- A great bargain with large terrace
- This delightful property is close to the
Negresco hotel, the beaches and the sea in a charming Nicois style
building which has just been recently painted. Click on the photo for more information.
Sights around Nice
There are scores of different places to visit around Nice, each with its own unique attractions and style. All of the places revealed here are within 30 minutes away by public transport. Many people's favourite seaside villages are delightful Antibes and Villefranche. For a sense of history head to the hills to see Roquebrune, Eze, Biot and Haut-de-Cagnes. The walks around the Cap d'Antibes, Cap Ferrat and Cap Martin are stunning. Menton has history and a beach as well as being an excellent stopping point for trips into Italy. For a day lazing on the sand it's hard to beat Juan les Pins. Restaurant reviews and accommodation options are alongside. Cannes and Monaco, both 30 minutes away, are the only other big towns on the Riviera and are a little too large to be covered here. Both towns have remarkably good websites in their own right.
The old districts of Antibes are best approached from Fort Carre, which stands on the point separating the St-Roch inlet from Baie des Anges. The original fort was constructed in the 16th century to counter the Savoy threat to the east; in the 17th century, Louis XIV's military architect Vauban gave it its eight-pointed star shape. Just to the south of the fort, the marina of Port Vauban is Europe's largest yacht harbour, harbouring some of the continent's largest pleasure craft and plenty of glitzy boutiques, where you can hire, sorry, charter, your own craft and join the yachterati. Yachties should visit in early June to catch the Voiles d'Antibes , a major boating event which fills the bay with splendid sailing vessels and motor yachts for five days. For those preferring dry land, hidden behind the sheltered ancient walls of the quay is Plage de la Gravette, a free sandy beach with gently shelving waters, in the heart of town.
South of the marina, at the other end of the ramparts, is the Musee d'Histoire et d'Archologie, containing reminders of the town's multi-faceted past, including Greek and Etruscan amphorae. Also squeezed within the ramparts is the Eglise de l'Immacule-Conception (open 8am-noon, 3-6.30pm daily) Antibes' former cathedral, built on the site of a Roman temple to Diana. Look out for the marble virgins, ornate baroque stylings and the deep yellow ochres, lapis blues and blood reds, which cover many of the walls.
The Chateau Grimaldi next door still follows the plan of the earlier Roman fort, despite rebuilding in the 16th century by the Grimaldis.
In 1946, when Picasso rented a cold, damp room on the second floor, it belonged to a certain Romuald Dor, and already contained a small archaeological collection. Dor had ulterior motives in his offer of such prime Riviera studio space; the works Picasso left behind in lieu of rent enabled him to upgrade his lacklustre collection and re-baptise it the Musee Picasso. This was a fertile period for the balding Spaniard with the stripy vest. As proper artists' materials were almost impossible to get hold of in 1946, Picasso used ships' paint slapped on to some odd-looking bits of wood, and discovered the joys of. Disappointingly, Picasso's treasures here are limited, occupying only one in three floors of the collection, though the Germaine Richier sculptures around the castle walls and the Nicholas de Stal paintings compensate somewhat. Just inland from the castle, the Cours Massena, the Greek town's main drag, plays host to one of the region's liveliest and best-supplied produce markets, the March Provencal, open every morning (except Mon in winter).
Where to eat
Antibes' cosmopolitan old town is best for cafes and bistros rather than swanky restaurants. For an atmospheric coffee try the age-old Pimm's bar (3 rue de la Republique, 04.93.34.04.88) which still has a few writers and lovers hiding in the woodwork, or head to the place Nationale, cours Massena or boulevard d'Auguillon caf strips. L'Oursin (16 rue Republique, 04.93.34.13.46, closed first two weeks of Feb & Nov and Sun & Mon evenings, menu
EUR17) is something of an oyster specialist with over ten types on display. Snails, scallops and a daily dip of aioli are also available. Le Marmite (20 rue James Close, 04.93.34.56.79, closed mid-Nov-mid-Dec and Mon, menus EUR12-25) is a similar establishment around the corner with fresh seafood cooked to order, including Provencal prawns and swordfish steaks. Classy Oscar's (8 rue de Docteur Rostan, 04.93.34.90.14, closed June & July, mid-Sept-Dec and Sun & Mon, menus EUR20-49) has an all white Italian-style interior. Its most expensive set menu is a five-course affair featuring lobster, caviar and truffles. As far as foreign fare is concerned L'Ancre de Chine, (26 bd d'Aiguillon, 04.93.34.27.70, menus EUR28-31) is justifiably busy, as it's the best Chinese in town, while L'Elephant Bleu (28 bd d'Aiguillon, 04.93.34.28.80, menus EUR19-30), next door, serves up excellent Thai and Vietnamese. Locals wanting chops, chips and a beer for lunch head to the Cafe du Commerce (3 pl Barnaud, 04.93.34.02.84, average EUR10) next to one of Antibes' many marketplaces.
