It’s time to pack again, load the car, attach the camper, take the train or go by plane. Down south, where the sun shines and the blue of blues blinds your eyes. The French Riviera. The Côte d’Azur. One of the few privileged places left on Mother Earth. In other lands, not that far away, people shoot, bomb, murder, torture, rape and curse in the name of Allah, but here only peaceful nature, calm and serenity prevail in the name of sanity. Not that the rush in July-August to get here does not take its victims. It’s a bit like that baby turtle race to the sea. Some make it, others don’t and get tragically squashed on the highway. But once you are there, heaven awaits you.
Let’s start in Nice. How privileged its citizens are: all that splendid wealth of nature handed on a plate for free. Only take your swimsuit and an inflatable pad, take the bus and you’re on the beach.
This is how the beach looks like when nobody is there.
Or like this, still early in the day or a weekday when everybody is at work.
Or like this when it’s weekend!
Granted, I would feel more comfortable on Aruba’s or Bali’s sandy beaches, but don’t worry. Travel a bit farther west to the Lavandou, and you find the most delightful sandy beaches ever and a lot less crowded than in Nice. Let’s take a look at what borders on the beach of Nice: it’s the splendid Promenade des Anglais.
The Promenade was started in the early nineteenth century when Nice was still part of a fiefdom called “Sardaigne” and wealthy European aristocrats, especially British suffering from stiff bones and arthritis during their bitter winters, sought the soft climate of the Côte d’Azur to survive. Reportedly an entrepreneurial British reverend among them, named Lewis Way, launched a fundraising effort to finance the construction of a boardwalk along the coast that started in 1821 and was completed in 1824. When in 1860 France annexed Nice, the boardwalk was baptized “Promenade des Anglais”. In subsequent years, the Promenade was extended and its many brilliant villas along it turned into exclusive hotels, such as Negresco.
Now let’s take a side trip to Menton, taking the small coastal road a few miles to the East, past Monaco and near the border with Italy.
The coastal road along the beach in Menton.
On the way, a view over Monaco with a glimpse of the Royal Palace at the very end. Just imagine having that view of the Mediterranean at your disposal every day of your life. That’s why many hills along the coast are built to the knock with villas, apartments and mansions as well.
A glimpse of the Alpes Maritimes in Menton’s hinterland, streets characteristic for the Mediterranean towns.
As in Nice, the beach in Menton is graveled as well. Seagulls are waiting for a snack. I’m sure that in the USA they would have found tons of sand to cover it all. But here, nature is left to its natural course. In fact, the gravel (called “galets” in French) is naturally supplemented by the rivers flowing into the Mediterranean.
Off we go to the Eastern side of Nice: avoiding places like Cannes, Saint-Raphael and Saint Tropez that are too crowded. Two places we really liked: Théoule-sur-Mer and above all: a little village called Cavalière in the Lavandou where you can still enjoy the Mediterranean without feeling you are besieged by hordes of tourists and loud motor cycles.
In the back you can see the snow-topped Alpes Maritimes!
In Théoule, the beaches have soft nice sand and you can enjoy a hearty grilled Dorade at its restaurant if the chef is in a friendly mood. In our case he got mad at us because we took seat at a table laid for three, and we told him in plain French *#! and walked out on our way to Cavalière, where we did have our Dorade on a friendlier terrace.
Unparalleled Côte d’Azur. You may be far away from theater or the concert hall, but what you get in return is peace of mind (if you got the money.)
Yes, Cavalière, our favorite place, about two hours from Nice (if you take the highway A8), where the mountains descend graciously into the Mediterranean, offering you splendid little private beaches where you can feel like the wealthiest person in the world without having to be one. A hidden beach where you can stay almost by yourself. Of course, French women bathe always topless, what women in Africa do because they don’t have money to pay for a bra — back to nature. Our place to stay and never to leave.
Your dream house, for grabs!
Farewell, Cavalière…..our pearl of the Riviera.
The end of a “Nice” Côte d’Azur adventure.