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heidi’s english bookshop

    Places & Spaces Whilst Away

    la côte d’azur

    June 15, 2012

    Sometimes, just sometimes, everything comes together and voila, you have the perfect trip. This was one of those times……

    Was it the weather? For sure!!! Was it the people, the food, the accommodation? Of course. But it was more, it was the simplicity of just ‘being’ and just appreciating every moment of the beauty that surrounded me. Nothing else!

    I’ve been visiting the south of france on a regular basis for over 20 years so there is not much i haven’t seen or done. I have had entire beach holidays with friends, stayed in villas over summer breaks, visited family and gone for business trips. I’ve eaten in the most fashionable restaurants, stayed in the best hotels and done st.tropez, monaco, cannes film festivals and the likes. In short, i’ve done the french riviera thing, the glamorous side of the côte’d’azur. Yet what seems to get right to my soul is the simplicity with which my more recent trips have been filled. It’s the combination of inner contentment with having worked out what is important to me and what really matters. That, my friends, is ‘enjoying the simple things’, drinking pure water, eating fresh grilled fish by the harbour, driving down the coastal road to various places and enjoying the beauty of nature.

    The cote d’azur is my miami, my caribbean, my paradise. 90 minutes flight from london and you’re transported into a world of calm, relaxation, a place where i’m always overcome with how amazing the air is, how much better my skin feels and how i love to go there to re-charge my batteries.

    It’s the first time i’ve been since i started blogging at the beginning of january and maybe this is another reason this trip was so perfect. I felt that my virtual family was there with me and that i would come back and be able to share my photos with you. I think that made it extra special.

    In deciding how to write this post, i thought it might be fun to take a little tour down one part of the coast. I’m not going into great details on each stop as this post would end up being far too long. It’s meant to give you an impression of the region, my little favourite haunts and be visually stimulating. Our tour starts off in antibes, which lies between cannes and nice and we’ll end up in cap d’ail, just before monte carlo. Of course, we are taking the coastal road all along to really benefit from the beauty of the region.

    The major attractions of antibes are its history, climate, art, beaches and yachting. The sandy beaches of antibes are completely manmade. It has the largest yacht marina on the côte d’azur, built in the 1960s on the site of a roman harbour. The chateau grimaldi – the old fortress, today incorporates a picasso museum, a must visit. Beyond all of this, antibes has a massive ex-pat community and you’re never far away from english speaking folks. To illustrate, see below heidi’s english bookshop. It’s an absolute institution and people travel from all over the region to come and buy books. I love antibes for it’s food market, it’s intimate atmosphere and for its quirkiness.

    On the way from antibes to nice, some 20 km, you’ll pass a number of smaller places. One such place is villeneuve-loubet. It lies at the mouth of the loub river and i often stop just to go down the path to the river and greet the ducks. Take a look at the way the inhabitants park their mode of transport outside their houses. Not bad eh?

    Next stop on our map is nice. There is so much to say about nice. It is where i will always stay for at least a couple of days and take in all the various aspects of the bits i love. You cannot go to nice without visting the old town, without checking out the daily food and flower market, without doing a spot of shopping and cruising down the promenade des anglais. It’s the fifth most populated city in france and i would happily spend 3 months in the winter there. I have my favourite shops, (there’s a post coming on one of them) favourite places to eat and i use it as a hub to get to everywhere i want to go. Visually, i love the various architecture of the buildings in their different colours, the habour and those glorious views of sea and mountains. I can never get enough of nice and will always return and discover more.

    To go from nice towards monte carlo, menton, on the italian border or beyond there are various routes to take. Of course, you can choose the motorway. Why would you if you could use the famous corniche. I go on about people trying to get to to destinations but a route can be a destination too. The corniche is in reality three roads. You have the basse corniche, the coastal road i’m about to take you on and my personal favourite. The sea and alps views are truly breathtaking and always without fail make me gasp in astonishmsnt. Then there’s the moyenne corniche, the mid-altitude one and of course there’s the grand corniche, the most famous and romantic one (according to all the films). The choice is yours and you won’t be disappointed by any of them. The difference is the altitude between sea and sky and your preference. There is a phletora of beauty to discover on each route and my only advise is to try and avoid rush hour or you might find that all the romance has magically evaporated:)

    Let’s take a little stop in villefranche sur mer. Here you have the perfect place for a spot of lunch, one of my absolute favourites in the côte d’azur. It is rare that you can sit in an habour and enjoy a casual lunch. Most quayside restaurants are tourist attractions and charge accordingly. Not here. In fact, it’s a secret spot and you won’t find any tourists. It’s mainly locals and people like me who will travel there as a destination. It’s casual, informal and the most tranquil spot. You will even see birds snogging!

    Our last stop in this whistlestop tour is cap d’ail, just outside monte carlo. Here you’ll find the best rotisserie chicken, my favourite private beach and gorgeous properties.

    Phew, back in london and i’m freezing. I have had the best of times and hope to have wet your appetite for a little trip to this gorgeous part of the world. I will certainly return in the next few months and as they say: à la prochaine!