Access Riviera named in list of Top 100 French Blogs in 2019

It’s always nice to be recognised for the time and effort I put into my blog and it’s a nice way to welcome January with the news that my blog is included in Feedspot’s list of ‘Top 100 French Blogs, Websites and Newsletters in 2019’.

top french travel blog

Access Riviera makes Feedspot’s list of ‘Top 100 French Blogs to follow in 2019’

How did I end up on this Top 100 list?

Feedspot uses search and social metrics to scan thousands of top French blogs to compile their list (which is updated weekly) and the list includes travel, lifestyle, culture, fashion, history, language and food blogs.

The blogs are ranked based on the following criteria:

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

Little old Access Riviera is placed at number 79, see the full list of Top 100 French Blogs 2019 here 🙂

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More in store for 2019

I’ve learned a lot since I started my blog – what works and what doesn’t regarding good content and reaching out to an audience.

This year, I’m hoping to create more long-form blog posts !

Here are 6 of my most popular blog posts to date:

Promenade Le Corbusier

Top 15 French Riviera viewpoints

Ventimiglia : Day trip from France

Why visit Villefranche-sur-Mer

Villa Nellcote : A palatial mansion with a lengthy past

Heritage trail in Juan les Pins

Thank you for your support and following Access Riviera!

 

 

 

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Secret French Riviera : Hidden Spots Worth A Visit

This month, for my contribution to All About France blog link-up hosted by Lou Messugo, I’m sharing a few secrets about the French Riviera.

When you live somewhere, you are privy to local tips and things that you learn about your home town or region that tourists perhaps don’t see or aren’t aware of.

Yes, TripAdvisor and tourist offices can be great sources of information but if you want to find where the tastiest food is, the most uncrowded attractions or coolest activities at a great price, then ask a local.   Whenever I travel, I like to see where the locals eat, where they shop and where they party (!) because this is often where the hidden gems are!

Here are some of my Secret French Riviera suggestions:

Top chefs under the radar

One of the nicest things about living in France is the fact you can find a top chef in a humble setting and people are either unaware of their ‘fame’ or don’t make a fuss.

There are ex-chefs who run restaurants at camping sites, high-profile chefs who grill fish in summer at beachside kiosks before skipping back to the galleys of top kitchens and chefs who own orchards and vineyards far off the tourist path.

One of my great finds here is My French Burger, which is often parked at  Zone Industrielle Des Terriers near Decathlon and Animalis in Antibes.  The owner is Grégory Leriche, previously a top pastry chef at Lenôtre who has always dreamed of having his own food truck making burgers from scratch with homemade mayonnaise, ketchup and bread buns.  Of course, he sells his patisseries which I would sell my soul for.  If you’re nice, ask him to show you his photo album with photos of A-list stars he has taught to cook.

Grég’s chalkboard with Paul Bocuse’s quote

There are other great chefs in many other dining establishments across the Côte d’Azur.  Most tourists are familiar with the Michelin or Gault Millau guides for restaurant suggestions, but are you aware of the ‘Maître Restaurateur’ title or ‘Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France’?

The title of Maître Restaurateur is the only title awarded in France by the state for professional catering whereby the chef themselves (not the restaurant) is audited by an independent body on 30 criteria.  This includes signalling when recipes are home made, freshness of products, service quality and decoration.  The title is valid for 4 years, after which the chef must be reaudited so the standards remain high.

To see the list of Maître Restaurateurs for the French Riviera (06 Alpes Maritimes), visit http://www.maitresrestaurateurs.com/liste-maitres-restaurateurs

maitre restaurateurs

Maître Restaurateurs are worth finding for fine chefs

Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (better known as MOF) is a prestigious award in France according by category of trades where the competitors are judged on technical skills, innovation, respect for traditions, speed and other criteria and awarded points.  The categories are diverse – some of the categories include clockmaking, cabinetmaking and silkscreen printing.  For hospitality, competitors can excel in butchery, pastry making, chocolate making and more.  Some of the famous winners are Paul Bocuse, Roger Vergé and Joël Robuchon.

