Ooh La La! Everything You Need to Know about the South of France

Ooh La La! Everything You Need to Know about the South of France

The French Riviera lives up to its storied reputation as romantic, sleepy and luxurious

by Maureen Jenkins, September 28, 2012

Ooh La La! Everything You Need to Know about the South of France

Villefranche-sur-Mer and restaurants along quai.

Photo courtesy of Eric Cuvi

Japanese restaurant, YOSHI.

You’ll find cuisine in the south of France taking advantage of the region’s seasonal produce and traditions—that’s everything from ratatouille, a side dish made from tomatoes, eggplant, onions, peppers and zucchini to socca, a chickpea-and-olive oil pancake sold sliced by vendors in Nice. And with a mild, sun-drenched climate that allows for dining and drinking outdoors most of the year, take a terrace table at cafes and restaurants like Villefranche-sur-Mer’s always-hopping Le Cosmo. You’ll find Riviera locals and tourists alike hanging out even in cooler months.


Even if you think of air and train travel as a necessary evil, you might rethink it after getting to and from the French Riviera. No matter how you arrive or depart the Côte d’Azur, you’ll enjoy jaw-dropping Mediterranean views nearly everywhere you look. Take the bullet-like TGV to or from Paris, with its Premier (First Class) cars and reclining seats a special treat (Even if you're traveling from elsewhere, navigate the continent's 50-plus different railway systems through the Rail Europe (http://www.raileurope.com/index.html) network.)Or take a scenic day trip via the area’s Ligne Azur trains from the Riviera into Ventimiglia, Italy, less than an hour away, and get a taste of Italian culture and cuisine.

If you want to start feeling très French on your flight across the Atlantic, Air France is the ticket, whether you’re flying La Première (first), Affaires (business), Premium Voyageur (Premium Economy) or Voyageur (economy), as its long-haul international flights offer complimentary champagne to all its passengers. You’ll change planes in Paris on your way to the south of France, and the city’s bustling Charles de Gaulle Airport recently introduced the airline’s largest Business Class lounge. However you’re traveling to the Riviera, ask for a window seat for flights into or out of Nice—one of France’s three busiest airports—and drool at the sun-dappled landscape below.

Monaco’s home to the annual Grand Prix, so if you’ve got the nerve, rent your own wheels and drive along the Riviera’s three corniches, or winding roads that stretch between Nice and the Italian border. If you’d rather leave the driving to someone else, regional buses also travel the same roads and offer the same stunning scenery. If you travel here between April and October, don’t miss the chance to enjoy the Mediterranean—take a seasonal ferry to hop between towns. You’ll find them operating between Nice and Monaco , Cannes, and St-Tropez. Who needs a yacht, anyway?

A Chicago native, freelance Travel and Food writer Maureen Jenkins blogs at UrbanTravelGirl.com about “Black women living globally through international travel.” She also shares her perspectives on African-American expatriate life in Europe on EBONY.com.

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