This month we explore the beautiful South of France along the famous coastline on the French Riviera, Côte d’Azur. The journey takes us past stunning headlands, waterside towns, bays, fine beaches and millionaire villas.
Train operators include TER (Transport Express Regional) local train services which require no advanced bookings, TGV and a daily Thello Eurocity service which both require booking in advance.
We begin in Les Arcs, a small town in the Argens Valley. This picturesque medieval town offers plenty of history and architecture and is probably best known as a wine producing town, rich in vineyards offering wine tasting .
The medieval quarter known as Le Parage, dominates the city centre with pretty cobbled streets, traditional stone houses, chapels and castle ruins. The 13th century Saracen Tower dominates the skyline with beautiful views of Les Arcs and surrounding countryside and a 17th century Clock tower topped with an ornate, wrought-iron campanile. Also worth a visit is the Church of Saint-John the Baptist with its beautiful panel Polyptych dating from 1501.
Just outside the city, around four kilometres away, is Chateau de Sainte Roseline, where you will find the Sainte-Roseline Winery and Chapel. The winery offers high quality wines with tours and wine tasting. The beautiful ornate Chapel contains a unique crystal shrine of St Roseline and a fantastic Marc Chagall mosaic.
Leaving Les Arcs behind the journey follows the Argens Valley to the coast calling at Frejus, a city rich in history and art. Attractions include the roman amphitheatre, a magnificent cathedral, colourful houses and some beautiful sandy beaches. A few kilometres south-east and we arrive at St Raphaël.
St Raphaël is one of the oldest seaside resorts on the French Riviera stretching over 36 kilometres of coast with some beautiful beaches and plenty of charm. The picturesque harbour with its colourful fishing boats, and beaches offers various leisure and water activities.
Take time to stroll along the narrow cobbled streets of the old town and enjoy the daily flower and vegetable markets. At the heart of the town is one of the oldest buildings dating from the 12th century, the Church of Saint-Raphaël. Climb the watchtower for beautiful panoramic views across the bay. Also in the centre is the imposing 19th Century Notre Dame de la Victoire church with its characteristic gilt dome.
If you enjoy museums drop in at the local Archaeology Museum dedicated to archaeological excavations from the area.
Cannes is one of the most popular destinations along the Côte d’Azur. The city offers gorgeous hotels, casinos, designer shops and superb restaurants and easily lives up to its glamourous reputation.At the heart of Cannes is the old quarter, Le Suquet with its cobbled lanes, beautiful architecture, local shops and restaurants and a harbour with traditional fishing boats. A short walk up the hill and you will find the Musée de la Castre, home to a wide collection of local antiquities, and if you climb the clock tower you will be rewarded with breath taking views of the city and the sparkling sea below.
Enjoy a walk around the bay area along Promenade de la Croisette which follows the bay around. On one side you will find luxury yachts, cruise ships, beautiful sandy beaches with palm trees and on the other side you can window shop in the designer boutiques and enjoy the atmosphere of the rich and famous.
Don’t forget to check out the Palais des Festivals, where the famous annual Cannes Film Festival is held. Take a guided tour or catch a movie in one of the amazing theatres.
We closely follow the coastline for much of the way from Cannes to Nice passing the beautiful sandy beaches of Juan-les-Pins before arriving at Antibes, with its historic Old Town and abundance of luxury yachts moored at the Port Vauban marina. The next major stop is Cagnes sur Mer which boasts a chic shopping centre (named Polygone Riviera) and a 3½ kilometre stretch of beach.
On arrival at Nice-Ville railway station, which is located in the north of the city, you can either take a tram to the Old Town or walk there in around 20 minutes. The 16th century Old Town with its narrow streets is largely pedestrianised with restaurants, bars, cafes and markets. On the edge of the Old Town you will find Castle Hill, the highest point in Nice with ruins of the Château de Nice and superb panoramic views of the city below, whilst further east is the modern city centre with plenty more shops, restaurants and cafes.
Other highlights include the Musée National Marc Chagall, located in Cimiez. It boasts the largest public collection of Chagall works including paintings, mosaics, pottery and stunning stained glass windows. The exquisite Baroque style Nice Cathedral is not to be missed, with its spectacular architecture and stunning interior.
Take a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais which winds alongside the white pebble beach, one of the longest and most famous of the French Riviera. Lined with palm trees, fantastic restaurants and bars, it is the perfect location for a spot of people watching.
The train from Nice to Monaco takes on average 20 minutes during the week, it can take longer on weekends and holidays. As you arrive into Monaco you are greeted by a white marble staton, just the start of this luxurious and glamorous destination.
Perhaps the most famous district is Monte Carlo with its breathtaking seaside views from the gorgeous terrace of Place du Casino. The inspiration behind Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel Casino Royale, it is also the location of the Hôtel de Paris and Café de Paris where you can stay and dine in 5 star luxury.
Monaco has one of the most renowned museums, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. Home to more than 6000 species, the Aquariums are divided into the Tropical zone where you will find coral reef and the species which inhabit it aswell as piranhas and sharks; and Mediterranean Sea where you will see jellyfish, octopus and more than 200 species of inverterbrate.
A visit to Monaco wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the car collection of the Prince of Monaco. A collection of almost a hundred cars from all ages both vintage and modern, you can expect to see the top manufacturers as well as some Formula 1 race cars which have of course raced on the famous Monaco Grand Prix circuit.
Leaving behind the luxury of Monaco we continue along the coastline towards the Italian border town of Ventimiglia. First stop is the picturesque medieval village Cap Martin-Roquebrune. Perched up high, it features narrow sloping streets, colourful buildings and breathtaking views of the coastline from Roquebrune-Cap-Martin castle.
A few kilometres further on we reach Menton, a seaside resort on the edge of the Côte d’Azur and the last major stop before crossing into Italy. Menton has lots of charm with a lovely medieval old town, winding streets and beautiful buildings, including the Basilique Saint-Michel with its 18th century bell tower. Thanks to the local microclimate, Menton is home to a unique brand of lemons and an annual festival, known locally as La Fête du Citron, is held in the charming town centre gardens, Jardins Biovès, during the winter months.
It is now just a short train ride to Ventimiglia, located just across the Italian border at the mouth of the Roia River. This medieval town offers history, charming outdoor markets and pebble beaches. Explore its narrow cobbled streets, colourful rustic buildings and houses, including the 11th century Romanesque Cathedral of Ventimiglia. Don’t miss the famous bustling open-air market which takes place every Friday on the boardwalk by the Ligurian Sea coastline. The market offers fresh local produce, including flowers, wine and clothing. There is also a daily covered food market situated near the railway station.