In the words of Baudelaire, “there, everything’s order and beauty”. The three little cities we encourage you to visit are, in different ways, real marvels. Each of them is worth at least a half-a-day visit. This gems of Côte d’Azur are just a few kilometres from Nice and can be reached by train (Beaulieu, Eze and Cap d’Ail stations), car or bus all year round.
Eze, a Medieval fairyland built on a rocky spur.
You can’t miss the remains of the castle which is visible from the coastal road that connects Nice with Italy. Eze village is a small fortified village offering views of a sparkling blue sea everywhere you look. All the ingredients of a classic fairytale are there: paved streets with the pleasant scent of soap, the monumental gate marking the entrance to the village, the charming exotic garden, the ancient palace to top it all off: La Chèvre d’Or, with its renowned fine dining restaurant (book to avoid disappointment).
The village is home to many crafts stalls, restaurants and unexpected surprises for visitors to enjoy.
All of the visitors I have taken on a tour around Eze have brought back wonderful memories…
Want to cool down? At the foot of the rock, Eze’s small beach, a narrow sandy strip by the sea, is a tiny unspoiled paradise.
Cap d’Ail, legendary coastal heritage
At first glance the small town of Cap d’Ail, on the road into Monaco, looks like nothing special: in fact, you need to go down to its coastline to discern its “Belle Epoque” magic. When arriving by the little beach train (which we recommend), you are immediately well placed to wonder at the outstanding architectural heritage that lines the coastal path.
What to do in Cap d’Ail?
- Pack a good sun cream and lounge around near the clear aquamarine water, on the Plage de la Maala, and forget the world. To reach it you will need to descend some stone stairs in the midst of a fragrant floral landscape. The water is like a huge swimming pool, so pleasant and warm that a dip in the sea is irresistible. A cocktail to savour the moment at la Réserve beachside restaurant. Bliss? La dolce vita in any case!
- Stroll along the stunning coastal path, from la Plage de la Maala to Monaco. Aside from the fairly strenuous climbs and descents around the Plage Maala, the walk is gentle and flat, ideal for a ramble that is both bracing and easy. Look up and at any moment you can admire the magnificent 20th century holiday villas: Greta Garbo, Sacha Guitry and the Lumière brothers all built homes at Cap d’Ail, surrounded by stylish gardens.
- Try grilled fish at Le Cabanon, at la Pointe des Douaniers. A very old and charming little restaurant at the halfway point on the coastal path, recently restored using natural materials, this hut is legendary as it combines seaside relaxation with the simple refinement of Mediterranean cuisine which is both healthy and flavoursome.
- Visit la Villa Les Camélias, Local history museum. Take a walk in the gardens, beneath the palm trees, before entering this vast, cool villa. It immerses you in the life of the Capdaillois family at the dawn of the 20th century, when the English, French and Russian gentry set up residence by the sea for the winter months.
Cap Ferrat, the peninsula of wonder
This peninsula was once inhabited by humble goat herders and shepherds, not to mention the modest fishermen who fished the abundant waters. What a contrast with the opulence in evidence in le Cap today! Billionaires and renowned artists have chosen this location for their holidays. It has to be said that le Cap Ferrat has a number of “gifts from God”, like the climate which is extremely mild, even in winter, and a seashore of striking unspoilt beauty.
It is only recently that Le Cap Ferrat has become famous but it does have a number of impressive sites that I recommend:
- La Chapelle Saint Hospice (11th century), which dominates the peak of the same name. Once a pilgrimage site, it is an opportunity to enjoy absolute peace and quiet. It is flanked by an unconventional and totally unique monumental bronze statue of a plump and cheerful Madonna.
- The Cap Ferrat lighthouse: a veritable promontory above the sapphire-blue waves, this stone lighthouse is worth a visit mainly for the panoramic views it offers in all seasons and the access it provides to the coastal path walk, at one of the most spectacular points of the peninsula.
- The Cap Ferrat port: a very convivial atmosphere thanks to the restaurants along it and its proximity to the beaches Villa Santo Sospir (villasantosospir.fr), famous for having been decorated from top to bottom by Jean Cocteau. Tours available by reservation.
In fact, the most delightful way to enjoy the Cap Ferrat in all seasons, is at its beaches, which are accessible in winter and summer for chilling out and picnicking.
My two favourites are la Paloma, at the foot of some stairs, which, in the summer months, offers restful shade under the maritime pine trees, the very family-friendly little plage Saint Hospice, with the touching sight of children splashing about while their parents have lunch in the sun, and finally la plage de Passable, at the western end of the peninsula, where the magnificent sunsets light up the sky in summer evenings.
A holiday in Nice or its surroundings offers endless opportunities to discover the often little-known charms of a Côte d’Azur which is much more diverse than it appears.
Allow yourself to be captivated by this diversity. Renting a villa or apartment in the area with Riviera Holiday Homes is the best way to enjoy this sublime French region.
Read More > Seven enthralling things to discover in Vence