Labour Weekend: May Day in France

May 1st is a bank holiday in France, officially known as ‘La Fête du Travail (National Labour Day)’ but also called ‘La Fête du Muguet (Lily of the Valley Day)’.

May Day in France

La Fête du Muguet can be attributed back to the 16th-century. On May 1st 1561, Charles IX was traveling with his mother Catherine de Medici to the Drôme and a Chevalier Louis Girard gave him a sprig of muguet as a symbol of luck.  Charles was so pleased with this gesture that he offered it to all of the ladies of his court and decreed that from that day onwards it would be the official flower of May 1st, May Day.

Small bouquets of muguet

May Day wasn’t declared a bank holiday in France until 1919 after the 8-hour work day came in, and originally workers wore a red triangle symbolizing their rights; later it was replaced by the tradition in France on this day to offer a few sprigs of muguet to loved ones, and it is also given as a general token of appreciation between close friends and family members.

There was also an old European tradition of “bals de muguet” or Lily-of-the-Valley dances; once a year, this was a rare occasion for young singles to meet without having to get their parents’ permission. The girls would dress in white and the boys would wear a sprig of muguet as a buttonhole.

Similar to red roses on Valentines Day, the price of muguet is hiked leading up to May 1st.  In the few days prior to – and of course on the actual day – you can buy small bouquets of muguet in florists and most supermarkets, usually it will be one or two sprigs for a few euros.

So, if you see people carrying these small white flowers with cards saying ‘Je porte bonheur’, you know something about the tradition here in France.

 

Facts about muguet

Don’t be fooled by the scent of these pretty bell-shaped flowers – muguet is actually poisonous and the toxicity is the plant’s defense against animals eating its seeds.  All parts of the plant including the flowers, leaves, stems and berries are extremely poisonous and close to 40 different cardiac glycosides have been found in the plant so far (strong compounds that affect cardiac rhythm).

But, unless you plan on brewing large quantities and ingesting it you should be fine with displaying a few sprigs in a vase – just keep it out of reach of small children.

Perfumes with muguet

The toxicity has never deterred perfume houses from creating new fragrances with muguet as a note.  I received a bottle as a gift of Van Cleef & Arpels perfume ‘Muguet Blanc’ and I’m not entirely in love with it, but whenever I wear it people always comment on it so I think it is a familiar smell here in France.

Here are a few perfumes that feature lily-of-the-valley:

Diorissimo by Christian Dior

Muguet by Guerlain

Muguet Fleuri from Parisian parfumerie Oriza L Legrand – they have some beautiful vintage bottles and history about the inspiration for their fragrances on their website

Le Muguet by Annick Goutal

5 Things to do on the French Riviera on Labour Weekend

If you are looking for things to see and do this long weekend on the French Riviera, here are 5 suggestions:

  1. It is the last weekend to visit the garden displays of the Festivals des Jardins
  2. This weekend there is a strawberry festival in Carros (29 and 30 April)
  3. The Antibes Art Fair with antiques and art is still on until Tuesday 2 May
  4. Mouans Sartoux is hosting Fête du Miel on Sunday 30 April so head along for all sorts of honey-themed products
  5. It is the last weekend to see the eleven large Capron sculptures in Biot that have been in the town for the past 2 years

Thanks for reading my post!  Enjoy your long weekend

 

10 Places To Visit In Monaco On A Budget

Monaco has a reputation as a place of luxury, superyachts and supercars but I’m going to shatter the myth that you need to have lots of money to enjoy Monaco as a tourist.

Monaco/Monte Carlo is spread over a lot of hills, so if you’re a first time visitor you may not be aware of this and you should plan a way to get around to save yourself time and effort.

To help Monagasque residents do the same, the Principality has a nifty network of public lifts and walkways (78 lifts, 35 escalators and 8 travelators) so you can move between elevations in the different districts without much effort at all.  For a free downloadable map of where to find the lifts and travelators are you can download it here:  Monacopubliclifts

10 Places To Visit in Monaco On A Budget

From beautiful gardens to historic buildings, there are lots of cheap (or free!) things to do and see in Monaco.  Here are 10 suggestions for top places to go in Monaco when you have no, low or limited budget!

  1. The Changing of the Guards outside Palais Princier

The Palais Princier on Le Rocher (the ‘Rock’) is the official residence of the ruling Prince of Monaco and has a lengthy history.  The Grimaldis, an aristocratic family from Genoa have fought to keep the Palais (and their independence) over centuries, waging wars with France, Italy, Spain, Germany, England and the Earls of Provence in order to do so.

