Cannes in a Few Hours

Cannes Film Murals

Cannes is one of the most beautiful and the most famous cities on the French Riviera, usually associated with the rich and famous people. It is well known for hosting the annual Cannes Film Festival, but also for its luxurious hotels and restaurants, beautiful architecture, beaches, boutiques and weather. If you have only a couple of hours to visit it, you will probably have to avoid the irresistible charm of its restaurants and cafes.

Cannes, Vieux Port
Cannes

This itinerary of mine could spare you some time, so that you can spend it, doing what you like best, instead of wandering.

  1. The Croisette
  2. The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès
  3. The Casino
  4. The Path of the Stars
  5. The Church of Our Lady of Good Voyage
  6. Rue d’Antibes
  7. Rue Meynadier
  8. The Marche Forville
  9. The Mairie de Cannes
  10. The Vieux Port
  11. Cannes Film Murals
  12. The Suquet
  13. Rue St-Antoine
  14. The Musèe de la Castre

The Croisette or The Promenade de la Croisette, is 2km long boulevard that stretches along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea with many prestigious stores, restaurants, and hotels on one side and a long beach with cafes, beach chairs and broad sun umbrellas on the other. Nice for the eyes but disastrous for the credit cards!

Palais des Festivals et des Congrès
Palais des Festivals et des Congrès

At the top of the Croisette there is the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès (Palace of Festivals and Conferences), where the Cannes Film Festival is held.

The original convention hall was built in 1949 in a different location, but due to the huge success of the Cannes Film Festival, the Cannes Municipality started building a new hall in 1979 and it officially opened in 1982.

The Casino
The Casino

The new six-story building was built on the grounds of the Municipal Casino.

It has 35,000 square meters for exhibitions, numerous rooms and auditoriums, the largest of which has a capacity of 2,300.

Don’t miss the opportunity to take nice pictures on the famous red carpet.

The Path of the Stars
The Path of the Stars

Right in front of the Palais des Festivals you can find the Path of the Stars, handprints of famous people on the sidewalk.

Crossing the Croisette, on the opposite side of the Palace of Festivals, we will find the beautiful church Notre Dame de Bon Voyage (Our Lady of Good Voyage) that was the first stop of the Emperor Napoleon on his return from Elba on 1st March 1815.

In the 15th century it was just a small chapel and fishermen’s shelter, later it become Notre Dame of the Seaside, then Notre Dame of Bon Port and finally the church Notre Dame de Bon Voyage at the end of the 19th century.

During a restoration project undertaken between 2018 and 2019 its facade, stained glass, vaults, columns and the monumental chandelier, were cleaned and repaired, and the bells were returned to service.

The Church of Our Lady of Good Voyage
The Church of Our Lady of Good Voyage

Following Buttura St (Rue Buttura) not more than 100m, we will get to Rue d’Antibes, the ultimate shopper’s heaven.

There are so many stores and restaurants and cafes in this long street, ideal to sit down and enjoy its great atmosphere.

Rue Meynadier
Rue Meynadier

Turning left, and taking the second street on the right, we will get to another famous street of Cannes, Rue Meynadier, that is the best ‘bargain’ shopping street in town. It is narrow and shaded throughout the day, and its 18th-century houses, now repurposed as shops, offer plenty of excellent wine and cheese, chocolates, souvenirs and so much more!

Marche Forville
Marche Forville

In the end of this street, there is another heaven waiting, but this time for food lovers.  Marche Forville is a typical Mediterranean market, very attractive both inside and out. Apart from on Mondays, when it becomes a massive antiques and collectors market, it’s a giant farmers market, with delicious little bit of everything for everyone, from snails to quails, fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, cheeses, bakery… The range of local food is excellent and at reasonable prices.

Marche Forville
Marche Forville

Going back towards the old port we will find the impressive City Hall of Cannes (Mairie de Cannes), a historic, well maintained building, beautifully restored to its original state. It has huge reception rooms with enormous windows overlooking the port.

The Mairie de Cannes
The Mairie de Cannes

Vieux Port, old town harbor, with plenty of yachts and surrounded by colorful houses, bars and restaurants is well worth seeing and an amazing place for a relaxing walk.

Vieux Port
Vieux Port

It is also the place where you will find the famous mural depicting 100 years of cinema, near the bus station. The movies are the theme of the 15 painted walls to be found throughout Cannes.

Following Rue St-Antoine, a cobbled lane lined with local bars, restaurants and shops, we will reach the Suquet hill, Cannes’ oldest quartier, offering fantastic views of the bay.

Le Suquet
Le Suquet

Le Suquet is formed of a labyrinth of winding streets and steep stairways, which climb up to the Church of Notre Dame de l’Esperence (Eglise Notre Dame d’Esperance), completed in 1648 and dedicated to Our Lady of Hope. Although it looks a bit uninviting from the outside, it is very attractive inside offering beautiful wood paneling and a collection of 19th century paintings.

Right next to it, there is the Musèe de la Castre, an art and history museum offering an interesting world tour, and displaying historic items from different world civilizations, collected and donated by wealthy local people.

The best part is actually walking through the old castle courtyard and climbing up into the tower. The 360 degree views of Cannes and the harbor are simply spectacular!

Cannes
Cannes

Èze – “Eagle’s Nest”

Èze

While I was planning my trip to the Cote d’Azur in France this spring during the month of May, around the Cannes Film Festival and the Formula 1 Grand Prix, some friends of mine, knowing how crazy I am about perfumes, recommended me a short visit to a mountain village called Eze, between Nice and Monaco. Having discovered that there are actually two perfume factories that I could visit there (Galimard and Fragonard), I decided to take their advice and spend a couple of hours in this place.

