I spent last weekend along one of the most lavish coastlines in the world, the French Riviera (it’s a hard life.)
Also known as the Côte d’Azur (“bright blue coast”), the French Riviera comprises such spots as Nice, Cannes and the dazzling city-state of Monaco. Palm trees a plenty, glistening blue water, and the highest density of designer cars I have ever witnessed, this place definitely lived up to its reputation. Let me break it down for you.
The Côte d’Azur is so named for a bloody good reason. On the day I arrived in Nice, I was greeted by sea and sky of a blue so vivid it was like something out of a dream. Coming from London where the main body of water never fails to adopt one of its various 50 shades of grey (God love you, River Thames) the sea here was almost too dazzling to look at. Locals were bathing in the aquamarine-toned shallows, men perched on the pebbly shore with fishing rods cast in the sea, and not a cloud graced the vast open sky. In a word, magic.
I suppose it’s only fitting that in an area this lush, things are expensive. Between the wealth of those who inhabit places like Monaco, and the swathes of tourists who visit the region every year, they can get away with charging a lot here. You’re looking at €10-11 for a gin & tonic, €8 for a small beer by the bottle, and around €20 for an average meal. Ouch! Transport is relatively cheap though; a bus connecting Nice and Monaco will only set you back €1.50 one way, and the faster option of traveling by rail isn’t much more, at only €8 return.
Cours Saleya, which runs parallel to the seaside promenade, plays host to a variety of beautiful markets in Nice. On Mondays, you’ll find antiques; Tuesday through Sunday brings flowers… to know all the other glorious markets this town offers, check out the Best of Nice. Not having discovered this guide before my visit, I was delighted come Monday morning to find the antiques market. Locals and tourists alike with hair all shades of silver pottered through the cluttered stalls, and I am not ashamed to admit I embraced my inner 80-year-old and joined in their enthusiasm. Copies of French Marie Claire from 1952, aged wooden furniture worn down by who-knows-how-many years of use, and the most beautiful set of ancient leather-bound books I ever did see… swoon.
Generally speaking, I’m as big a fan of French food as the next person… The abundance of cheese and crusty bread, the steady flow of wine – heaven. There is an abundance of these delights to be found along the French Riviera. I, however, over-estimated my knowledge and appreciation of French cuisine when I ordered steak tartare, understanding it to be a thin filet of steak (don’t know where I got that from). Please learn from my mistake if you don’t already know what steak tartare is… it is completely uncooked minced beef, mixed with garlic and herbs and served in what I consider wholly unappetising splodges on your plate. The most disappointing decision I’ve ever made. I’m a pleb. Also to note – the proximity to the Italian border here means authentic, delicious Italian food is served, so if you’re in the mood for some quality pasta/pizza, you won’t be disappointed!
Monaco is a teeny weenie country consisting of a palace complete with its own royal family, the world’s most famous casino, Monte Carlo, and more luxury cars parked alongside each other than you will find anywhere else in the world... not even BMWs and the like; we are talking Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Ferraris. In short, this place is made of wealth. The whole coast is where the world’s rich and famous elite come to holiday, and the place just oozes opulence. Grace Kelly, Hollywood’s most elegant and sought after star, became Princess Grace of Monaco when she threw in the acting towel and became royalty of this tiny monarchy on the Cote d’Azur and let’s just say her timeless style and grace (‘scuse the pun) certainly left a lasting impression on the place. Lush!