We chat with Sandrine Camila, Deputy Director at Visit Monaco, who shares recommendations on must-see attractions along the French Riviera. We talk of markets and museums in Nice, and an encounter with a young Michael Douglas at the Cannes Film Festival.
We ascend to the picturesque villages of Eze and St. Paul de Vence, which date back to the Middle Ages. You'll almost be able to smell the fragrant concoctions in the Fraganard perfume factory, and visualize gardens within ruins of original castle walls.
We then whisk you to Monaco, the second smallest independent state globally, where we uncover its best attractions.
This episode captures the historical, artistic, and natural splendor of the Cote d'Azure.
Sandrine Camilla is Deputy Director at Visit Monaco.
Podcast host Lea Lane blogs at forbes.com, has traveled to over 100 countries, and has written nine books, including the award-winning Places I Remember (Kirkus Reviews star rating, and 'one of the top 100 Indie books' of the year). She has contributed to many guidebooks and has written thousands of travel articles.
Contact Lea- she loves hearing from you! @lealane on Twitter; PlacesIRememberLeaLane on Insta; Places I Remember with Lea Lane on Facebook; Website: placesirememberlealane.com.
New episodes drop every other Tuesday, wherever you listen. Please consider sharing, following, rating and reviewing this award-winning travel podcast.
The French Riviera, that ribbon of southern France on the Mediterranean Sea, also known as the Côte d'Azur, is the craggy landscape of piney cliffs, chateaus, casinos and yachts. The air is pure, the beach is pebbly and the waters reflect shades of jade and amethyst. Until trains arrived on this Côte d'Azur in 1866, travelers had to arrive by sea, on foot or on muleback. Early visitors came mostly for their health, and sunbathing did not become fashionable until the 20th century on the beaches of Antibes and Monte Carlo. Saint-Tropé was only a humble fishing village until r and painters made it famous. On this episode, we'll be talking about the French Riviera, especially Nice, cannes and small towns along the cliffs above, but let's start with the center of the area, the Principality of Monaco, an independent and sovereign country on the Mediterranean, surrounded on land by its neighbor, France, with Italy's borders just 10 miles away. Our guest is Sandrine Camilla, Deputy Director at Visit Monaco. Welcome, Sandrine. Places I Remember.Sandrine Camilla:
Hello, Lea, and thank you for inviting me.Lea Lane:
Well, we welcome you. Let's talk a bit about the French Riviera, which surrounds Monaco on three sides, and, Sandrine, I'll ask you for your comments as I go along here. Nice sits on the Pebbly Shores nearby. Founded by the Greeks and later a retreat for 19th century European elites, the city has long-attracted artists Henry Matisse, Chagall. There are great museums there which feature their works, and it's just charming, charming town. What are some of your favorite things to do in Nice, Sandrine?Sandrine Camilla:
I love to go to the flower market. It's right in the heart of the Old Town, it's very traditional, you can meet l locals and it's very colorful and you have all the flowers and plants of the French Riviera. It's what I like and I have one of my favorite restaurants nearby.Lea Lane:
So I like to go there. Which one, which one? I'm not supposed to make the promotion. A place is not very good. Well, that's personal, that's personal. Yeah, there's no trouble.Sandrine Camilla:
No, actually, you can definitely use Monaco as a base, and this car r u an amazing region which has so much to offer. So, yes, definitely, my favorite place is the. Old Town, absolutely.Lea Lane:
I just love the little shops. They're so pretty with the colorful flowers and the yellow and the blue and the carousel and the cafes. It's such a charming area and you don't need that long. I would say a day or two would give you a good flavor of it. It's just a lovely place to walk around and enjoy the weather. It's very, very often beautiful weather there as well. Nearby is Cannes, on the French Riviera. It's famed for its international film festival. The influential Lord Braugham discovered Cannes in 1834 when a cholera epidemic interrupted his progress to Italy and he built a villa there and foreign aristocrats followed. So there are lavish villas and grand hotels all around the Cannes area, from Nice to Cap Martin, all around there. The Cannes Boulevard de la Croissat curves around the coast and it's lined with sandy beaches and blue umbrellas and upmarket boutiques and palatial hotels. Have you been to the film festival, c?Sandrine Camilla:
