The Côte d’Azur, often known in English as the French Riviera, is the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France. Jamie Ndah explored Antibes, Nice and Cannes to find out exactly what these destinations have to offer today’s discerning visitors.
The alluring attractions of Antibes
Antibes is a quintessential Mediterranean town that has managed to retain its 1930s elegance, as the glamour of the Gatsby era lives on. Located thirteen miles southwest from Nice, and approximately seven miles northeast from Cannes, Antibes offers a peaceful, tranquil and traditional atmosphere as a destination. The historical city that Antibes has managed to keep contrasts with the classy buzz of the southern Cap d’Antibes, the latter being a favourite destination of the rich and famous in search of an out-of-the-spotlight refuge.
I was staying at the impressive Royal Antibes Hotel, Beach & Spa which is a gorgeous 64-room property that also offers suites and apartments. This property faces the sun-kissed bay with a pretty sandy beach less than two minutes’ walk from the hotel. My Classic Room was 20 square metres in size with a courtyard view, tastefully decorated and equipped with luxury furniture, air conditioning, a flatscreen TV, and free Wi-Fi access.
The spa, which is situated on the ground floor of the hotel, is a delightful space which has been designed and dedicated to helping guests to rest and relax whilst indulging in the many treatments that this venue has to offer. I sampled an enriching body massage during my stay which was simply divine and thoroughly recommended.
I ventured out to old Antibes and took an excellent walking tour where I discovered the fascinating history which was created by the Greeks and extended by the Romans, then devastated by the Barbarians and fortified under the reign of Henri IV and Louis XIV. Here I enjoyed the grace of its medieval town, its ramparts along the sea, the Provencal market where I witnessed the hustle and bustle and its traders, the famous Port Vauban – Europe’s largest marina, as well as the beautiful flowery “Safranier” district.
After seeing and experiencing such wonderful sights of the old town of Antibes, I retired to have lunch at the beach restaurant of the Royal Antibes Hotel. This is a truly splendid restaurant and private beach with a unique view of the Antibes Cape. After lunch, I continued my journey of old Antibes via the Painter’s Trail. Here I got the chance to learn about Antibes through the eyes of great painters such as Boudin, Dameron, Monet, Meissonier, Matisse, Peynet and Picasso, hailing from the 19th and 20th centuries who loved and painted the city and its landscapes. This was a real treat, and thanks to panels set up on the very spots where the originals were painted, I followed in the footsteps of those artists and clearly now understand how they became fascinated by the magical colours and extraordinary light of the French Riviera.
Shortly after the Painter’s Trail, I went to visit the famous Musée Picasso, which is built upon the foundations of the ancient Greek town of Antipolis. In 1608, it became a stronghold of the Grimaldi family and has borne their name ever since. In 1702, it became the town hall of Antibes. From 1925, the Château was known as the Grimaldi Museum, and then in 1946, it was the home for six months of the artist Pablo Picasso. Today it is known as the Picasso Museum, the first in the world to be dedicated to the artist. Picasso himself donated works to this establishment, most notably his paintings “The Goat” and “La Joie de Vivre”. In 1990, Jacqueline Picasso bequeathed many works by Picasso to the museum. These included four paintings, ten drawings, two ceramics and six etchings. Today the collection totals 245 works by Picasso.
I really enjoyed my visit to Antibes, and have so many reasons to return in the not too distant future. A charming destination that is so well suited for the single traveller, couples or families. Everything in Antibes is within walking distance, and there are so many things to see and do within this lovely town.
I personally can’t wait to come back as I would like to experience more of what Antibes has to offer such as the Jazz à Juan, which is an iconic summer jazz festival, explore the allure of Cap d’Antibes, or even just to take a stroll on the promenade of Juan Les Pines to sample its variety of seaside cafés and restaurants.
It’s nice to be in Nice
Nice is a city on the move and is a pleasant place to be all year around with its sunny climate. I found it to be elegant, trendy, cheerful and bustling with excitement on almost every corner. It’s the largest city and capital of the French Riviera, and skirts the pebbly shores of the Baie des Anges. Founded by the Greeks, and later a retreat for 19th-century Europe’s elite, the city today balances old-world decadence with modern urban energy.
