Tag Archives: French Riviera

Mission in Marseille

marseille_view_ssI felt like a decathlon athlete as I stepped off the train from Nice to Marseille. I had my most comfortable walking shoes on, a checklist of all the important sites to visit in my hand, and after a relaxing two and half hour ride, I was ready to tackle France’s second largest city. Life in this port was already hectic with buses and cars whizzing past me and what looked like hundreds of people occupying the sidewalks. Still I was ready to dive right in. I perused my inventory of important landmarks once more, carefully numbered so that I could travel from one to the next quickly. I stretched my calf muscles, adjusted my backpack, and took a quick swig from my water bottle. I had eight hours to conquer Marseille’s round-up of historical monuments and no time to waste. Continue reading

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Life’s A Beach in Nice

nice_beach_scene_ssIt is impossible to escape the beach life in Nice, France. Try as hard as I might, there is no getting away from it. The city practically falls into the seductive expanse of unusual turquoise liquid called the Mediterranean Sea which then stretches into infinity. At all times, at all hours of the day, the siren call of the sea is ever present. When I get tangled up in the array of rabbit hole alleys and winding streets, there is only one compass that guides me back out of the maze: the relentless ebb and flow of the water which tells me I am close to the beaches of Nice. The beaches themselves are not idyllic, unpeopled expanses of paradise. They are filled with an ever increasing army of vacationers, whose personal space upon the sand grows smaller and smaller each year. Here, upon the pebbly border between city and nature, the sounds of humanity are deepened and echoed in the raucous shrieks of gulls. Yet, this is the spot I keep returning to every morning and every evening, as if it were a lighthouse beacon without whose light I could not experience Nice. Continue reading

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Sandcastles in Cannes

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Every year this city earns its renown when the movie business comes to walk the red carpet, present their works, and hopes to win a little golden palm from the Cannes Film Festival. If I only visited Cannes during this time, I would have the impression that the French Riviera is dedicated to the super wealthy and their unusual way of life. The photographers are everywhere, it’s impossible to walk through streets because they are roped off, and improbable that I will get a seat at any of the restaurants near the beach. When not submerged in the madness of the film festival, Cannes is still a swanky town, but open to a more healthy mix of society. When not visiting during a festival, one of my favorite pastimes in Cannes is to take advantage of the tiny bit of free sandy beach at the Plage de la Croisette. On one side the beach offers me a spectacular view of the shining Mediterranean, while on the other I can admire the plush hotels and restaurants lining the street. While the rest of the Plage de la Croisette is filled with patrons of the wealthy hotels, my end, which is free, is occupied by local families wishing for some sun and warm water. As I float happily in the sea, I gaze back at the gleaming rows of wealthy stores and mansions, like the iconic Carlton Hotel, home to Grace Kelly and Cary Grant of “To Catch a Thief,” then to the more colorful mixture of babies, children, and their parents who have congregated on the bit of sand. They also are building hotels, mansions, and castles, but all made of sand. My portion of beach heaven reminds me that Cannes used to be a simple fishing village many centuries ago and I wonder how the locals feel about the luxurious turn this city has taken. They shrug their shoulders with a philosophical gleam in their eye and ask what’s not to like about a place where the sun shines for twelve hours during the summer months. I’m happy to follow their advice and discover that although the simple life has disappeared there’s still room for me to build my very own sandcastles in Cannes.

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Artists’ Paradise

There is a destination that has influenced masters of the canvas from Botticelli to Picasso. It is a place filled with light and shadow, open to simplicity, replete with glamour. A place where days can pass filled with the pleasure of doing nothing. From the Middle Ages, this destination has seduced and haunted some of the most renowned artists. Its subtle nuances and flaunting beauty has changed the world of art for generations. The place is the French Riviera. Want to learn more about how it affected artists from around the world and how they changed the place itself? Find out in “French Riviera: Artists’ Paradise.”

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