FRENCH RIVIERA (COTE D’AZUR)
Between Marseilles and the Italian border, the sun-drenched beaches and warm waters of the Mediterranean form the backdrop for this fabled playground of the rich and famous. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Picasso, Renoir, and Matisse are among those who flocked to the coast in its heyday. Despite the Riviera’s glorious past, this choice stretch of sun and sand is a curious combination of high-handed millionaires and low-budget tourists. High society steps out yearly for the Cannes Film Festival and the Monte-Carlo Grand Prix, both in May. Less exclusive are Nice’s raucous Camaval in February and various summer jazz festivals.
Nowhere do the glitz and glamour of the Riviera shine more than in St-Tropez. The Jewel of the Riviera unfailingly attracts Hollywood stars and curious backpackers to its exclusive clubs and nude beaches. Unfortunately, the beaches in St-Tro-pez are difficult to reach without a car. The shuttle (navette municipale) leaves pl. des Lices for Les Salins, a secluded sunspot, and plage Tahiti (Capon-Pinet stop), the first of the famous plages des Patnpelonne. (Shuttle runs M-Sa, ‚1.). Take a break from the sun at the Musee de I’Annonciade, pl. Grammont, which showcases Fauvist and neo-impressionist paintings. (Open June-Sept. M and W-Sa 10am-lpm and 4-9pm; Oct. and Dec.-May reduced hours. ‚5.50, students ‚3.50.)
Les Bateaux de St-Raphael ferries (04 94 95 17 46), at the old port, serve St-Tro-pez from St-Raphael (lhr. 2-5 per day, ‚10). Sodetrav buses (04 94 97 88 51) leave av. General Leclerc for St-Raphael (2hr. 8-14 per day, ‚8.40). The tourist office, on quai Jean Jaures, has schedules of the shuttle transport and a Manifestations guide that lists local events. (04 94 97 45 21; www.ot-saint-tropez.com. Open July-Aug. daily 9:30am-8:30pm; Sept.-June reduced hours.) Budget hotels do not exist in St-Tropez, and the closest youth hostel is in Frejus (see below). Camping is the cheapest option Kon Tiki O has a choice location near the northern stretch of the Pampelonne beaches. Campers can soak up sun by day and the beach’s wild nightlife (including Kon Tiki’s own bar) by night. ( 04 94 55 96 96; fax
04 94 55 96 95. Open Apr. to mid-Oct. July-Aug. two people, tent and car ‚35; offseason reduced prices.) If you prefer not to camp, one of the most budget-friendly and central hotels is Lou Cagnard 0,18 av. Paul Roussel. ( 04 94 97 04 24; fax 04 94
97 09 44. Breakfast ‚8. Open Jan.-Oct. Singles and doubles ‚43-54, with toilet ‚55-92. MCA’.) The vieux port and the streets behind the waterfront are lined with charmingly pricey restaurants, so create your own meal at Monoprix supermarket, 9 av. du General Leclerc. (Open July-Aug. daily 8am-10pm; Sept.-June 8am-7:50pm.)
HMost women who have traveled on the Riviera have a story to tell about men in the big beach towns. Unsolicited pick-up techniques range from subtle invitations to more, uh, bare displays of interest. Brush them off with a biting laissez-moi tranquille!” (leave me alone) or stony indifference, but don’t be shy about enlisting the help of passersby or the police to fend off Mediterranean Don Juans.
ST-RAPHAEL AND FREJUS
The twin cities of St-Raphael and Frejus provide an excellent base for exploring the Riviera thanks to cheap accommodations, convenient transport, and proximity to the sea. In St-Raphael, the boardwalk turns into a carnival and golden beaches stretch along the coast, while Frejus trades sandy shores for Roman ruins. The first weekend in July brings the Competition Internationale de Jazz New Orleans ( 04 98 11 89 00). In Frejus, the Roman amphitheater, on r. Henri Vadon, holds frequent concerts and bullfights twice a year. (Open Apr.-Oct. M and W-Sa lOam-lpm and 2:30-6:30pm, Su 8am-7pm; Nov.-Mar. M and W-F lOam-noon and l:30-5:30pm, Sa 9:30am-12:30pm and l:30-5:30pm, Su 8am-5pm. Bullfights ‚22-61. Contact the tourist office for a concert schedule.)
