50 YEARS OF TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
50 YEARS OF TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
FRENCH RIVIERA (Côte d'Azur)
Saint-Tropez, a stylish seaside resort that draws tourists from all over the world, offers a quaint Old World ambience of cobblestone streets, outdoor cafés, and pleasant shady squares, while the picturesque harbor is filled with luxury yachts that belong to the jet-setting crowd. But despite the upscale restaurants and fashion boutiques, there's still an authentic Provençal atmosphere to be found in Saint-Tropez. Visitors will see elderly French men playing pétanque, families taking their evening stroll, and locals artists selling their paintings at the markets and along the port. Visitors enjoy basking in the sunshine at the beaches and taking unhurried strolls along the coast or in the village. Its beautiful setting and the chic ambience are the main attractions.
Ephrussi de Rothschild Villa and Gardens
The Fondation Maeght is a must for visitors to the Côte d’Azur. It’s housed in an impressive modern building set among pine-filled gardens in the hills just a few minutes walk from the picturesque hilltop village of St-Paul-de-Vence. The light and airy building was designed by Jose-Luis Sert who worked with Corbusier and then spent time in the U.S.A. Both Sert and the two Cannes-based art dealers Marguerite and Aime Maeght who set up the Fondation, knew the artists whose work fills the rooms and the gardens of the Fondation Maeght. It's a magnificent collection of the works of Chagall, Braque and Miro, Matisse, Alexander Calder, Giacometti, Raoul Ubac and other masters of the 20th century. The Fondation also put on changing temporary exhibitions of important contemporary artists. When you’re done here, make the short walk or drive to the chic village of St-Paul-de-Vence where you'll find the very famous Auberge de la Colombe d’Or. There’s more art work on the walls there from some of the artists you'll have seen at the Fondation. There's nothing like eating lobster under the odd Matisse or Picasso.
Many exclusive private villas lie along this stretch of coastline, although visitors rarely have a chance to see past the gated entryways. One famous villa that's open to the public is the Rothschild Villa built for Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, the daughter of the wealthy banker Baron Alphonse de Rothschild. Upon inheriting her father's enormous fortune, Béatrice created this exquisite villa in a dreamy setting on the tip of the Cap-Ferrat. One of the most beautiful homes on the Côte d'Azur, the villa was designed in the style of an Italian palazzo with a delicate pink facade. After touring the villa's interior, visitors may wander around the magnificent gardens.
Famous for its prestigious yacht race and picture-postcard setting, Monaco has a special status on the Côte d'Azur. This small coastal city is its own Principality with a royal family, epitomizing the glamor of the French Riviera. The palace of the royal family is located on what is fondly called the "Rock of Monaco," the site of a fortress built by the Genoese in 1215. Tourists may visit the Palais Princier (royal palace) to discover its splendors: 15th-century frescoes; a Louis XV lounge in yellow and gold; the Mazarin room, covered with ornate wood panelling; and the Throne Room with its majestic Renaissance fireplace. Other tourist highlights found on the "Rock of Monaco" include the Cathedral and the Chapelle de la Visitation, which houses a museum of religious art. One of the most emblematic sites of Monaco is its picturesque harbor filled with magnificent luxury yachts.
Monte Carlo is known the world over for its casino, and its tax system that attracts the very rich. The Casino itself is magnificent, a true reflection of luxury and good living. Built in 1863 by Charles Garnier, architect of the Paris opera house, the belle époque building stands high up looking out over Monaco and the sea. magnificent rooms lead off the main hall, tempting places to gamble your life away, or make your fortune, equipped with roulette and blackjack, with modern machines Las Vegas style. Don’t miss the flower gardens with their lawns and small ponds leading up to Monaco’s exclusive shopping area. The Café de Paris entertained the likes of King Edward VII and Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia.
Specialty Foods of the French Riviera
No ingredient is as deeply associated with the Mediterranean as the olive. Indeed, whether green, black, or Kalamata, these savory little fruits pop up everywhere in the cuisine of the region. The Provençal iteration of olive-based seasoning is the now-widespread tapenade. A basic recipe includes olives, capers, anchovies and plenty of olive oil, a winning combination.
There are only a handful of salads that have made their way outside the confines of France into the broader world. Chief among them is salade niçoise, a specialty from the country’s far southeast corner. A salade niçoise contains fresh tomatoes, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, local olives and, for good measure, anchovies. Topped with vinaigrette, the combination has a unique flavor deeply tied to the Mediterranean region.
Soupe Au Pistou is the Provençal adaption of Italian pesto. This cold soup includes the same ingredients as the basil-based pasta sauce and is often served as a topping on a minestrone-like vegetable stew. Add lots of parmesan or gruyere cheese on top and you’ll have a hearty meal perfect after a long day of exploring the region.
