The French Riviera – The Cote ‘d Azur

Posted by admin in Property Letters, The South of France | January 12th 2005

The Cote d’ Azur stretches from Menton on the French / Italian border, through Monaco, Nice and Cannes to St Tropez in the West.

It can be covered is less than an hour and a half drive, end to end, on the A8 motorway.
It stretches from the beautiful Mediterranean to the mountains, a narrow strip of very special land protected from the vagaries of European weather by geography – namely the Alpes Maritime.

The climate is similar to that of Cape Town, minus the wind.

The history of the region goes back to ancient Greek times, Antibes and Sophia Antipolis being two examples of ancient Greek towns.
The Roman influence and ruins include Emperor Augusta’s “Trophee”, a soaring monument built at the ancient gateway to the Alps just above Monaco in La Turbie, and the Roman port at Frejus.
Mediaeval villages top many of the hills and mountains, and are wonderful to visit today, examples being Eze, St.Paul de Vence, Gorbio and Mougins.

Historically the region attracted some of the worlds most renowned artists; Cezanne, Degas, Monet, Renoir, Picasso. Their influence can still be felt.

Arguably the best food and wines in France are proudly served in even the most modest restaurants, while for connoisseurs the choice is greater than anyone could sample in a lifetime.

Year round some of the most beautiful and prestigious courses in Europe offer golf which is both affordable and within close proximity.
There are 15 major courses in the Cote d’ Azur, the most well known perhaps being the Royal Mougins Golf Club, Golf du Claus Amic, Golf du Chateaux de Taulane, and the Monte Carlo Golf Club.
Contrary to popular belief they are not all impossibly expensive, and all except one offer special rates and incentives at all times of the year.

It is not widely known that world renowned ski slopes like Isola 2000, Auron, and others are within an hour and a half drive of Cannes. During the season buses leave every morning from the Cannes City Hall (and return every afternoon), providing a terrific service to those who would rather not drive.

Yachts and boating.
From around the world people flock to the French Riviera to boat. Every imaginable type of craft is on view at one of many yacht basins up and down the coast, from the littlest club or pleasure boat to the world’s greatest sailing vessels, and power boats to make your eyes water. International Ports are at Nice and Antibes as well as Monaco of course, but the yacht basins in Cannes, St. Tropez, Juan le Pins and so many other charming seaside towns are a pleasure to visit, to hire from, to enjoy for what is on show, and even for a great meal. There is something for everyone, and boating is a way of life to so many.
Each year in September, the event simply not to be missed is the Salon Nautique De Cannes. Whether one is a connoisseur or simply curious it is one of the world’s great exhibitions of boats and boating technology and hardware and fascinating to visit. The Bay of Cannes and the Old Port is a picture with the most beautifully appointed vessels from all over the world displayed. A stroll down the docks and along the jetties, back and forth between the highly polished yachts with their ports of origin reading like a who’s who of the worlds most romantic ports (Barbados, Grand Cayman, Jersey, London, New York, Sydney, Dubai, Cape Town and many others) is wonderful after dinner.

The Rue d’Antibes in Cannes is a brand name in its own right, like the Champs Elysee. It must be the second most famous shopping street in France, and is home to the most wonderful fashion houses, perfume shops, art galleries, and home décor emporia. A wander down its 2 km. length from top to bottom is always a great experience for the shopping, or the people watching – and there is always the chance of seeing someone famous!
However a visit to the Marche Forville in Cannes on any morning of the week is a great experience too. It is the covered market place occupying a whole block at the foot of the old town known as Le Suquet. Six days a week it is open from very early until lunch time with an atmosphere unmatched anywhere I have ever been. Farm fresh vegetables of every type (some with spots on and irregular shapes, but flavours made in heaven), fruit and flowers, cheeses, meats, fish, honeys and home made conserves and jams, spices and exotics like ginger, dates, and Turkish Delight are all there to tempt us, and the prices are competitive. But the best bit (for the men at least) is the visit after the shopping to one of many little bars in the square that surrounds Marche Forville, tumbling out onto the pavement, for champagne (by the glass) and half or a dozen oysters opened at your table.
Shopping in Nice, Monaco, and in any of the towns of the Riviera is an equal pleasure, and has an allure that even the most anti-shopping men find hard to resist – it is so stylish and so different, the little bars and coffee and pastry shops are irresistible, and conveniently there seems to be one within striking distance of every ladies shoe shop.

