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June 2009
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August 2009

Carla's Cap Negre

Cap Negre, from LeLavandou.eu If you're vacationing near Le Lavandou or Cavalière this August, you might find yourself snorkeling next to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. 

Sarkozy will soon head for the Western French Riviera for a 3-week vacation in Carla's Bruni-Tedeschi family residence on Cap Nègre.Cap Negre, from LeLavandou.eu

Fort Bregançon may be the traditional summer residence of French Presidents (see our post on this here), but the Sarkozy couple prefers a more cheerful and warm family spot.

After a dizzy spell that had him hospitalized last weekend (nothing serious), the prez is on strict orders to rest. Easier said that done for a man whose personal buzz and energy could replace our need for fossil fuels.

What to do in and around Cap Nègre?

PlageDeCavaliere, from LeLavandou.euThe area around Le Lavandou, Cavalière, Cap Nègre, sports a string of fine sandy beaches: the Plage du Layet by the calanques of the same name, the fairly narrow but long sandy Plage de Cavalière, Plage de Cap Nègre before the rocky cape. Stroll around and pick your favorite.

Interested in half-day hikes around the nearby Maures Mountains, St Tropez, Hyères and all over the Western Côte d'Azur?

Check out our English-language hiking guide here. It's available on Amazon.com (and Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.de too!). We detail 26 of the most spectacular hikes in the region, with each hike lasting no more than half a day.


Parlez-vous French Riviera?

MedRelax Quite a few of you are ready to plunge into the French language with the help of a language immersion school on the French Riviera.

And why not? It's fun, it's like a club, it leaves you enough time for sight-seeing, it is a chance to meet other fellow travelers who are deeply curious about other cultures, it opens a window into the best local spots from teachers' insights, and some include nice options for room-and-board.

Institub Above photo by Institut de Français

We've heard a few good things about one French-language program in particular, the Institut de Français in Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera. The school offers a 2 and a 4-week French immersion program. It's intense. No English allowed during class-time, not even during lunch. Yet folks love it. Many come back regularly. The fact that it's set in a beautiful villa in gorgeous perched grounds in Villefranche-sur-Mer has something to do with it. But the school's atmosphere and the students' progress surely also play a big part.

A couple of days ago, the Financial Times published an insider view into this program. Read the piece here.


Sentier du Littoral: Nice to Villefranche

Pausing at Cap Ferrat Sentier du Littoral

Along the French Riviera, the Sentier du Littoral or coastal path winds its way up, down and along creeks, cliffs, sandy beaches, pebbled beaches, Riviera town promenade, villas painted in peachy pastels, even a national park (in Port-Cros - check it out here).

We've written about it almost as much as we've hiked it. If you are in reasonable walking shape, we highly recommend you fit a walk along the Sentier du Littoral on your trip to the Côte d'Azur. This site is full of hiking tips and pics. We also recommend the English-language hiking guide, 26 Gorgeous Hikes on the Western Côte d'Azur.

Until now, if you longed to walk from the Cap de Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer, the Sentier du Littoral would take you only half way there.

The Sentier du Littoral is gaining new ground. This week, a new section of coastal path opened, completing the connection between the the Pointe des Sans Culottes under the Mont Boron in Cap de Nice, along the Pointe de la Rascasse, Pointe Madame all the way to le Lazaret by the port in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

If you're expecting an easy flat stroll between Cap de Nice and Lazaret in Villefranche, think again. Steps were added along this section, making the new 1.5 km connection a pleasant session of aerobic exercise. Of course, you can stop anywhere along the way and catch your breath and soak in the cliff-side views of the sea.

StJCapFerratDown

Where to begin?

For the Cap de Nice to Villefranche hike, begin at the end of Maeterlinck Blvd, east of the Port Lympia of Nice. Parking is sparse here. Reach it by bus (Nice-Menton Ligne 100, or Nice-Villefranche) and hop off at the "Hopital Anglais" stop. See Google map below.