Every day at 11.55am, Monaco’s Changing of the Guards ceremony is held in the large public square in front of the Palais Princier.  It’s free to watch for tourists and a brief insight into a tradition has not changed in more than a century.  Even if you don’t go into the palace, you can watch the ceremony and the square has great photography vantage points over the ports on both sides.  Insider tip:  Look for the guards white uniforms in summer and black in winter.

palais princier

The daily Changing of the Guards ceremony in Monaco

2. Saint Martin Gardens

The free entry public St Martin Gardens are a wonderful place to walk around with wide pathways, fountains, statues, flower beds and shaded benches under pine trees.  The views overlooking Port Fontvieille and toward the Monaco Oceanarium are fantastic.

From the Palais Princier, head for Ruelle Sainte-Barbe and follow that all the way along to the Monaco Oceanarium. Insider tip:  Look for the bronze sailor statue of Prince Albert I.

3. Monaco Cathedral

Another of Le Rocher’s attractions is the Monaco Cathedral.  It is well maintained inside; tourists can visit for free from 8.30am-7pm (6pm in winter) except during mass.

The Cathedral is known for its Bréa altarpiece, as well as being both the place of marriage as well as the final resting place of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.

Monaco Cathedral

4. Musée de la Chapelle de la Visitation

Largely unnoticed by many tourists who visit the hugely popular Monaco Oceanarium nearby, the small Musée de la Chapelle de la Visitation is home to Mrs Piasecka Johnson’s astonishing collection of religious art with baroque masterpieces by Ribera, Rubens and other Italian masters.

It is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-6pm. Adults cost €3 / Students €1,50 / Kids under 12 years are free

5. Le Petit Bar

If you are planning on visiting the Palais Princier or Monaco Oceanarium and are looking for a restaurant with friendly service, good prices and tasty food you can’t miss heading to Le Petit Bar on rue Basse.

Le Petit Bar in Monaco, a worthwhile stop if you are sightseeing in Monaco

It gets busy quickly, especially in summer so I recommend making a reservation in advance if you can.  Excellent tapas, fabulous tiramisu and all mains priced under €15.

6. Musée Naval

Unfortunately, major review website TripAdvisor has a ton of reviews from tourists who have mistaken this small museum for the much larger Monaco Oceanarium!  How they could mix up the two vastly different experiences I don’t know but I believe the name having ‘naval’ in it has confused many visitors to Monaco.

The Musée Naval is a small museum dedicated to model ships.  Nothing at all to do with fish or natural history! Located on the Terrasses de Fontvieille, it is home to a collection of 250 model ships including the Titanic, submarines, Viking ships, a Venetian gondola and US battleship Missouri.

The Musée Naval is a museum dedicated to model ships

Ideal for families with kids or anyone keen on model making or seamaship, it is open every day except Christmas Day and New Years Day.  The entry fee is €4 for adults and €2,50 for kids 8-14 years.

7. Musée Collection of Voitures Anciennes

Also at Fontvieille, you can find the private collection of Prince Rainier III showcasing over 100 vintage cars.  The museum is accessible for families with kids in baby strollers or people who are wheelchair bound.

Exposition de Voitures Anciennes, Monaco

Open 7 days from 10am-6pm. The entry fee is €6,50 for adults and € for Students & Kids 8-14 years.

8. Chemin des Sculptures

A free sculpture path from the Jardin de l’Espace de Fontvieille allows visitors to discover some of the sculptures in Monaco.

Chemin des Sculptures in Fontvieille

Many sculptures are placed in lovely flower beds or along scenic paths and throughout Monaco you can find over 100 works from artists including Colombian painter/sculptor Fernando Botero, Marseillais artist César, Emma Sigaldi, and Lalanne.

9. Casino Square

A trip to Monaco must include a visit to place du Casino, better known as Casino Square.

The surrounding caféterias and restaurants are not aimed at the budget traveller, however it remains one of the best locations in Monaco for people watching especially from Café de Paris.

Get your photo taken on the steps outside the Casino de Monte-Carlo or sit in the gardens opposite and admire the supercars that drive past.  The square is really beautiful at night because the surrounding buildings are illuminated.  Insider tip:  In summertime, Casino Square hosts free concerts so check the Monaco Tourism website for dates.

Casino de Monte Carlo is a must-do photo opportunity when visiting Monaco

10. Japanese Garden

Dotted with pines, maples and flowering shrubs, the Japanese Garden was created in 1994 and is a wonderful surprise in Monaco located near the Grimaldi Forum. It is free to visit and open 9am until sunset.

free sightseeing monaco

The Jardin Japonais (Japanese Garden) is a free attraction in Monaco

Nearby, you can wander along the free seafront zone and see a small pathway called ‘The Champions Promenade’ that has footprints of some of the world’s top footballers including Diego Maradonna, Pélé, Ryan Giggs and more.  Plage Larvotto, Monaco’s main beach is nearby also with public and private beach zones and a kids playground.