One of the most savory and multicultural dishes native to the region, socca is the Southern French response to the crêpes of Paris. This chickpea-based flatbread is cooked in an open oven, typically on a massive copper platter. Seasoned with herbes de Provence and lots of cracked black pepper, the dish is best eaten straight from the oven, no silverware needed!
Not so much a dish as a thread running through all the famous specialties of the region, herbes de Provence are as fundamental as they are simply beautiful. The bundle of seasonings, while not a fixed formula, is normally made up of savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. A special spice blend can make a great Provençal souvenir to commemorate your trip, bringing a bit of France home with you.
While most French regions have their own spins on fougasse, descended from a Roman flatbread served across the Empire, Provence’s fougrasse is unique. Like many other Mediterranean delicacies, the flatbread is improved by a hefty dose of olives, cheese and anchovies. Some have called fougasse, along with its cousin socca, Provençal pizza, and the taste is undeniable!
Few sweets have as glamorous a history as St Tropez’s signature cake, a sandwich cake consisting of a round, flat-topped sugar-coated brioche filled with an unctuous, orange-flower flavoured cream. The cake was created by Alexandre Micka, a Polish baker who settled on the seaside village in 1955.
Perhaps Provence’s most famous culinary export (it even lent its name to a Walt Disney film), ratatouille is a vegetable casserole consisting of tomatoes, onions, courgettes, aubergines, peppers, garlic and herbs. It can be served on its own with a good chunk of bread to mop up the juices, or as an accompaniment to pork loin steaks or cutlets.
The area around Carpentras in Provence is famed for its ‘black diamonds’ (truffles), in season from November to March. The fungi is used in numerous guises – infused in olive oil, shaved on pasta dishes or salads – but it is eggs that best complement its pungent aroma. A staple of gastronomic restaurants over the winter months is truffle omelette (also sometimes called brouillade).
No single drink says Provence-Côte d’Azur more than Pastis, an aniseed-flavoured liqueur. Invented in Marseille in 1932 by industrialist Paul Ricard, it is amber-coloured in the bottle but turns milky-white when water is added. A classic apéritif, it is especially popular pre-lunch after a couple of rounds of pétanque (a game of boules played on hard dirt).
Famously served in magnums rather than regular sized bottles in many a beach club, this rosé is one of the favorites and perhaps has one of the highest consumption rates throughout the summer season. Robust enough to be served with anything and equally great as an aperitif. Served as the house rosé in some of the most elegant establishments on the Côte d’Azur this has to one of the highest contenders for the most elegant and consistently brilliant rosés.
French Riviera Wine Recommendations
Domain Ott – Château Romassan
Affectionally named 'Over The Top', Domain Ott – Château Romassan is perhaps the most famous rosé in the world and certainly a favorite with celebrities, often to be discovered in large quantities at many flamboyant parties, especially during the Monaco F1 Grand Prix and the Cannes Film Festival. This is indeed an excellent rosé, slightly more robust than the very pale rosés and therefore a superb all rounder. This wine is as perfect served with red meats as it is grilled prawns and fresh fish. Not the best value rosé on offer, but certainly one of the most popular.
Miraval is the lonly rosé wine in Wine Spectator’s Top Wines of 2013, this is considered by many to be the best of the best. First released as a 2012 vintage by new owners Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in partnership with the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel, the wine sold out in a matter of hours and has now become THE rosé. It is delicious and certainly in my humble opinion a serious contender as the best of the best. Previously released as 'Pink Floyd' for many years by the former owners as the legendary rock band recorded their seminal album 'The Wall' at the Château back in 1979.
Famous Ports In the French Riviera
The Port of Nice is one of the key infrastructural hubs of Nice and, in fact, of the entire French Riviera, standing out as one of the main harbors for the boats which sail across the Mediterranean Sea. It accommodates both the ships operated by certain ferry companies and the private yachts of tourists who come to Nice by sea, on their own water craft. Port de Nice enjoys an approximately central location in Nice, and besides its commercial purposes, it can be deemed a notable leisure site, dotted with several sightseeing opportunities. On land, the port is accessible by road and by train.
Located in the heart of the glamorous city of Cannes - close to the Palais du Festival and famous Croisette walk - the Cannes harbor has been a long time favorite port of call for boats of all sizes. A wooden quay in front of the Capitainerie can accommodate yachts up to 40m there, offering them power connections up to 250 amps. A very dedicated harbor team will welcome yachts upon arrival and help with any of their needs. To the north the port is bordered by the pretty Allées de la Liberté which are lined with plane trees. In the mornings the fine Marché aux Fleurs (Flower Market) is held here. At the western end of the Allées stands the Hôtel de Ville, or Town Hall.
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