Yes, and to tell you the truth, before working in Monaco, I worked in Cannes. I worked for a hotel, one of the deluxe properties in Cannes. So, yes, I have been to the film festival during five consecutive years and it's great memories. (Actually, tell us about it a little. It's a very glamorous event. You have all the stars coming and you know it's one of those events that is changing the city. The city is all about the event, and that is what is quite amazing, especially in this region. That's the same for the Formula One Grand Prix. All of a sudden, the city is all into the event taking place and it's all about the participants that are coming. And, of course, Cannes is hosting the most spectacular film festival, with numerous iconic stars of Hollywood and French cinemas and even from many other countries. So it's a very special experience, especially when you are on hospitality, because you are hosting all those things Well.Lea Lane:
I'm sure you got to meet many of the stars. Do you have a favorite?Sandrine Camilla:
Yeah, I have to say that I have been very impressed that they had to welcome Michael Douglas. Michael Douglas, right, yeah, very special A gentleman and very, very special nice person. It's always extremely impressive to welcome him to the hotel.Lea Lane:
Was his beautiful wife along with him?Sandrine Camilla:
Not yet actually they were not married yet.Lea Lane:
Oh, young Michael Douglas, very young Michael Douglas. Okay, even better, okay. (That was 25 years ago that was a long time. Well, obviously these are charming places to visit, but let's also talk about a couple of the villages perched above the coast. You get to them by driving up along the Corniche, with breathtaking views below, and you can take a bus from Nice or some of the other towns. Two of my favorite places above the Riviera are a and Saint Paul de Vence. A dates back to the Middle Ages. The local people have occupied the area since 220 BC. It clings to the mountainside and it has panoramic views, ancient facades and is absolutely lovely. The first time I visited it, I arrived by bus. I didn't have to worry about parking, because parking can get pretty bad. You have to go early to get a space, for sure, but you don't want to miss the view when you get up there. What do you especially enjoy there, Sandrine?Sandrine Camilla:
S is a medieval village. It's a very charming part of those villages, as you said, of Côte d'Azur, which is so special. It has a lot of historical. It's an artist mecca. In S. you have also the Fraganard perfume factory where you could create your very own fragrance. That's another very special feature.Lea Lane:
It's wonderful. I created a fragrance many years ago. I have kept it to this day. I still use it very sparingly, but it was so much fun because, of course, that area is where a lot of the beautiful flowers grow. There's a beautiful garden at the top of the village. It's set in the ruins of the original castle walls and you just sit there among the plants, you can have a drink and just look at the beautiful area below you. I think walking around i stonework. there's wrought iron. treet lamps, i pastel shutters. You've got history everywhere. It's just a great place to walk. o be sure to wear comfortable shoes. That would be the biggest tip I can give, because it can be steep, but you do want to check out the views at different places. Each one is a little bit different. Any other comments on A before we go on?Sandrine Camilla:
You do have A, you do have Saint-Paul-de-Vance, you do have Grasse, which is the town of the world perfume capital, but you also have smallest villages that are not so well known, such as Saint-Agnès, which is the highest coastal village in Europe, or Gourdon, which is frequently named among France's most stunning villages, which is still, as is, on the little top of I. So it's the proof that this region is extremely rich. You can go from any sandy beach in Cannes to top perched villages that are extremely rich in history and also offers those great panoramas we were talking about. So you have definitely a lot of to do and a lot of discoveries.Lea Lane:
Oh, it's just joyous, and I have to mention Saint-Paul-de-Vance, as you did just now. I remember still to this day from many years ago a lunch I had at a place called Columb d'Or, which is very famous. It's a place where the owner used to get paid by the artist with paintings, so of course he has paintings by Picasso and Braque and all these great artists. They paid for their lunches and dinners that way and I remember sitting on the terrace with white doves flying all around, and it was just something that I could tell you. it's a place I remembered forever. So, if you can get up there, it's just a beautiful village with, you know, not that much going on, except there is a wonderful art foundation.Sandrine Camilla:
