ESSENTIALS

  • Renting a car is a necessity – driving along the coast is a a major highlight of the trip
  • The mediterranean climate yields many herbs & citrus fruits evident in many of the regional dishes
  • The approximate budget of the Cannes Film Festival is 20 million euros
  • Hithcock’s movie To Catch a Thief was set in the Riviera and starred Grace Kelly who later went on to marry the Prince of Monaco
  • Matisse, Chagall, Renoir and Picasso all spent time here and much of their work was influenced by the beauty of the coastal towns
  • **This is by no means and extensive guide to the Côte d’Azur, but a personal experience adapted into a “best of” type of itinerary

 

Côte d’Azur
"French Riviera baby girl let's take a trip." - Rick Ross

SHORTLIST

  1. Taste socca, a chickpea crepe snack, in Nice
  2. Tour the Matisse Chapel in Vence
  3. Coastal drive on the corniche roads
  4. Stroll through the Èze botanical gardens with spectacular views
  5. Sunset cocktail at Hotel du Cap Eden Rock
  6. A meal at the tiny La Merenda in Nice
  7. Sculpture viewing at Fondation Maeght
  8. Visit the Antibes open-air market
  9. La Colombe d’Or – where else in the world can you eat lunch underneath a Picasso?
  10. Sample bouillabaisse, a Provençal fish stew from Marseille

STAY

Antibes Townhouse
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Romantic St. Paul de Vence
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Cliffside luxury in Èze
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ITINERARY

Friday

  • Antibes | This seaside town grew from an ancient Greek trading port named Antipolis and was favored by artist Pablo Picasso. It’s a photogenic town with cobbled narrow streets and a surprisingly laid-back vibe.
  • Open-Air Market | There’s not a better introduction to the French Riviera than the morning market in Antibes. Overflowing with beautiful produce, spices & herbs, fresh cut flowers and Provençal treats; it’s a foodie and photographer’s dream. (June–Aug daily 6am–1pm; Sept–May closed Mon)
  • Picasso Museum | While I prefer the Barcelona museum in terms of collection, this musée is worth a visit for its history alone. The Château (owned by the Grimaldi family) was built upon the ancient Greek town of Antipolis, became the town hall for Antibes in 1702 and was once Picasso’s home for 6 months.
  • Bacon | Drive south along the coast for some of the best bouillabaisse outside of Marseille. The restaurant offers a 55€ or 85€ prix fixe at lunch with a terrace overlooking the ocean. Enjoy a long lunch and don’t miss the millefeuille for dessert.
  • Hôtel du Cap Eden Roc | Continue along the coast for afternoon cocktails at a resort that defines luxury. The hotel immortalized by F. Scott Fitzgerald was actually cash-only up until 2006 and is a favorite of celebs during the Cannes Festival.
  • Le Figuier de Saint-Esprit | Enjoy a romantic meal under a 40 year old fig tree. It’s an idyllic setting with a meal prepared by chef Christian Morisset, an Antibes native for 25 years.  
  • Absinthe Bar | Tucked away in a tiny bar just steps from the market is a bar dedicated to preserving the tradition of absinthe. Grab a seat at the zinc bar, order a glass of the ‘green fairy’ and strike up a conversation with the friendly patrons. The collection of goofy hats (meant to be worn by customers), few guitars and a piano ensure a night of laid-back fun.

Saturday

  • Saint Paul de Vence | Take a drive to one of the oldest medieval towns in the Riviera. It’s very touristy, but the little village perched atop the hillside has amazing views so the crowds are understandable. The charming windy streets are filled to the brim with art galleries, specialty stores selling olive oil, French salts and Provençal fabrics. If you can get past the tourist factor, there are some amazing spots worth visiting in this little village.
  • Fondation Maeght | One of the biggest draws to St. PdV, the modern art museum houses work by Calder, Chagall, Miró and Léger among others. It’s a beautiful space designed by Spanish Architect Josep Lluís Sert.
  • La Colombe d’Or | A meal here is a must. Once described by Matisse as “a small paradise”, the experience does not disappoint. Enjoy lunch on the fig-tree covered terrace under a ceramic Léger mural or a dinner with Picassos, Mirós and Bonnards in the main dining room. A bottle of rosé with prosciutto & melon is the perfect starter and all meals end with their house signature orange-flavored grappa.
  • Café de la Place | Grab an afternoon coffee and watch the regulars play a spirited game of pétanque. The game is played by about 17 million French people and closely resembles what we know as bocce ball.
  • Chapelle du Rosaire | Head north to Vence to see one of the most unique chapels. Designed by artist Matisse, it was built in 1951 as a gift to the nuns who nursed him during illness. The stark white walls paired with abstract shapes and minimalist form achieve Matisse’s goal: “I believe my role is to provide calm because I myself have need of peace.”  (Mon/Wed/Sat 2-5:30pm; Tues-Thurs 10-11:30 am & 2-5:30 pm. Sun Mass 10am.)
  • Le Chateau Saint Martin | Panoramic views of the Mediterranean and Michelin dining in a traditional South of France setting. Feel free to take advantage of the chateau’s helipad for a more direct route to dinner.

