Last stop on the Côte d’Azur before Italy, the seaside town of Menton offers a glimpse of what the high life on the Riviera must have been like before the developers moved in. With its sunny climate, shady streets and pastel mansions – not to mention a lovely old port – it’s one of the most attractive towns on the entire coast.
The Three Corniches
This trio of corniches (coastal roads) hugs the cliffs between Nice and Monaco, each higher than the last, with dazzling views of the Med. For the grandest views, it’s the Grande Corniche you want, but the Moyenne Corniche runs a close scenic second. The lowest of all, the Corniche Inférieure, allows access to a string of snazzy coastal resorts.
Beaulieu-sur-Mer & St-Jean-Cap Ferrat
The seaside holiday town of Beaulieu-sur-Mer is well known for its well-preserved belle époque architecture. It sits at the beginning of Cap Ferrat, a wooded peninsula laden with millionaires’ villas and home to the small village of St-Jean-Cap Ferrat.
Beautiful Cap Martin nestles its languid shores into the sea of crystalline water between Monaco and Menton. The village of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin is actually centred on the medieval village of Roquebrune, which towers over the cape (the village and cape are linked by innumerable very steep steps).
This quiet little-known corner of the Côte d’Azur, 20km inland from Nice, is where Niçois come to weekend away from the urban rush. Attractions are low-key: a walk in the hills – consult www.randoxygene.org for itinerary ideas – a stroll in isolated villages, or a long lunch in a tasty auberge. There is a bus to Peille, but your own wheels are best.
Peille may not be as spectacular as Peillon, but it makes up for it with history. The village's excellent Point Info Tourisme offers free, tailor-made guided tours depending on how much time you have (available in English and Italian). Highlights include the medieval centre, the village museum, the church and old photographs of the village.
Views from the spectacular cliff-hanging Grande Corniche are mesmerising, and if you’re driving, you’ll probably want to stop at every bend to admire the unfolding vistas. Hitchcock was sufficiently impressed by Napoléon’s Grande Corniche to use it as a backdrop for his film To Catch a Thief (1956), starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.
Cut through rock in the 1920s, the Moyenne Corniche takes drivers from Nice past the Col de Villefranche (149m), Èze and Beausoleil (the French town bordering Monaco’s Monte Carlo). Bus 82 serves the Moyenne Corniche from Nice all the way to Èze (20 minutes); bus 112 carries on to Beausoleil (40 minutes, Monday to Saturday).
This spectacular hilltop village has has long been prized by local populations for its defensive characteristics: the first houses date to the 10th century. What draws visitors from far and wide, however, is not the sleepy village but Auberge de la Madone, where father-and-son chef-duo Christian and Thomas Millo cook up Provençal staples with a dash of modernity.