Follow your nose on Nice’s quintessentially French fringes and you could find yourself walking in the footsteps of artists, philosophers and, perhaps, an aristocrat or two.
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Incredible views of the Med and French Riviera await you when you reach the medieval village of Eze. You’re certainly up high – 1,400 feet, in fact. All that way up you’ll find a 14th century castle, friendly restaurants and botanical gardens, all a world away from modernity. Take the high coastal road into Eze for the best views. Or for the hardy, walk the ‘Philosopher’s Path’, as Nietzsche once did. A steep staircase-path from cliff top to sea, you can reward yourself at the bottom with some beachside refreshment at Eze Bord de Mer.
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Artist Pablo Picasso left several artworks at the Chateau Grimaldi when he stayed here for just six months in 1946. In his honour, the castle has now become the Picasso Museum, with one of the world’s largest collections of his work. When you tire of art, head to the Absinthe Museum, which provides an interesting place (the Roman foundations of Old Antibes, no less) to enjoy ‘The Green Hour’ and learn the history of this very French tipple. If after that you need to snooze off in the sun, head out to one of Antibes’ 48 beautiful beaches.
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Playground to the rich and the even richer, nothing in this 200-hectare principality is cheap (although curiously, parking costs aren’t as bad as in some European cities). After you’ve checked out the floating palaces in the harbour, a visit to the Casino de Monte Carlo is a must – even if it is just to try your luck at a slot machine. If you want to continue the Bond theme, the Collection de Voitures Anciennes has a classic car collection 007 would be proud of, including the first F1 racing car to win the Monaco Grand Prix: the Bugatti 1929.
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Famous for its festivals, Cannes is best when not filled with international media or film types. La Croisette, the city’s promenade, is still all bling and glitter (but worth a stroll in your shades), before you take a short boat trip to nearby St Honorat or St Marguerite. Wander up into the old town for the Forville Market to sample local cheese, then burn off the calories winding your way up cobbled streets to Le Suquet, where you can enjoy the best views, and come the evening, a unique and lively atmosphere in one of its many restaurants.
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Featured in the Partrick Süskind’s novel Perfume, Grasse, the ‘world capital of perfume’, has been making scents since the 18th century. This is due to its unique microclimate, flora and an abundance of Jasmine – 27 tonnes is harvested annually here. Today, the local industry collects over 600 million euros a year and attracts many ‘Les nez’ (the noses) – perfume scholars who are trained to identify over 2,000 scents. As well as visiting many perfumeries, you can learn more at the International Perfume Museum, which traces 5,000 years of scents and smells – now a $33 billion global industry.