*** SPECIAL GIVEAWAY TO ACCESS RIVIERA FOLLOWERS ***

For a limited time from 17th April 2017 to 24th April 2017, you can be upgraded for FREE when you download the GPSmyCity app to get GPS-enabled directions to all of the Monaco sights mentioned in this article.  Simply download the app here:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/free-city-maps-walks-470-cities/id417207307?mt=8   ** Perfect for families, backpackers, cruise ship passengers, tourists on a budget **

Have you visited all of these locations in Monaco?  Please share this article on social media, thank you!

 

 

 

 

10 of the Best Museums on the French Riviera

The French Riviera has over 40 museums with rich collections often set in picturesque locations overlooking manicured gardens, village squares or the sea.

From Belle Époque paintings to modern sculptures, visitors to the region will find enough cultural places of interest to entertain them for a day, week or longer.

french riviera museums

Musée Matisse in Cimiez, Nice

If you are planning on visiting a number of museums, look into the option to purchase a museum pass from the Tourism Offices – the Côte d’Azur Card has a good range of attractions and activities, or the Pass Musées de Nice offers access to Nice’s municipal museums including some of the smaller ones such as Terra Amata and Musée d’Art Naïf. NOTE: If you are a resident of Nice or the metropolitan area, you get free access to Nice’s municipal museums. You simply give I.D plus verification of your address and you are issued with the Pass which is valid for 3 years.

classical art museum mougins

Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins

The Best Museums on the French Riviera

For a cultural dose, click on the article link here to find out who rates in the ‘Top 10 Museums on the French Riviera’.

monaco oceanagraphic

Monaco Oceanarium is a natural history museum- aquarium

Other great museums I like (not included on this list above) are:

Musée des Merveilles at Tende

Musée Bonnard in Le Cannet

The National Sports Museum and Museum of Asiatic Arts, both in Nice

Férnand Léger Museum in Biot

Musée Volti at the Citadelle in Villefranche-sur-Mer

I hope you enjoy visiting these museums!  Don’t forget on the first Sunday of the month most museums have free entry too 🙂

 

The 70th Cannes Film Festival 2017 and 75th Monaco F1 Grand Prix

Next month, two of the most exciting events on the French Riviera are set to thrill worldwide media – the 70th Cannes Film Festival 2017, and the 75th race of the Monaco F1 Grand Prix.

Hosted in the second half of May, these are two of my favourite events to write about and visit.

In the coming weeks, I will be sharing my in-depth guides about both events with advice for recommended companies to book with, advice for travel to the events, tips for first-timers and details about the best parties!   Cannes Film Festival attendees can also find my other guide through Marché du Film distribution during the event.

Get the FREE Cannes Film Festival 2017 and Monaco F1 Grand Prix 2017 guides

If you aren’t already subscribed to my blog updates, please click the blue button on the right-hand side on my blog home page ‘Subscribe via email today!’ to receive these insider guides straight to your inbox.  You can also follow me over on Twitter; www.twitter.com/accessriviera

I will be attending both events and will be posting regular photos to Instagram, follow the feed at https://www.instagram.com/ariviera06/

The 70th Cannes Film Festival 2017

The Cannes Film Festival is one of the world’s most influential platforms for the film industry with press coverage ensuring high publicity across print and digital media.

cannes film festival 2017

Cannes Film Festival 2017 is one of the major events on the French Riviera (image: FDC)

For 2017’s Cannes Film Festival, Spanish film director and screenwriter Pedro Almodóvar has been selected as the President of the Jury, and Italian actress Monica Bellucci will succeed French actor Laurent Lafitte in her 2017 role as the Mistress of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

Romanian director, screenwriter and producer Cristian Mungiu will preside over the Cinéfondation and Short Film Jury. Mungiu shared last year’s Best Director Award for his film ‘Graduation’ (the award was shared with Olivier Assayas for his film ‘Personal Shopper’).  Mungiu also won the Palme d’Or in 2007 with his feature ‘4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days.’ His ‘Beyond the Hill’ went on to win screenplay and actress prizes.

The 70th Cannes Film Festival will take place from 17 to 28 May 2017.

The 75th Monaco F1 Grand Prix

Track preparations have already started in the Principality of Monaco; it takes around 2 months for the set-up and involves construction of tonnes of grandstands and kilometres of safety barriers.

monaco grand prix set up

(images: MonacoDailyPhoto)

 

During the 4 days of Monaco F1 Grand Prix, (there is also a Grand Prix Historique held every 2 years), it would be fair to say Monaco is a very cool place to visit!

