Provence, tucked into the southern part of France, is undoubtedly magical. However, the South of France is also the conventional holiday destination for every sun deprived Brit longing for a beach that is actually made of sand instead of rocks. I thus expected primarily a mixture of old chateaus and seaside towns, which had slowly been commercialised and transformed into moneymaking machines. Not to mention I predicted it would be overwhelmed by tourists as soon as the temperature surpassed 20 degrees Celsius (about 70 Fahrenheit). In other words, I imagined something akin to Monte Carlo. Public beaches crowded with burnt tourists and private ones tucked away for the select elite few. If you have ever watched any soap opera set amongst England’s wealthier circles – Made in Chelsea or The Royals – you might have a similar image in mind. The South of France seems to always make an appearance and it always involves designer shopping sprees and parties on yachts.
Cannes, unsurprisingly, seemed to epitomise my presumptions. Consequently, I spent next to no time there but from what I could tell it was not nearly as glamorous as it is often portrayed. It almost emulated Los Angeles in the sense that while it might be a haunt for the wealthy and famous, parts of the seaside city seemed quite run down. It certainly didn’t remind me of Made in Chelsea’s decadent holiday to the South of France broadcasted this last summer. But then I guess it is easy to pick and choose what is shown on screen. Don’t let me mislead you; it is by no means a dump. There were definitely enjoyable parts, but personally, I preferred Nice.
Nice was beautiful. Unfortunately, the one full day that I spent there it rained on and off almost the whole day. As you can imagine I was drenched. I was also miserable. Some people love the rain. I only love it when I can curl up for the day on a sofa. That aside, for the few hours that I spent walking around the city in the sun it was wonderful. It’s not quite as commercialised as Cannes nor is it overrun by hotels like Monte Carlo. It maintains a lot of the old elegance captured in classic films like Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. Like Paris, it has wide boulevards as well as several areas of complex winding side streets. It even has its own miniature Notre Dame. Walking along the Promenade de Anglais overlooking the ocean or the Promenade du Paillon with its fountains and greenery, it is no surprise that Nice is a favourite holiday spot. Having visited before the Easter holidays I managed to avoid the crowds but like almost everywhere in southern France, I have a sneaking suspicion that the city is sadly packed to breaking point in the warmer months.
Top: Promenade des Anglais, Nice.
Photography by Savannah Hayes