Southern France and Côte d’Azur: Food, Drinks, and Sites

by Victoria on November 9, 2013

Southern France, Côte d'Azur, French Riviera

After thinking I would only be staying put in the South of France for maybe a week, in a small village called Mouans Sartoux, near Cannes, I ended up in the Cote d’Azur for almost three weeks. I split my time between there and having an apartment right in Place Garibaldi in the city of Nice. In the end, I’ve learned that it will definitely be a place I would love to return to – not just for the food, but all the magnificent scenery and romantic and relaxing vibe of the entire area.

While there, I had a car rental when living a little more inland on a hillside, so I managed to explore a variety of quaint and beautiful historical towns while also getting the chance to be in the city later on. It was a perfect blend of everything I could see in the time there. As a result, I’ve been able to cull together this Southern France travel map which has a little bit of everything, depending on what type of traveler you may be.

And again, you can open the larger map itself to see all the details, websites, and locations, but I’ve also summarized everything below to make it a bit easier to see an overview.  If you’d like to see what I’m up to as I travel around in future, follow me on Twitter,  Instagram, or Tumblr.

Restaurants, Drinks, Cafes and Gelato!

 

Le Goeland (Cannes) Not only a restaurant, but also a place where you can find beach chairs and parasols to relax for the day, from 10 Euros in low season per person, to 13 in high season. The menu seems to change daily and prices are reasonable in comparison with the other spots lining the beachfront of La Croissette and the food isn’t bad.
Le Cadran Solaire A fantastic little restaurant with excellent service and a great 23 Euro 3 course lunch menu that changes daily.
Le Caruso A cute little very friendly restaurant in St Paul de Vence. Quiet area of the village, so it’s not as busy as the other options, but the food is delicious!
Clovis A great little one Michelin star restaurant in Tourrettes sur Loup. I had their fixed price lunch menu for 22 Euros, which included a main plate, dessert, and a coffee or tea. The wild boar was absolutely delicious, and the service was excellent. I managed to walk in easily since it’s off season, but reservations are probably required generally speaking – it was still almost full at the end of the lunch time opening hours.
Fenocchio A popular gelato spot in the old village area of Nice. There are actually a few different locations that can be found nearby. Many flavours!
Oui, Gelato I ended up at this gelato place after looking at reviews for Crema di Gelato on Trip Advisor, and it turns out it has now been replaced by Oui, Gelato! This was fairly good gelato as well, but I would say Fenocchio’s was more flavourful.
Arlequin Gelati Italiani This gelato place is supposed to be the best in Nice, but it closes seasonally, and I just missed the last opening day in October – it’ll be closed until the holiday season in December, and then not again until high season. Sad I couldn’t try it for myself!
G-Square A great little restaurant in Place Garibaldi. Very friendly service, and delicious food. If the surrounding restaurants in the small old village streets are too busy with tourists for you, this is a very, very welcome relief.
Oliviera Another restaurant which I’m extremely sad about in terms of not being able to visit during my time in Nice. They are closed this fall for their annual vacation to select their 2014 crop from October 20-November 25. Terrible timing on my part, based on everything I’ve heard about this place! Was number 1 on my list as well…I’ll just have to come back!
Amorino Can you tell I went on a bit of a gelato tear before leaving Europe? The selection was a little smaller here than the others, but the Hazelnut ice cream was creamy and delicious. The fruit flavours also looked amazing, but I’ll have to go back again to try them another time. They also had a small outdoor seating area to take in your coffee and dessert.
Acchiardo Great local restaurant that has been in the family for several generations. Very meat-based menu, with house made pastas as well. The eye candy is also not so bad itself – great gene pool! 😛
La Petite Maison A fantastic high end French restaurant near the Opera in Nice. Try the large tasting menu of 10 dishes for 60 Euro pp if you have the appetite. I especially loved the tomato and bufala mozzarella and the artichoke salad. The food is delicious but the service is a bit strange – helps to be with someone French and just go for the food!
La Taverne d’Antan à Eze A nice casual lunch spot for pizza and pasta, while taking a day to explore the Eze hillside.
Atelier du Glacier (L’) Gelato that’s made sur place in Monaco. Quite delicious, and friendly owners!
Pinocchio Ok, so I didn’t actually like this place, so this is more of a “don’t go here” warning, since it’s rated #5 of all the restaurants via TripAdvisor. I know hair in food happens, but it was on top of a really unappetizing looking plat du jour of rock hard swordfish, and I ended up sending it back and ordering the spaghetti vongole, hoping that the pasta dishes around me that looked good would save things. However, it had no flavour at all, and I was truly disappointed in this meal, moreso than any other restaurant I went to in all of France. Plus, instead of a carafe of regular water, they brought me an opened large bottle of 5 Euro water (when I already had wine). I should’ve clarified, but he actually just upsold me on it. In the end, I thought it was just a bit of a disaster. But maybe I just got unlucky.
Serain Cappa This little cafe and patisserie was delicious! The pain au chocolat may have been the best I had in all of France, and they had a great terrace for people watching over breakfast. Absolutely quality and good value formule.