Culture lovers and sun seekers are well-served. Prestigious art galleries, high-end restaurants, wonderful beaches, countless museums, monuments, footpaths, gardens, arts and culture link the surrounding hills to the city centre. In short, there is no shortage of things to do in Nice.
My personal driver, Mr Christophe Party from Service Prestige, was waiting to take me from Antibes to Nice which was approximately a 25 minute transfer by car. The sleek, black, air-conditioned Mercedes-Benz was well presented and made for a super comfortable journey. Christophe was not only punctual, friendly and offered an excellent service, but he was also a fountain of knowledge of the local area too which was very welcomed during my stay on the French Riviera.
I was staying at the Jazz-inspired Hotel Ellington which boasts 110 bedrooms and suites which have recently been renovated. My room was warm and gracious and had free Wi-Fi, tea and coffee making facilities, a minibar with complimentary drinks, as well as a desk and a flat-TV screen with satellite channels.
There’s an inviting jazz bar on the ground floor, plus a sophisticated lounge and a terrace with seating too. This property is ideally located in the heart of Nice on the stylish Boulevard Dubouchage, and offers a unique experience that transports guests back through time during the era of legendary Jazz artist Duke Ellington.
During my time in Nice I visited the fabulous Musée Marc Chagall which is a national museum dedicated to the work of painter Marc Chagall whose work is essentially inspired by religion. This supreme venue was created by the artist’s will to bring together in one purpose-built place his most important biblical works: the 17 paintings which make up the Biblical Message. The permanent collection is the biggest public collection of works by Marc Chagall. There are over 400 painting, gouaches, drawings, wash drawings and pastels.
I then walked towards the Cours Saleya market which is situated at the heart of the old town and was pulsating with life. Crowds of locals and tourists come together to do their shopping or take photos of the colourful and vibrant displays. As I walked through the teeming marketplace, the atmosphere was open and friendly, and the basking sunshine, scents of fresh produce and flowers seemed to put everyone in a good mood too.
I headed off to have lunch at the Bistro du Port which is run by a fantastic husband and wife team who were so cheerful. The restaurant is brightly coloured and guests have the option of dining inside with comfortable air conditioning or eating outside on the terrace whilst observing the superyachts directly opposite in the Port.
On meeting the very friendly Head Chef and owner Jose Orsini he delivered an amazing menu for lunch which consisted of lobster salad with green peas for starters, tuna tartare with truffle as an aperitif, Corsican white fish, zucchini and salad for main course, and hot chocolate cake and strawberry ice-cream for dessert. Needless to say, lunch was exquisite, and I look forward to returning to Bistro du Port to sample further delights on their majestic menu.
After lunch, I took a leisurely stroll and admired the famous picturesque Promenade des Anglais, gracefully following the curve of one of the most beautiful bays in the world: “la Baie des Anges” or the Bay of Angels. I then passed by the Castle Hill which is a tranquil park that also offers an attractive botanical garden with incredible views over Nice and its surroundings. I continued to walk through the shaded and winding streets of old Nice which really gives you a unique feel for the city’s heart and soul. The old part of Nice is a combination of narrow streets, sparkling-coloured facades and thrilling Baroque Sardinian architecture.
My final stop in Nice was dinner at the stylish Les Deux Canailles which is a French fine dining restaurant fused with Japanese influences. The restaurant was delightful, the staff and the head chef were all very nice, and the cuisine served was simply exceptional. For my starters, I had terrine of foie gras with violet artichoke and black figs. Come the mains, and I had roasted sea bream with chanterelles and vegetables, and for dessert, I had canaille Frappuccino coffee, French toast with red fruits, toffee and ice-cream. In summary, Nice is a wonderful city that will keep you coming back for more and more…
For further information, please visit the following;
Office de Tourisme d’Antibes – www.antibesjuanlespins.com
Royal Antibes Hotel & Spa – www.royal-antibes.com
Office du Tourisme et des Congres – www.nicetourisme.com
Hotel Ellington – www.ellington-nice.com
Bistro du Port – www.lebistrotduportdenice.fr
Les Deux Canailles – www.lesdeuxcanailles.com