With an abundance of posh resorts and sunshine, the French Riviera provides the ideal backdrop for an idyllic European retreat. Nice is a comparably inexpensive option as opposed to star-struck Cannes or lavish St. Tropez. Nice, France’s fifth-largest city, has a wide assortment of shopping and superb dining options.
Getting there: Fly into Nice Cote d’Azur Airport, which has service from all over Europe (including London’s Heathrow and Gatwick). Rapide Cote d’Azur (www.rca.tm.fr) provides safe and reliable bus service between the airport and the rest of the coast.
Staying there: The Splendid (www.splendidhotelnice.com/homepage.html) is a convenient boutique hotel a few blocks from Nice’s Promenade and train station. The rates are reasonable and offer a good bang for your buck.
Monaco: No trip to the French Riviera is complete without a day trip to the small principality of Monaco. Monte Carlo is a city known for fast cars, opulence and its world famous Grand Casino. The 22-minute scenic train ride from Nice only costs $5. For exploring the steep and congested streets of Monte Carlo, hail a cab. Tourists flock to the city's old quarter for a quick bite to eat and another notable attraction, The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco (www.oceano.mc/en).
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Out and about: For a backstage pass to the area, reserve a private guide with Kultours day tours (www.kultours.fr/pruk.html). A luxuriously appointed van complete with beverages and snacks ushers you around the beautiful countryside and coastlines. Another option is to have their private shuttle meet you at the airport and spend the day seeing breathtaking vistas. A roadside picnic adds charm and creates a memory that will last a lifetime.
One of the best shopping districts in picturesque Vieux Nice (”Old Nice”) is Cours Saleya, an epicenter for unique fashion emporiums and designer boutiques. You’ll also stumble on great dining opportunities and shoe-tapping street performers. Ferret out that one-of-a-kind art or antique selection at the area’s flea market.
Dining there: A Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest, and its cornerstone is extra virgin olive oil that features hints of pepper and ground cardamom. One of the best places to immerse yourself in fabulous recipes featuring this essential ingredient is the Oliviera Restaurant (http://oliviera.com/restaurant), in Old Nice. For gluten-free goodness, order the fresh chicken with vinegar-roasted peppers; another standout is their Mediterranean olive bread. At the Boulangerie Multari Bakery, enliven your senses with fresh-baked buttery croissants first thing in the morning. Besides breakfast, ready-made salads, sandwiches and bite-sized desserts are available. Seating is scare in the tiny place, so grab coffee-to-go and get your motor running. Boulangerie Multari has several bakeries peppered throughout the Cote d’Azur; odds are, you won't have trouble finding one.
Le Sentier du Littoral, Cap d’Antibes: Grab a cold beverage and experience the thrills of walking through rich vegetation on this legendary walking area. You’ll see nature at its most dramatic. Along the scenic walking route you will take in many species of sea birds and sparkling views the Mediterranean. Allow one to two hours – possibly longer.