Juan les Pins
Juan-les-Pins has no pretensions to history: a sandy, forested, deserted bay until the 1920s, it was conceived as, and still is, a magnet for the Riviera's hedonists. The centre is a seething mass of boutiques and restaurants, but if it seems frantic during the day, you should see it on a summer's night: Juan-les-Pins isn't in the habit of wasting good partying time on sleep. The beautiful beach has public and private sections; on the latter, a patch of sand with deck chair will set you back around EUR10 a day.
If playing at sardines on the strand is not your thing, there are watersports galore; it was in Juan-les-Pins, they say, that water-skiing was invented in the 1930s at the beach of the glamorous Hotel Belles Rives, which still has its own renowned water-skiing club.
Where to eat
At Juan-les-Pins there are plenty of beach establishments. The family-friendly Plage Epi Beach (04.93.67.27.84, closed Nov-Mar), one of many similar eateries in one long row, specialises in salads and simple grilled fish such as sardines. The lively La Bodega (av Docteur Dautheville, 04.93.61.07.52, menu EUR20) stays open until all hours in summer to feed revellers from local nightlife haunts. If you're really unlucky one of the waiters will serenade you Spanish-style as you tuck into your pizza and pasta. Bijou Plage (bd du Littoral, 04.93.61.39.07, menus EUR19) serves reliable seafood on the seafront. For a touch of crustacean class try the Festival de la Mer (av Guy de Maupassant, 04.93.61.04.62, average EUR40). Look for the buckets of oysters, scallops and snails outside on the street. The highly regarded Perroquet (av Georges Gallice, 04.93.61.02.20, closed Nov & Dec and July-Aug lunchtimes, menus EUR25-30) is possibly Juan-les-Pins finest with the emphasis on traditional French cuisine. Elegant La Terrasse (Hotel Juana, La Pinde, av Gallice, 04.93.61.08.70, closed Nov-Mar, menus EUR92-120) attracts a clientele more likely to spend the day in white linen than in bathing suits. It was here that Alain Ducasse won the second star that propelled him to fame; chef Christian Morisset, who's been at the helm since 1986, continues the tradition of wonderful food. One of the menu options is a nine-course spectacular with heaps of lobster.
The Cap d'Antibes peninsula is a playground for the very wealthy although many of the homes here are of the classic, understated variety; definitely not the glitzy Footballers' Wives type. To appreciate the prosperity to the full, rent a bike from one of the many outlets along boulevard Wilson and take in the views as you wend your way up to Parc Thuret, a botanical testing site established in 1856 with the aim of introducing more varied flora to the Riviera. There are today around 3,000 plant species laid out in families, while 200 new species are introduced each year and their acclimatisation carefully studied.
If that walk sounds like too much exertion, take advantage of the Cap's surprisingly long stretches of public beach, Plage de la Salis and Plage de la Garoupe. Both can be walked to from Antibes or Juan-les-Pins and are well signposted for those on foot. Those with four wheels can stop by the sand on their tour of the Cap.
Between the two, and a fair hike uphill, the Sanctuaire de la Garoupe has a great collection of unlikely ex-votos. At the southern tip of the peninsula, the Musee Naval et Napolonien has model ships and charts and mementos of the great man, who parked his mother in Antibes on one occasion. Next to the museum is another historical landmark where most people would opt to park themselves, rather than their mothers: the Hotel du Cap.
