The French Riviera: A posh treat on the Mediterranean

The French Riviera.  When someone suggests a trip here, one usually thinks of sheer luxury. Truth be told, envy probably is added to the mix of emotion as you sense the feeling of importance being surrounded by the rich and famous.

Nice, France is the capital of the posh French Riviera, deemed a favourite holiday destination for Europeans since the 18th century complete with luxury resorts, swanky hotels, boutique shops, and elegant restaurants fit for royalty. I mean, here it is an everyday occurrence to spot an Aston Martin drive by, fully loaded with an optional convertible top. Can you really blame anyone for feeling slightly regal when visiting?

The French Riviera is a vacationer’s dream with its clear sea water and stretch beach. When planning your day at the beach, double check with your hotel on whether they have a private area strictly for guests. Many areas on the beach in the heart of Nice are reserved for guests of particular hotels. If your hotel does not have a secluded area, there are many public sections for you to settle in and relax.

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The beach is pebbly with large stones. It does not have sand. Since the stones can be painful, it is best to rent a lounger and wear a good pair of water shoes to avoid foot injuries. For the moderate price of € 35 approx. (Shop around as the price may differ depending on the hotel or public section offering the service) the package includes a lounger, towel, umbrella and use of the change rooms for the day. Servers are ready and waiting to take your drink orders, but those, of course, are extra. Choose your spot wisely and anchor for the day where you can snap breathtaking photographs, taste the sea salt of the crystal waters, and admire the ritziest of yachts sailing by.

If lazing by the sea is your cup of tea for only a short time, there is much more to enjoy surrounding the shore. There is an array of shops – both boutique and budget to suit all visitors. Heck, a highlight of my time here was finding a beautiful “one size fits all” peach dress for €10 Euros…proof that glamour is possible at any price.

As you shop, stop in to one of the many artisan coffee shops and have a talented barista craft you a latte; always a welcome treat with a fresh baguette.

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To balance the beach time with sightseeing, there are many points of interest in the area. If museums are on the list, the Musée de Picasso is an ideal stop in the quaint town of Antibes, a short drive from the seaside.

While in Antibes, take a short trip to the castle Château Grimaldi, named after the Grimaldi family, who reigned over Antibes from 1385 to 1608. The castle is a 10-minute drive from the centre of Nice and offers accommodations at a luxurious price of €12000 Euros a night in low season and up to € 22000 Euros a night in high season. If you are considering this haven for a holiday accommodation, keep in mind that their the minimum stay is 4 days/3 nights!

Chateau Grimaldi

If the € 12,000-22,000 price tag is not in your budget, there are many other options for beautiful accommodations in the area. The Hotel Villa Cosy is rated the #1 hotel in the region by Trip Advisor and has suites for as low as  € 375 per night.

The cost of accommodation may prove tough to swallow, however, a visit to one of the upscale restaurants with a glass of French wine may help.  If elegance is your type of dining style, the French Riviera is home to 126 Michelin Star restaurants, with Le Mesclun being at the top of the guide for 2016. There are restaurants for all tastes and budgets. If you like Risotto, it is particularly tasty at the seaside restaurants near the beach. And, for the brave, escargots (snails cooked in garlic butter) are plentiful and available at restaurants for all budgets. Go on! Give them a try!

Le Mesclun

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After sightseeing, sunbathing or shopping, a wonderful way to cap off a day in The French Riviera is to take a trip to Monaco. Just an hour’s drive away, the municipality of Monaco is a gem of a nation under royal rule of Prince Albert. Here in this tiny municipality, you will marvel at the beautiful palace where Hollywood actress Grace Kelly once resided, see the church where she married the prince, gaze at the famed monk statue honouring Francesco Grimaldi who seized the castle with his brother in the 1200’s,and sadly view the cliff where Grace Kelly met her end in a tragic car crash.

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As much as the tourist’s list of key landmarks provides a history-filled sightseeing itinerary, most make the trip to Monaco to rub elbows with the wealthy in Monte Carlo. One of the ritziest casinos in the world, The Monte Carlo, truly showcases glam and luxury. For starters, outside in the surrounding lot, every luxury car from the Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce and others, is parked as owners attempt to win their down payments back. I, of course, just had to pose beside a stunning silver Ferrari; we do dare to dream.

The Monte Carlo entertains thousands of visitors yearly with gamblers, curious tourists and Formula One fans, who watch the cars zoom by in a split second. Others visit the venue for a touch of nostalgia as the complex has been a movie set choice for a handful of movies. Notable films include 007’s Never Say Never Again and Goldeneye, Monte Carlo starring Carey Grant and Grace Kelly, and most recently in 2012 Madagascar 3.

Entering this iconic building, you cannot escape being mesmerized by the gamblers in tuxedos crossing your path (there is a strict dress code) and quickly grabbing a seat at a private table. I was amazed how the dapper men would balance a cigar in one hand as they placed their €25.00 minimum bets with the other hand. That definitely took skill. The women in elegant floor-length gowns pass by elegantly, keeping their designer clutches close to their belts as they swig cosmopolitans and touch up their lipstick. The scene emulated the 1950’s as these glitzy blonde bombshells bet (and prayed upon) the roulette ball, hoping it would win them millions while clasping their cigarette extenders.

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The French Riviera  is a wonderful place for visitors to escape the grind of everyday life. It has something for everyone and definitely serves as a sunny sanctuary. It is warm, buzzing, exciting, ritzy and full of surprises…

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