Visit France's famous Riviera, where vibrant blue waters meet coastal culture.
Savor the sweet eclecticism of France's famous Cote d'Azur. Delight in the pastiche of art and architecture in cities like Nice, Menton and Eze Sur Mer, and feast on homemade cheese and wine, as well as other delicacies inspired by Italy. Mingle with glamorous locals on pristinely manicured city beaches, or explore the coastline to find your own private piece of paradise. France is a centrally located European hot spot, so you can always use the French Riviera as a jumping-off point for a more extensive tour of the Mediterranean.
Cruise to where vibrant blue waters meets coastal culture
France's Cote d'Azur boasts a healthy helping of historic culture, but it also borrows from its Mediterranean neighbors in delightful — and delicious — ways. Sun-drenched bougainvillea vines beckon you to explore its colorful, cobbled streets.
Centuries of Italian culture have seeped into France and its famous Baroque architectural style. The terracotta roof tiles of old town Nice might have you feeling like you're in Italy. In Menton, you can walk down the coast a bit to the city reflected in the waters, evoking the Italian city of Portofino.
Many of Nice's residents are ethnically Italian, and while you may never know where your pizza-maker hails from, taste buds don't lie: The saltiness of the pancetta, the Italian version of bacon, will be unmistakable. Feast on some savory lobster bisque, or sample clafoutis — a creamy, custardy tart typically packed with cherries — in a local patisserie.
The French Riviera is hot most of the year, but getting out of the sun doesn't preclude opportunities for illumination. Visit museums dedicated to the work of French natives such as Marc Chagall and Henri Mattisse, or step into Nice's Musee Massena, which offers magical views of European paintings and sculptures from through the ages.
Umbrella-shaded city beaches or tucked-away coves of quietude? How you experience the shores of France's famous Riviera during your vacation is entirely up to you. Along the Cote d'Azur, there are as many versions of paradise as there are shades of blue.
If you're craving more time at sea, find a French captain to take you afloat. Just head down to the docks of cities like Cannes or Nice, and inquire about hourly boat rental. Set sail on Marseille's cliff-strewn Calanque des Goudes, or head out to secluded Ile Sainte-Marguerite off the coast of Cannes.
France is the gateway to the Mediterranean — and not just to nearby vacation destinations like Monte Carlo, Italy and Spain. Use your trip to France's coast as a springboard for discovery to far-off destinations like the crystalline coast of Croatia and the gorgeous islands of Greece.
If you're looking to explore the hidden wonders of the Mediterranean, set off for destinations farther east of France. Whether you traipse through Croatian coastal cities like Dubrovnik and Split or admire the idylls of Greece's Mykonos and Santorini islands, you'll be en-amour-ed by the French influences throughout the Mediterranean.
While you're on the hunt for delicious local treats, why not head west to Spain and taste tapas for yourself? Visit bustling Barcelona to marvelous Malaga and destinations beyond the Gibraltar Strait (namely, the Portuguese Coast), and stop off at Le Havre port — from there, you can soak in the Gothic grandeur and quaint cafes of Paris.
The French Riviera is part of France, at least ostensibly. Both the wild coastal landscapes and eclectic city streets, however, reflect a much more international inspiration.
In Nice, tiled roofs and wood-fired pizzas might make you think you've accidentally arrived on the Amalfi Coast. The reflection of the French Riviera city of Menton in the bright blue sea water is a dead ringer for Portofino. You'll find Italian influences no matter where you go in France during your vacation.
In nature, the international lines blur even more. The wild and rocky beaches of the French Riviera, particularly those outside the city's limits, evoke a general Mediterranean vibe, with cobalt waters and limestone cliffs that don't belong to any flag and can't be described precisely in any one language.
Residents of the French Riviera are relaxed and friendly and won't mind if your French isn't perfect, so don't be afraid to parler francais ("speak French").
Life moves at a slower pace along the Côte d'Azur, and while you might think you can squeeze Eze, Monaco and Cannes into your six-hour cruise stop, you should prioritize quality over quantity.
Another delicious cuisine to explore in the south of France is North African, which you can taste in the shawarma shops off the Algerian and Moroccan communities of France's coastal cities.
Use your maritime adventure to savor France's best seafood, or sample hearty brasserie dishes in Paris. Or take advantage of your proximity to Italy while in Southern France and sample Provencal takes on pizza and pasta.
No time to visit Italy? No problem. Many of the best meals along France's southern coast are actually of Italian origin. Pop into a family-run spot in Provence for pizza margherita, the classic Neopolitan pie with basil, fresh tomato sauce and local mozzarella cheese, or pasta with fresh-caught local prawns.
Take a more adventurous approach to eating and try boeuf tartare, high-quality beef served raw and held together by egg yolk (also raw). If you're comfortable venturing on the uncooked side of the culinary spectrum, you'll discover one of the treasures of French cuisine, served simply with mustard, pickles and crusty bread or crackers to let the natural flavors of the beef shine.