Where to eat
Try a knockout bouillabaisse or platter of langoustines at the venerable Bacon (bd de Bacon, 04.93.61.50.02, closed Nov-Jan and Mon & Tue lunch, menus EUR45-75). This luxury fish house is all about studied casual elegance: overlooking the Baie des Anges, the almost all-white dining room has a tented ceiling that is rolled back in good weather.
Once, long ago, a clever PR company was sent into the hinterland of the Cote d'Azur to give its villages instant brand recognition. That, at least, is how it sometimes appears. Grasse is perfume, St-Paul-de-Vence is art, Vallauris is pottery (and Picasso), and Biot (pronounced Bee-ot) is glass (and Leger). But it was not always so. In fact, until as late as the 1950s, the name of this picturesque old village, perched on a volcanic outcrop above the River Brague, was linked to pottery.
Today's Biot is a vivid mix of galleries, cafes and beautiful little lanes. The Tourist Information office has a well-researched historical walking tour leaflet, which takes visitors on a trip around the town's sites of interest.
On the way out of Biot, miniaturist fans can pick up tips and buy plants at the Bonsai Arboretum, a permanent collection of over 1,000 Bonsai in a 2,000 square metre Japanese garden, worked on for two generations by the family Okonek.
Where to eat
One of Biot's most charming places to stay is the Hotel des Arcades (16 pl des Arcades, 04.93.65.01.04, rates EUR50-90). The decor of this 15th-century mansion mixes ancient (huge fireplaces, four-poster beds) and modern. The owner is a collector, and the gallery/restaurant, a good, reasonably priced alternative to the town's more serious eating options (menu EUR24), displays works by artists including Vasarely, Leger and Folon. Benot Paudrat is chef at the Auberge du Jarrier (30 passage Bourgade, 04.93.65.11.68, closed Mon & Fri lunch, menus from EUR39), a relaxed restaurant in a converted jar factory at the end of a laundry-festooned passageway, serving Mediterranean dishes laced with truffles, nuts and fruit.
High on the hill within walking distance of Cagnes-sur-Mer is Haut-de-Cagnes, a hidden gem of a town as large as nearby Biot and St-Paul-de-Vence, yet wonderfully unspoilt and calm. The weak-willed can take the shuttle bus from the Gare Routiere at Cagnes-sur-Mer which links two settlements every half-hour or so. It's a favourite spot for contemporary artists of all persuasions, drawn not only by the annual arts festival but by the Musee Mediterranen d'Art Moderne and the Donation Suzy Solidor (a collection of 40 portraits by Cocteau, Dufy and Lempicka), both of which are housed the dramatic 14th-century Chateau Grimaldi. On the first floor of the centre is the Olive Tree Museum, homage to the popular local mainstay. The Renaissance-cum-Mediterranean fortress interior of the chateau is definitely worth a look in itself. In the dead centre of town is the Eglise de Saint Pierre, a church complex studded with paintings, stained glass and a marble font. To the east is the stunning Chapelle Notre Dame de Protection. Several statues and a host of wonderful arches are backdropped by a batch of warm-coloured frescoes.
Where to eat
The alluring Le Cagnard (rue Sous-Barri, 04.93.20.73.21) has a ceiling studded with ancient coast of arms and offers delicious roasts of pigeon, duck and lamb (closed Nov to mid-Dec and Mon, Tue & Wed lunch, menus EUR60-81).
The modern, almost cool, Grimaldi (6 pl du Chateau, 04.93.20.60.24, closed Feb & Tue, doubles EUR90-EUR120) overlooks the delightful main square and prepares the finest meats, cheeses and fish (menus EUR28-40). Le Baux (2 pl du Chateau, 04.93.73.14.00) around the corner offers two traditional double rooms (EUR70) and simple steak and fish dishes (closed Oct-Apr, Sun and Mon, Tue, Wed & Thu lunch, menu EUR15) on its grapevine covered wooden terrace. Fleur de Sel (85 monte de la Bourgade, 04.93.20.33.33, closed Wed & Thu lunchtime, menus EUR21-52) serves imaginative seafood and a pesto soup. The Cour et Jardin, with its cosy vaulted cellar (102 monte de la Bourgade, 04.93.20.72.27, closed Tue and two weeks in Jan, menus EUR19-EUR29) is innovative too with its gazpacho soups, carpaccios of fish and traditional Nicoise farcis. Nearby rue Hippolyte Guis, yet another street saturated with hanging baskets, features Le Clap (04.93.73.92.80, menus 14-29), a grill specialist using ingredients from around France such as scallops, seabass and Burgundy snails. In the main square Le Sain' Elena (1 pl Grimaldi, 04.93.73.91.49, menu EUR14) does cracking salads with a mix of duck, bacon, fruit and nuts as well as offering some of the best daily specials in town.
