more articles about the South of France Here
The French Riviera remains one of the most desireable
places to own a property on the planet. Karen Tait finds
out where the hotspots and cool deals are to be found. Our
thanks to Karen Tait the editor of French
Property News for consent to include this
article from the September 2006 edition of FPN here.
French Riviera is one of the most
glamorous - and expensive - places to live in the world.
A playground for the rich and famous, it immediately conjures
up images of gleaming white yachts, stately villas, casinos,
private beaches, chic bars, restaurants and clubs, sports
cars whizzing along the scenic corniche roads, the Cannes
film festivaL.. serious money and powerful people.
Having said that, in the peak summer season tourists visit
from all over France, Europe and the world, not all of whom
have bulging wallets.
the jetset really hit its shores in the 1960s, the Mediterranean
coast has attract- ed settlers since prehistoric times.
Homes were first built around the beaches of Terra Amata
(now to the east of the harbour in Nice) in 300,000BC, while
in 200,000BC the Lazaret Cave (in Nice) was inhabited by
civilisations made their mark on the area from the 1st century
- the harbour at Fréjus was created by Julius Caesar, and
Antibes and Cimiez were also Roman settlements. Christianity
spread along the coast in the 4th century. After the fall
of the Roman Empire Provence came under the authority of
the Barbarians, Visigoths and the Francs. It was also invaded
by the Moors and the Saracens. Through the centuries Nice
was fought over by France, Italy and the Dukes of Savoy.
The city and its hinter- lands only became part of France
in 1860 after Napoleon III helped Vittorio Emanuele II of
Savoy create the future kingdom of Italy.
the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Riviera became
a fashionable winter resort, especially with the British
upper class - Winston Churchill was a regular visitor. Later
it became more popular for summer holidays. Nowadays it
attracts around 9.3 million tourists a year, with a plethora
of activities on offer.
the beautiful setting is natural dramatic mountains and
foothills rolling down to the sandy beaches and azure sea
the whole coast is built up now, with developers fighting
over any remaining building land. The Riviera doesn't
refer to an official area of France - it sits within the
Provence-Alps-Côte d'Azur region and the Alpes-Maritimes
departement. As it's not an official region, there
are no official boundaries so inevitably there are disputes
over where it ends (it starts at Menton at the Italian
border). Some say it stops at the border with the département
of the Var, after Théoule-sur-Mer, while
others suggest it extends further along the Var coastline,
as far as St-Tropez, and possibly to Hyères or even
the border with the Bouches-du-Rhone
towns along the coast (east to west) are Menton,
Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, St-Jean-Cap- Ferrat,
Villefranche-sur- Mer, Nice, St-Paul-de-Vence, Sophia Antipolis,
Antibes, Juan-Ies-P1ns, Grasse, Cannes, St-Raphael, St-
Tropez and Hyères. The capital, Nice, has an international
airport and TGV train service from Paris, making it easily
accessible. Contrasting with its more recent Italian style
architecture, the Old Town represents the city's medieval
heritage, with redctiled roofs and narrow winding streets
full of shops and restaurants, and a flower market every
morning on Cours Saleya. Seafood restau- rants sit alongside
the beaches, which are mainly shingle (they only become
sandy at the Antibes peninsula). Nice enjoys an enviable
position on the Baie des Anges facing Antibes. The
Promenade des Anglais has been a favourite spot for a stroll
since Victorian times. Running the length of the seafront
at Nice it's lined with cafes and hotels, the grandest probably
being the Négresco, featuring Empire and Napoleonic decor.
Now a national monument, it was built in 1912 by Hungarian
immigrant Henri Négresco. He was director of one of the
city's casinos and wanted to create a hotel that complimented
the casino's revered clientele, such as the Rockefellers.
In World War I the hotel became a hospital. Négresco died
a ruined man after the war.
has come a long way since being the seaside resort for English
aristocrats - it's now France's fifth biggest city. and
its airport is the second busiest in France, with 9.2 million
passen- gers per year. International flights account for
51 % of total traffic, and there are 12 daily flights to
and from London. There's always something going on in Nice,
the best known event probably being the jazz festival at
Cimiez in June.
has a lovely old town, ramparts by the sea, a long wall
beside the port and a Picasso museum. Restaurants and shops
line the picturesque streets and there's a daily market.
In spring the city hosts one of Europe's largest antiqueshows.
The Greeks first colonised Antibes 2,000 years ago. Nowadays
the sandy beaches make it a mecca for holidaymakers, and
a selection of the world's most luxurious yachts can be
admired in the large marina, in some way continuing the
town's seafaring history. Cap d'Antibes is home to
some extremely plush estates, even by Riviera standards.