Famous locations mostly unknown by tourists

Napoléon Bonaparte (Napoléon I) has left a number of locations to visit on the French Riviera including Cannes (he camped at 15 Rue des Belges near Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Voyage church) and in Nice (6 rue Bonaparte was the residence of Napoléon in 1794 where he discussed plans with his generals and Palais Hongran de Fiana, a complex of holiday rental apartments beside Ma Nolans Irish pub is where he slept briefly after the building was confiscated in the late 18th century; look for the commemorative plaque on the façade).

6 rue Bonaparte in Nice

The town of Mougins has many famous locations including homes where Christian Dior and Yves St Laurent lived.  Edith Piaf stayed at La Gatounière in 1963, and Jean Cocteau, Man Ray and Pablo Picasso drifted in and out of the town.  Artist Maurice Gottlob was the communal rural policeman.

mougins history

Mougins has many famous locations visited by writers, film stars, artists and politicians

Picasso has a lot of history with Mougins; Villa Vaste Horizon (previously Hotel Vaste Horizon) is the town’s cultural centre today, but back in the 1930’s Picasso arrived with his bags.  He painted the walls in his room, only to be told to cover over his work with white paint the next day by the hotel owner.  He used to dine at Place de Mougins which used to be Le Feu Follet.  Most famously, he lived near Chapelle Notre Dame de Vie (1 Rue Eglise) at his estate, L’Antre du Minotaure (the Minotaur’s Lair).  The chapel garden has a tomb that was built for the Guinness family.

vaste horizon mougins

Pablo Picasso at Hotel Vaste Horizon in Mougins (© Lee Miller Archives, England 2015. All rights reserved. ©Succession Picasso/DACS, 2015).

You don’t need to go far to see the wide influence on the French Riviera credited to the monks from the Lérins Islands.  Running a functioning monastery and vineyard (as well as a gift/liqueur shop) on Île St-Honorat today,  the Lérins monks are due some credit for the town of Valbonne in its modern incarnation.

Augustin of Grimaldi, Bishop of Grasse and abbot of Lerins decided in the 16th-century to rebuild a town (wiped out from drought, barbaric invasions and the Black Plague) on the land beside the Abbey of Valbonne; the town layout of Valbonne is unique on the French Riviera in that it follows a Roman plan with a central street and perpendicular streets around a central square, now Place des Arcades.  There is also a private estate nearby, Domaine de la Sylviane, where this former stone Monastery built by the Lérins monks still produces olive oil under the label ‘Domaine de la Sylviane’.

la sylviane valbonne

Domaine de la Sylviane near to Valbonne is a former Monastery built by the Lérins monks

Other locations that exist thanks to the Lérins monks include Hostellerie Jérôme that is a wonderful restaurant in La Turbie set in the old presbytery of the Lérins Abbey, and Domaine de La Royrie, an olive grove in Grasse that was planted by the monks in the 15th-century and offers tours of the estate and tastings of their AOC Nice olive oil.

Swimming spots tourists don’t often visit

The French Riviera has some great beaches ranging from family-friendly options to full-service beach clubs for a day of lounging and soaking up the sun.

However, some of the most beautiful swimming locations are not found at beaches, especially in the height of summer.  You don’t have to venture too far from the coast to enjoy some really stunning river, waterfall and lake swimming spots.

Some great places for a refreshing dip in warm months are:

The Gorges du Loup & Rives du Loup:  Less than 40 minutes from the coast, Pont-du-Loup is a small hamlet best known for its aqueduct ruins and Confiserie Florian candy factory.  However, it’s a great base for escaping from the summer heat; the best pools are 2 kilometres upstream along the D3 road and you can find places to jump from or sunbathe on large rocks.  This area is popular for canyoning trips, so choose from a number of professional guiding companies if you fancy climbing and sliding into pools.

Gorges du Loup

The Parc Departmental Rives du Loup has some great river spots that are quite shallow so ideal for small kids.  For families, Ludiparc near La Colle sur Loup, has access to the river with a pebble beach as well as tonnes of fun activities and a mini water park.

