This elegant city has a fascinating medieval quarter, a magnificent Cathedral (if on a guided tour, ask to see the beautiful carved main doors, normally covered) and superb seventeenth and eighteenth century buildings and fountains, especially along the Cours Mirabeau.
Paul Cezanne was born in Aix in 1839 and you can visit his studio. His contemporary, Zola, was brought to live in Aix, at the age of 3 years, in 1840.
Aix is known for its plaster figurines, ‘santons,’ for its almond-paste sweets, ‘calissons’ and for its excellent shops and markets.
Chic Cannes on the Med is world-renowned for its annual Film Festival. In 2011, this takes place 11 - 22 May – see ‘Activities’. Cannes has beautiful beaches, superb shopping on the rue d’Antibes, a delightful old quarter, a yacht-filled harbour and a scenic promenade, the stunning La Croisette.
From Cannes, you can take a boat trip to the islands of St Honorat and Ste Marguerite where the mysterious ‘man in the iron mask’ was imprisoned in the seventeenth century.
Children world-wide sing about the ‘pont d’Avignon,’ the St-Benezet bridge over the Rhone. It once spanned the whole river but strong flooding in the seventeenth century swept part of it away.
In the fourteenth century, the presence of the Popes made Avignon the capital of medieval Europe. Nowadays, it is a delightful cultural centre and the Popes Palace a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Grasse is the centre of France’s perfumery industry. Many visitors head for the Fragonard perfume factory, the oldest in Grasse, dating from 1782. Free guided tours are available plus you can visit the museum.
On the outskirts of Grasse is the more modern Fabrique des Fleurs where visitors can have free guided tours of the laboratories and packing areas.
Only 15km from Cannes, Grasse’s altitude gives it a pleasant climate. The old town and Cathedral are both worth a visit.
Pot-holers will enjoy the holes and grottoes on the Plateau de la Malle to the north of Grasse.
A leading Riviera resort, Nice comprises the old town and port, the nineteenth century city centre and chic Cimiez. Its famous Promenade des Anglais runs along the whole of the seafront and is lined with restaurants, shops and museums. The views across the sea are unforgettable.
The old town is pedestrianised so you can enjoy its quaint streets and squares. Nice has a selection of fine museums including the Matisse Museum, the Chagall Museum, the Fine Arts Museum and the Naval Museum. For a spectacular view of the city, visit the Château whilst the Russian Cathedral and flower market are both must-sees.
The River Rhone splits into 2 at Arles. Its geography attracted the Romans and their legacy is very much in evidence, especially the beautifully preserved Arena. Built in 1BC, it seated 20,000 spectators. It is still in use today for Spanish and Camargue-style bull-fighting. In the latter, a rosette is tied to the bull’s forehead and the the bull-fighter has 15 mins to grab it with a hook.
Van Gogh moved to Arles in 1888 and painted some of his most famous works there, including Sunflowers.
Picture-postcard medieval village with a rich historical and cultural heritage. Its maze of narrow streeets, squares, fountains, ramparts and twelfth century collegiate church are a delight to explore and are much beloved by photgraphers and artists.
Both Matisse and Picasso painted there, drawn by the exceptional quality of the light. It is now home to numerous contemporary artists whose work can be viewed in the many galleries.
Don’t forget to visit too La Colombe d’Or restaurant famed for its art collection – payment in kind by the many artists who dined there when it was a simple auberge.