As promised, a post about the area. Specifically, I’ll cover three towns (Cannes, Antibes, Sophia-Antipolis) located in the south-east of France.
A general note on the area: When money was invented, it was probably not far away from here. It’s unlikely that there is any other area with so many people who are extremely rich. In the area I come from, you would see cars like a Bentley Continental GT maybe once a year, usually on the highway – here, it’s common for me to spot one or two while driving to the beach. Of course, the houses and especially the yachts are much more impressive, but I’ll come to this later. Nevertheless, it’s obvious that quite a large percentage of the people here has basically unlimited funding.
First, let’s start with Antibes. Antibes is a small town right at the coast, which has a quite large yacht harbour (according to Wikipedia, it’s the biggest one in Europe). Antibes has a small old town, but the nicest part of Antibes is not the town. Basically, there are two places to visit, if you ever come here.
As noted, the harbour is large. However, large is only one thing, as a large empty harbour would be not too interesting. In Antibes though, the harbour is basically full up to the last place with yachts ranging from normal over extremely expensive to the highest end. Most of the time, you have around 100 yachts or so with ~ 30 m (50M€) in the harbour, with the corresponding cars (mainly Porsche) standing around. Most of the owners arrive in the evening, so if you want to see them being used, you should come late. However, I’d say at most one quarter of them is used every day, most of them stay dark.
Another category of yachts is always lit up in the evenings: The real high-end (100M€ and more), parked in the far end of the harbour. Last time I was in the harbour, I counted 8 of them, plus a “transport” one which contains only jet skis and other stuff to keep it off the main one. In the evenings, you can be pretty sure that each and every one of them is lit, and it’s an impressive view. To give you an idea, most of these yachts are like 12 m wide, have 3 decks above the hull, and are 80 m or longer. These yachts have a helipad, several boats, and usually a really large crew which starts to prepare the yacht at around 8 in the evening.
Well, enough of the yachts, let’s look at the other place to visit: The cap d’Antibes. Depending on how much money you have, there are two things to see there. If you are rich (that is, you’d be considered rich in this area!), there’s the Hotel du Cap “Eden Roc”, which is well hidden in a huge park. The room costs scale from 600 to 10k € (per night!), but it’s supposed to be one of the best hotels in the world.
If you are not that rich, you can (and should) take the walk around the cap itself. Basically, the state has taken the seafront of a few estates (3? 4?), and built a path right into the rocky coast. You walk along the outer wall of some really huge estates with some extremely large houses. If I say wall, I should be slightly more precise: Seen from outside, it’s one large wall, 3-4 m high, half a meter thick, with 360° cameras, lamps, normal cameras, laser light barriers every few meters, and dangerous looking security guards patrolling on the other side of it. You’ll be rewarded though by the magnificent path with a constantly impressive view on the seam, and even though it takes around one hour to walk around, it’s never boring. I can recommend to come in the morning, at least I tend to go there quite early (in case you are currently located in Sophia-Antipolis or nearby, feel free to contact me, maybe we can go together in the morning).
Sophia-Antipolis is a rather weird town: It consists of companies, labs and universities only. Until recently, there was not a single shop here, and only one bar. To put this in context: Over 20.000 people are working in Sophia-Antipolis! Every major IT company has a branch office here, next to my place, you can find Cisco and HP for example.
Due to the fact that there are no shops nor bars in the city, it’s basically dead in the evenings. Plus you get insane traffic jams in the direction of Antibes and from there on to Cannes.
Even though Cannes is very famous, there’s nothing that impressive actually. During the day, you usually get stuck in the traffic to the beaches. The beaches themselves are long, but just 10 m wide. The most interesting part is probably the “Croisette”, the road from the film palest along the coast. The road is wide, with palms on it, and hotels like the Ritz-Carlton, but that’s it. The yacht harbour is also nice, but compared to Antibes, it’s rather tiny. On the other hand, there is much more traffic, basically the whole quay along the film palest is busy every evening, and you can see Escalades, Rolls-Royce and Ferraris standing around.
Things are a bit different if you are looking for some night-life, but there’s something else which I’d like to mention first: The lack of good cinemas. You would assume that Cannes has a 32-cinema multiplex, with THX certificates everywhere, and playing the movies with the original voices regularly (as there is even an English radio-station here). In this regard, you’ll be severely disappointed.
Of course, there’s also Nice and Monaco here, but I was only once in Nice, and I saw no reason to go again there. I haven’t been to Monaco in this summer yet (I plan to go there for the Super-Yacht-Show in September.) I hope this post gives you a good idea of the region, as usual, feel free to comment if you have questions. I didn’t upload pictures here, as you can find pretty nice ones in the web (for example, there are loads of impressive pictures of the harbour in Antibes at night.)