Antibes & Nice
"We continue our tour of the French Riviera east to Antibes and Nice..."
"Antibes today is a big, modern city but its fortunes lie way back in the past"
Centuries before the birth of Christ, the Greeks came to the south of France and built the city of Antipolis. After the gradual decline of the Greek empire, power transferred to Rome and it was renamed Antiboul from where the modern day name originates. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Antiboul was left to the mercy of pirates and eventually the invading Arab forces.
At the start of the new millennium, power transferred to the Genoese Grimaldi family who built the town up as a frontier post between France and that of the kingdom of Savoy. It continued to grow slowly until the end of the 19th century when, with the popularity of the French Riviera for tourists, it became the last bastion of artists including Picasso before it too succumbed to commercial tourism.
Today Antibes is a classy city with many reminders of its past dotted throughout. It’s the world famous Cap d’Antibes though that draws many of the tourists and it’s a good place to start your visit to the city.
The Cap, as it is affectionately known, divides Antibes from Juan Les Pins and has magnificent beaches on either side. Romantic on a clear still summer evening, it can be dangerous on a stormy winter day and is often closed for safety reasons. From the Cap, head into the city and through the old town with its covered market where you’ll see stall after stall of vivid fresh fruit and vegetables as well as craft stalls. Follow the roads down to the port to watch the boats bob in and out then after lunch in one of the pretty restaurants around the port, head to the Picasso Museum in the house he occupied whilst staying in Antibes.
"Under half an hour from Antibes, is the international face of the French Riviera"
The city that always springs to mind when the region is mentioned and it’s a very popular place to stay for visitors to the coast. Like Antibes, Nice has its origins in the dim and distant past as the Greek city of Nikaia, built to commemorate a military victory nearby. The remains of the city and other older parts of Nice are found in the district of Cimiez, a little further north of the centre.
Strangely, most of Nice’s history from the 10th century onwards was linked to that of Italy through the Kingdom of Savoy and it didn’t become part of France until the later 19th century. It was then that the growth in tourism began in earnest and English tourists flocked to the city, one even commissioned the building of one of the city’s highlights, the seaside walk called the Promenade des Anglais. Nice is the second most visited city in France and by taking a walk around the old town you’ll see why. Begin with a trip up the Colline du Chateau for a panoramic view across the city; it’ll help you get your bearings, then take in some of the museums dedicated to those artists who found Nice’s light inspirational – Matisse and Chagall. Save the walk along the promenade for early evening to watch the sun go down and prepare for an evening in a top class restaurant, with a glass of Pernod, overlooking the sea.
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