Race fans come to Monaco for the day and crowd the race stands, hotel balconies, apartment terraces and the yachts berthed beside the circuit.   Restaurants and bars are full, hotels are full and parties are happening day and night.

The prestige for the race brings many celebrities to the event, and naturally the luxury sponsors who are keen to capture the allure of a legendary motor race in the public eye.

This year, Monaco F1 Grand Prix is from 25 to 28 May 2017.

I look forward to seeing you there!

About the Festival des Jardins de la Côte d’Azur

The first Festival des Jardins de la Côte d’Azur is a new event for the region and will take place from today until 01 May 2017.

The debut edition of the Festival des Jardins de la Côte d’Azur

Debut edition of the Festival des Jardins de la Côte d’Azur

The theme is ‘L’éveil des sens’, translated as ‘Awakening the senses’ – and I think it is a great initiative for both residents and tourists because there are some really beautiful gardens throughout the French Riviera.

The aim of the Festival is to protect and enhance the regional gardens, and increase awareness of the ‘green’ heritage that has contributed much to the region.

Botanical Heritage

Interest in plants, flowers and making use of the landscape for aesthetic appeal has a vast history along this coastline from 19th-century English aristocrats who travelled globally and returned with plant specimens to acclimatise, to modern garden installations with contemporary sculptures.

The French Riviera region consists of over 80 gardens (excluding public parks), many with exceptional locations that offer sea or hinterland views.   Twelve of these gardens are listed as ‘Remarkable Gardens’; four are in Menton which is well known for it’s gardens.

Many festivals throughout the year maximise the connection to botany:  From Fête du Mimosa in Mandelieu and Fête du Citron in Menton in February, the March festival celebrating the vibrant violettes in Tourrettes-sur-Loup, flower battles in Antibes, Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer, the Fête du Orangier in Bar-sur-Loup in April, Fête du Jasmin in Grasse, rose festivals in La Colle-sur-Loup and the month of gardens in Menton’s summer season.

The Festival Programme

The Festival will be hosted for an entire month (01 April to 01 May 2017) and will comprise of a competition of garden design reserved for landscape architects, landscapers, landscape companies and other professionals where pop-up garden displays of 200m2 will be created in various locations throughout the French Riviera.  An extra garden of 1400m2 will be installed at Promenade du Paillon in Nice.

Entry to these garden displays will be free to the public.  There will be 10 participating gardens for the first Festival.

Cannes:  Villa Rothschild (note: This is hosted at Villa Rothschild in Cannes, not Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in St Jean Cap Ferrat)

Grasse:  Villa Fragonard

Juan les Pins / Antibes:  Pinède Gould 

Menton:  Jardins Biovès

Nice:  Albert 1er Garden on the Promenade du Paillon

Villa Rothschild in Cannes is a participant in the Festival des Jardins de la Cote d’Azur

The winners of the garden design competition will receive the following prizes:

– The jury prize will receive €10000 donated by the Département des Alpes-Maritimes.

– The public choice prize (honorary prize) will be decided from votes throughout the Festival.

– The press prize (honorary prize), will be presented tomorrow on Sunday, April 2, 2017, by a press jury composed of a dozen journalists from  media specializing in gardens and ‘life style’, from France and Europe.

To find out more about the garden locations and designs, click on this link Festival des Jardins information

For families

There will be a free treasure hunt at the 10 garden displays where you follow the white rabbit!   The treasure hunt starts at 2pm until 5.30pm on the following dates:

  • Nice 01 and 02 April 2017
  • Menton 08 and 09 April 2017
  • Cannes 15 and 16 April 2017
  • Antibes – Juan-les-Pins 22 and 23 April 2017
  • Grasse  29 and 30 April 2017

Children can also join a free patisserie workshop at Villa Rothschild on 01 April at 2pm, a potager workshop at Pinede Gould in Juan les Pins on 15 and 16 April 2017 and various art workshops.

 

Festival OFF

The Fringe Festival that is additional to the garden displays will include open days, guided tours, talks and exhibitions.  Most of these activities will be free, with some entry fees applicable for visits and entertainment that are part of the schedule.

For a list of activities, refer to the official website link Festival des Jardins: Le OFF

Special deals

For visitors to the French Riviera during the Festival des Jardins, you can benefit from special promotions running in conjunction with the event including discounts of up to 20% on Nice accommodation and sightseeing passes.

To see the deals, click on the link here:  http://jardins.nicetourisme.com/z8691w120260e1_fr-festival-des-jardins-de-la-cote-d-azur.aspx

If you have enjoyed this article, please share it on social media. Thank you! 

Credits:  Festival poster, video, images courtesy of the Département des Alpes-Maritimes