Pied-à-plage

Fancy a Mediter­ranean bolt­hole just like Jo Vick­ers and her family? picks out eight Riviera towns that are just per­fect for a pied-à-terre

French Property News - - Contents -

Eight Riviera towns that are per­fect for your seaside bolt­hole

Men­ton

- De­part­ment: Alpes-mar­itimes - Pop­u­la­tion: 28,231 - Av­er­age house price: €423,400

Just be­fore the Ital­ian border, at the far eastern reaches of the Riviera, Men­ton is known for its lemons – it holds a spec­tac­u­lar car­ni­val ev­ery Fe­bru­ary/march cel­e­brat­ing the cit­rus fruit, which thrive due to the lo­cal cli­mate, said to be the best on the Côte d’azur. The cres­centshaped sandy bay is backed by colour­ful build­ings with beach­side restau­rants and bars, all over­looked by the foothills of the Alps. There’s a me­dieval old town, Jean Cocteau mu­seum and pop­u­lar Serra de la Madone gar­dens. You’ll find a def­i­nite Ital­ian in­flu­ence here, from the ar­chi­tec­ture to the cui­sine. Men­ton is pop­u­lar with house­hunters seek­ing a more sleepy and re­laxed seaside at­mos­phere than some of the more glitzy Riviera towns.

Nice

- De­part­ment: Alpes-mar­itimes - Pop­u­la­tion: 342,522 - Av­er­age house price: €470,000

Cap­i­tal of the Riviera, Nice of­fers a mix of real town and hol­i­day vibes, with hilly streets lead­ing down to the har­bour, sandy beach and the Prom­e­nade des Anglais – named af­ter the English aris­to­crats who win­tered here in the 18th cen­tury. The city has a rich his­tory – it was founded by Greek sailors around 350BC – and her­itage sites in­clude Ro­man ru­ins on the Colline du Château. The an­nual car­ni­val is the high­light of a busy an­nual cal­en­dar, while mu­se­ums in­clude those ded­i­cated to artists such as Cha­gall and Matisse, both once in­hab­i­tants of Nice. The city’s size means it of­fers a plethora of restau­rants, nightlife, cul­ture and shop­ping – don’t miss the Cours Sa­leya flower mar­ket – and house­hunters have a choice of dif­fer­ent dis­tricts.

Closeby, the deep har­bour at Ville­franch­esur-mer (pop­u­la­tion 5,112) was for cen­turies the only nat­u­ral har­bour on the Med, and it also has a quaint old town, while the small ex­clu­sive penin­sula of St-jean-cap-fer­rat is home to some of the prici­est prop­er­ties on the Riviera (€9,912/€14,207 per m2).

Cagnes-sur-mer

- De­part­ment: Alpes-mar­itimes - Pop­u­la­tion: 49,322 - Av­er­age house price: €450,000

This Riviera town has a 3.5km peb­bly beach, port and old quar­ter, com­plete with castle – dat­ing from the 14th-16th cen­turies, Château Grimaldi was once the most im­por­tant base in the re­gion. Cagnes is known for its horserac­ing course and Renoir mu­seum (the town was the Im­pres­sion­ist painter’s last home). Just in­land, the hill­top vil­lage of St-paul-de-vence is known as the artists’ vil­lage and has many gal­leries, most im­por­tantly the Fon­da­tion Maeght mu­seum of modern art.

An­tibes

- De­part­ment: Alpes-mar­itimes - Pop­u­la­tion: 74,875 - Av­er­age house price: €558,000

Founded by the Greeks as a trad­ing post, the port town of An­tibes later fell un­der the rule of the pow­er­ful Grimaldi family – one of their châteaux now houses the Pi­casso mu­seum. To­day An­tibes is a quin­tes­sen­tial Riviera re­sort, with beaches – 48 of them – ma­rina, seafront restau­rants, lively nightlife and old town. Just west of An­tibes, the small and ex­clu­sive re­sort of Juan-les-pins is pop­u­lar with celebri­ties, and is fa­mous for its Jazz à Juan fes­ti­val. France’s sil­i­con val­ley, Sophia An­tipo­lis, is also nearby.

Cannes

- De­part­ment: Alpes-mar­itimes - Pop­u­la­tion: 74,285 - Av­er­age house price: €485,000

Cannes is a busy place all year round, not just in May when the rich and fa­mous come to town for the In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val. The trans­for­ma­tion from quiet fish­ing vil­lage to re­sort town be­gan when the wealthy English Lord Brougham fell for the place in the 1830s. He built a villa and re­turned ev­ery win­ter for 34 years. Many grand 19th-cen­tury vil­las still stand, par­tic­u­larly in the Quartier des Anglais.

The seafront is where most of the ac­tion is, along the mile-long Prom­e­nade de la Croisette with its lux­ury ho­tels, restau­rants and shops.

Cannes’ old town, Le Su­quet, forms a labyrinth of yet more shops, restau­rants and bars, as well as a monastery turned mu­seum. Just off the coast lie the pic­turesque Iles de Lérins.

St-raphaël & Fréjus

- De­part­ment: Var - Pop­u­la­tion: 35,296 & 52,897 - Av­er­age house price: €480,000 (St-raphaël); €403,200 (Fréjus)

There’s less de­vel­op­ment along the Esterel coast partly be­cause the hills and pine forests reach al­most to the wa­ter’s edge; St-raphaël and Fréjus are the only towns of any size. The rocky hills are pop­u­lar with walk­ers, while the coast­line has many small coves, of­ten only ac­ces­si­ble by foot from the coastal road, the Cor­niche de l’esterel with its mag­nif­i­cent sea views. St-raphaël is the smaller re­sort, a rel­a­tively laid­back place with sandy beaches, old town, ho­tels, casino and 19th-cen­tury basil­ica. Its neigh­bour, Fréjus is a his­toric city dat­ing back to be­fore Ro­man times (ru­ins in­clude an am­phithe­atre and aque­duct), and pop­u­lar to­day for its large ma­rina.

St-tropez

- De­part­ment: Var - Pop­u­la­tion: 4,305 - Av­er­age house price: €2.62m

South of Fréjus the coast be­comes rocky and forested again, backed by the Mas­sif des Mau­res. St-tropez is per­haps the most fa­mous of all the Riviera re­sorts. In the dis­tant past a peace­ful fish­ing port, it has long been the haunt of the wealthy and fa­mous – Brigitte Bar­dot helped to put it on the map when she posed on the beach in her bikini in the 1960s; she still lives here to­day, al­though much more qui­etly. With its old port and his­toric cen­tre, St-tropez re­mains pop­u­lar with jet­set­ters, of­fer­ing a pic­ture-per­fect hol­i­day en­vi­ron­ment with plenty of shops, ho­tels, beaches, cafés and restau­rants.

Across the bay sits Ste-maxime (pop­u­la­tion 14,289). The two re­sorts are not only sep­a­rated by wa­ter, they’re miles apart in terms of celebrity ca­chet and prop­erty prices. For those on a bud­get who want ac­cess to St-trop, Ste-maxime is a good al­ter­na­tive with an av­er­age house price of €650,000. Con­sider too the smaller re­sort of Le La­van­dou (pop­u­la­tion 5,533, av­er­age price €520,000). Both have old towns, har­bours, shops, mar­kets and ho­tels.

The colour­ful old town of Men­ton

Cap­i­tal of the Riviera, Nice has a seven-mile-long prom­e­nade alon­s­gide the sandy beach

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