Le Vieil Antibes, with its cobbled streets and village ambience
contrasts with the modern city. the second largest in the
Riviera. Thanks to the yachting business and industry at
nearby Sophia Antipolis Antibes has a large English-speaking
The nearby resort of Juan- les- Pins is fashionable
with younger crowds as well as families. It has a number
of private beaches, and many bars and restaurants, plus
market stalls along the promenade in the evening. The respected
festival is held each summer in the Pinede (pine grove).With
its hectic nightlife it's hard to believe Juan-Ies-Pins
used to be a tranquil spot of pine trees and sandy beaches
until its conversion to tourism in the 1920s and 30s.
kilometres from Antibes is France's 'silicon valley', Sophia
Antipolis. Created in 1974 it is now home to over 1,000
companies, many interna- tional, including household names
of the computer, communication and technology industries.
It's also a centre of educa- tion with over 2,000 full-time
students and departments of some of France's leading universities.
It's surrounded by some of the Riviera's most beautiful
a real celebrity hangout head west for Cannes, especially
during the international
film festival in May. Between the sandy beaches
(many of which are pri- vate) and grand hotels the palm-
tree lined La Croisette prome- nade is home to designer
bou- tiques, cosmopolitan hotels and the Palais des Festivals,
the city's main events venue - the pavement in front of
the building has imprints of French and Hollywood stars'
hands and feet. The city has two yacht harbours either side
of La Croisette. To the west is the Vieux Port and old town,
Le Suquet, a pretty Provencal citadel whose cobbled streets
are lined with restaurants. There's also a charming flower
market. Cannes is busy all year-round, with busi-
ness conventions in winter.
a fishing village St- Tropez is another magnet for
the rich and famous, the idealloca- tion for people watching
and celebrity spotting, perhaps from a cafe by the harbour,
which is home to spectacular yachts. Restaurants and shops
abound, and the nightlife is lively, with private parties
in luxurious villas by the bay - arrive by yacht or helicopter
for ultimate glamour. St-Tropez was first popular in the
1920s with international fashion- istas and the French existential-
ists made it their summer home after the war, but it really
became famous in the 50s when stars such as Brigitte Bardot
claimed it as their own. The best beaches are in the Bay
On the Italian border Menton is protected on three
sides by mountains, giving an exceptionally mild climate
(an annual average temperature of 16°C). This makes it ideal
for the cultivation of citrus fruit and- olives - it's the
only town in Europe where lemons bear fruit all year round.
Every February the town celebrates with the Fete des Citrons,
one of the Riviera's most visited events. Architecture in
the town rep- resents three main styles 16 medieval (14-15th
centuries), Baroque (17-18th centuries) and Belle Epoque
(19th century).The town also has a 17th-centu- ry fortress,
now the Musee Jean Cocteau. Menton became a fash-
ionable resort between 1870 and 1913, favoured by wealthy
visi- tors escaping grey winters else- where in Europe.
to the west of Menton is the principality of Monaco, whose
capital is Monte Carlo. Famous for its Formula
1 Grand Prix, the city-state is home to millionaires
and motor racing heroes. It is thoroughly interna- tional,
with a thriving economy and good educational facilities.
It's hard to believe that Monaco was Europe's poorest
state in the 19th century. Monte Carlo was built
on its casino, set up in 1863 by Frenchman Francois Blanc
who ran a successful casino in Germany. Blanc persuaded
the French government to build roads and extend the railway
to Monte Carlo (he lent it almost five million francs
at a low interst rate) and his casino received the blessing
of the church after Cardinal Pecci became one of the shareholders.
Prince Charles of Monaco also received an annual fee, shares
and 10% of the profits.
the time gambling was outlawed in France but on seeing the
profits to be made, the government legalised gambling, although
Monaco kept the monoply on roulette tables until 1933. The
Prince and Princess of Wales' visit to the casino in 1875
gave it true respectability. Shortly after the casino opened
Monaco abolished income tax (1869). To relo- cate
there you have to jump through a series of hoops - basi-
cally you're only allowed to live there if you're rich (which
you'd have to be to afford to live there in the first place).
Martin was made an aristocratic enclave by Empress Eugenie
(widow of Napoleon Ill) and Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
They were the first in a long line of illustrious visitors.
Indeed Le Corbusier died here of a heart attack while swimming
off the rocks. Now the Promenade Le Corbusier winds around
the lush cape, past hid- den villas which are among the
most expensive on the Côte d'Azur. The path ends at Monte
Carlo beach. Inland the medieval village of Roquebrune
was a free town until it joined France in 1861.
east the medieval village of Eze-sur-Mer is perched
on a rocky peak overlooking the sea. The village forms a
circular pattern around the 12th-century castle ruins which
contain the Jardin Exotique, from which there are fabulous
views. Beaulieu-sur-Mer is another icon of exclusivity
by the sea, once favoured by English and Russian royalty.
Its beaches are lined with palm trees, and it has quaint
streets, a Romanesque chapel and luxury homes. Cap Ferrat
has lush greenery, small beaches and coves and yet more
exclusive villas St-]ean-Cap-Ferrat was once a fishing
port but now it's home to luxury yachts, while the Plage
de Paloma attracts its fair share of millionaires.