St-Raphael sends trains every 30min. to Cannes (25min. ‚5.30) and Nice (lhr. ‚8.80). Buses leave from behind the train station in St-Raphael for Frejus (25min. every hr. ‚1.40) and St-Tropez (l’ahr. 11 per day, ‚8.40). The tourist office, on r. Waldeck Rousseau, is opposite the train station. (04 94 19 52 52; www.saint-raphael.com. Open July-Aug. daily 9am-7pm; Sept.-June M-Sa 9am-12:30pm and 2-6:30pm.) Take bus #6 from St-Raphael to pl. Paul Vemet to get to the Frejus tourist office, 325 r. Jean Jaures. (04 94 51 83 83; www.ville-frejus.fr. Open July-Aug. M-Sa lOam-noon and 2:30-6:30pm, Su lOam-noon and 3-6pm; Sept.-June M-Sa 9am-noon and 3-6pm.) Take av. du 15eme Corps d’Armee from the Frejus tourist office and turn left on chemin de Councillier after the next roundabout to reach the USAuberge de Jeunesse de St-Raphael-Frejus (HI) O, a clean, friendly hostel with a beautiful, secluded location. (04 94 52 93 93; email@example.com. Sheets ‚2.70. Reception 8-10am and 6-8pm. Lockout 10am-6pm. Curfew July-Aug. midnight; Sept.-June 10pm. Open Feb.-Nov. Dorms ‚13. Camping ‚10 per person with tent.) In St-Raphael, the Hdtel les Pyramides , 77 av. Paul Doumer. is on a calm street just minutes from the waterfront. To get there, leave the station to the left, make a right onto av. Henri Vadon, and take the first left onto av. Paul Doumer. (04 98 11 10 10; www.saint-raphael.compyramides. Breakfast ‚7. Open Mar. 15-Nov. 15. Reception 7am-9pm; access code after hours. Singles ‚26; doubles ‚36-55; triples ‚56; quads ‚66. Extra bed ‚13. MCA’.) St-Raphael’s Monoprix supermarket is on 14 bd. de Felix Martin, off av. Alphonse Karr near the train station. (Open M-Sa 8:30am-7:30pm.) Postal Codes: St-Raphael: 83700; Frejus: 83600.
With its legendary Festival International du Film each May, Cannes (pop. 70,000) has more associations with stardom than any other place on the coast. None of the festival’s 350 screenings are open to the public, but the sidewalk show is free. For the other 11 months of the year, Cannes is among the most approachable of the Riviera’s glam-towns. A palm-lined boardwalk, gorgeous sandy beaches, and innumerable boutiques ensure that anyone can sport the famous Cannes style. The best window-shopping along the Riviera lies along rue d’Antlbes and boulevard de la Croisette. Farther west, the Eglise de la Castre and its courtyard stand on the hill on which vieux Cannes was built. Of Cannes’s three casinos, the most accessible is Le Casino Croisette, 1 jetee Albert Edouard,
YOU CANNES NEVER LEAVE
A few short days in celebrity-filled Cannes makes most visitors wish they were just a bit more glamorous. In 1800, however, Cannes was little more than a tiny fishing village, inhabited by the monks of St-Honorat abbey. The city was transformed by the 1834 arrival of Lord Henry Brougham, an member of British Parliament. Lord Brougham was headed to Nice, in hopes that a warm Mediterranean climate would mend his daughter’s failing health. He found the city under quarantine due to a sudden cholera epidemic, and was forced to spend the night in Cannes. Thirty-four years later, Brougham was still there. He had built a lovely chateau, planted grass seeds imported from England, and done a fair bit of entertaining. Well-con-nected Brougham drew both English and French elites to his frequent dinner parties, including Lord Byron and King Louis Philippe of France. Cannes rapidly gained a reputation for being the place for the European aristocracy to winter. Villas and luxury hotels transformed the Croisette from a simple seaside dirt path into a posh boulevard. Guy de Maupassant joked wryly: I met three princes one after the other on the Croisette! Cannes transformed from the quiet haunt of monks and fishermen to a playground for the rich and famous in just a few decades, and it has never looked back.
next to the Palais des Festivals. (No shorts, jeans, or t-shirts. Jackets required for men. 18+ with ID. Cover ‚10. Gambling daily 8pm-4am; slots open at 10am.) If you want to get into one of Cannes’s elite nightspots, dress to kill. Just as fun and half the price, cafes and bars near the waterfront stay open all night. Nightlife thrives around rue Dr. G. Monod.