I don’t have to tell you about the Casino de Monte Carlo in Monaco. It is the backbone of the Monegasque economy, and it was the brainchild of the current Prince Rainier’s father Albert to open Monaco up for gambling. It was a critical time as the bottom had fallen out of their centuries-old stranglehold on the Mediterranean olive trade, and the oldest ruling monarchy in the world needed to come up with a solution to their economic plight or perish. And what a solution Prince Albert came up with! Anyone who has not visited Monaco can have no concept of the incredible wealth and style of the place today. Gambling and show business is at its heart. The Monte Carlo Sporting Club & Casino is a second huge Casino, but also attracts some of the world’s biggest shows.
Up and down the Cote d’Azur are other fabulous Casinos, not the least of which is the Palm Beach Casino in Cannes, constructed in the roaring 1920’s and audacious in its unashamed opulence.
Also in Cannes one has the Carlton Casino Club and the Casino Croisette at the Palais des Festivals, home also to the famous Jimmyz Night Club.
In Menton the Casino Barriere; in Nice the Casino Ruhl; in Cagnes sur Mer the Casino Cagnes sur Mer; in Juan les Pins the Eden Beach Casino; in La Napoule…….and so it goes on.

The Riviera guards with jealousy its reputation as one of the safest places to be. It is not complacent and every town has good reason to be sure that it comes up to scratch, because the visitors require it. The people who live here are very aware that if they are lax about security, places such as Barcelona or the Costa del Sol are just waiting to absorb more visitors. Scandinavian people are the most numerous of the visitors to the Riviera, and they as a people demand the highest levels of security and safety, and it is simply a fact that they shun many destinations for reasons of poor security. They are a litmus test, and they vote with their feet – the Riviera has more Scandinavians living here than any other group of non-French, and that is because they feel safe here, day and night.

The clean environment is like security – necessary to attract the visitors that this coast needs to survive on. And the Riviera is clean because the class of people who come here demand it. Rubbish and waste are a rare sight because they are collected before dawn, seven days a week. The streets and pavements are washed, and the gardens are legendary for their beauty. Every town and city up and down the Riviera is justly proud, but Cannes must surely take the prize for the best of the best. Frogmen are out at first light swimming up and down the beaches and coast with spears to collect any piece of plastic, ice cream paper or other rubbish which may have found its way into the water, and putting it into the bag tied to their waist for disposal later. The beaches are spotless and sieved and raked each morning, the gardens are a picture of cleanliness and good taste, and it is fantastic to see the thousands and thousands of new flowers going in overnight at the onset of each new season – cyclamens, pansies…..and the shrubs and palms, mimosas and other flowering trees are tended to give the best.

Businesses from around the world choose to on the meet Cote d’ Azur, for all the reasons outlined above.
The best known example perhaps is the Cannes Film Festival which attracts 70 000 delegates each year. But Cannes also plays host to other massive congresses, such as the GSM (cell phone technology) conference (40 000 delegates), MIPIM (property), MIPCOM (communications), MIDEM (advertising) and many others.

Real Estate became sought after on the Cote d’ Azur when the Americans and the Russians recognized the wonders of the climate and the lifestyle more than a hundred years ago.
The Rothschild’s and their wealthy friends bought huge estates and built fabulous homes up and down the coast, the Russian aristocracy did the same.
The latter perished during the Russian revolution in their thousands, but their castles, villas and churches stand today as monuments, it could be said, to their excesses.
In the 1920’s and 30’s the British moved here in droves, and much of the development in Nice and the famous 9 km. ‘Promenade des Anglais’, at its heart, is testament to their influence on the region.

The Cote d’ Azur is the destination of choice for discerning individuals from Europe and around the world.

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