Sunday, 27 July 2008

The French Riviera

What can I say, the Cote D’Azur is truly stunning. Every day on this trip we’ve enjoyed beautiful sunny weather, swimming dips in a sparking blue sea, with stunning views of seaside and mountains. We had to take a moment and soak it all in when we first entered the Riviera area, stopping off at a jagged cliff on the coast near Cavalier-Sur-Mer to have a picnic with some local French cuisine we had purchased at the market(fortunately picked out by my friends, I must confess to my culinary ignorance). The only sign of people in this remote spot were the handful of nude sunbathers on the small bit of sand below. We were lucky our guide book told us about this one section of the coast that hasn’t been built up.

From there we went to a very different area, the celebrity playground of St. Tropez, or “San Trop” as its been dubbed by the jet set. I don’t think I’ve been to a more nausea-inducing town in my life to be honest. It was incredibly gauche, with gaunt women tottering around the town in over the top outfits and blinding jewellery. We speculated that San Trop is basically what you’d get if Hello magazine became a town. It was really revolting, and quite a contrast from tasteful, understated Aix. While we were eating dinner Paris Hilton came sauntering by with Paparazzi in tow, and at that point we knew it was time to leave.

We spent the next three nights in Nice, which was an absolutely gorgeous city. Our hotel looked out over the Espace Massena and the sea, and we were right next to the nightlife in the Vieux Ville. The nightlife was definitely impressive, even if there weren’t all that many places to go in this relatively small city. I think after four days in small Provencal towns anything seemed good though!

I was a bit disappointed that the beach in Nice was made up of rocks rather than sand, something I’ve only seen before in Britain. I guess it’s just something you have with city beaches for some reason, I’ve mostly been familiar with it in Brighton. It’s r
eally quite annoying though because, needless to say, rocks aren’t very comfortable to lay on or to walk on. The water was amazing though, so comfortable and clean. I didn’t want to get out.

Saturday we went out to Cannes but were a bit under whelmed to be honest. There was clearly no conference going on while we were there so it was quite empty. The building where they have the Cannes Film Festival was probably one of the ugliest buildings I’ve ever seen in my life. It just an enormous concrete monstrosity, with several red carpet entrances slapped haphazardly around the complex. The beach there did have sand, but it as so covered with chairs, umbrellas and restaurants that you couldn’t even see the sand. We didn’t even really see any place we could have lied on the beach if we had wanted to. I was glad we went because it was interesting to see, but you can see it’s definitely a place you’d only go to for the film festival or a conference.

Today we drove to Monaco, which was fun if also a bit underwhelming. I was hoping there would be a big sign telling you when you had crossed over into the microstate but no joy on that one. We walked around the old port area, which didn’t exactly ooze class with a big theme park, water slides and a public pool. Then we went into the casino and my friends played the slots and actually won a sizable amount of money. Again Monaco was interesting but a bit boring. My dad and my brother went to Monaco last year for a few days for a weekend trip, I can’t what they did there all that time. Afterwards, while driving to the airport, we stopped at the hilltop villages of Ezes and that was really amazing, with a stunning view.

I’m writing this on the plane coming back to London, and we’ve just crossed over the channel. Surprisingly there doesn’t seem to be any cloud cover so I think it just may not be raining when we touch down. That’s usually been the painful reality greeting my when I return to Britain from a trip. Overall this was a great trip, very fun and still managed t be relaxing even though it was long and we packed a lot in. It’s also helped me come to a decision about what I’m going to do next now that the Italian citizenship is official (I get the passport Wednesday!). So once I touch down I’ve got lots to do, a lot of work backed up for my job and logistical arrangements for my next life move. But I feel rested and ready for it.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Hi, regulars call the Palais des Festivals in Cannes "the bunker" for a good reason. But it must be said that it is very practical on the inside. The stairs you show in the photo lead to a VIP section on one of the upper floors. THE red stairs are the broad ones on the street side.

Concerning Riviera beaches, the people that rent loungers and run restaurants are supposed to leave 5 metres between the water and their business. I'd like to know if any towns actually push them to respect that rule. But there are very nice stretches of sandy beach on the coast road to Mandelieu, just outside town.