 

Villages

 

Saint-Paul-de-Vence A darling little hillside village that has a variety of great restaurants, little stores, and spectacular views. I found it to be extremely busy towards the mid-afternoon, as I believe everyone started heading this way around then for dinner and after a day trip in the area. For a quieter time (at least in off season), aim to arrive a little earlier in the day, and have a nice lunch!
Gorges du Loup Take a drive along the winding roads to check out this hillside town. Make a day trip here, then Gourdon and Coursegoules to Vence and Saint Paul de Vence, or else go Gorges du Loup, Tourrettes sur Loup, and then Vence and Saint Paul de Vence. These are all great little villages to explore by foot.
Vence My stopover in Vence was quite short, as I was pulled over to look at the map on my iPhone and a cop thought I was trying to illegally park and wouldn’t leave me alone until I drove away (even though I was pulled over and not on the road at all). This looks like a bit of a larger village than the others in the area, and has a bit more shopping around.
Èze An absolutely stunning village just 20 minutes east of Nice along the coastline.  I never had the chance to get all the way down, but if you’re ambitious and have time for a hike, go down the Eze – Mer trail to the ocean (takes about an hour to get down, and then you have to walk all the way back up).
Monaco Spend a day walking through Old Monaco, checking out the Prince’s Palace, and all the yachts in the harbour. It wasn’t really all that great, to be honest, especially compared to all of the quaint hillside villages I also saw, but if you’ve got the time, you may as well stop by and hang out in the casinos for awhile (if that’s your thing).
Villefranche-sur-Mer A quaint village to explore by foot if you’re passing to Eze or Monaco to or from Nice. You’ll pass by if you take the car, train, or a bus, but stop if you can and walk around the beautiful waterfront.
Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat If you have the chance, head over to this village to check out the romantic views. Another stunning location.

 

Sites – Culture, Beaches, and Other Great Places

 

Place des Arcades, Valbonne Every Friday from 7:30-1:30 there is a huge market in Valbonne that takes up the whole area. Everything from fresh groceries to clothing and food are available for sale.
Plage de la Garoupe – Sentier du Littoral Trail There is an incredible 2.7 km+ hike / walk along the coastline that starts from here. Park in the lot, and then follow the signs SW to the start of the trail. Steps take you over a magnificent coastline and if it’s not rainy, continue on the beachfront as far as possible, until you hit a little public beach cove that’s quiet and stunning (at least in October), called Anse de L’argent Faux, where you can go for a swim and a snorkel. Villa Eileen Rock was closed when I passed by, but apparently it’s a place to visit if you can catch it during opening hours.
Anse de l’Argent Faux An incredible little beach cove that you can walk to at the end point from Sentier du Littoral, right before seeing the entrace to Villa Eileen Rock. Perfect place to have a picnic, read a book, and go for a swim and snorkel.
Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins This great little museum costs 12 Euros as entrance fee, and has 4 floors of Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman exhibits, and the largest private armoury collection in the world. I love smaller museums as they are much more intimate (not to mention quiet), and this one didn’t disappoint. Go check it out if you’re into art and history and will be passing through the village of Mougins. Picasso, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Dali, and many more are featured (as Picasso lived out the end of his days in Mougins).
Musée de la Photographie Want to see more about Picasso? There are many photographs of him here, taken by Anton Villers, along with some of Villers’ collection. Even better? Entrance is free.
Place Garibaldi A great square for people watching and decently priced cafes and restaurants with very reasonable happy hours. There are often markets set up on weekends in the square.
Port Head on over to the port to catch a ferry over to Monaco, or else just to wander and drool over the amazing yachts.
Castel Plage A quiet rocky beach at the end of the strip before the start of the busier Promenade d’Anglais. I loved walking around the port and then to this area in the mornings to sit and relax and read in the peace and quiet.
Montée du Château (Castle Hill) A spectacular walk up several steps from many sides will take you up Castle Hill, to parks, scenic panoramic viewpoints, a cascade waterfall, and places for kids to while away a sunny day. Great to go just before sunset to check out all of the bays in sight.
Musée Marc Chagall A great museum for a rainy day, if it happens while you’re there. Small and unique, learn all about Marc Chagall and his biblical works via the audio guide (just need to leave a piece of ID behind as a deposit). Entry fee is 9 euros. Non-flash photography allowed. Spend about 1.5 hours here.
Mont Boron Take a drive up the hill to the protected park land, where you can hike and take a look over the city at the stunning panoramic views. It’s also fantastic at night, watching the beautiful city lights below.
Le Jardin Exotique It costs 6 Euros to enter this beautiful garden, landscaped with water features, loungers, cacti and other plants, statues, and most importantly? A phenomenal view over the ocean and villages below. Definitely worth the entry fee.
Chemin Frédéric Nietzsche There is an hour long pathway from the Vieux Eze down to Eze Bord du Mer (on the ocean). It’s got quite a few steps and I would recommend doing it when it’s not too hot out, with water. Although I didn’t get all the way down the path with my friend (we had no idea how far it was going to be when we started out), it ends up along a bus stop route where you can head to Nice or Monaco, so it’s also possible to drive to the ocean and do it the easy way, unless you’re traveling by bus and want to do it one way as an alternative.
Prince’s Palace of Monaco If you head into Monaco, walk around the palace and make sure to get there just before noon (11:45 to get a better view), so you can watch the changing of the guards.
Monte Carlo Casino Whether you want to do a little gambling or have some drinks, check out this opulent casino while you’re in Monaco.
Hotel Fairmont Monte Carlo Head to the lounge in the Fairmont for an aperitif with live music, with a stunning view overlooking the water.

And now? I am sadly (and happily) heading back to Asia – Bangkok, Thailand, after an insanely magical 2 months in Italy and France. I’ll be back to Europe hopefully next spring to explore more of the continent – perhaps Turkey, Spain, and London & Cambridge. Plus, it would be amazing to return to Southern France to check out a little more of the area, from Saint Tropez and other coastal towns west of Cannes.

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