Fall in love with the Côte d'Azur with Sony’s thriller series Riviera – now out on DVD
Watch the first series of British TV production Riviera and you’ll soon be booking flights to Nice and planning a trip to this glamorous stretch of the Mediterranean coastline.
The sea on the ‘Coast of Azure’ is such a vivid sapphire blue and the headland viewpoints so panoramic, it’s no wonder countless aristocrats and artists have fallen in love with the region, a holiday and health resort since the 18th century.
Stroll along the seaside Promenade des Anglais* where bronzed swimmers of every age parade in skimpy costumes, slathered in suntan oil and sauntering with confident French poise.
You’ll be walking in the footsteps of Queen Victoria, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Ernest Hemingway. American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote: ‘With our being back in a nice villa on my beloved Riviera (between Cannes and Nice) I’m happier than I’ve been for years.’
These days Elton John has a home in the hills and it’s not unusual to see Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s super yacht moored just off shore. But you don’t have to be a billionaire to enjoy the 330 days of sunshine every year. And it’s great fun to visit the locations featured in the Riviera show.
Start exploring on foot from the Place Masséna, the checkered main square of Nice, lined with palm trees and pines and dominated by the naked statue of Apollo.
(In the 70s, sculptor Alfred Janniot reduced the size of the god’s manhood as it was deemed rather large.)
If you visit in February, it’s the best spot to catch the annual carnival parade and during the hot months, children squeal as they play in the pavement fountain. Pop into the Office De Tourisme for maps and useful info about events every week of the year.
Just along Ponchettes Beach is Castle Hill, a huge limestone rock topped by the Tour Bellanda. The 93-metre climb will take your breath away and so will the view of The Bay of Angels from the top of the tower.
Once the site of an 11th century castle, Le Chateau du Nice, now the breezy summit is a leafy park adjoining a majestic historic cemetery. The tombs are decorated with bright ceramic flower garlands that definitely don’t wilt in the heat.
Head to the Cours Saleya market in Nice’s Old Town. The Marché aux Fleurs (Tuesday to Sunday) has stalls with not just flowers but fruit and vegetables, including delicious zucchini blossoms, handmade fragrant soaps and other handicrafts.
The scent of herbs mingles with the aroma of frying Socca, the local chickpea flour pancake, which makes a perfect snack. Sprinkle with pepper and devour sizzling hot.
Close by is the elegant Palace of the Prefecture (Palais des Rois Sarde), built during the time Nice was owned by Sardinia. The surrounding winding, narrow lanes display apricot facades dotted with green shutters and house chic ateliers, jewellers and art galleries that it’s a delight to explore.
Even if plastic dolls’ heads and mashed-up cars aren’t your thing, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art has a great outside walkway for viewing the city. Slip past the mannequin hands suspended in resin and head for the roof.
Book a car or take a long bus trip to enjoy more of this southeast corner of France. The coast road dips through tunnels blasted through the rock and offers dazzling excursions.
Go west from Nice to Antibes and Juan-le-Pins (singing Peter Sarstedt’s Where Do You Go To My Lovely).
But the real scenic glory is east along the cliff-hugging coastal Basse Corniche. (The Lignes d’Azur 100 bus 100 travels the Nice-Monaco-Menton route.)
Take in Villefranche-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Èze (Bord-de-Mer), Cap d’Ail, the Principality of Monaco, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, and then Menton, just before the Italian frontier.
Where to stay, eat and drink
Comfortable and central is Hotel Ellington, with rooms from £65. Located on Nice’s Boulevard Dubouchage, it’s a great base.
A perfect spot to dine in the Old Town is Le Gaglio. Choose an outside table for a relaxed lunch of ‘poivrons grillés’ (grilled pepper).
Visit the Le Negresco (below centre) for dinner in the hotel’s Brasserie La Rotonde or just enjoy a champagne cocktail. The 5-star establishment is decorated with the eclectic art collection amassed by the 94-year-old owner and the rooms boast gold bidets and baths.
On a day trip, treat yourself to a meal on the seaside terrace of the Hotel Belles Rives, Cap d’Antibes, (below left). The Art Deco décor is exquisite. Make a toast in the Fitzgerald bar, frequented by the author.
If you love to swim, you can take a dip between courses at sunset and feel the sand between your toes at the beachside Les Pirates, Juan-le-Pins.
A gastronomic highlight is lunch at Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat’s La Véranda restaurant. This Four Seasons hotel not only welcomed the cast from Riviera, it was also the location for Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie and former guests include Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra.
Sunday Sprunch (Sunday Brunch + Spa) is 139E per person with 30-minute massage and access to spa and indoor swimming pool – available until 1 October 2017.
Riviera: Season One is out on Digital Download, Blu-ray & DVD on 25 September.
The 10-part British drama explores the secrets behind the luxurious lives of the super rich. When the banker husband of art curator Georgina Clios (Julia Stiles) dies in a yacht explosion, she begins to find out just how tainted her world really is.