relatively happy especially dolphins which perform some shows that are regularly scheduled during the day. It could be quite expensive during the holidays season and be aware it is very crowded during the summer, so expecting queues, high prices and full car parks. However, if you have the chance to go outside the pick seasons it should be a very pleasant experience.
Immediately in the surrounding area of Villafranche/ Beaulieu you find yourself in the Principality of Monaco, favourite international destination of billionaires and VIPs, one of the richest places on earth. Monaco is a very sophisticated city with skyscrapers and pompous palaces, lavish villas, where a small apartment can cost millions. You are miles away from the traditional and cosy atmosphere of the tranquil French countryside and at risk of bumping into some important and famous actors, formula one racers, and VIP that are flocking here in numbers. I am sure you don't want to miss Monaco if it is your first visit around here. This beautiful city has some very gracious gardens like the Exotic garden where you can admire several example of rare plants,Prince Antoniette gardens with a spectacular Bouganville displays and the zoo which is surrounded by even more pleasant gardens. The Fortress, where there are the State apartments of the Prince located on the Rock, a hill that dominated the city, The Casino and many interesting Churches are an important heritage that with the old centre of the city must not to be missed. Being in Montecarlo you might want to shop in style in elegant boutiques and amazing stores that I am sure are not difficult to find. To name a few shopping areas in town I would suggest Boulevard the Mouline, Princess Grace Avenue and Larvotto beaches to find designers boutique, international names, jewellery and many more shop till you drop kind of places. La Condamine market and shopping centre, is a place for the true shophaolics located nearby the port in a very pleasant area around Rue De Grimaldi, Rue Milo, Rue Terrazzani. There are over 200 shops over here but if you still haven’t found what you are looking for, don’t give up just yet and drop in nearby Fontvieille shopping centre and Metropole shopping centre. The two combined shopping centres offer you the opportunity to visit about a further 200 shops. Don’t forget to visit the old town historic centre to buy souvenirs too.
Grasse and the history of the famous French perfume
Tucked away in the beautiful hinterland, is the town of Grasse, considered the world perfume capital. Flowers were traditionally the economic backbone of this town, the centre of this charming region, so it wasn’t very long before a factory was setup to process raw material in delicate fragrances and flavours. The parfume most known factory started in 1926 in the most artistic possible way when Eugene Fuchs opened a perfumery in homage to the famous painter Jen Honore’ Fragonard. Literally the Fragonard industry blossomed generation after generation within the family, rapidly expanding in three different sites and in different sectors too, jewelry and lifestyle goods. Today it is possible to visit the famous old Fragonard factory and villa with a free guided tour in those laboratories and workshops to discover the traditional processes necessary to make these wonderful parfumes, soaps and body care products. It is also possible to visit the Perfume museum where an impressive collections of different fragrances and beauty products has been gathered to traced over 3000 years of the history of the perfume.
The Provence region is home of the most finest and tasteful French wines and your visit cannot be completed without a wine tour which I am sure you will much appreciate. The wine production in Provence was introduced by the Greeks about 2,600 years ago, so I 'm sure the French know what they do pretty well. The countryside is one of the most fertile and gentle in Europe so the production absorb much of the feisty atmosphere of a region that produce olives, endless kind of vegetable, lavender, flowers and the all range of lovely Mediterranean plants. The climate is the perfect partner with warm summers and dump winters which contributes to make the soil perfect for the production of wine. So I would suggest to take a tour with Azure wine tourshttp://www.azurwinetours.com/ to have a good introduction to the French wine and discover what is the secret behind those incredible fragrances and unforgettable tastes. Become an expert in wine or, at least, understand the French culture, tradition and history behind the bottle. Another way to know France and the extraordinary people of Provence.
Accommodation in Cote D'Azur
I would like to suggest this very welcoming and charming hotel located 5 minutes by car from Saint Paul De Vence and just outside Vence. A part from being at the centre of this area, the hotel offers all the facilities, internet, direct line and a swimming pool. I was particularly impressed by the staff !They were very helpful and warming, The restaurant offers some delicious home made dishes and the menu is truly French a la carte. I enjoyed their hospitality and their knowledge of the area. By the way they don't mind speaking English! How cool is that?
Mas De Vence-Hotel-Restaurant