Founded in the 14th century by Charles d'Anjou II as a duty-free port, Villefranche's steep narrow streets and stacked up dusty-rose, ochre and apricot houses with trompe l'oeil frescoes redefine the term 'picturesque'. On the tiny cobblestoned port, you might still see old women mending fishing nets. In the old town rue Obscure, a dark and eerie vaulted passageway, has changed little since the Middle Ages. One could walk up and down for hours not actually doing anything but enjoying oneself nonetheless. The Combat Naval Fleuri, held on the Monday before Ash Wednesday, is a surreal sight as dozens of fishing boats bedecked with flowers invade the harbour.
The deep harbour between the headlands of Mont Boron to the west and Cap-Ferrat to the east was used as a US naval base until France withdrew from the military wing of NATO in 1966.
The quayside has become a haven of high class since the days when it used to service sailors; lined with restaurants and brassieres, it overlooks a long strip of sandy public beach. At the western end of the old port is the postage stamp-sized Chapelle de St-Pierre-des-Pecheurs, once a storehouse for fishing nets. In 1957, Jean Cocteau covered the walls with lively frescoes recounting the life of St Peter. At the summit of the old town, the Eglise St-Michel (04.93.01.73.13, open 9am-7pm daily) is a handsome 18th-century Italianate church that boasts an impressive organ built in 1790 by the Nicois Grinda brothers, still played during Sunday mass. Some 300m west of the church (walk through the pretty old streets, rather than the main road) is the 16th-century Citadelle. It was built by the Dukes of Savoy and comes complete with a drawbridge. It now houses the voluptuous female figurines of local sculptor Antoniucci Volti in the Musee Volti and 100 minor works by artists such as Picasso, Hartung, Picabia and Miro in the Musee Goetz-Boumeester. Outdoor theatre and cinematic productions take place throughout the year, especially in the summer, for around EUR5 per show.
Where to eat
Up a steep alley above several other more casual eateries, L'Echalote (7 rue de l'Eglise, 04.93.01.71.11, open dinner only, closed Sun and 15-30 Jan, menus EUR25-EUR36) serves locally inspired and often fruity dishes in intimate, Frenchified surroundings. The Fille du Pecheur (04.93.01.90.09, closed Jan and Wed, menu EUR27) and l'Orsin Bleu (04.93.01.30.45, closed 15 Jan-15 Feb and Tue, menu EUR32) sit side by side opposite the water on quai Courbet. Tagliatelle au fruit de mer is a winning choice at the former, while fish soup is spooned out at the table at the latter. The fisherman who supplies both restaurants moors his boat 20m away in the port. Next to the fountain in place Amelie Pollonais is locally recommended Michel's (04.93.76.73.24, average EUR30), the pick of the four or five restaurants in the square. Daily specials range from sea bream to pissaladiere and the some of the world's largest mussels. Le Cosmo Bar on the same square (04.93.01.84.05, average EUR20) is not just a friendly local cafe, but offers top-quality fish specials and one of the best salades nicoises on the Riviera. Great for breakfast before the Sunday antiques market.
This lush, secluded peninsula jutting out between Villefranche and Beaulieu is a millionaires' paradise of high-hedged, security-gated mansions. Part-time residents include Hubert de Givenchy and Andrew Lloyd Webber among others, although one of Cap Ferrat's most revered residents was the late David Niven, who has a square named after him on the coastal path to Beaulieu. The promontory it is also a walker's dream, with a well-signed rocky 10km path that winds around the Cap en route to the Plage des Fosses, a pebbly beach that is ideal for small children. Swimmers can also drive or walk to La Paloma beach with its tree-lined bay, 500m south of Port St-Jean.