La Brague:  Between Biot and Valbonne, the Brague River has shaded forest trails next to refreshing water where you can dip your toes in on hot days, including this small pool where I snapped this photo of two of my favourite people skipping stones.  I find there can be issues with mosquitoes, so take insect repellant!  We park at Sophia Antipolis near La Veirière, a few minutes from the Air France headquarters.  A map of river walks along the Brague is here:  http://www.ville-valbonne.fr/IMG/pdf/BRA_DepliantA4_V10_300dpi-2.pdf

Parc de la Brague has forest paths beside the River Brague

The Siagne River & Lac St Cassien: Head to Chapelle St Cassien de Bois, find a park and walk from there.  The Siagne River has lots of current-free sections with some small cascades.  Lac St Cassien is excellent for families with lots of watersports equipment for hire such as pedalos, inflatable climbing frames, kayaks.  Lots of picnic spots and some good restaurants.

La Clue d’Aiglun, Pont de la Cerise, Riou de Pierrefeu and Clue du Riolan:  About 1.5 hours from Nice, the Esteron River is a stunning colour and you can find perfectly tranquil sections of river with jade and turquoise plunge pools amidst white rocks, caves, lush ferns and medieval bridges.

From the village of Sigale, Aiglun is 7 kilometres west. Park in the village, find the canyoning sign, and follow the canyon return path for 1 kilometre down to a series of pools, about 200 metres upstream of the road bridge. You can also access the river directly from a narrow path from the road bridge, 1.5 kilometres beneath the village, and you’ll find there are pools under the bridge, too.  Riou de Pierrefeu is great for families and Clue du Riolan is popular with canyoning enthusiasts.

Gorges du Cagnes (Gorges du Riou):  Rocks, waterfalls, moss – it’s the French Riviera’s secret swimming hole fantasy near to Vence.  Beware: The path is not well marked and there are loads of signs saying ‘rock fall’ and similar so watch for loose rocks, the stairs are not fenced and the pool is not deep enough for diving!  Other than that, it is so quiet you’ll probably have the place to yourself.

Riou swimming spot near Vence

Gorges de Pennafort:  We discovered this little gem with many swimming holes a few years ago and the bonus is that the journey is just over 1 hour from Antibes.  The best part is its proximity to some great wineries and a good restaurant across the road at Hostellerie des Gorges de Pennafort.  You can find out more about the area around Gorges de Pennafort here

The Gorges de Pennafort are a great place for a cooling swim on a hot day

The Gorges du Verdon:  One of the most beautiful regions in France and only a few hours drive from the French Riviera, there are many zones perfect for kayaking, pedalos and swimming.  The most crowded lake is Lac St Croix, but there are other excellent places including Lac de Castillon.

Gorges du Verdon are a must-see in France

Do you have any secret places you like on the French Riviera?  If you liked this post, make sure you join my mailing list to get updates to your inbox – simply add your email address on the right-hand side of the home page.  Feel free to share this post!

Lou Messugo

 

Treasure Hunts for Kids on the French Riviera

What child doesn’t love a treasure hunt?

I’m not talking about just geocaching either where you find the ‘cache’ by using GPS coordinates, but good old-fashioned treasure hunts using maps, clues and riddles to find answers to questions or a secret code word (perhaps in exchange for a prize).

Treasure hunts are a fun way to allow history to filter into a learning experience and they are great motivators to get kids outside and exploring.   I love treasure hunts because they are very educational supporting development of a child’s imagination and problem-solving skills and fostering team work – adults can join in  too and sometimes are more competitive than the kids!

TREASURE HUNTS ON THE FRENCH RIVIERA

I’ve done some research into treasure hunts for kids on the French Riviera (and a handful reaching into the Var) and there are quite a few which I had never heard of before.  There are a few companies that offer paid experiences for birthdays or groups, however I’ve tried to include free or low-cost options as much as possible:

Antibes

Treasure hunts (rallyes pédestres) are run by the Tourist Office in Vieil Antibes, 32 boulevard d’Aiguillon (not the main Tourist Office on ave Robert Soleau) every day at 3pm with advance reservation to follow clues around Old Town and fill in the answer form for the chance to earn a prize.  The cost is €5 for kids / adults are free when accompanying their children.

Cannes

Available in French and English, Les Trésors de Cannes is a treasure hunt facilitated using a comic book to find clues in Cannes.  You can purchase the comic book with clues for €10 from the Tourist Office at the Palais.

