From Glamorous Cannes to Charming Ventimiglia: A 7-Day Journey Along the Stunning French Riviera

Written by: Rachel Vogeleisen

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Time to read 10 min

I seem to have a love, hate affair with the French Riviera. I was mesmerised by the place when I first stepped foot in Nice at nine years old. As a teenager, I dreamed of spending all my summers on the Riviera for some wild partying but could never afford the place. Finally, at 17, I had a bit of a glimpse of it. I went to St Tropez, camping on an unofficial site before getting robbed of all my cash. I can tell you the holiday went short, even though I managed to do some partying in St Tropez nightclubs, but that was it.

The years went by, and somehow, I had given up on it. But, especially with a young family, we discovered the French Riviera without the bling on the other side of the Mediterranean basin St Cyprien Plage close to Perpignan. It was the perfect place for a laid-back holiday with a young family.

It worked well until the kids outgrew the place and were after more glitz and glam. or something with more of a nightlife, I guess? I finally took my boys to the French Riviera for the first time when we travelled around France in 2011 and then for a week in Cannes in 2016. This was the year when I suggested returning to the beach in Cannes. I received huge smiles and excitement as feedback. Honestly, I did not know what to expect; August is probably the worst time to visit the French Riviera, but we managed well. I found a treasure trove of a place to stay in Cannes la Bocca, which is more known by the locals than the tourist crowds.

The Hotel we stayed in Veles Plage is an old residential house from the 19th century transformed into holiday flats; the secluded garden hides a swimming pool under the palm trees, and the beach was only 5 minutes away. In the evening, we used to walk to Cannes La Croisette for dinner along the beach. It was the perfect location to stay to avoid being overwhelmed by tourists and feeling like a local. Every morning I would walk to the bakery for the daily baked bread. The train station Cannes La Bocca (or le Bosquet) is only 5 minutes away, and we easily travelled by train to Nice and Monaco, we didn't even need a car.

No need to say they loved the place and all the bling that goes with it. But there is undoubtedly more to it than bling, and this is what I'm inviting you to do in this blog post. This time I decided to take my mum and my niece to where I had stayed in Cannes La Bocca, Velès Plage..

 

Day 1,4,6 - Cannes

 

Who hasn't heard about the Cannes Film Festival? Cannes is a mythical place just for that reason! And it is a legendary. The town looks more upmarket than Nice, and you can’t ignore the Belle Epoque Architecture of the Intercontinental Hotel and the Art Deco style of the Hotel Martinez on the Croisette. All the buildings in town look very elegant.

Several restaurants in town and along the beach will satisfy your taste buds. Like in The Restaurant Noisette , the cuisine inspiration is Italian and Mediterranean. You don't want to go to Cannes and eat a steak frites! Please, just don't. Instead, make sure you enjoy an al-Fresco Dinner at one of the beach restaurants (try Le Cabanon ) with a gorgeous view over the sea and sunset. It's an experience not to miss which will give you enough bliss for the winter months to come.

Cannes is one of those places that offers sandy beaches on the Riviera. Most of the beaches near the Croisette are private. So head off to the "plage du midi" to enjoy a public beach. There are many amenities along the beach where you can buy refreshments, light lunch and snacks.

Cannes is the perfect location to explore the Riviera East or West. From where we stayed in LaBocca, we walked to the train station and explored the other places by regional train. It's easy to book your ticket with the SNCF app. The trains run regularly to the town of Ventimiglia on the Italian borders.

Cannes La Croisette and Plage du Midi

Day 2 - Nice

 

I don't know why but each time I stroll on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, I think of Los Angeles. Nice, doesn't look anything like it, but the long boulevard with palm trees reminds me of Santa Monica. This is my favourite place in town. I just find it magical. Don't worry. There's more than the Prom (how the locals call it). Nice is the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes. I used to spot all 06 on number plates as a kid as I also wanted one on our car, meaning that the family was moving to Nice. It didn't happen!

Nice is the fifth largest city in France and belonged to the House of Savoy, the Kingdom of Sardinia and Piedmont, which became part of Italy. In 1860 Italy gave it back to France because France helped Italy fight the Austrians. 

You will undoubtedly notice the Italian influence while walking the old town and the Vieux port, spot the ochre-yellow and terracotta houses. When Nice became French, many new buildings were built in the Belle Epoque architecture style. This is reflected in the elegant white and cream buildings along the Promenade, the Cimiez area and the "Quartier des Musiciens". Nothing embodies this period more than the Hotel Negresco on the Promenade with its pink tiled dome and imposing art deco entrance. These buildings combine an Italian and classic influence to create grandeur tinged with Nostalgia. 

We arrived in Nice on the day of the Liberation of Nice on August 29th. People were walking in GI uniforms, jeeps and tanks where displayed on the Prom and the Place Massena. 

We headed for the old town before the market closed on the Cours Saleya, where they sell fruits, vegetables, and flowers. These traditional markets take place between Tuesday and Sunday from 6am to 1.30pm. 

We queued for 30 minutes for lunch at La Voglia, a traditional Italian restaurant on the Cours Saleya. Where we chose the plat du jour, which was seabass and ratatouille, perfect for someone on a low-carb diet! The crème caramel to share looked incredible even though I couldn't eat any!

After lunch, I head towards the Belland Tower at the end of the Promenade for a panoramic view. Unfortunately, the weather looked like thunderstorms were underway. Still, I was ready to climb the stairs for a beautiful panorama. 

