Fantastic French Vacation – Part6 Cote d’ Azur

Balcony outside our room at Hotel Panoramic

Cote d’ Azur, south east France on Mediterranean coast, reminded me very much of Italy’s Amalfi Coast and Capri Island. Indeed, there is the same forever rising summer sun, there is, not turquoise, not emerald green and not every other in between, but the same gorgeous sapphire blue, sky to sea, and there is the same stunning scenery of bending, rugged shoreline. Indeed are these distinctive Mediterranean beauties.

Bestowed with the same natural beauty, the French towns here are equally beautiful. The human dimension is what set them apart. Cote d’ Azur’s history is steep in its Italian heritage and even to this day, there is an identifiable Italian influence throughout the area, where pasta and pizzas are common and Nicoise Salad includes olives and anchovies. Since the area became French in 1860, the heartbeat of Cote d’ Azur has become decidedly French and French ways now dominate the daily life.

Nice

It was roughly a five hour drive from Carcassonne to Nice. As the sun glowed warmer and the air grew slightly thicker, we arrived. Typical of this area, Nice is a hilly town. Our hotel, Hotel Panoramic, is high on the entry to the Grand Cornice. Though I had read about its having nice view, I was still stunned by the truly exhilarating bird’s eye view of the town and the sea beyond.

In general, I’ve enjoyed small private hotels and B&Bs more because of the possibility of a personal connection with the owners, which in turn gives a stronger sense of connection with the destination. Often time, running the hotel or inn is more than just a job to the owners, it is part of their life and their enthusiasm manifests in way of hospitality. I always enjoy chatting with them, as that I had with Valerie.

Largest city in the area and the capital of Cote d’ Azur, Nice has become a popular tourist destination. Be it the sun splashed energy or the flux of tourist, Nice’s vibrant energy is palpable. Like in many of the places we had visited, there is an old town in Nice as well. In fact the old town is one of the most popular spots in Nice where you admire historic landmarks, quaint homes or shop for souvenirs or take a break at restaurants and street cafes. Promenade Des Anglais is a beach side boulevard lined by some of Nice’s most elegant buildings and another place that attracts tourists and locals alike. Here the beach is pebbly but the ocean view sure is gorgeous. Here you can be active or you can just relax.

Nice’s popularity seems to have brought into it a rich international fusion. Searching for a place for dinner, we noticed an Irish bar, Chinese, Japanese and Thai restaurants among the many options. I love seafood so I settled down at La Taca D’Oli for Seafood Casserole and it was just superb.

Balcony outside our room at Hotel Panoramic

Cathedral Ste Reparate in Old Town

Beach at Promenade

Seafood Casserole at La Taca D’Oli

Corniche, Monaco and Eze

Basse, Moyene and Grande Corniche are three coastal roads built at different heights of the mountain by the sea, where Basse Corniche being the lowest and Grande Corniche the highest. They span about 19 miles of distance and connect Nice and Menton, the last French town before its border with Italy. We spent one day exploring the Corniches, driving from Nice to Menton and back, with stopovers at Monaco and Eze. It was on these roads, we enjoyed some of the most spectacular sceneries.

With a glamorous reputation, Monaco is blessed with natural beauty that is typical to this region but modern with many new high rises, and more of which being built. The entire town is more inclined and smaller than Nice. Clung to the coastline and surrounded by French towns, it has interestingly stayed independent through all years and vicissitudes. We drove around a couple of times in town before we found the train station and its parking deck, recommended as the best place to park in town for a day trip. From there, we walked to Monaco Ville, a district on top of a hill where the Palace of the Prince, Cathedral de Monaco and the old town are located and has a fantastic view of Port de Monaco and the sea beyond. Being there in Jun, there were on the street abundant signs and souvenirs announcing and commemorating the upcoming marriage of Monaco’s reining prince, Prince Albert Rainier to Charlene Wittstock, which did take place later on Jul 2nd.

Eze, situated between Nice and Monaco, is highest of the famed Perched Villages in this area and lies on top of a cliff at 1,400 feet above sea level. Many have extolled the spectacular views from the village and we followed. We reached Eze via Moyene Corniche on the returned trip. Its sunflower colored church with a clock tower, probably the largest structure in the village, was the first thing that greeted our arrival from afar. The location is awe striking and Eze is very pretty and charming, albeit small. However, we arrived about 7PM and almost everything was closed. Left with a few tantalizing glimpses, we could only flex our brains imagining the best that Eze can offer. On the peak of Eze is a Roman ruin. I bet the view is awesome from up there. We did have a nice dinner at Hotel Du Golf La Gacogne located right by the main road at the bottom of Eze.

Villefranche

Monaco

Monaco from Moyene Corniche – Monte Carlo is left most building

Eze from Moyene Corniche

At Eze

Church of Eze

Stumbled across a view of Chateau Eza from another end of the village

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