world’s most upscale playground of the top movers and shakers, is
also a land of joie de vivre, discovers Inder Raj Ahluwalia
as he strolls along the French Riviera
in by the hills and the sea-face, Menton - the ‘hidden or secret’
Riviera - is trendy, chic and inundated with tourists all year round
the sun with its freshness, the Menton’s 316 annual cloudless days
and microclimate has spawned exotic gardens and plants
French Riviera has never been embarrassed by its fame. There are
many faces to the region. Monte Carlo with its upscale casinos,
quietly charming Grasse, ultra-fashionable Juan-Les-Pins, and trendy
Nice and Cannes with their glittering hotels and world-famous boulevards.
Twice blessed by nature, this little pocket of France features a
72-mile coastline, the famous headlands of Cap Martin and the Pointe
Croisette in Cannes, beautiful lakes at Allos, majestic forests
at Turini and Boreon, 150 historical villages, and over 300 annual
days of sunshine.
sojourn started in Nice, the capital of the Cote DAzur. Growing
in harmony with its beautiful surroundings, the town has become
the rendezvous of celebrities from around the world - the hunting
ground of the rich and famous.
time, the sunshine was a golden blessing, lighting up the snowy
Alpine peaks at one end of the town and the deep blue Mediterranean
at the other. We did the celebrated stroll along the Promenade des
Anglais, the worlds most famous sea-face boulevard, passing
chic boutiques, cafes and gleaming hotels, their white facades and
golden balconies now part of local legend and folklore. A charming
world unfolded in the Old Town, as we soaked up the charms of the
Cours Saleya, which has held on to its Greek character. Time
means nothing as one walks through flower, fruit and vegetable markets,
explores narrow streets, samples traditional cuisine, guzzles wine
at little taverns whose tables spill out on to the pavements, and
souvenir shops with little outlets bursting at the seams with little
mementos. This is a town for celebrations, and local festivities
peak at the Carnival with its colour, fun and pageantry. This famed
local event features beautiful floats, excited participants, and
an inimitable flower battle. Come evening, and Nice glitters. Besides
the famed Opera, there are soul music sessions, nightclubs with
a fairytale setting, roulette and baccarat at the casino, and horses
to be backed at night at the Hippodrome.
next day showed up a diverse facet of the Riviera - Cannes. We passed
low hills, deep blue sea, and luxurious villas with the proverbial
swimming pools. Dotting the harbour were hundreds of sailboats,
their tall masts etched across the skyline. Cannes is elegance personified.
A glittering parade of European archdukes, princes, kings and consorts
transformed the town into an enchanted domain studded with fabulous
villas and palaces. The result was a town unsurpassed in glamour.
Those glittering times of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant on location
with Alfred Hitchcock to shoot, To Catch a Thief, and
Elizabeth Taylor signing the visitors book as Mrs Hilton,
Mrs Todd, Mrs Eddie Fisher and Mrs Burton. And those tragic times
of Isadora Duncan, dancer of the veils, who was tragically strangled
to death by her own billowing scarf. The annual film-festival is
still among the worlds best and most glamourous. La Croisette
is still one of the most renowned promenades, and the old quarter
of Le Sugvet still watches over the sun and star-struck city.
day, another Riviera landmark. On the boundary of the French Riviera
and the Ligurian Alps, hemmed in by the hills and the sea-face,
Menton, the hidden or secret Riviera, is trendy, chic
and inundated with tourists all year round. Plants and fruits have
made Menton internationally famous. From the sweetness of an orange
to the sourness of a lemon, this is certainly the citrus fruit country.
Screening the sun with its freshness, the citys 316 annual
cloudless days and microclimate has spawned exotic gardens and plants.
The climate is also one major reason for the towns tourist
fame, the other being its quietness and quality of lemons. Yes,
is a town of gardens. From the Val Rahmeh botanical garden of exotic
plants, now part of the National Museum of Natural History, we got
what are arguably the best views in the Riviera. We moved on to
the Villa Maria Serena with its Napolean 11 architecture and tropical
plants. At Les Colombieres, the Mediterranean trees fill the air
with their fragrance among statues and arrangements created by Ferdinand
Bac. It was a long, but extremely pleasant morning.
rich heritage has placed Menton among Frances 120 Cities of
Art and History. The town bears the stamp of prestigious builders
making it the showcase for various architectural styles that fashioned
the secret Riviera.
its narrow streets that look down on the Mediterranean, giving way
to the sea-face with boats lining the quays, the Old Quarter turned
out to be a real delight. We strolled past little houses and glazed
tile-covered church towers, designed by Stephen Liegeard who invented
the very concept of the French Riviera. A brief stop at the Saint-Michel
Church, and we ended up at the famous sea-face landmark, the former
bastion (1636), which is today a museum dedicated to Jean Cocteau.
our rendezvous with the Riviera drew to an end, we could not help,
but fondly reminisce this playground of the worlds rich and
famous... indeed, the best place to be seen.
Nice has air connections with Paris and several other European cities.
Air France operates direct flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Paris,
and from there to Nice.
Out: The Riviera is a mariners paradise with some 27 ports,
24 yachting and boating clubs, over 50,000 boats and 14,000 berths.
While ports like Antibes are ultra-modern and famous for pleasure
yachting, older ports like Monaco, Cannes and Menton offer old-world
charm. Nice, Cannes and Monaco offer numerous theatres, operas,
ballets, hundreds of artistic extravaganzas, and Europes classiest
casinos. There are also watersports like sailing, diving, water-skiing
and windsurfing. And the nearby mountains enable one to enjoy the
pleasures of the sea and the joys of Alpine sports like downhill
racing, paragliding, mountain biking and hiking on the same day.
Fare: There is a wide choice of food, including vegetarian.
Nice has the maximum three-star restaurants per square km in Europe.
A meal for two at a standard restaurant costs from 30-50 Euros.
All the flair of French cooking and cuisine are brought home in
a gastronomical extravaganza. Complimenting standard fare like fish
soup, ravioli, dumplings and stuffed vegetables, are world-famous
local recipes like Pissaladiere (hors doeuvre),
Pan Bagnat, Ratatouille, Secca,
Tripes and Wild Beet Tart. Ballets,
the regions toast, having been classified as guaranteed
vintage in 1941, is the wine to choose here.
Radiating from famous boulevards and promenades like La Croisette
and Promenade des Anglais, are shining symbols of haute couture.
Chic shopping outlets in Nice, Cannes and Monaco sell top labels
like Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint-Laurent, Lanvin, Hermes and Chanel.
Grasse is the world capital of perfumes and offers competitive prices.