The French Riviera
Read our Mini Guide to the French Riviera or follow these links for more info;
A Mini Guide to the French Riviera from Rhinocarhire.com
"The word ‘riviera’ means coastline and the French Riviera has 115km of it stretching from Toulon in the west to the Italian border in the east where it morphs into the Italian Riviera which then continues another 120km to La Spezia."
The name ‘French Riviera’ is only used by the British, with the region known as the Cote d’Azur to the French, coined by the author Stephen Liegeard in 1887, a transliteration from his home region of the Cote d’Or and it was the British who were responsible for the popularity of the region.
Until the start of the 18th century, the French Riviera was just a string of small fishing villages and market towns which serviced the agriculture of the region behind the coast but it had been inhabited for possibly a million years beforehand, since prehistoric times if the age of rough tools found in the region is to be believed. Later, in the Bronze Age, stone monuments called dolmens appeared accompanied by cave art and many more tools showing a thriving community.
The first civilisation we know of to tap the natural resources of the region were the Greeks who lived there in the 7th century BC and who set up the beginnings of the towns we know of as Antibes, Nice and Hyeres. The Roman Empire then took over where the Greeks left off and many of their influences and buildings still remain to this day.
Back to the 18th century and the time of the ‘Grand Tour’. Many returning nobles spread the word of the region’s healthy climate, healing springs and fresh food. Like a snowball, the Riviera’s popularity gained size and momentum and with the coming of the railway to the south coast, the ease of access led the likes of the Tsar of Russia, Queen Victoria and the then Prince of Wales, Edward VIII to spend time there. The Rothschild family built homes there and spend months each year in the resorts. The landscape, towns and in no small measure, the patronage of wealthy clients, lured artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Monet and Chagall whilst writers such as Somerset Maugham and Aldous Huxley gained inspiration from their surroundings.
Today, over 20% of the population aren’t French nationals and the towns of the 18th century have taken on the size of cities with Nice now having 350,000 people living there with nearly a million in the metropolitan area. The rich and famous still spend time there with Elton John and Brigitte Bardot having homes on the Cote d’Azur whilst over half of the world’s super yachts are moored in the marinas along the coast whilst it’s believed, 90% of super yachts will visit the French Riviera at least once in their lifetime.
The not so rich and famous come for the 300 days that the sun shines, the dozen or more golf courses, delicious Mediterranean food and the chance to rub shoulders with their more opulent peers at events such as the Cannes Film Festival. And then of course there’s the chance to join the jet set by ‘breaking the bank at Monte Carlo’.