The approach to the Cap is dominated by the Villa Ephrussi-de-Rothschild, an Italianate extravaganza built for Beatrice de Rothschild in the early 1900s. Inside, Batrice had appropriate settings recreated for her immense collection, which focuses on the 18th century, along with Impressionist paintings and Oriental knick-knacks. The villa is surrounded by seven hectares of Spanish, Japanese and Italian gardens and fountains. Arresting views over the Mediterranean can be seen from most of them.
On the eastern side of the peninsula, luxury yachts have replaced fishing boats at St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, which remains a pleasant town, good for an evening drink followed by a stroll along the marina and Port St-Jean.
Where to eat
The small yet elegant menu at the La Hotel Voile d'Or (av Jean Mermoz, 04.93.01.13.13, closed mid-Oct to mid-Apr) brims with fresh fruit and seafood (menus EUR58-EUR91). The chintzy air of the public lounges is made up for by heavy wood finishes elsewhere, amazing balcony views and a pool right by the waterside. Captaine Cook (11 av Jean Mermoz, 04.93.76.02.66, closed Wed & Thu lunch, menu EUR21), just 50m up the hill, cracks out lobster and oysters galore on its vine-covered terrace. In St-Jean itself, Le Provencal (2 av Denis Semria, 04.93.76.03.97, menus EUR31-150) prides itself on a seafood melee accompanied by figs and coconut. For best results dive in using the fine tableware on the private balcony.
A charming belle époque resort that was long a favourite with holidaying Russian and British aristocrats, Beaulieu still has an old-world feel, with its neat rows of genteel but non-designer boutiques and ubiquitous palms. Well-heeled Sunday strollers and their yapping dogs jostle each other for space on promenade Maurice Rouvier, a paved seaside path linking the port of Beaulieu to St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat via the late David Niven's pink castle; go early in the morning or at sunset to get the best of the view.
Gustave Eiffel (he of the tower) and Gordon Bennet, legendary director of the New York Herald Tribune, lived here. So did archaeologist Theodore Reinach, who was so enamoured of Ancient Greece that he built a not-to-be-missed reconstruction of a fifth-century BC Athenian house. Situated in front of the Baie des Fourmis, so called because of the ant-like black rocks dotted about, the Villa Kerylos, is now a museum, with sunken marble bath, reclining sofas and antique-looking frescoes galore.
Where to eat
Relaxed yet stylish bistro Les Agaves (4 av Marechal Foch, 04.93.01.13.12, closed Feb, menu EUR30) in the Palais des Anglais opposite the station is popular with locals. Find nuts, honey and peaches mixed with turbot, scallops and local lamb. Le Metropole (15 bd Leclerc, 04.93.01.00.08, closed Nov, rates EUR170-EUR750) has its own flower-lined gardens by the sea and an excellent restaurant (menus EUR55-86) serving an inspired mix of seafood heavy dishes. The retro-colonial L'African Queen (port de Plaisance, 04.93.01.10.85, average EUR35) is always lively; it offers carpaccios of beef and salmon plus a chance to rub elbows with stars like Jack Nicholson or Bono, who occasionally turn up for dinner. Seafood specialist Marco Polo (04.93.01.06.50, closed Wed & Thu lunch, average EUR40) lies next door giving diners the choice of a refined marina-side meal.
Perched photogenically on a pinnacle of rock 430 metres above sea level, Eze started life as a Celto-Ligurian settlement, passing over the ages from Phoenicians to Romans and from Lombards to Saracens. The village's glorious vistas inspired Nietzsche, who would stride up here in the 1880s from his Eze-Bord-de-Mer home, composing the third part of Thus Spake Zarathustra in his head. The steep mule path he followed (now called sentier Fredric-Nietzsche) snakes through olive and pine groves. Allow an hour and a quarter for the
upward slog from the Nice to Monaco Corniche Infrieure. Eze hosts the Eze d'Antan Festival in the third week of July, when the village is swamped by sword-toting knights and colourful pageantry.
