The Cote d'Azur, often known in English as the French Riviera, is the Mediterranean coastline of the south eastern corner of France, extending from Menton near the Italian border in the east to either Hyères or Cassis in the west.
This coastline was one of the first modern resort areas. It began as a winter health resort for ailing British tourists at the end of the 18th century. With the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century, it 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 first half of the 20th century it was frequented by artists and writers, including Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse, Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham and Aldous Huxley, as well as wealthy Americans and Europeans. The French Riviera also contains the seaside resorts of Cannes, Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Cap-d'Ail, Frejus, Saint-Raphael, and Saint-Tropez, and surrounds the principality of Monaco.
Until the end of the 18th century, the area later known as the Côte d'Azur was a remote region, known mostly for fishing, olive groves and the production of flowers for perfume (manufactured in Grasse). A new phase began when the coast became a fashionable health resort for the British upper class in the late 18th century. In 1864, five years after Nice became part of France following the Second Italian War of Independence the first railway was completed, making Nice and the Riviera accessible to visitors from all over Europe. 100,000 visitors arrived in 1865. By 1874, residents of foreign enclaves in Nice, most of whom were British, numbered 25,000.
Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor. In 1882 she stayed in Menton, and in 1891 spent several weeks at the Grand Hotel at Grasse. In 1892 she stayed at the Hotel Cost-belle in Hyères. In successive years from 1895 to 1899 she stayed in Cimiez in the hills above Nice. First, in 1895 and 1896, she patronised the Grand Hôtel, while in later years she and her staff took over the entire west wing of the Excelsior Hôtel Régina, which had been designed with her needs specifically in mind.
A feature of the French Riviera in the inter-war years was the Train Bleu, an all first-class sleeper train which brought wealthy passengers down from Calais. It made its first trip in 1922, and carried Winston Churchill, Somerset Maugham, and the future King Edward VIII over the years. Coco Chanel, made sunbathing fashionable. She acquired a striking tan during the summer of 1923, and tans then became the fashion in Paris. After World War II it became a popular destination for tourists and also a summer home and meeting place for celebrities from Brigitte Bardot to Elton John. The Cannes Film Festival was launched in September 1946, marking the return of French cinema to world screens.
he luscious strip of coastline in the far south-east corner of France is officially contained within the département of the Alpes-Maritimes. The Côte d'Azur stretches from Théoule-sur-Mer in the west to Menton on France's border with Italy. Along the way it takes in Cannes, Nice, Antibes and even another country, the principality of Monaco.
Posted in 2009-07-15 10:11:37