Five kilometres from Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer
is located on terraced hills overlooking one of the Riviera's
most beautiful bays. It has exotic vegetation and a rich
heritage. Narrow streets wind through the pretty old town
with its colourful 'trompe l'oeil' houses, and the 16th-century
citadel built by the Duke of Savoy now houses the town hall,
an open air theatre, gardens, three museums and a congress
centre. There's also an old harbour and private and public
Beyond Antibes and Cannes the deep red Massif
d'Esteral rises steeply above the sea. Between here and
the Massif des Maures, Fréjus is known for its Roman
remains. The Roman port was filled in in 1774. The town
also has a cathedral, cloisters and the oldest baptistry
in France. Although St-Raphael's medieval centre
and glamorous early 20th-century buildings were bombed in
the war, there are still some pretty streets and there's
a palm-lined boulevard along the seafront.
is a modem resort town with a port and sandy beach facing
St-Tropez. Nearby Port Grimaud was created in the
late 1960s - it's basically one big marina. with colourful
Venetian style waterside homes with private moorings. It's
not to be confused with Grimaud a little inland, a beautiful
village perché which was once a Saracen and Templar stronghold.
St-Tropez and Hyères are a string of smaller
more family-friendly resorts such as Cavalaire-sur-Mer and
Le Lavandou. Hyeres, often called the gateway to the Riviera,
is set back from the sea a few kilome- tres on a fertile
plain perfect for growing fruit and flowers. Like many other
Riviera towns it has an illustrious past - Queen Victoria
was a frequent visitor. It has a mix of broad avenues and
narrow winding streets, palm trees, a colourful market,
Romanesque church, town ram- parts and Renaissance and even
the south of Hyères are the Hyères islands,
of which there are three (Porquerolles, Port Cros and Levant).
In Renaissance times they were known as the golden isles
due to the way the sun glinted off their rock formations.
Tranquil and popular with nature lovers (and naturists on
Levant) - Port Cros is a national park. Part of Levant is
a testing ground for the French navy.
Riviera hinterland is home to many beautiful Provencal villages,
such as Biot,
Valbonne, Mougins, Mouans Sartoux, Vallouris, Le
Bar-sur- Loup and Tourette-sur-Loup, and St-Paul-de-Vence.
About 10km from the coast Vence has relics of a Roman victory
arch, a medieval old town and castle dating from the 17th
century. Above the Bay of Cannes Grasse is renowned
as the perfume capi- tal of the world. It sits atop a series
of limestone terraces spreading up from the bay like a natural
amphitheatre. Visitors throng to enjoy the wonderful views
and sweet scents, which enchanted Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon's
sister, during her stay here while separated from Prince
on the Riviera
The mild climate, glamorous lifestyle, beautiful properties
and stunning scenery have made the Riviera one of the most
desirable places to live in the world. Then there's the
added advantage of skiing in winter in the southern Alps
just an hour or so away from the beaches. At some times
of the year you can even ski in the morning and sun yourself
by the sea in the afternoon!
Riviera is home to a mixed population from all over the
world. Of the Côte d'Azur's million inhabitants, 12% are
foreign and 21 % are under 20 years old. There's a sizeable
British community, with English-lan- guage newspapers and
publica- tions (Riviera Times, Riviera' Reporter, Anglo
Riviera Guide), an English-language radio station (Riviera
Radio), and numerous clubs and associations.
is equally interna- tional, especially around Sophia Antipolis.
The Chamber of Commerce in Nice has an English-language
section on its website, with a variety of services and information
on offer, and there's even a British
Chamber of Commerce. Around 83% of jobs on the Côte
d'Azur are with- in the service sector.
area also offers a choice of schools and educational insti-
tutions, such as the International School of Nice or the
CERAM Sophia Antipolis Graduate School of Management and
Technology. In fact the Côte d'Azur has 12 international
schools for all levels located in Nice, Sophia Antipolis,
Cannes, Valbonne, Cagnes sur Mer and Le Rouet.
show The Riviera offers a wide choice of properties,
including turn-of- the-century mansions, luxury apartments
and villas, village and townhouses, established resi- dences,
off-plan developments and so on. In Nice, Cannes, Cap d'Antibes
and Cap Ferrat you can find Belle Epoque architecture, contrasting
with renovated Provencal stone houses in the countryside.
These come with a high premium, especially if they have
original features. The most common is new Provencal-style
villas and new developments. Villas vary from traditionally
styled to ultra modern.
most expensive areas are Monte Carlo, Cap-Ferrat, Cannes,
Cap d'Antibes, St-Paul de Vence and St-Tropez. "The
east side of Nice between Villefranche and Monaco are the
priciest areas, especially Monaco," says Dominique Petit
of Azur Assistance. "Prices start at 300,000 euros for one-bed
apart- ments and 900,000 euros for a villa, rising to 25m
euros on Cap Martin. The best value area is between Grasse
and Seillans, in villages like Peymeinade, Cabris, Fayence
and Callian. Villas start from 500,000 to 800,000 euros
for a real home." The rest of this article is not reproduced
here as it involved properties for sale. Further details
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