Cutesy Provencal boutiques go some way to marring Eze's charm the rest of the year, but a place where donkeys still haul groceries up the steep lanes can't be entirely ruined (unless, of course, they're financed by the tourist board).
Where to eat
Nestling beneath the castle ruins, the Nid d'Aigle (rue du Chateau, 04.93.41.19.08,
closed Nov-Mar, menus EUR22) is an informal, family-run restaurant specialising in local dishes such as artichokes with goat's cheese and pasta pistou. The sumptuous rooms at the Chateau de la Chevre d'Or (rue du Barri, 04.92.10.66.66, double EUR260-EUR750) have sweeping views along the coast, and there's a pool, too. At the Chateau's gourmet restaurant (menus EUR60-EUR130), chef Philippe Labbe prepares sea bass, fillets of beef and Provencal lamb.
Chateau Eza (rue de la Pise, 04.93.41.12.24, closed Nov-Mar, double EUR380-EUR730), a mini-castle at the top of endless crooked steps, has medieval style rooms with, quite feasibly, one of the greatest views in the entire world. Taking a drink on the balcony lets you take in Cap Ferrat, Beaulieu and the glimmering Mediterranean below. The highlight is the outdoor terrace restaurant (closed Nov-25 Dec, menus EUR45-EUR90) with romantic balconies for two, another sublime panorama and more perfectly cooked duck than you can shake a stick at. The Auberge du Troubadour tucked away on rue du Brec (04.93.41.19.03, closed Sun & Mon lunchtime and 20 Nov-20 Dec & beg July, menus EUR30-EUR45) lacks a view, but offers top-notch regional variations on beef, lamb and snails.
Roquebrune Cap Martin
Wedged between Monaco and Menton, Cap-Martin is one of the Riviera's loveliest stretches of wild coast, along with the Cap d'Antibes and the Esterel hills. Cloaked in pines, firs, olive and mimosa trees, the promontory is studded with luxury hideaways, most of them hidden from mere mortal view in the millionaires' row of the domaine prive du Cap-Martin. Empress Eugnie, Churchill, Coco Chanel, Le Corbusier and WB Yeats lived (and, in the case of the latter two, died) here, as did Emperor Bokassa. A well-maintained seaside footpath, the Sentier Douanier, winds around the peninsula. Passing by Le Cabanon, Le Corbusier's tiny modular beach cottage, set just before the Pointe de Cabb. West of here, the curved beach of the Plage du Golfe Bleu is a favourite landing spot for hand-gliders.
The architect, who drowned while swimming here in 1965, had the foresight to design himself an impressive memorial in the cemetery (open 10am-7pm daily) in the old village of Roquebrune, which rises above the Cap-Martin peninsula. Carved into the rock above the Grande Corniche, this handsome village perche started life in the tenth century as a fortified Carolingian fiefdom. For five centuries, from 1355, it belonged to the Grimaldis.
Up the steep stairways at the top of the village is the Chateau de Roquebrune, which was almost fairy tale-ified by an English owner in the 1920s until the locals kicked up a stink. It now has four floors of historical displays, lordly armour galore and a dungeon. On the chemin du St-Roch, not far from the cemetery, stands one of the oldest trees in the world: the sprawling olivier millenaire 1,000-year-old olive tree.
For the energetic, the Sentier Massolin is little more than a giant staircase leading from Roquebrune village down to the coast via Carnols, the less exclusive seaside suburb of the Cap, which is nevertheless popular with watersports enthusiasts and Italian holidaymakers.
The path from Carnoles rail station and Roquebrune takes in some of the best views on the Riviera, with a near constant view of Monte Carlo if walked from east to west. Walking either way lets hikers take a celebratory dip at the end of the path in the bustling holiday beach of Carnoles or on the two more exclusive beaches just below Cap-Martin Roquebrune rail station. There are also plenty of tiny paths into the water leading from the main walkway around the peninsula. Good walking maps are available for free from the Tourist Information office listed here, which lies next to Carnoles rail station. Nearby are Le Clos du Peyronnet botanical gardens with their wealth of rare trees and flowers from around the world.
