Provence is luxuriously located in south-eastern France and next to the Mediterranean Sea. It has always been an inspiration to artists (Picasso, Matisse, van Gogh), a playground for the rich (Cannes Film Festival, St Tropez, Monte Carlo), and home to the fortunate (they like to keep their privacy). With all its history, beauty, wine, warmth and sparkling sea, it’s no wonder that everyone in the world flocks here to tour the quaint cobblestoned villages, eat and drink, lie in the sun and swim in the sea, and drive the Corniche, the famed coastal road that winds along the cliffs.
West of Cannes, on a small promontory, St Tropez rises uphill from the docks via windy, cobbled streets. In the early twentieth century, St Tropez was an unassuming fishing village; these days it is a magnet for the international jetset. The offspring of European royalty, American millionaires, movie stars and singing sensations all love to come here to be seen on the yachts in the harbor. Luckily, the prettiness of the town maintains its integrity and a trip to St Tropez is more than just celebrity spotting and paparazzi dodging.
Monaco and Monte Carlo
At the far eastern end of the French Riviera is the world’s second smallest country Monaco. (Only the Vatican is smaller.) It is 0.78 sq miles (2 sq km) and has a population of 33,000 living in apartment buildings climbing the steep hills above the harbour of luxury yachts. The Grimaldi family has ruled Monaco since 1297 and Prince Albert II is the current monarch. It is surrounded by France and France defends Monaco should the need ever arise - which is unlikely unless anyone gets angry about their losses at the Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco’s major attraction. That, and the Grand Prix. And the royal palace where Princess Grace lived and the royal family still reside. Monte Carlo itself is actually only a suburb of Monaco, which is the capital city of Monaco the country – confused? Then go there and let it all become clear.
One of the most picturesque villages in the world has to be Eze, perched high on the cliffs above the Cote d’Azur. Pedestrian-only cobbled streets, stone houses, incredible views and, at the very top of the town, a cactus garden to calm you as you sit and gaze down along the coast towards Nice. Divine.
Not just coastal, inland Provence has landscapes, views, charming towns, food, wine and art. Saint Paul de Vence is a must-see town, filled with art galleries and art history. Don’t miss Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire. Then there’s Grasse, center of the world’s perfume industry. A treat for the senses: look, smell, taste. You’ll love it.
Just over the border into Italy are wonderful open-air markets where you can get out all your shopping frustration. Here the prices are lower than along the French Riviera but the goods are just as stylish. And of course, they’re Italian. How can you resist all those famous leather goods?
Good bases from which to explore Provence are Cannes, famous for its annual film festival in May, and Nice, famous for just being gorgeous. Both have long promenades along the beachfront and lovely beaches with sparkling, clear water – that azur blue sea which gives the region its name Cote d’Azur.
And when you’re done with your day of sightseeing, settle down for a glass of the local Pastis, the local liqueur (quite potent!) and a game of Petanque, the local version of bowls, said to have been introduced to the region by the Ancient Greeks, Romans or Egyptians.
Reply by Viator, May 2013
Doing what: Provence Countryside Small Group Day Trip
Great way to see the countryside of the French Riviera. Our tour guide Andreas was so professional and helpful, going above and beyond his role to make sure my trip was a memorable one.
It was a long day but well worth the time and the small group is best.
Everything we expected of this beautiful journey inland except for the chilly weather atop Gourdon high on the mountain so you didn't want to meander the streets without a fleece! Our guide was very accomodating. Grasse was a much bigger town than I expected so more time in St Paul de Vence would have been nice. Cannes worthy of a bit more time to explore but nothing special. This trip is great in terms of maximising sightseeing in limited time and without the hassle of driving windy roads.