West of Cannes, you’ll find La Napoule-Plage, where a remarkable structure rises high above the sea. A large reddish-purple chateau looms above the blue waters of the bay.
This was once a medieval castle owned by the Villenueves that fell into ruins over time. Only two towers and a gateway survive of this castle. The rest has been rebuilt by Henry Clewes, who purchased the property during the first World War. This son of a banker, who is now buried in the chateau grounds, may have been one of the greatest sculptors ever produced by America.
Cannes is renowned for its springtime film festival at the Palais des Festivals, of course, but there’s more than that to this town. It’s southwest of Nice and was probably named for the canes of its once-reedy shore.
This thoroughly modern Juan-les-Pins is the resort town mirror and foil to Antibes’ historical beauty, and is located only three miles away. Walking the beach – if you can without stepping on sun-worshipers – you’ll see thousands of vacationers walking up and down the promenade or lying close to one another to sunbathe on the wide stretches of sand. And resting here during the day may be ideal, considering how much there is to do in the evenings.
Antibes is across the Baie des Anges from Nice, and is the perfect place to sail over to for lying on pristine white sand beaches. Long ago, it was a Greek trading post called Antipolis, settled by Pocaeans from Marseille. Later, it became a Roman town, and then a fief of the Grimaldi family for over two hundred years.
Of all the Cote d’Azur resort towns, Menton is the most Mediterranean in flavor and climate. It rests right up against the Italian border, and is protected from harsh weather by its location in the gentle curve of the Ligurian shore. Menton is one of the most charming towns in the area, with a lovely harbor skyline, terra-cotta roofs over yellow-ochre houses, and church facades with Baroque design.
Who does not recognize the name Monte Carlo? It is one of the four quartiers of Monaco, centered around a casino opened in 1861, and is known throughout Europe and the world as the playground of the wealthy. Among the attractions in Monte-Carlo are an opera house built over a century ago and the International Sporting Club. Gambling tables are open only to visitors to Monaco, not natives, and you should bring your passport if you want to get in; only those who can prove they are over 21 are allowed through the doors. And even then, if you’re not properly dressed with jacket and tie, you won’t be allowed in the back rooms.
Monaco isn’t quite part of France, but it may as well be. It’s a principality ruled over by a prince, and is located in the middle of the Cote d’Azur, also called the French Riviera. Nice is only nine miles west, and Italy is about five miles to the east. Monaco consists of several hills and a peninsula that juts south into the Mediterranean, and its total area is less than one square mile. But in that square mile is some of the most expensive and luxurious property in the world.
The Corniches are a three-tiered system of scenic highways between Nice and the Italian border town of Menton. The highest of these highways is the Grande Corniche, which replaced an ancient Roman road; this road overlooks Monaco from over 1400 feet up. The middle road was created specifically for the tourist industry and passes by Eze, a village perched in the hills. And the lowest is Corniche, built by a prince of Monaco, connecting the many coastal resorts of the Cote d’Azur.
Nice is the fifth-largest city in France, and one of the most sophisticated. It hugs the coastline, and its elegant hotels along the Promenade des Anglais have a perfect view of the ocean just across the street. From the coast, Nice stretches upward to Le Chateau, once topped by a beautiful castle but now crowned only in picturesque ruins.
Most people have heard of the Saint-Tropez tan, and this little town on the beach in the south of France lives up to its name. With public and private beaches both nude and otherwise, Saint-Tropez is a relaxation paradise.