Fabulously French

French Regions: Discover Côte d’Azur

France’s south eastern region of Côte d’Azur is the famous home to the French Riviera, an elegant resort of coastlines, chic retail and countless bars and restaurants. Effortlessly cool, the towns and cities bewitch visitors. However, lesser known is the rich greenery and landscapes that cover the region. The rural and untouched parks add a sense of modesty to the province, making it an unusual but nonetheless fitting escape for a retreat into nature.

Region Capital: Marseilles

Home to Alexandre Dumas’s timeless character, the Count of Monte Cristo, Marseilles is steeped in both historical and literary culture and is the capital of the region. With 1.6 million inhabitants, it has all the life of a capital, too. Marseilles has also seen a surge in museums and other tourist attractions recently. The Vieux Port is one of the most admired attractions. Though thousands of years old, the port now mainly houses deluxe yachts. However, the sense of its rich history still resonates, especially as one stumbles across the plaque that describes the founding of Marseilles by ancient Greeks in 600 B.C.

Cities

Villefranche-sur-Mer, the humble younger sister to the famous cities of the French Riviera, oozes a quaint and captivating charm. Come here if you’re looking for a quiet getaway without losing that Gallic chic. The unimposing beach is lined with bars and restaurants, yet the pastel French architecture regains a taste of antiquity.

Nice sits both literally and figuratively between Cannes and Villefranche-sur-Mer. Celebrities flock here for the stunning, sugar-sand beaches and opulence, similar to Cannes. However, the hidden alleyways with protruding period night lamps, vintage bicycles and hanging ivy can still be found, adding to the diversity of this charming city.

Nature

The national park of Calanques was only established in 2012, yet the nature itself has been growing, changing, adapting for millennia. Alabaster cliff faces with intermittent flashes of green jut out unapologetically over the Mediterranean, appearing both beautiful yet threatening simultaneously. White sand beaches and secretive hidden coves also make up this fascinating park, providing a break from the deep green hues of the forestry.

Préaples d’Azur Regional Park is a backpacker’s paradise. Densely wooded mountains peek beneath an endless canvas of blue, with 2000 species of plants spread across the park. Although seemingly uninhabited, make sure you don’t miss the French communes of Gourdon and Bouyon, both of which are interspersed with medieval castles. 140km of underground tunnels and a Neolithic heritage give Préaples d’Azur Regional Park and unusual twist, making it all the more irresistible.

Activities

If you’ve got the need for speed, why not hire a supercar for the day to see Nice in style? Choose from a long list including Ferrari, Lamborghini and more. Alternatively, live like a (wealthy) local on the crystal waters and hire a yacht, taking a tour of the breath-taking coastline. Pick up a snorkel and take a dip in the Mediterranean. The warm waters invite all manner of marine life, including jellyfish, octopus and cuttlefish.

 

Visit the Verdon Gorge and hire a canoe. Push the tiny vessel out as it rasps against the sand beneath, hop in and begin paddling. All at once you’ll go from busy, sandy beaches, to the silence of the Gorge, appearing as if from nowhere on either side of you. The overwhelming sublimity of impressive cliff faces contrast the alluring and silent turquoise waters.

Gastronomy

French wine is praised internationally by novices and connoisseurs alike, making a vineyard tour during your stay in Côte d’Azur imperative. Sample local favourites and wander through expansive, cultivated vineyards, learning all about the intricate and delicate processes that give French wine its acclaimed flavour.

After touring the vineyards, join a petite group with a local guide for a food tour. You’ll be led through local markets, tasting the freshest and finest in French cuisine including pain de campagne and pissaladière. Particular tours even involve a cooking class, giving you the chance to master your Niçoise salad.

For Families

Les Bois des Lutins, a 3 hour outdoor adventure park, is ideal for families with kids of all ages. The park includes a series of nets and climbing apparatus that take you up & up into the tall trees that dwarfed you as you stood at the base only moments prior.

Aqualand is a chain of waterparks in Côte d’Azur, with the Fréjus park situated neatly in-between Cannes and St Tropez. Tall palm trees interspersed throughout provide an exotic feel and a grand total of 18 attractions, including slides, flumes and rapids make the park a favourite amongst locals.

For Couples

Visit the Cannes Islands by a short ferry, with 4 to choose from, 2 of which are uninhabited. Quiet, secluded and immeasurably attractive, these exquisite islets set in the blue deeps of the Mediterranean are a tranquil break from the energetic mainland.

Go glam and spend an evening in Monte Carlo. The winding roads of Provincial France will seem but a distant memory as you pass palatial hotels, lavish casinos and private beaches.

Start your evening in Le Louis XV restaurant, housed in the elegant Hôtel de Paris.  Decorated in a traditional 18th century French design, feel yourself transported to the days of French court culture. Sumptuous flavours of black truffle, caviar and blue lobster are but a few of the options available to order.

After your meal, visit is the seductive Le Bar Américain, also part of Hôtel de Paris. This reclusive jazz bar is almost the polar opposite to the high ceilings and open spaces of Le Louis XV. It maintains a classical design, with a grand piano taking centre stage, and the darkened wood and low lighting make it perfect for a quiet, romantic drink.

Spend the latter part of your night in a glittering casino before wandering down to the beach to walk hand in hand, allowing the surf to gently lap your toes as you absorb the absolute splendour of this remarkable location.

Getting There

The Côte d’Azur is accessible by car from our 3 French ports, Dunkirk, Calais and Newhaven. From Calais and Newhaven it’s a 10 hour drive and is 12 hours from Dunkirk. So why not make it a road trip to explore the rest of France on your way?

Pass through Lille or Arras in the north. Traverse the beautiful French roads further south, you could even spend a night in Paris or Versailles. Orléans and Lyon make great pit stops, with beautiful parks, squares and streets to stretch your legs.

Stop at local markets that you pass by, collecting fresh baguettes, cheeses, olives and fruit. They’ll serve as a delicious picnic when you find a spot that takes your fancy, perhaps in Morvan Regional Park or Volcans d’Auvergne Natural Park?

 

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