Where to eat
In old Roquebrune on the steep steps up to the castle, Au Grand Inquisiteur (18 rue du Chateau, 04.93.35.05.37, closed Mon & Tue lunch and mid-Nov to mid-Dec, menus EUR24-EUR39F) was once the Chateau's sheep pen. It serves up gastronomic beef and fish dishes with lashings of thick sauces. For a breathtaking sea view, dine on the terrace of the Hotel-Restaurant des Deux-Freres (pl des Deux Freres, 04.93.28.99.00, double EUR65-101), an impeccably run inn on the esplanade at the foot of the village. Its elegant restaurant of the same name serves traditional cuisine with heaps of accompaniments (closed Mon and Sun dinner and 15 Nov-15 Dec, menus EUR20-EUR43). Across the square, atmospheric cafe La Grotte (3 pl des Deux Freres, 04.93.35.00.04, closed Wed and last week of Oct, menu EUR16) is hollowed out of the rock face. The food is simple: salads, hot plats du jour and pretty good pizzas. This is one of the only places in the village where you can take a glass of wine or beer without ordering food. L'Ide Fixe (1 rue de la Fontaine, 04.93.28.97.25, closed Sun and 15 Nov-15 Dec, menu EUR23) on the way from the castle to the cemetery has several simply prepared yet exquisitely tasty beef dishes. The seafood is much more imaginative.
Menton, last stop on the Cote before the Italian border, has preserved a certain geriatric charm. It claims to have the mildest climate on the Riviera, with 316 cloudless days a year. Lemon trees thrive here and the humble fruit is juiced, iced, painted on plates or amassed in gigantic kitsch floats for the annual Fete du Citron each February. The town's festive calendar extends to include a street theatre and young musicians fair in May, a volley of jazzy music evenings in July, the huge Festival de Musique every August and a Mediterranean garden event in mid-September.
Menton has few nocturnal hotspots, and the gambling at the casino is low-key.
Year-round, however, smartly dressed Italians can be seen strolling along the seafront promenade du Soleil, scooping up fruit in the covered market that sits behind the quays beneath the vieille ville, or sunbathing topless on the uninspiring pebbly beach. Indeed, border-hopping is a favourite pastime here with many Italian workers commuting into France daily to service the needs of the huge Italian holiday industry. Mentonnais head into Italy for bargains at Ventimiglia market on Friday or to load up on olive oil, Italian wine and Parmesan cheese at the supermarket. Amateur botanists can also take in the Giardino Botanico Hanbury over the border in Vintimille. The domain contains inspiring rose gardens, an Australian forest and trees from Central America. It is still run by the Hanbury family who can trace back their origins on the estate to the 1870s.
Where to eat
In the heart of the old town up Menton's winding streets, stone-vaulted Braijade Meridiounale (66 rue Longue, 04.93.35.65.65, closed Wed except July-Aug and 15-30 Nov, menus EUR25-EUR38) is a favourite for local specialties, such as brochettes grilled over an open fire, tripe and aeoli. Wines come from as far as Crete, Lebanon and Spain. Highly recommended Pistou (9 quai Gordon Bennett, 04.93.57.45.89, closed Sun dinner & Mon and 15 Nov-15 Dec, menus EUR13-20) sits on the Vieux Port overlooking the plages des Sablettes. A fruits de mer specialist, bouillabaisse and paellas (both for two people sharing) are also on the menu. La Coquille d'Or (1 quai Bonaparte, 04.93.35.80.67, average EUR35) serves excellent Provencal-style seafood in glitzy surroundings. Le Darkoum (23 rue St-Michel, 04.93.35.44.88, closed Mon & Tue and Jan & Mar, menus EUR21) is a small family-run Moroccan restaurant near the place aux Herbes square. Surrounded by lemon and avocado trees on a lush hillside by the Italian border, Restaurant Mirazur (30 av Aristide Briand, 04.92.41.86.86, closed Mon & Tue lunchtimes, menu EUR39) has been transformed from 40s cafe into an ultra-modern three-storey bistro and bar with a wonderful summer terrace. Beyond the dazzling sea view, it boasts refined Mediterranean fare with legions of seafood.