Photo: by bhotchkies
Eze & the peninsula of Cap Ferrat, French Riviera, viewed from the Grande Corniche
Let's say you only have a short week to visit the French Riviera. Where should you go? What should you do? What can you simply not miss?
If you've been bottled up for months without any sun and stressed like a tightrope, you might want to stretch on warm sand until your batteries recharge.
But what if you're all charged up and ready to tour the French Riviera on wheels? What would be the best drives in the French Riviera?
Lonely Planet recently added a nifty book to their "Best Trips" series to help answer this question. Lonely Planet France's Best Trips (Travel Guide) covers 37 road trips across all of la belle France. Two of these road trips cover the French Riviera.
Cornering the Corniches
In Chapter 23, the Best Trips France guide recommends a drive along the trio of Corniches above Villefranche, Eze, and Monaco.
Running parallel to each other, the three sister roads are named Grande Corniche, Moyenne Corniche and Basse Corniche. They dominate the coast from Nice to Menton in varying degrees of altitude.
The eldest is the highest, the Grande Corniche. Constructed under Napoléon, it roughly follows the path of the great roman Via Iulia Augusta paved road. The Grande Corniche is probably the most famous of the three for its roman roots, but also thanks to Grace Kelly. Before she became Princess Grace of Monaco in 1956, Grace Kelly was filmed on the Grande Corniche for Hitchcocks's "To Catch a Thief" movie. Sadly, an offshoot of the Grande Corniche also claimed the princess' life in 1982, when her car plunge down a cliff after she suffered a stroke.
The Moyenne Corniche offers stunning views while the little sister, the Basse Corniche or Corniche Inférieure hugs the coastline. While we don't consider it inferior to its bigger sisters, The Corniche Inférieure does clog up in the summer. It links together the coastal towns of Villefranche, Beaulieu, Eze, Cap d'Ail, Monaco, Roquebrune Cap Martin, Menton.
Even if the French Riviera Corniches are legendary, they can be unnerving with their winding ways, their packs of bicycles emerging beyond a bend and their distractingly stunning views. Yet they remain what the French would call incontournables, or inescapable, if you are driving your way around the French Riviera.
We especially appreciate Lonely Planet's Chapter 23 for its useful tips on driving the corniches: the recommended direction for each slice of drive, stops for tasty treats along the way, best days to hop across the Italian border, carefully chosen highlights for each stop.
Photo: Fotografiert von Björn Hauffe
The Bay of Cannes, French Riviera, viewed from the coastal road by Théoule
Cruising the Coast
The next chapter in Best Trips France recommends a drive along the coast from Mougins heading east all the way to Cap Ferrat.
The chapter is spot on with its recommendations for stops along the way - all the classic not-to-be-missed are there including Juan les Pins, Antibes, Biot and others.
Also included is a "Detour" we know and cherish: the coastal drive between red rocky pitons of the Estérel and the jagged coastline between Cannes and Agay. A jewel among the French Riviera scenic drives, to be driven slowly and thoroughly enjoyed!