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Ten great days out on the French Riviera


French Riviera - hilltop village of Eze

Hilltop village of Eze

French Riviera – Côte d’Azur – to do list

*Have a day out in Monaco during the week of the Monaco Grand Prix. It’s often said that Monaco is the star attraction of the French Riviera without being part of France. The tiny principality has been a symbol of wealth and glamour ever since its Prince Rainier married Hollywood star Grace Kelly in its cathedral in 1956. Visitors can gamble in the casino made famous by James Bond or watch the luxury yachts sitting quietly at anchor in the stunning harbour. But you don’t have to be a high roller to enjoy it. Its superb gardens and terraces, with dazzling views, are free and the locals give a warm welcome. And see my video clip below about grand prix day.

*Have a walk along the Promenade des Anglais, Nice, followed by a drink in the sumptuous Hotel Negresco, where doormen still dress in the manner of the staff in 18th-century mansions. In 2003 it was listed by the government of France as a National Historic Building. The main thoroughfare of Nice, the capital of the Côte d’Azur,  is named after the English after the wealthy 19th century visitors, who made it one of the first European resorts for travellers from the UK, stumped up cash.

*Take a train ride to Italy. It is inexpensive and total value for money. For a few euros you can ride from Nice to Ventimiglia, just over the border. The sights along the way are fantastic and include Monaco and Villefranche-sur-Mer.

*Visit the perched village of Eze, a medieval village perched like an eagles nest on a narrow rocky peak overlooking the Mediterranean sea. The ancient fortified village is still crowned with the ruins of its 12th-century fortified castle sitting on a narrow rocky peak. The castle grounds house the well-known Jardin Exotique

*Enjoy a scenic walk between the Côte d’Azur villages of Villefranche-sur-Mer and next-door neighbour Beaulieu-sur-Mer. This walk of around three quarters of an hour starts in Villefranche’s historic harbour, a favourite with cruise ships. It also takes you past Villa Nellcôte, the exotic location famous as the place where the Rolling Stones recorded their Exile On Main St album.

*Visit the Manet museum in Nice and Vieux Nice – the old town. The museum, on a hill in the Cimiez neighbourhood, houses the collection the artist and his heirs left to the city. The old town is an atmospheric honeycomb of narrow streets, dotted with Baroque churches, vibrant squares, shops and restaurants. Great place to eat out and party at night.

* Cannes is famous for its prestigious film festival which this year is from May 15 to 26. It has museums, churches and art galleries to see but the main attraction seems to be sitting in a cafe along the shore and watching people go by. If you don’t want to spend you can enjoy the seaside from one of its many piers and jetties.

* Inland slightly from the coast, the small town of Grasse is noted for being the centre of production for many of the world’s best perfumes. Visitors can visit the perfumeries that are strewn around the village or head out into the hills and enjoy walking through the unspoilt countryside.

*Hire a car and drive with care the French Riviera coastal roads between Cannes and Monaco. Enjoyable, with a feast of sights for the eyes, but to be avoided in peak holiday periods.

*Antibes, halfway between Nice and Cannes, sits atop the ruins of the fourth century BC Greek city of Antipolis. It has beaches and a port, an enjoyable old town, fortifications, good hiking, and a great Picasso collection.  It also has a traditional daily market.

The Dolomite Mountains in Italy are an all-year round magnet for activity seekers

a href=”http://globewanderer.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/The-Dolomites.jpg”img class=”size-medium wp-image-73″ title=”The Dolomite Mountains, Italy” src=”http://globewanderer.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/The-Dolomites-300×200.jpg” alt=”Dolomite Mountains” width=”300″ height=”200″ //a Italy’s Dolomite mountains

THE Dolomite mountains in Italy are in a class of their own – a fact recognised In August, 2009, when they  were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Whether they are covered in snow or not,, they are an all-year-round  magnet for the tourist and sportsman and there really is something there for everybody.

The Dolomites are like no other peaks in Europe. They rise in steep spires, chiseled by nature to form the most striking of mountains. Although part of Italy, they have a strong Tyrolean feel to them.

In the winter the region’s famous Val Gardena is a haven for skiers but in the spring in turns to an Alpine picture book and you half expect  to see the von Trapp family come singing over the hills.

The village of Selva, one of the three main villages in the Val Gardena, is the home of the unique Ladinos who are proud to tell you they speak a language shaped out ancient Latin features but decidedly all their own.

One of the surprises the Dolomites has in store for you is the via ferrata. A cable car whisks you to a height of around 2,400m and a guide ropes you in to a harness to take you rock climbing.

You are actually following in the footsteps of Sylvester Stallone in the area where filming was carried out for Cliffhanger.

Hanging from a cliff face can be easier than it looks with the help of an experienced guide and a small rope which clips on and off a steel cable as you make your way up a rock face to the top of a limestone tower.

A via ferrata – iron road – is a mountain route equipped with fixed cables, stemples, ladders, and bridges. The first via ferratas were built in the Dolomites during the First World War, to aid the movement of mountain infantry, and the Dolomites probably still has the greatest number.

If you get addicted to this activity, there are long distance trails which take at least a week.

The Dolomites’ rugged peaks, surrounded by picture postcard scenery,  create a paradise for climbers, walkers and cyclists and every June the area hosts the Sellaronda Bike Day – the one Sunday of the year when all passes around the Sella massif are closed to cars. Thousands of keen cyclists ascend the various routes.

The local cuisine is renowned for its subtle fusion of Italian and Austrian cooking.

The closest airports to Selva are: Innsbruck with a transfer  time to the resort of one hour and 30minutes; Verona, three hours; and Milan, also three hours away.

Useful websites are a href=”http://www.suedtirol.info” rel=”nofollow”www.suedtirol.info/a and Dolomiti Adventures at a href=”http://www.dolomiti-adventures.com/” rel=”nofollow”www.dolomiti-adventures.com//a