Road Trip: Côte d’Azur, from Nice to Men­ton

Drive the two high­est of the three par­al­lel ‘cor­niches’ that bring cap­ti­vat­ing views and all the glam­our of the French Riviera

Lonely Planet (UK) - - News -

FRI­DAY NIGHT

Fly in to Nice, cap­i­tal of the Côte d’Azur, and check in at the Hô­tel Wind­sor, three streets back from the seafront Prom­e­nade des Anglais. A dif­fer­ent artist or de­signer was let loose on each of its bed­rooms (from £105), and there is some­thing to suit al­most ev­ery taste – in­clud­ing an all-gold room. Book ahead for a prized park­ing spot. Once you’ve set­tled in, take an evening stroll around the hud­dled streets of Vieux-Nice, stop­ping for a slap-up din­ner Niçois-style at con­vivial Chez Palmyre, with dishes such as con­fit lamb or gnoc­chi with red pesto (three-course menu £16). hotel­wind­sor­nice.com; Chez Palmyre 00 33 4 93 85 72 32

SATUR­DAY MORN­ING

The morn­ing’s chal­lenge is the Grande Cor­niche – the high­est of the three cor­niche roads that run east from Nice. They are of­ten traf­fic-clogged in sum­mer months but much freer in the still-mild off-sea­son. The cor­niches (Grande, Moyenne and Basse) are sel­dom an­nounced by name on road signs, so it’s best to go by road num­bers or des­ti­na­tions. The Grande Cor­niche (D2564) climbs through Nice’s eastern hills, more than 500m high, through an of­ten sparse land­scape that con­trasts with the villa-be­decked coast far below. The most im­por­tant vil­lage on the road is La Tur­bie, where a tow­er­ing Ro­man mon­u­ment, the Trophée des Alpes (en­try £5.50), stands watch over Monaco’s yacht-filled har­bours. tro­phee-au­guste.fr

SATUR­DAY AF­TER­NOON

Con­tinue for an­other 15–20 min­utes along this road, which starred in the 1955 Hitch­cock film To Catch a Thief, un­til you reach the ‘Vieux Vil­lage’ turn-off for Ro­que­brune and its free park­ing area. Walk up to this clas­sic hill­top vil­lage, where you’ll find Les Deux Frères – a ho­tel and restau­rant with a panoramic ter­race (its clear mar­quee flaps are brought down in cooler weather), and el­e­gant French cui­sine to match the coastal views (lunch menu from £25). Ro­que­brune’s streets are an ex­cel­lent place for a di­ges­tive stroll, es­pe­cially rue Mon­col­let with its rock-carved stair­ways. In the cen­tre of the vil­lage is a 10th-cen­tury cas­tle (en­try £4.50) and on its out­skirts an olive tree that’s been grow­ing for over a mil­len­nium. les­deuxfr­eres.com

SATUR­DAY EVENING

Be­yond Ro­que­brune, the cor­niches blend to­gether for the short stretch to Men­ton, the last town be­fore the Ital­ian border. On the seafront road, the Napoléon Men­ton has stylish blue and white rooms (from £120) sport­ing draw­ings by Jean Cocteau. The artist and poet also has a fu­tur­is­tic mu­seum in his hon­our in town. For din­ner, head into Men­ton’s Old Town for mar­ket-in­spired Provençal cui­sine at Le Bistrot des Jardins (three­course menu from £36), or make a grand oc­ca­sion

of it by book­ing at Mi­razur: lit­er­ally the fi­nal restau­rant be­fore the fron­tier. Its dou­ble Miche­lin­starred cui­sine comes with a light, herbal touch (set tast­ing menus from £100). napoleon-men­ton.com; le-bistrot-des-jardins.fr; mi­razur.fr

SUN­DAY MORN­ING

For the re­turn drive, be­gin by head­ing into Monaco – 35 min­utes from Men­ton. This prin­ci­pal­ity barely two miles long has a slightly un­real air, but Formula One fans can trace the route of its grand-prix cir­cuit (in a more re­spon­si­ble 10 min­utes rather than the 1 minute 14 sec­ond race record). Find a car park in the lower town then walk up to the rock-perched Old Town, home to the world-class Musée Océanographique de Monaco, with its huge aquar­i­ums and ex­hibits on marine bi­ol­ogy (en­try from £10). Lunch op­tions – like much else in the prin­ci­pal­ity – tend to come with mega price tags, but one good-value al­ter­na­tive is to pick from the Mediter­ranean­fo­cused food stalls at the daily open-air Marché de la Con­damine. oceano.mc

SUN­DAY AF­TER­NOON

Cross back into France to join the Moyenne Cor­niche (D6007) – the mid­dle of the three roads by height, which puts you at the heart of the scenery. Look out for views to the left of the croc­o­dile-sil­hou­et­ted promon­tory of Cap Fer­rat. A quar­ter-hour after leav­ing Monaco, you’ll reach Èze, an­other ‘vil­lage per­ché’ (‘perched vil­lage’) that makes for one of the loveli­est snap­shots of the route. The ru­ins of its cas­tle have been taken over by the Jardin Ex­o­tique d’Èze – a panoramic cac­tus gar­den (en­try £5.50). The last 20 min­utes of the Moyenne Cor­niche will lead you above the port of Ville­franche and back to Nice. Here you can toast the end of your French Riviera drive at the beach­fac­ing cock­tail bar La Movida (cock­tails from £9). jar­dinex­o­tique-eze.fr; movi­dan­ice.com

Clock­wise: Look­ing down on Ville­franche; the gold room at Hô­tel Wind­sor in Nice; pork and onions as in­ter­preted by Mi­razur; the Musée Océanographique de Monaco

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