Coastal trains depart from 1 r. Jean-Jaures for: Antibes (15min. ‚2.30); Marseilles (2hr. ‚23); Monaco (lhr. ‚7.80); Nice (40min. ‚5.20); and St-Raphael (25min. ‚4.10). The tourist office, 1 bd. de la Croisette, helps find accommodations. ( 04 93 39 24 53; www.cannes.fr. Open July-Aug. daily 9am-8pm; Sept.-June M-F 9am-7pm.) There is a branch office at the train station. (Open M-Sa 9am-7pm.) Access the Internet at CyberCafe Institut Riviera Langue, 26 r. de Mimont. (‚4 per hr. Open daily 9am-10pm.) Hostels are 10-20min. farther from the beach than other lodgings, but are the cheapest options in town. The Hostel Les Iris 0, 77 bd. Carnot, thrives under the care of friendly, English-speaking owners who have converted an old hotel into a clean, bright hostel with firm beds, a terrace for lounging and dining, and TV. (fax 04 93 68 30 20. Dorms ‚18. MCA’.) Hotel Mimont , 39 r. de Mimont, is two streets behind the train station, off bd. de la Republique. ( 04 93 39 51 64; fax 04 93 99 65 35. Singles ‚29; doubles ‚37; triples ‚51. AmExMCA.) Hotel de Bourgogne , 11 r. du 24 aout, has well-maintained rooms in the heart of town. ( 04 93 38 36 73; fax 04 92 99 28 41. Breakfast ‚5. Singles ‚30-50; doubles ‚40-55; triples ‚65-80; off-season reduced prices. AmExMCA.) Stock up at Monoprix supermarket, in Champion, 6 r. Meynadier. (Open M-Sa 8:30am-7:30pm.) The pedestrian zone around rue Meynadier has inexpensive restaurants. Postal Code: 06400.
Blessed with beautiful beaches and a charming vieille ville, Antibes (pop. 78,000) is less touristy than Nice and more relaxed than St-Tropez; with access to top-notch nightlife in neighboring Juan-les-Pins, it has become an undisputed jewel of the Riviera. The Musee Picasso, in the Chateau Grimaldi, on pl. Marie-jol, displays works by the former Antibes resident and his contemporaries. (Open mid-June to mid-Sept. Su and Tu-Sa 10am-6pm; mid-Sept. to mid-June lOam-noon and 2-6pm. ‚6, students ‚3.) The two main public beaches in Antibes are Plage du Ponteil and the adjacent Plage de la Salis. Come summer, the young and hip Juan-Les-Pins is synonymous with wild nightlife. Frequent buses and trains run from Antibes, although walking between the two along bd. Wilson is also an option. Boutiques remain open until midnight, cafes until 2am, and nightclubs past dawn. Discotheques are generally open from 11pm to 5am. (Cover approx. ‚15, usually includes 1 drink.) UMilk, on av. Gallice, fills with a spunky crowd. (Cover ‚16. Open July-Aug. daily midnight-5am; Sept.-June F-Sa only.) In psychedelic Whisky a Gogo, 5 r. Jacques Leonetti, a young crowd dances the night away amid water-filled columns. (Cover ‚16. Open Apr. to mid-Oct. daily 12:30-5:30am.)
Trains leave av. Robert Soleau for: Cannes (20min. 20 per day, ‚2.10); Marseilles (2Mhr. 10 per day, ‚24); Nice (15min. 20 per day, ‚3.50). Buses leave 200 pl. de Gaulle for Cannes (20min. every 20min. ‚2.50) and Nice (45min. every 20min. ‚4.10). Exit the station, turn right on av. Robert Soleau, and follow the signs to the tourist office at 11 pl. de Gaulle. (04 92 90 53 00; www.antibes-juanlespins.com. Open July-Aug. daily 9am-7pm; Sept.-June M-F 9am-12:30pm and l:30-6pm, Sa 9am-noon and 2-6pm.) For the distant-but-beautiful HRelais International de la Jeunesse (Caravelle 60) O, take bus #2A (every 40min. 6:50am-7:30pm, ‚1.15) from pl. Guynemer in Antibes. (04 93 61 34 40. Reception daily 8-10am and 5:30pm-10:30pm. Dorms ‚14.) Rather than make the trek back to Antibes, crash in Juan-Les-Pins at HStel Parisiana O, 16 av. de L’Esterel, which has bright rooms with excellent amenities. (04 93 61 27 03; fax 04 93 67 97 21. Breakfast ‚5. Singles ‚35; doubles ‚49; triples ‚59; quads ‚67. Sept.-May reduced prices. AmExMC V.) The Marche Proven?al, on cours Massena, is considered one of the best markets on the Cote d’Azur. (Open Su and Tu-Sa 6am-lpm.) Postal Code: 06600.