French Riviera, or Cote d’Azur in French, is a Mediterranean coastline situated in the southeastern portion of France. It is noted as one of the first developed beach resort areas worldwide. Development started during the later part of the 18th century when a health resort was established in the area specifically for sick British tourists. When the railroad infrastructure was constructed in the middle of the 19th century, French Riviera easily turned into a beach vacation destination, particularly by Russian, British and other aristocrats.
Today, French Riviera is synonymous to lofty living and chic elegance. The area enjoyed its heyday during the 1950s to 1960s, when just about any influential person wanted to buy duplex apartments or real estate along the pebble-strewn shoreline. From the 1970s until the present, French Riviera is a popular vacation destination for the rich and the famous, specifically the stylish resorts like Cannes, Nice, St. Tropez and Monte Carlo, which is considered the epitome of vacation extravagance. Grasse, Menton and Frejus & St. Raphael are also popular tourist destinations.
The name French Riviera was lifted from the Italian Riviera, a coastal strip extending to the eastern side of the French border. During the 19th century, British tourists became used to referring the eastern coast region as Riviera. In etymology, ‘Riviera’ is Italian for ‘coastal area.’ The French name Cote d’Azur was derived from a published book, ‘La Cote d’Azur’ authored by French writer Stephen Liegeard in 1888. The name referred to the distinct blue color prevailing across the Mediterranean.
As mentioned, French Riviera is located at the southeastern coastline of France. From east to west, there are about 26 different places that contain different vacation resorts and beach destinations. French Riviera is logically overlooking the pristine, blue Mediterranean, which facilitates an exquisite and unique vacation experience.
French Riviera has an ideal Mediterranean climate. It is known best for its sunny, dry and hot summers that make beach activities a real breeze. Winter is mild because of the influence of the Mediterranean. Thus, the area is popular among tourists who come from freezing European nations during winter season.
Rain is rare and can come particularly in September. Storms are caused by the difference between the warm temperature of the Mediterranean and the colder inland air. Average annual rainfall could be higher than that of Paris, despite the fact that rainy season could be shorter in French Riviera. Snowfall could come just once in 10 years, when mountains in the area could be snow-capped in the months of November to May.
Historical evidences suggest that the region was inhabited even during the prehistoric era. Paleolithic sites of nomadic people were found and were dated about 950,000 BC. There were also artifacts from the Bronze Age like monuments and stone dolmens.
In the 7th century, Greek sailors were believed to have scattered influence among French Riviera inhabitants. In the 8th century, an imposing trophy was built by Emperor Augustus for the region’s pacification. During the time, there were Roman towns, amphitheaters and monuments that were built in French Riviera. Many of such structures still stand like the Cimiez amphitheater and the Frejus’ Roman walls.
Time went by and French Riviera remained an impoverished and remote region, at least until the later part of the 18th century. The locals of the area were mostly involved in fishing, perfume production and cultivation of olive groves. A streak of development came when the British upper class established a fashionable health beach resort in the place.
In 1864, French Riviera was made more accessible to tourists through the construction of the first railway system in the area. Vacationers from all over the continent started flooding in. In the middle of the 19th century, French and British businessmen started seeing the potential of French Riviera as a tourism hub. A gambling site, in the guise of a health spa, was established in Monte Carlo to lure more tourists. At the end of the century, the area was flocked by artistic painters, who all were astounded by the beauty of French Riviera.
Tourism in French Riviera
To many tourists, French Riviera is the embodiment of wealth and leisure in this part of the world. The seaside communities of St. Tropez, Monaco and Cannes have always been synonymous to money. A slow cruise along the picturesque peninsula leads to a long stretch of coastal road. Tourists are almost always delighted to what beholds their eyes.
Quaint harbor villages for fishing turned into chic tourist sites. These days, such areas in French Riviera are occupied by leisure yachts and are crowded at summertime because of the attractive beaches. The most stylish jet setters are particularly fond of the famous and well-publicized resorts found in Cap d’Antibes and Juan-les-Pins.
The inland part could never be underestimated. The quiet medieval villages up in the hills are offering splendid picturesque views. St. Agnes particularly facilitates distinct panoramic views of the mountains and the sea. St. Paul de Vence is popular among tourists who like to stroll around shopping boutiques and artistic galleries. The winding cobblestone streets in the area are also unique, adding to the attraction. The rest of the region is full of charming country houses, as well as terraced private villas that are framed by the most colorful flowers.
Who would not want to drop by Gresse? This area in French Riviera is considered the modern perfume capital not just in France but also in the world. Every year, thousands of tourists come upon invitations of perfume factories, which aim to show potential customers the art and science of how their merchandises are made.
Not unique to French Riviera are numerous events and festivals, which all make tourism livelier. In May of each year, the Cannes International Film Festival is staged, attended by all sorts of filmmakers from all over the planet. January to February are months of the International Circus festival of Monte Carlo. The Grand Prix Formula One is regularly held in Monaco every mid-year. Other festivities popular among tourists include the Lemon Festival in February, the Rose Festival in May and the Jasmine Festival in August.
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- cote dazur