The Côte d’Azur, also known as the French Riviera, runs from the Italian border in the east to Théoule-sur-Mer in the west. Until the late 18th century this cosmopolitan stretch of coastline was little more than a string of quiet fishing villages, but today it is renowned for its glamorous lifestyle, the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and miles of white sands. Visiting out of season is the best way to experience its delights without having to contend with throngs of tourists and the fierce summer heat.
A weekend holiday in Cannes
During autumn consider a weekend Côte d’Azur holiday to Cannes: This archetypal French Riviera city is one of its most exclusive locations, and remains balmy into November. Cannes’ past and present sit side by side throughout the city: In the Old Harbour brightly coloured fishing boats nestle amongst luxury yachts, and the 19th century Marché Forville is metres away from contemporary fine dining restaurants on rue Louis Blanc. For lunch, stop off at La Colombe d’Or: Matisse, Miró and Picasso all used to frequent the hotel and restaurant, and it still displays a collection of their works. Stroll down to La Palme d’Or for dinner on the fashionable coastal boulevard, La Croisette. The two Michelin-starred restaurant has an Art Deco interior with views across the glittering Mediterranean Sea, and serves delicious delicacies including salade de pigeonneau.
La Croisette & Le Soleil
Many of Cannes’ most high-end boutiques are clustered around La Croisette, including those of Parisian fashion houses such as Chanel, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. The boulevard is also lined with luxury jewellers such as Chopard and Cartier, making this an ideal destination for serious shoppers. As well as its numerous clothing stores, this area of Cannes also has several well-known patisseries. Jean-Luc Pelé’s sweet and salted macaroons are particularly popular, as are Jérôme De Oliveira’s beautifully presented petit fours.
In autumn, the weather is still clement enough for sunbathing on Cannes’ white sandy beaches, including those on the tranquil Île Sainte-Marguerite. Cannes is also well-placed for taking day trips to some of the highlights along the French Riviera, such as Monte Carlo, Antibes and Saint-Tropez. An open-top road trip along one of the three coastal roads will reward you with breathtaking ocean view: The Grande Corniche has been hailed as “the most romantic road in the world”.
Nice, the French Riviera’s capital, lies twenty miles east of Cannes. It first became popular with affluent British travellers at the turn of the last century, and retains much of its original appeal and prosperity today. One of the main attractions in the old town district of Vieux Nice is the Cours Saleya Marché aux Fleurs, where bouquets of freshly cut flowers fill the square. A further half hour’s drive inland will take you to the medieval commune of Saint-Paul de Vence, where visitors can join the annual grape harvest at one of the local vineyards, before dining at the 16th century Le Saint-Paul restaurant.