Nice has a lot to offer, and being there just for one day didn't do it justice. I had missed going to the Vieux-port, where I spent some time as a kid when we were waiting to take the ferry across to Corsica. I would love to explore the cap area towards Villefranche a bit more as well. 

Nice France The Old Town

Day 3 - Monaco

 

Monaco is a rock with a building on every square metre. It’s impressive to watch when you travel by train further down towards the East, where you have a direct view over Monaco. Everything has been built up. Now I’m not asking you to avoid the place. You can’t miss the Monte-Carlo Casino featured in several James Bond movies.

Monte-Carlo is a new area where the Casino and all the modern buildings are located. Monaco is the place with the palace where you will find the older part of town called the Condamine. When you arrive by train, you can start off by walking to the casino, where if you’re lucky, you will spot a few luxurious cars and the famous Alain Ducasse Restaurant in the Hotel de Paris. The place looks like a real treat with a gorgeous terrace layered with tables covered in white pressed fabric table clothes and comfy chairs.

From there you can walk down to cross to the other side towards the Palace and the old town. During summertime you can spot people sunbathing and doing lanes in the famous seawater heated pool, at the “Stade Nautique Rainier III”.

On the way up to the palace, you will cross a pedestrian area with many restaurants in the rue Princesse Caroline. Be prepared for some steep uphill walking to the palace, the other option is to take a bus that will drop you off at the Jardin exotique you can then easily walk from there.

 

Day 5: Menton

It was the first time I had taken the train along the Coast this far. This was the most beautiful part of the journey, which let me uncover places like Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Eze-sur-Mer, Cap d'Ail, and Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. I had heard of Menton many times and didn't know what to expect. We first took a walk towards the promenade. The beach closest to the station had small stones. There are several beaches in Menton with private beach clubs and public access. We didn't wander too long in that area as we were heading to the old part of town. Menton is the most Italian town in France. The Italian influence is everywhere in the architecture, as in the colour of the buildings, painted ochre yellow and terracotta.

We had lunch close to the Marché couvert and took a stroll up to the Basilica St Michael. The view is gorgeous over the beach among the terracotta roofs , the yellow ochre and terracotta buildings. Walk your way along the narrow streets of the Medieval old town for the whole experience.

In Menton, there is also a botanical garden well worth the visit and many Belle Epoque Architecture buildings, which I found pretty intriguing. I wondered why these beautiful buildings were in town? It was all down to the train service, which opened in 1869. Several palaces were built in the Belle Époque style to welcome wealthy tourists. The most iconic are the Hôtel Impérial, the Winter Palace, the Grand Hôtel d'Orient (which are now holidays flats) and the Orangeraie, which was known under the name of Grand Hôtel de Venise.

There's a lot to uncover in Menton, and one day will not do it justice. The Garden in Menton dates from the 18th century. The English residents introduced tropical and subtropical species perfectly suited for the microclimate. The Roya Valley up in the mountains is well worth exploring to get an authentic feel of the region.

Menton the Old Town

Day 7: Ventimiglia Market

Taking the train to Italy was so easy. The final stop of the train we travelled on all week was Ventimiglia. It took us about 90 minutes to travel there across the beautiful Coast, having time to splurge our eyes on the resorts of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Roquebrune or Eze-sur-Mer during the journey.

As soon as we set foot in Italy, something was different. You could feel it in the air. Even so close to France.The atmosphere, the noise on the street, the chaos, the architecture had something unique . We basically knew we were in a different country. A country close to our hearts where we felt so much at home. Being of Italian origin, we feel like coming home each time we go there! This was no different.

I had heard of the famous Ventimiglia market I had wanted to go to for a long time. I remember hearing that many independent clothing shops would come and buy their collection from the market. I had set a very high expectation and was therefore quite disappointed. There's no secret with the price offered on the market, you could buy clothes for £10 you can't expect miracles especially after paying the material, the cost of labour and importing it. I suspect the people assembling the clothes must have been paid a pittance. I do not want to buy clothes that the man or woman who created them is paid so little they can hardly survive. I understand the cost of living crisis, but we could buy less for better quality to support the textile workforce.

Obviously, I was pretty disappointed by the clothing range. Everything is only one size, and most stands sell the same items. I was much more taken but the "Mercado de Fiori" in town. A kind of indoor market with an incredible range of fruits, vegetables and flowers. To be honest, I rather spend money on good food than on fast fashion.

Here you have a 7-day itinerary on the French Riviera. But, 7 days is definitely not enough. Next time I come back, I want to explore the other side of Cannes, with St Raphael, Fréjus, St Tropez and more. I would also love to go back to Menton and explore all the places we saw along the coast while travelling on the train. On our last night, we went to Restaurant Noisette  in Cannes where the lady owner (from Alsace) told us to visit the food market in San Remo, so another place to add to my list.

Visiting during the end of the summer holidays and taking the time to explore. I have fallen in love with the Riviera again.

Do you know what excursion or trip you'd like to take? If not, consider the French Riviera. With Cannes, Nice and Monaco all near one another, it's an excellent location for a family vacation, honeymoon or another such outing. Anything you could think of is within reach, making it a wonderland for tourists. So whether you want to shop in the boutique stores in Cannes, spend some time on the beach in Nice or explore Monte Carlo, it's all nearby and easily accessible. So if destination travel is on your mind and you're looking for some inspiration for your next trip, start by planning a visit to French Riviera!