Maught foundation.Lea Lane:
Yes, yes, there you have some great sculptures and great paintings, but just to walk around and just relax and go into the little alleyways and it's just, it's just so beautiful. So I highly recommend Saint-Paul-de-Vance as well.Sandrine Camilla:
How far is it for Monaco? Something like 40 minutes drive from here.Lea Lane:
If you're going to the area, try to include Monaco and these villages if you can, because they are so close to each other. It gives you a complete feeling of beauty from the top to the shores. Monaco sounds fantastic. Tell us a bit about the Grimaldi monarchy, which has ruled over Monaco since 1297.Sandrine Camilla:
Yes, exactly, it's the oldest monarchy in Europe, and since then they have protected this country and especially its residents. Of course, the famous prince that has ruled the country are Prince Charles III, who created Monte , and then Ranier III, who has been named t the Bolder Prince. He ruled the country as it is today and his son accessed the reign back in 2005 when Ranier III passed away, and since then, he also has been extremely involved in expanding the country, protecting the model of this free and independent country with unrivaled quality of life, and he's also has been extremely committed to sustainability and protection of oceans.Lea Lane:
Yes, I've read about his interest in the oceans. I must say his mother is famous Princess Grace, who came from America, and many Americans, of course, remember that was such an exciting time when she became the princess. I looked up some facts about Monaco. Just pass them along. The official language is French. Yes, yes, 20% of the land is reclaimed from the sea. Is that correct?Sandrine Camilla:
It's correct and it will be actually growing because we right now building an extension of six acres on the sea named Mar et Terra. It's a new little district which will be probably completed by early 2025.Lea Lane:
Well, that's exciting. Six acres is a big piece of the space, especially when you're only two square kilometers (Exactly.Sandrine Camilla:
It's a big piece.Lea Lane:
Right, I know there are more than 125 nationalities, that Catholicism is the official religion, but religious freedom is protected, which is important. The literacy rate is almost 100%. Most people can read and write. (Oh, yes, yes, absolutely yes, that's terrific.) Okay, what would you say is not to miss there? What would be your favorite things to do when you go to Monaco?Sandrine Camilla:
It's a difficult question because it really depends what type of experience you're looking for. So Monaco is a country where you could come as a couple, with family or friends, and it has so much to offer. Sometimes people have the perception of Monaco under certain cliches, that it's very small and it could be sometime out of age, but it's a country that has been reinventing itself all the time, while maintaining the elements which makes it so unique. So if you look for a special experience in luxury hotels, for example, we have a lot to offer. We have the iconic Hotel de Paris. We have fabulous deluxe properties that are either belle-epoch style or boutique style, also have three-star rated properties. Sometimes people think it's almost the most exquisite and most expensive hotels, but we do have a variety of offer. It's a country that also proposes a lot of sensational food. It's a gourmet destination. So if you look for gourmet experience, we also have a lot to offer. It comes from the most rated top Michelin restaurants to, for example, an oyster and seafood restaurant serving the Monaco-raised oysters. This is something unusual. We're a very cosmopolitan country. We have a large variety of restaurants Italian, French, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Lebanese and I could go on and on and on . If you look for special events, we also have a lot to offer. Of course, everybody knows about the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix.Lea Lane:
I know you drive all around the country, righ, tSandrine Camilla:
