South of France

April 2012

To start with some intro first, this semester I changed my lifespace, moving from Croatia to France until the summer via Erasmus student exchange program. So, while spending a semester here I decided to explore PACA (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur) area. It consists of the former French province of Provence, the former papal territory of Avignon, the former Sardinian-Piedmontese county of Nice (French Riviera), and the southeastern part of the former French province of Dauphiné (French Alps).

This will mostly be used for me as a reminder for places waiting to be discovered in upcoming months, but I hope it might also be helpful for other people trying to build their itinerary for their trips in this part of Europe. As I’ve been here for a month already, here are some interesting spots which I think should be visited or which I already visited:

Antibes

There is the great sea view from La Garoupe, a lot of interesting celebrity villas of Cap d’Antibes ending with the ramparts of Antibes. Discover the Old Town and Picasso Museum. A lot of multi-million dollar mega-yachts in Billionaire’s Quay, overlooked by the 15th century Fort Vauban.

Cannes

City of festivals, fireworks and film stars, stop at the Film Festival Palace to see the stars handprints. Probably the most noticable sight in Cannes is Croisette Boulevard which stretches along the beachfront and is home to exclusive shops and hotels. Visit church Notre Dame and fort Le Souguet.

Juan Les Pins

A small city popular in summer, with the international jet-set, casino, nightclubs and sandy beaches. Juan les Pins had its glorious days during the twenties when American people brought here a certain way of life made of fun and enjoying sandy beaches. All Europe youth in search of fun and well known American stars such as Frank Jay Gould, or Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald used to go to here. In 1960, the Jazz Festival of Juan les Pins was launched making it the European New Orleans. All the big stars came and today the Jazz festival is held every July.

St. Tropez

Luxury yachts, fashion boutiques, terrace cafes… There is also Port Grimaud, known as “Little Venice”, with its beautiful canals, bridges, boutiques and charming houses. Follow the back streets to the old fishermen’s beach where you can dine very well for a sensible price at La Ponche, the original fishermen’s bar where Picasso used to sit and watch the bay.

Grasse

World capital of the perfume industry. Visit tradional perfumery and get to know the process of making exceptional perfumes.

Saint Paul de Vence

A village which is situated on a small hill and well known for its cobblestone streets and chic art galleries. It is the second-most visited village in France and a good place to broaden your knowledge of Impressionist and contemporary art.

Nice

Visit the famous Promenade des Anglais, then Massena square, the main square of the city and gathering place for many Nice citizens. Visit the luxury quartier Cimiez, in this area there are Museum Matisse and the ruins of Cemenelum. The city is known for its spectacular baroque architecture. Visit Cours Saleya, traditional square, with its daily flower market. Have a view over the Bay of Angels and The Old Town from La Colline du Chateau.

Monaco

Known as the most glamorous country in the world. Take a tour of Old City, palace Grimaldi and Saint Nicholas Cathedral. Monte Carlo is one of the most exclusive summer resorts in the world. Drive through La Condamine, over the starting lines for F1 World Rally Championship, then by dock filled with luxury yachts, until reaching the well known Garnier casino and then walk in the centre of principality. Visit the gardens of St. Martin.

Menton

Drive through the famous road Moyenne Corniche with beautiful scenery until reaching Menton, one of the most popular summer resorts of French Riviera. Walk on the promenade until reaching St. Michel, an impressive baroque church.

Aix-en-Provance

Historically main city of this region, this is the city often referred to as the city of a thousand fountains. There is the Deux Garçons, the most famous brasserie (restaurant) in Aix which has been frequented by the likes of Paul Cézanne, Émile Zola and Ernest Hemingway.

Marseille

There is much to say about a city which is second by size in France, dating over 2500 years. A seaport city with the balance of tradition and modernity, nature and culture. Le Panier is a historical quarter consisting of sloping streets and lanes flanked with terraced houses. There are a lot of shops selling traditional products such as scented soaps, biscuits, chocolates and pastis, the quintessential Provençal drink. There are a few museums worth visiting in Centre de la Vieille Charité. The most picturesque part of town, the Vieux Port (Old Port) is crammed with fishing boats, yachts and tourists. For a bird’s-eye view of the city and its terracotta roofs there is Basilica Lady of the Guard atop the hill La Garde. There are quite a few beaches in Marseille like the popular Plage des Catalans.

Avignon

Go to Châteauneuf du Pape, visit the vinery, degustation of well kept wines which filled the papal cellar and drive by the Luberon plateau covered with lavender fields. Situated in the heart of old Provance it was historically a summer resort of french and british cultural elite.

Arles

Vincent van Gogh arrived here in 1888. He was fascinated by the Provençal landscapes, producing over 300 paintings and drawings during his time in Arles. However, van Gogh’s mental health deteriorated and he became alarmingly eccentric which resulted in two stays in the Old Hospital of Arles. The concerned Arlesians circulated a petition the following February demanding that van Gogh be confined, so a year later he took the hint and left for the Saint-Paul asylum at nearby Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. City is also well know for its important remains of Roman times.

Saint Rémy de Provence

Visit the city which has the psychiatric center at Saint Paul monastery, where Van Gogh was cured two times and where he painted over hundred of his famous pictures.

Also visit a few nearby places which are not in PACA region but are very near: Montpellier, Nîmes, island Corsica.