Riviera - Cote d'Azur
LANDSCAPE: The Côte d'Azur is officially named the Alpes Maritimes department, but is commonly referred to as the "French Riviera". Legendary cities and towns whose fame has spread around the world include Cannes, Antibes, Nice, Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat, Villefranche-sur-Mer. It is a unique region of beauty and elegance where the living is good all year round. In this highly contrasting region, the mountains are never very far from the sea; regional traditions and international cultural events go hand in hand; and ancient villages stand next to illustrious palaces. The Riviera is all this and more: museums, carnivals, colourful markets, exciting casinos, dazzling beaches and chic shops. All are unique and unforgettable Riviera experiences.
PRIME ATTRACTIONS: For art-lovers there are plenty of superb museums, including Matisse and Chagall in Nice, Picasso in Antibes, contemporary art in St-Paul-de Vence and Renoir's house in Cagnes. Follow in the footsteps of legendary celebrities and discover St. Tropez's harbour, intimate squares, pastel-painted houses and narrow medieval streets. Lavender is not the only scent of the area, as you will find out if you take a tour through one of the many perfumeries in the town of Grasse.
FOOD & WINE: The local 'cuisine of the sun' has a strong Italian flavour, based on fragrant olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and herbs. Pissaledière is pizza-like onion tart and a local specialty; other dishes include salade niçoise and bouillabaisse, a robust garlic, herb and wine-flavoured fish soup or stew. The rosé wines are pleasant and fruity, and the white wines are quite dry and full of flavour.
HISTORY: Following the Greek colonisation, the Romans took over in the 1st century BC and built the Trophy at La Turbie, a great port at Fréjus. In the Middle Ages much of this area belonged to the Grimaldis, when the threat of pirates forced the building of a magnificent array of walled villages perched on crags and cliffs. When Catherine de Medici became queen of France in 1533 she introduced scented gloves, inspiring Grasse, a town of glovemakers, to learn the art of distilling perfumes. Today the gloves only survive on the town's Arms, while Grasse's 30 parfumeries lead the world. Astonishingly it takes 900,000 rose buds for a kilo of rose essence and 150 pounds of lavender per pound of oil.
ACTIVITIES: Endless sporting facilities abound - boating, golf, tennis, water-skiing, jet-skiing and deep-sea diving are all available. There are also many beautiful walking and riding paths. Most villages have a pétanque ground under the plane trees. Take time to enjoy the pleasures of the water sports and a game of golf.
CLIMATE: Renowned for its long hot summers, the region enjoys a pleasant warm climate throughout the year. At high altitudes, snow and frosts in winter are not unusual.
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