With a trip to the Jardin Exotique, you always win Monaco mainly consists of concrete, and the few green spaces that you come across when exploring the streets of the principality all have an air of unrealness about them – as though the trees would all go up in a puff of smoke if you looked at them hard enough or, more likely, were revealed as cleverly conceived holograms when approached from the wrong angle. Once, when we checked a suspiciously lush lawn in the gardens opposite the casino, the “grass” turned out to be made from plastic fibres that had been glued to a rubber carpet: the green, green grass of foam.
This may be a tempting metaphor for the whole experience of modern-day Monaco, but the real story of the principality is not quite as simple as that. Monaco is not all false glitter and empty
Continue reading Breathless in Monaco
… and a reputation that owes everything to the world’s greatest artist of the 20th century Vallauris proudly calls itself “the world’s capital of ceramics”. But that is only half the story.
The more complete version goes something like this: for centuries, Vallauris had been the place where the inhabitants of the French Riviera came to buy their ceramic plates and pottery, and when the demand for hand-made, carefully crafted products dropped in the age of industrial manufacturing, the small town – located to the west of Antibes, about 3 km away from the coast – specialized on the artisanal end of the trade, becoming a regional centre for creative potters and earthenware producers.
This was not such a bad thing, particularly not when the alternative would have been to have no local trade or business at all, but in the light
Continue reading Vallauris: A Town With Feet of Clay …
Easy Hikes in the French Riviera What have the Romans ever done for the French Riviera? Not much, it appears. For our first proper walk of the year – one involving a forest, “big sky views” and mud under our feet – we picked a theatre of ancient local history.
You would be surprised how difficult it can be to find real “history” on the French Riviera. Don’t get me wrong: we have our share of castle ruins, baroque churches and aristocratic residences around here – this IS Europe, after all – but it is worth while remembering that the Grimaldis, the overlords of this stretch of land for centuries, came here as exiles, as the victims of Genovese power politics: the Riviera was their booby prize.
In fact, this region was poor for most of its history: which is why Ligurian
Continue reading Ancient History Between Cannes and Antibes
Our sadly incomplete collection of picturesque views from Cagnes-sur-Mer Many of the 20th century’s most famous painters spent some time – occasionally the most fruitful years of their lives – on the French Riviera. On good, sunny and clear days, of which there are many, the whole area looks like a painting, and there is practically not a single town along the coast which has not been immortalized in a work of art.
The local and provincial administrations are rightly proud of this fact, and reproductions have been put up in many of the places that inspired great and lesser artists alike, to commemorate the French Riviera on canvas in question as well as the attraction the entire area has always had for artists in search of “southern lights”.
Menton Bay – then and today
These reproductions are scattered throughout the area, and you do
Continue reading The French Riviera on Canvas
Easy Hikes in the French Riviera Something to do outdoors during the “rainy season” on the French Riviera Normally, we are spoilt by the weather in our part of the world, but for the past six weeks, it has been raining and raining. And just when it felt that the worst was finally over, somebody up there decided to throw the sluice gates open once again, and we found ourselves cooped up for yet another week.
Conditions were so atrocious that for much of November and early December, the littoral, the coastal path, was closed, while parts of the “back country”, the arrière pays in the hills, are still in a state of emergency. This, obviously, narrows down for us the possible choice of walks in the area quite considerably, even now that the sun is out again.
You may find yourself in a similar situation
Continue reading A Côte d’Azur Gem: Medieval Town Haut de Cagnes