The stunning Côte d’Azur is one of those places that seem to change depending on time of day. It’s easily associated with the superficialities presented in media, but it’s also romanticised in in well-oiled works of respected artists and writers.
To some, it’s a pretty holiday spot where you’d expect to blow out a few pennies. To a few, it’s a home. To a handful, it’s a close city break that has everything you need during sunnier climes. To me, it’s a place I genuinely have an affinity for and a place where I’ve found myself again. A place where I feel I’d like to retire to when I’m older.
Most people think the South of France is a playground for the rich and a haven for the bourgeoisie. There may be a teensy bit of truth in that as evidenced by the number of beautiful yachts moored in ports and fantastic homes and villas. But in all honesty, glitz and glam in the region is overhyped. In actual fact, the whole “seen to be seen” aspect is possibly the biggest misconception and the least appealing part about the place.
There’s so much more to love.
The stunning beaches
Sun, sand, crystal clear waters where you can walk for miles and still stand on your toes. From Les Lecques to the resorts in Saint-Trop, to the plages in Cap Ferrat and Antibes, to the isle of Porquerrolles… this is as good as European beaches get in my opinion. Imagine being able to swim for yonks only to find out your feet can still touch the ground. For water babies like me, it’s heavenly.
The Vieille Ville Charm
I love how each city in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region throws a nod to their old towns. Fairly apparent in the architecture, the country and seaside feel marry in a fashion unique to the region.
Food and fresh produce
First off, the gelato is bloody brilliant.
You can’t not have a Salade Nicoise in Nice, nor sample the petits farcis. You can’t not try the ratatouille in Provence, nor can you skip the anchois pizza in Montecarlo. It’s a place abundant in fresh produce where you can taste the bittersweetness of each leaf, the sweetness of each fruit, the depth of flavour in each protein. Go to any seaside restaurant and you’re sure to have the best catch of the day. And they do have amazing pizzas.
The produce is brilliant as well. I love how they have farmers markets here and people definitely support them. Why buy a bag in plastic when you can go to your local vendors for a paperbag of wild champignons for pennies?
Each village, town, city in the French Riviera has a really fascinating history that would put your childhood medieval fantasies to shame. From legends filled with witchery to kidnapped princes; from interlopers fleeing the plagues to affluent aliens settling to set the scene of indulgent holidaying.
The French are very proud of their heritage, and it’s the very core of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” that makes them who they are as people. It’s rather apparent in their towns, too.
It’s no wonder that most film-makers, writers, and artists come here for inspiration. There’s so much depth in character yet there’s still heaps to explore.
The untouched waters
Now I’ve said something about the beaches, but let me tell you that the best swims I’ve ever had were in the calanques. Coming to the calanques can be a trek and a hike, but you do get the luxury of fresh, clean pockets of nature that usually cater to locals. There’s a sort of liberation that allows you to just be one with the ocean and at the same time feel at ease with natural beauty.
Boats, boats, boats
From sailboats to super yachts, from the little ports in Carry-Le-Rouet and Cassis to the bigger moors of Saint-Trop and Monaco… *sigh* The region is filled with these gorgeous modes of transport.
Art is literally everywhere
From city installations to funky museums and exhibitions in wineries, Côte d’Azur can guarantee a feast for the eyes when it comes to art. Everyone here seems to be an artist of some sort, and there is a lot of beauty to draw inspiration from.
The pleasurable drinking
I say this with a warning to drink in moderation.
Which I suppose can be hard in the South of France because 1) rosé is the best in the world, 2) it’s cheap, and 3) it’s refreshing ala piscine (ie avec glaçons).
But even non-alcoholic drinks here are fantastic, and they’re definitely sociable.
But of course, you’re better off with bubbly.
Because what is life without something beautiful to look at?
See? There’s a lot more to love.
My love for the Côte d’Azur continues to grow. Last time I left, it was rather emotional. It felt like I was leaving a place where I felt I really belonged.
But what I mega-love about this place? It loves you back. Look beyond all the glitter and you’d see that the Côte d’Azur is a fantastic place to relish things you take for granted. And giving you joy that’s less romanticised. Like ice cream dripping on your foreams as you stroll by a port. Or swimming in waters and exploring rock formations below. Or tasting a freshly picked ripe tomato. Or knowing how history shaped a sense of the world.
Or knowing how it can shape you.