Two scenic train rides from Nice into its alpine back country are on the itinerary of most Riviera visits: the Train des Merveilles (to Tende near the Italian frontier) and the Train des Pignes (to Digne-les-Bains in the northwest). Ticking off the Train des Merveilles from our own travel schedule was one of the first things we did on the Riviera – we had not even moved for good in the area yet
… To Entrevaux, Take the Train des Pignes in the Riviera
Gardens are to nature what fictional stories are to real life. They are carefully plotted, laid out to amuse and to entertain, and they do not try to conceal that everything you see has been put there for a reason. Gardens are highly artificial, but holding that against them is like going to the theatre and complaining that everything was, well, a bit stagey.
This does not mean that all gardens
… What Story Does the Serre de La Madone Garden Tell?
Last week, I told you about the bus company Zest and its daily tours from Menton into the arrière pays, the French Riviera’s mountainous back country. Of these altogether ten different day trips, most are going to places that also are, in principle, available on Zest’s ordinary lines.
The problem is that the schedules of these “ordinary lines” (that often run no more than twice day) are mainly arranged
… The Most Storied Backcountry Village of the French Riviera
When you want to go hiking on the French Riviera, there are good reasons for preferring either the coast or the back country, the mountainous arrière pays
One possible reason for going one way or the other is undoubtedly the right psychological “match” between hiker and route.
The coast at its best is friendly and open, but can also be loud, brash and more than a little vulgar. The
… Go Hiking on the French Riviera and its Back Country
Why would you want to go into a public park on the French Riviera when nature in its untamed variety – more coastal walks and mountain hikes than you could possibly pack into a long holiday – is only ever a bus ride away?
On most days, admittedly, any argument in favour of a trip to the public park will indeed seem a trifle weak, but there are also circumstances under which it
… How to Spend the Hours Before Your Flight from Nice
Grasse, as Joe Namath very nearly said, is not for visiting, it’s for smoking. And you’d be surprised how many locals share this opinion, at least the first half of it: that your time would be better spent going somewhere else (not to put too fine a point on it.)
Nice-Matin, our local rag, recently dedicated a photo spread to the refutation of this very idea that Grasse is ugly, that there is
… Do You Agree that Grasse is for Inhaling?
What Made Grasse Famous Has Made a Smell-O-Rama Convert Out Of Me Few people have ever regretted that Hollywood failed to further evolve its 1950s format of Smell-O-Rama which allowed the movie houses to pipe in scents for the purpose of highlighting the cinematic narrative.
Full disclosure: I have always been one of those Smell-O-Rama skeptics – until last weekend, that is, when we visited the garden of scents, the Musée Internationale de
… Sniff Your Way to the Garden of Scents
Villeneuve-Loubet is an attractive and charming little village, perhaps not the most spectacularly beautiful in the French Riviera region but one of the most alluring. This may have to do with the fact that it is located a little off the beaten track and has therefore been allowed to preserve its Provencal character more than most.
It is a place where the barber and the baker stop each other
… So You Want Off the Beaten Path But Charming
Oman, Qatar and San Marino are, officially, the least green countries in the world. In these three states – and in the territory of Greenland (clearly a case for the Trades Descriptions Act) – forests make up exactly 0.0 % of the surface area: none of them have any woodlands at all. But what about Monaco?
We go to Monaco fairly regularly, and if there are any forests over
… In Search of the Hidden Gardens of Monaco
Once they were giants – Breil and the Roya River From the train, Breil-sur-Roya looks incongruously large and imposing, with its tree lined riverside avenue and two large churches in the centre of town.
Located in that part of the border country between France and Italy that is characterized by perched hilltop villages and their nervous huddles of buildings, Breil comes across not only as much bigger but also as much bolder, saying
… A Sporty Hike on the Hilltop Backcountry of the French Riviera