Les Trésors de Cannes - treasure hunt in Cannes incorporating a comic book to find the clues

Les Trésors de Cannes – treasure hunt in Cannes incorporating a comic book to find the clues

Dracénois towns – Bargemon, Callas, Claviers, Figanières, Les Arcs

Super fun free treasure hunts taking in historical places of interest in each town themed around La Route des Chevaliers.  Available in French, there are 5 different towns to explore; download is here:  http://w3.tourisme-dracenie.com/modules/mydownloads/viewcat.php?cid=16

Route des Chevaliers treasure hunts in Bargemon, Callas, Clavier, Figanières and Les Arcs

Route des Chevaliers treasure hunts in Bargemon, Callas, Clavier, Figanières and Les Arcs

Fréjus

Mysteres dans Frejus is a free 11-clue treasure hunt in Fréjus centre (French language only) and when you have completed the code you can give your form to the Tourist Office in Fréjus to enter quarterly draws for gift vouchers to redeem on workshops.   The download is here: http://www.ville-frejus.fr/images/pages/upload/fichiers/pdf/pdf_temporaires/mysteres_dans_frejus.pdf

Mysteres dans Fréjus - free treasure hunt for kids in Fréjus

Mysteres dans Fréjus – free treasure hunt for kids in Fréjus

Nice

Aventures sur la Côte  offer treasure hunts by request so it’s a good option for groups of friends, family or corporates.  The hunts leave from the Apollo Fountain (Fontaine du Soleil) at Place Massena and cover the history of Nice as well as the pirate Black Morgan with disguised characters along the way handing out scrolled clues to participants.  I’m yet to test this one but it sounds like fun!  Price is by request dependent on group size.

Pays de Fayence

Available in French, Trésors du Pays de Fayence comprises a free separate treasure hunt for the 4 towns of Fayence, Callian, Seillans, Mons and at the end the codes from each town combine to form one overall answer. The download is here: http://www.paysdefayence.com/documents/tresorsenpaysdefayence.pdf

Year round free treasure hunts in Callian, Fayence, Mons and Seillans to win prizes including weekend getaways

Year round free treasure hunts in Callian, Fayence, Mons and Seillans to win prizes including weekend getaways

Roquebrune sur Argens

The Tourist Office of Roquebrune-sur-Argens organises a variety of fun treasure hunts :

  1.  Rocabrunae 1249 is a geolocalised treasure hunt aimed at kids from 8 years old.  It incorporates using a GPS Pocket to follow clues in the village related to the Templiers knights and when you reach each ‘stage’ a question pops up onscreen to answer. Once the treasure hunt is complete (approximately 2 hours duration), pass your form to the Tourist Office to earn a prize.  Hireage of the GPS is €10 from the Tourist Office, 12 avenue Gabriel Péri, 83520 Roquebrune-sur-Argens.
  2. For something a bit different, try a treasure hunt by canoe! Hosted every Wednesday in July and August, the hunt takes around 3 hours tracing clues by foot in the medieval village and canoe along the Argens river.  Reservations necessary via the Tourist Office of Roquebrune – Adults €20 / Kids aged 8-12 years €10 / Kids under 8 years are free of charge.

Saint-Raphaêl / Grasse

Piste et Trésor is a free iPhone app with loads of treasure hunts in locations including Saint-Raphael (Enigmes et Secrets), Pays de Fayence,  and Pays de Grasse.

Enigmes et Secrets - Saint Raphael free treasure hunt

Enigmes et Secrets – Saint Raphael free treasure hunt

Available in both French and English, it covers many other French destinations such as Paris, Château de Versailles, Lyon, Brest and the Alsace region – plus more – so it’s a brilliant one to take on family holidays.

Download it on the App Store here: https://itunes.apple.com/fr/app/piste-et-tresor/id371295938?mt=8

Piste et Trésor offer lots of free treasure hunts throughout France including towns in the Var and on the French Riviera

Piste et Trésor offer lots of free treasure hunts throughout France including towns in the Var and on the French Riviera

Villeneuve Loubet

Jeu Mission Melba is a free interactive treasure hunt using smartphone and compass coordinates to follow the trail to find Melba (the little frog who is the town mascot) in the village, Rives de Loup, Parc Vaugrenier and Baie des Anges marina.

The target age is suited to kids 6-10 years; duration is from 1.5 – 2 hours.

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