 

 

Sunday

  • Èze | A medieval village perched atop a rocky cliff is a perfect place to stay for a few nights. Yes, the tourists can be annoying during the day, but you’ll have this tiny ancient village to yourself from late afternoon into the night since there are few options for lodging.
  • Le Café Qui Roule | Luckily with the tourist buses stopping at Éze on a daily basis, there’s a need for a morning coffee cart. Walk down toward the “entrance” and grab a cafe au lait & croissant from the “rolling” café. Just be sure to do so before the buses arrive!
  • Jardin botanique d’Èze | The botanical gardens on the side of a hill offer an impressive collection of cactus and succulents, but an even more impressive view.  Aim to get here early or just before closing to avoid crowds.
  • Saint Jean Cap Ferrat | It’s one of the most exclusive addresses in the world and it’s worth driving through. Many of the vacation home villas are hidden behind tropical vegetation, but you will see the yachts hanging around the port. Stop by the Plage de Passable for a glass of rosé at a table in the sand. There’s nothing pretentious about this spot and you can pay for a beach chair to get some afternoon sun. Just up the street, you’ll find a very prominent villa open for tours. Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild was built by a wealthy French socialite in the early 1900’s with 9 different themed gardens.
  • La Turbie | The windy drive up to this little town is part of the experience. Be sure to visit the Trophée d’Auguste built around 6 BC (!!) which used to feature a statue of the Emperor Augustus. If the monument is closed, the nearby cemetery offers similar breathtaking views. Head to dinner at L’Hostellerie Jérôme which is worth the trip itself. The 2 star Michelin restaurants serves traditional French food in a vaulted ceiling dining room or on the terrace. For a less expensive more casual option, head to Cafe de la Fontaine, a bustling bistro run by the same chef.

Monday

  • Nice | I wouldn’t recommend basing yourself in the 5th most populous city in France, but it provides an escape from the almost too perfect villages of the Côte d’Azur and an insight into real French life. 
  • Cours Saleya Market | There is a market every day in Vieux Nice (Old Town) and it should not be missed. Vendors set up shop underneath striped awnings just a few blocks from the Promenade. The flower/fruit/vegetable market runs every day except for Monday when there’s an antiques market. Check here for specific days/times.
  •  La Merenda | Famed chef, Dominique le Stanc, is in the kitchen whipping up Niçois specialties. Be prepared for a cramped seating situation & cash only, but the food is worth it! (With no phone and no reservations, this place can be a bit tricky to get into. Arrive at opening to put your name on the list for a later seating or stop by & make a reservation the day before. Mon-Fri lunch & dinner.) 
  • Vieux Nice | Wander down Rue de la Préfecture for some shopping in an area that’s somewhat reminiscent of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. Antik Boutik is an especially cool boutique with men & women’s clothing. Walk north toward Cave de la Tour for an authentic wine bar specializing in local wines. At Chez Pipo, taste the Nice specialty, socca, a chickpea flour crepe.
  • Matisse Museum | Fans of the artist would enjoy a trip to the museum, however, I would choose the chapel if you’re short on time. It’s home to his iconic paper cuttings and the massive “Fleurs et fruits” mural.
  • La Chèvre D’Or | End your Riviera vacation with a once in a lifetime dining experience. It’s pricey, but there are 2 Michelin stars involved and you’re in the south of France. Enjoy the panorama dining room and step out onto the terrace post-dinner to take it all in.

PACKING LIST

ROADMAP

Includes every location mentioned above
Lauren Greenberg
Itinerary By

Founder of The Weekender

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