If one part of Provence has an international reputation, then it is, of course, the Côte d’Azur – or, to be more precise, the section of this coastline (and its surrounding area) which extends from Cassis to Menton.
Here more than anywhere, the sun shines on the silver-blue, sparkling Mediterranean. Here more than anywhere, the palaces are splendid and the hill-top villages superb. Here more than anywhere, there is a festive atmosphere and a buzzing nightlife.
It was during the 19C that this part of the south of France was put on the map with the arrival of wealthy British, Russian and even French visitors who came to “winter” on the Riviera. These visits became a habit and gradually the towns and fishing villages in the area adapted to the new inhabitants. Soon, towns such as Cannes, Nice, Menton and Monaco were home to magnificent villas, flamboyant casinos, and splendid botanical gardens – and the idea of the French Riviera was born.
As the years passed, this fascination with the south of France continued to grow, extending over time to much of the coast – towns such as Cassis, Bandol, Antibes, Grasse and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat were soon developed in their turn. Wealthy aristocrats were gradually replaced by film stars and other celebrities, while at the same time the creation of the International Film Festival in Cannes consolidated the glamorous and luxurious image of this stretch of coastline. During the 1950s, with the help of Brigitte Bardot, the small fishing village of Saint-Tropez became “the place to be”, soon developing the international ambience that we associate with the resort today.
Beyond this glossy image, the Côte d’Azur is still a wonderful place to visit today. Although the beaches may be a little more crowded, the water is still stunningly blue and the coast still bathed in sunshine. Perched on the hills behind the coast, the villages of Biot, Gordio, Saint Agnès and Saorge offer a picturesque vision of the region and remind visitors of the rich diversity of this Provençal paradise.