More Riviera Sentier du Littoral?

Plans are in the works to connect the Maëterlink to the Pointe des Sans-Culottes with a safe hiking path by 2011, likely through steps up to the Basse Corniche road.

The dream is to connect the towns of Théoule-sur-Mer in the Var all the way to Menton. There's enough determination among key proponents and the Alpes-Maritimes administration to make it happen. The question is when. Until then, we have plenty of smaller stretches of coastal hiking paths to enjoy...


View AzurAlive.com: Cap de Nice Sentier du Littoral in a larger map


Cannes: Palm Beach Bans Nudity

Keep yours on here  

If you're heading for the public beach of Palm Beach in Cannes on the French Riviera, keep your swimming suit on.

After some complaining by the upscale yacht club in front of Palm Beach, the city of Cannes has declared Palm Beach a non-naturist beach.

Until now, nakedness was tolerated at Palm Beach. When folks wearing nothing but their birthday suits began to stroll in front of the yacht club restaurant's seaside window, complaints poured in.

As for now, fine for first-time naked offenders is 11 euros. More serious naked exposure could cost up to 15K plus a fully-dressed prison sentence.

 

Book Review: CRIM' sur la Côte

CRIMseries
Want to plunge into the atmosphere of Nice, and of the whole French Riviera? And fine-tune your French while you're at it?

This summer, the Gilletta-Nice-Matin publisher released CRIM' sur la Côte, the third in a series of polar or crime novel, set on the Côte d'Azur. Garri Gasiglia, the main character and private eye from Nice, is off on an epic adventure to solve a murder in old town of Nice and the kidnapping of French president off of Fort Bregançon.

Crim' sur la Côte organized in short chapters, packed with action that jumps from Nice to Cabasson, to Vence, Paris, to Senegal and more. You can't put the book down. If you do, you risk losing the thread of the dense action. An international terrorist ploy frames the chapters and glues the short scenes and story together.

STJeanCapFerrat2

Most interesting to me, the book is imbued with the atmosphere of real French Riviera spots: the African Queen at the port of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, the Musée Massena in Nice, the wonderful restaurant and hotel Le Relais des Moines in Les Arcs-sur-Argens, Château St Martin in Vence, the island of St Honorat off the coast of Cannes, Plage Les Pirates in Juan-les-Pins, Rado Plage in Cannes. With plenty of juicy and accurate regional details, you're there. Author Bernard Deloupy was a former director of communications for the chamber of commerce and industry. It's pretty obvious: Bernard loves Nice and the entire region.

Editors term the series Polars Touristiques or touristic crime novels. That's a bit constrictive, in my opinion. It's not a guidebook. But with its local characters (Garri himself is a Niçois) you get a quick and tasty inside view of the French Riviera while solving a crime.

The CRIM series is riding on a swell. France is currently fascinated with le polar. According to Livres Hebdo,18 Million crime novels were sold in 2001. A good example of this are the beloved novels by Daniel Pennac and his Saga Malaussène series or the police thrillers by Fred Vargas.

For French Riviera lovers, it's time to pack a Deloupy. You need to comfortably read French, or be willing to decipher it.

Where to find it? Got mine at the Nice train station. They're not super-widely distributed, but you'll always find it here on Amazon.fr.


Boulouris: Belvedere du Dramont

AzurAlive_BelvedereDramont

When in the French Riviera seaside town of Boulouris, it's impossible to miss the little town center, the Monday morning open market, the sea, the many coves and beaches, the Cap du Dramont cape.

What you could miss is the hiking trail locally called le sentier du Castellas in Boulouris.

The trail begins in a remote area, in front of the CREPS' Golf School in Boulouris (CREPS = Centres d’Éducation Populaire et de Sport or high-level sports school). It then heads up over rugged terrain in the rocky Estérel hills. About mid-way into the hike to Cap Estérel in Agay, you reach a site that many local hikers know well: the Belvedere du Dramont. Up on a hillside, it offers views of the coast, Le Dramont, the Cap Estérel resort and all of Agay.