Yeah, it's in the city and what makes it unique is that the streets are very narrow, so it's quite spectacular. It takes place every last weekend of May and it's a three-day race and the city is actually transformed as a Formula 1 race track. So that is so sensational , even before the cars are running on the track. It creates a lot of activities and entertainment and you have fabulous nightlife during Grand Prix. It's a very special event. We also have a lot of other sport competitions, such as the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, a tennis competition. We have an international circus festival, which is one of the most acclaimed circus festivals in the world. It takes place every year in January. I created by Prince Rene III and Ranier now under the presidency of his daughter, stephanie Princess. Stephanie 1 Grand Prix is not the only car event. We also have Ipui, we also have Raleigh and, last but not least, we have the Monaco Yacht Show. It's going to be taking place in Monaco at the end of September and it's the largest exhibition of mega yachts in the world.Lea Lane:
I've been there and the yachts that you see are beyond belief. They are huge and glamorous and, oh my goodness, it's something else, it really is. What a parking lot you have on the Mediterranean there. Wow, the casino. I mean, I went there just to look at it. You know, I went there the day you can take tours of it. When was it built? And I know it also holds the opera and the ballet there. Tell us a little bit about it.Sandrine Camilla:
So, as you know, it's the Grand Dame of Monaco. It's an iconic place. It's a place where you could gamble, of course, but it's also a place that you could visit in the morning and with kids. Actually, you don't have access to all the rooms, but you have access to the main lobby, where there are, I would say, special exhibitions, and you could really then discover the historical building, because it has been built back in 1863. So it's, but it's also a make-up for gambling. Yes, you have also the Opera House that has been built by Garnier, the same that has built the Garnier Opera in Paris, but in a much smaller size, and this performance is all throughout the year, from the ballet of Monte Carlo, the dancing ballet company, as well as the Philharmonic Orchestra of Monaco.Lea Lane:
So it's a wonderful performance art center, not just a gambling casino. It's a great center for all of these things. Tell me about the Oceanography Museum.Sandrine Camilla:
The Oceanographic Museum is also a masterpiece that you need to visit. It has been built more than 100 years ago under the leadership of Prince Albert I, which is the Grand Grandfather of Prince Albert II, and i has been the first prince to be extremely involved also into protection of ocean sustainability as one of the creators of Oceanography. Actually, he was a great scientist and explorer. He learned a couple of explorations by boat throughout the seas of this world, and that was early in the 20th century. Today it's one of the most visited museums in the region and right now, the texts they have used exhibition tracing more than a century of life in Arctic and Antarctica, named Polar Mission. This exhibition will run during two years and what is special about this exhibition is that it includes a 6,500 square feet of projection space to experience the beauty of the polar worlds, and it's really an immersive exhibition. It's extremely interesting. Inside of that, of course, you have all the aquariums area where you can discover many species of fishes and as well as turtles, there's a special aquarium for turtles which has been especially done for protecting them.Lea Lane:
Well, the name of the podcast is Places, I Remember. So, Sandrine, would you please share a memory with us of this magical part of the world.Sandrine Camilla:
OK, I'm going to share with you a very personal anecdote. I was 16 years old and it was the first time I visited Monaco. It was in the summer. I was on holiday with my family on the French Riviera. I grew up in Paris, originally not from Monaco. We visited the country, we went to the Oceanographic Museum, we went to the casino. We discovered that. My parents told me that when we drove back to Nice, where we were staying, I said, oh, this place is amazing Really. I loved it and maybe one day I will live there. And my parents laughed, of course. And a couple of years later I met my husband in the hotel when I was working in Paris. We got married, I moved there and I've been living in Monaco since 27 years now. (So your dream came true.) ) The dream came true.Lea Lane:
Wonderful. I think even if a traveler visits, they can have a dream too. Well, thank you, Sandrine Camilla, deputy Director of Visit Monaco, for helping us focus on an area of beauty and peace, as well as glamour. It's one of those places in the world you can visit again and again.Sandrine Camilla:
Thanks so much, thank you so very much, Lea. I hope next time I will have the pleasure to welcoming you in the French Riviera.Lea Lane:
Merci beaucoup, merci Au revoir, au revoir.