written by Rick Archer
Barcelona Cruise group descended on the French Riviera on
our fifth day of the trip.
The French call
this sun-kissed area on their southern border Le Cote
D'Azur which translates into "The Blue Coast".
Riviera really does have it all. The tropical climate
keeps the area warm year round, but the breezes coming in
off the Mediterranean keep the area cool as well.
It doesn't rain
very much, but there is an abundance of fresh water thanks to all
the rivers from mid-France that empty into the
beauty, there are the blues skies, beaches, blue
waters and the rugged rolling foothills from the French Alps that line the coast.
beauty, there are the ubiquitous yachts and luxury boats,
the magnificent mansions resting atop tall hills along the coast,
plus the expensive casinos.
Riviera is called home by supermodels and billionaires,
actresses and superstar athletes. Many of the people
we gawk at in People Magazine come to this place to
relax and be seen.
lucky guys who pay attention, they just might get a glimpse
of some of the most stunningly attractive women in the
Riviera is said to be home to "The Beautiful People".
That may be true, but I didn't see any of these types during
my day long visit to Nice, Eze, and Monaco.
Too bad! I
cannot begin to tell you how disappointed I was. Trust
me, I had my camera charged and ready just in case some
stunning beauty or important celebrity crossed my path.
Alas, it was not
meant to be. If I were to guess, over the years the
Beautiful People have learned how to hide from cruise
riffraff and tourists like me that dot their shores on a
complete coastline of southern France stretches 300 miles from the
Spanish border to the Italian border. However, the
Riviera occupies only perhaps a quarter of the easternmost
Riviera consists of a dozen or so cities and towns that dot
the 70 mile coastline stretching from Hyeres at the most
southern point up to Monaco and Menton near the Italian
Monaco is probably the most famous destination along the
Riviera, Nice is the largest city with close to a half
was one of the first modern resort areas. It began as
a winter health resort for the British upper class at the
end of the 18th century, but it was very hard to get to.
With the arrival
of the railway in the mid-19th century, the Riviera became the
playground and vacation spot of British, Russian, and other
aristocrats, such as Queen Victoria and King Edward VII
when he was Prince of Wales. In the summer, the
Riviera played home to many members of the Rothschild
Besides the Rich
and the Royals, the French Riviera became the
"In-Destination" for some of the world's most famous artists
In the first half of the 20th century it was frequented by
artists and writers, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse,
Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham and Aldous Huxley, as well
as wealthy Americans and Europeans.
After World War
II, the Riviera became a popular tourist destination.
It was also a
place where the Rich and Famous purchased weekend
getaway homes. Today many celebrities have second
homes in the region.
And what homes
they are! As our bus drove through the area, I saw
impressive luxury homes carved right into the mountainside that
left me shaking with envy.
The Riviera is
very cruel in this way. Wherever you turn, you are
bound to see something you wished you could call your own...
mansions, yachts, trophy wives, rich husbands, expensive
cars, you name it.
French Riviera is where the Beautiful People go for lavish
parties and destination weddings.
Riviera is home to 300 days of sunshine per year.
Since it never rains without permission in this part of the
world, people can plan spectacular outdoor parties with
little worry. Their guests can dance and mingle under
the stars till the wee hours of the morning.
must be nice.
Monaco, of course, is famous for Grace Kelly and Gambling.
Who can forget screen images of Sean Connery as James Bond
and Cary Grant holding their own at the gaming tables?
two events that turned the Riviera into the paradise of
wealth that it is today was the coming of the gambling in
1856 followed by the completion of the first major railway
the mid-19th century British and French entrepreneurs began
to see the potential of promoting tourism along the Côte
the time, gambling was illegal in France and Italy. In 1856,
the Prince of Monaco, Charles III, began constructing a
casino in Monaco, which was called a health spa to avoid
criticism by the church. Unfortunately, thanks in part
to the inability to promote the casino for what it really
was, the first casino was a failure.
However, in 1863 the Prince signed an agreement with
François Blanc, a French businessman who operated a
successful casino at Baden-Baden (southwest Germany), to
build a resort and new casino. Blanc arranged for steamships
and carriages to take visitors from Nice to Monaco, and
built hotels, gardens and a casino in a place called 'Spélugues'.
However, most people have never heard of that name for a
good reason. At the suggestion of his mother, Princess
Caroline, Charles III renamed the place 'Monte Carlo'
first, this new casino was only moderately successful.
It was the completion of the railway that turned the corner.
Finally the continent had easy access to an area that had
previously been very difficult to reach. This railway
quickly turned the Monte Carlo resort into the major
European attraction it is today.
Once the railway reached Monte Carlo, many thousands of
visitors began to arrive and the population of the
principality of Monaco doubled. The French Riviera
quickly became a popular destination for European royalty
Just days after the railway reached Nice in 1864, Tsar
Alexander II of Russia visited on a private train, followed
soon afterwards by Napoleon III and then Leopold II, the
King of the Belgians.
Stunning by the natural beauty, the
party was on!
Wherever you go along the French Riviera, you are bound to
run across another yacht marina. Marinas are
everywhere for the simple reason that anyone who is wealthy
enough to own a home on the Riviera is also wealthy enough
to own a yacht or an expensive sailboat.
Sailing the Mediterranean is a major part of the Riviera
lifestyle. Do you have a party to attend in Rome?
Chances are it is faster to sail there than to drive.
Take some guests along for fun.
there a wild party on the island of Ibiza near the coast of
Spain? What better way to participate than to get in
your yacht and sail over?
year the Riviera hosts 50% of the world's super-yacht
fleet. At some point, 90% of
the world's super
yachts will visit
this region at least once in their lifetime.
After all, what better place to compare their floating
of the most glamorous Riviera activities is the yearly
Monaco Grand Prix. This is a Formula One race held
right in the middle of Monaco. Powerful
roaring race cars jet through the city streets of Monaco at
death-defying speeds cheered on by huge crowds.
since 1929, it is widely considered to be one of the most
important and prestigious automobile races in the world. It
joins the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans
to form the Triple Crown of Motorsport.
The twisting, winding circuit has been called "an exceptional
daring and prestige."
Another famous and glamorous Riviera activity is the
Cannes Film Festival. Founded in 1946, this is one
of the world's most prestigious film festivals.
It was at Cannes that Prince Rainier first met his future
wife Grace Kelly.
Cannes Film Festival is so exclusive that it requires an
invitation to attend. This private festival is
attended by many movie stars and receives massive media
exposure. People are so star-struck that they
sometimes forget there is business going on here. The
film festival is a popular venue for film producers to
launch their new films and attempt to sell their works to
the distributors who come from all over the globe.
Trophy homes, trophy yachts, trophy women.
Celebrities, moguls, royalty, mega rich.
Perhaps no other spot on Earth sees a more conspicuous
year-round accumulation of wealth concentrated in one location.
the people with their champagne wishes and caviar dreams,
the French Riviera is the true international playground of
the rich and famous.