AzurAlive.com: Belvedere du Dramont

Neither July nor August make the best months for the hike - it gets hot then, and trees are sparse for shade. Round-trip back through the Dramont coastline is 12 km (count on about 4 hours), but you can shorten the hike by going from the CREPS Golf School to Cap Esterel and back. This shorter loop takes a little less than 3 hours for 8 km. As usual, bring plenty of drinking water. You'll be in nature: no pubs, not even water fountains!

You'll find a map at the beginning of the trail. Note that it's a general map, not all that specific... be prepared and bring a taste for adventure.

Castellas Map

 

Interested in half-day hikes close to Boulouris? Check out our highly-acclaimed hiking guide below on Amazon.com (and Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.de too!)


View AzurAlive.com: Boulouris and the Dramont Belvedere in a larger map


Adventures in Aqualand

Aqualand1 The weather's getting hot here on the French Riviera. Anyone longing for a change from the beach?

Here's an idea. Twirl and splash on the water-spouting toboggans, cork screw twisters, white water raft rides and gentle pools of Aqualand.

On the Côte d'Azur, you'll find Aqualand water adventure parks in Fréjus and in Sainte-Maxime.

They don't come cheap (24.50€ per adult in 2009). Find ways to cheaper tickets in our Tips section below.

The Fréjus water park is the largest, with an advertised 8 hectares of land filled with water rides.
To fully explore it, start with the maps given at the entrance and posted all around the park. Rides come in three flavors: green (easy for all kids), red (some for kids 9 and up) and black (white knuckles here).

Aqualand2

What's the scoop on Aqualand?

From my own personal testing, it's all thumbs up from the kids.

The younger kids (under 6) loved the Pirate Boat at the end of the park and the shallow Mini Park Jungle with the elephants spouting water and the easy slides.

Even though a number of rides were marked as "9 y.o. and above", in our experience, the security guard assigned to each ride allowed younger kids on these when accompanied by an adult. Favorites for the braver among younger (6-9 years): Black Hole, White Hole and the short but very fast Free Fall.

Older kids & teenagers have a blast too across all of the rides. The twisted Anaconda toboggan was a big among teenagers.

For parents? Whatever you fancy. And when you want a rest, park under a parasol on a lounge chair by the surf beach that beeps before it starts to pulsate with gentle waves. Beware, the few lounge chairs go fast (see Tips below).

Aqualand3

 The Pros

  • Lots of rides for all levels of courage from white-knuckle rides for big kids to waddle pools with gentle slides. You'll find maps of the park at the entrance.
  • Clean and well-maintained.
  • Each ride has a watch person keeping an eye out for safety.
  • Like EuroDisney, it's a whole different world in Aqualand.
  • Kids come back elated.

Aqualand4

 Tips

  • For kids, Aqualand makes most sense for ages 6 and above. Not that younger ones can't enjoy the shallow pools, but they're limited. A number of splash rides are for 9 years and above. 
  • To really soak in the fun, plan for a full-day visit. Bring a snack and plenty of water or get your goodies at the cafés on site.
  • Bring lots of sunscreen, hat, sun glasses. The sun reverberates against the pool waters. If your kids are fair skinned, consider lycra rash guard tops. For those who love the faster rides, keep in mind that a wet rash guard will slow you down...our kids took them off after the first ride :)
  • For discounts, reserve your tickets online. A family of 4 with 2 adults and 2 kids can purchase a "family pack" off the internet for 74€. Online again, you'll get more than 10% off on Adult tix (22 instead of 24.5 in 2009). Click on their web site http://www.aqualand.fr and go to "Promo Internet, Reservez vos billets). 

Looking for more info? Check out the Aqualand web site for current opening days and fares.

Where is Aqualand Fréjus?

See the Google map below. Aqualand has a large (mostly unshaded) parking area.


View AzurAlive.com: Aqualand Fréjus in a larger map