Galimard - Èze
Galimard – Èze

Instead of the original idea, I spent almost the whole day there, totally enchanted and unable to leave.

Èze

The nickname “Eagle’s Nest”, Èze got due to its location on a high cliff 427 m (1,401 ft.) above sea level on the French Mediterranean.

Èze

Located between Nice and Monaco, it offers a convenient, jaw-dropping scenic ride from either city, along the sea and up the mountain.

Èze

No cars are allowed there, but the entrance to the historic Eze is only a short walk from the bus stop and a small parking lot. As soon as you step inside, you will feel like being in the Medieval period thanks to its stone streets, low archways, and narrow passages, followed, of course, by modern tourist traps, gift shops, expensive art galleries, cafes and restaurants, and the numerous small art and craft boutiques that are so hard to resist.

Èze

The climb from the parking area up the narrow winding pathways to the top of the rock is steep and have numerous stairs, but the view of the Mediterranean is breathtaking.

With or without a guide, you will be able to find the Jardin Exotique, its panoramic garden at the top quite easily.

Èze

This exotic botanic garden, has spectacular panoramic views of the Mediterranean and the hills below, and an impressive collection of cactus, plants and rare vegetation, surrounding the remains of an ancient chateau.

Èze

Eze was once surrounded by a 12th-century fortified castle, that was torn down in 1706, but the villagers did an excellent job of restoring the old buildings. 

Eze is positioned so high that its light ochre Church of Our Lady of the Assumption of Eze (Notre Dame de l’Assomption), can be seen from afar.

The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption of Eze
The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption of Eze

The church was rebuilt between 1764 and 1778 to replace the previous one, which fell in ruins.

The bell tower was built in the 19th century, and several times hit by the lightning which made the original dome disappear.

Its classical façade contrasts with its Baroque interior.

An Egyptian cross inside shows the ancient roots of this village, when the Phoenicians erected a temple there to honor the goddess Isis.

Èze

At the end of the “Avenue du Jardin Exotique”, you can take the Friedrich Nietzsche path and visit “Eze bord-de-mer”. It appears that Nietzsche composed the last part of his work “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” here, in the shadow of the olives and pine-trees.

Èze

The architecture of Eze is simply fascinating: small narrow roads, archways and fantastically restored stone houses, elegant wrought-iron street lamps, colorful shutters, shady squares and refreshing ancient fountains, all in one place. No wonder I was completely seduced by this medieval village and its marvels.

Èze

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Èze
Èze
Èze
Èze

Vitamin Sea – Ierissos

Ierissos Vitamin Sea

Although you are used to me writing about beautiful European cities and amazing things that you could see there, this time I couldn’t help writing a few words about a ritual of mine concerning seaside.

Ierissos Vitamin Sea

I am crazy about architecture and sightseeing, but every single year, considering it the most precious therapy for my body and soul, I choose a peaceful place at the seaside, with clear and calm, warm water and sandy beaches, where I can spend days just swimming and relaxing, without being distracted by other city attractions.

Capitola Watches
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My choice is usually Greece, because it is very close to my country, and its beaches are absolutely fascinating.

Ierissos Vitamin Sea

In those ten days, I simply feel the energy flowing into my body and the stunning immensity of water calming my soul and mind. I have a feeling that my skin is absorbing health that will protect me all year long and give me the necessary strength for the crazy rhythm that my character drives me to. That fusion with nature and observing its perfection and harmony is something that fascinates me year after year. And the body, which in the water puts in motion every, even the tiniest dormant muscle, looks as if born again and simply shining with health.

Ierissos Vitamin Sea

This year, I found this source of bliss in Ierissos, in the Chalkidiki Peninsula, not as quiet as I expected, but still with the intact and unspoiled nature. These few photos will express more than my words.

Ierissos Vitamin Sea
Ierissos
Ierissos
Ierissos Vitamin Sea
Ierissos
Ierissos

San Marino in a Few Hours

San Marino

Although you may not need my itinerary for San Marino at all, because it is almost impossible for you to get lost there, I couldn’t help describing this little gem in the heart of Italy.

San Marino

The Republic of San Marino is a small independent state on the northeastern side of the Apennines, completely surrounded by Italy. It is the world’s oldest republic and the third smallest country in Europe, after Vatican City and Monaco.

It is situated only 10km from Rimini, and it lies 657 m above sea level, offering spectacular views of the surroundings and the Adriatic coast.

According to the legend, it was founded by a Christian named Marinus in 301, who arrived there from the island of Rab in Dalmatia, climbed Monte Titano and found a small community of Christians, persecuted by the Emperor Diocletian.

San Marino
San Marino

San Marino consists of a few towns around the mountain sides, with the capital called ‘San Marino’ itself, situated on a mountain top and surrounded by a wall and three distinct towers. It became part of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008.

It is among the wealthiest countries in the world, with one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, no national debt, a budget surplus, and the world’s highest rate of car ownership, as the only country having more vehicles than people.

The official language is Italian, and San Marino’s foreign policy is aligned with the Italian, but it is duty free, so be also prepared to shop, as you can get liquor, leather, and perfumes at excellent prices.

Visiting this city made me feel as if I were in a fairy tale: old architecture, colorful and very clean streets adorable to walk around, many charming little shops, various museums. During the day it is always full of tourists, but it is almost empty later in the afternoon and completely fascinating, quiet and mystic at night.

These sites will definitely attract your attention:

  1. Liberty Square (Piazza della Libertà) 
  2. The Statue of Liberty (Statua della Libertà)
  3. The Palazzo Pubblico
  4. The Basilica of San Marino
  5. The Guaita Tower.
  6. San Marino’s cable car (Funivia di San Marino)
  7. The State Museum
  8. The Basilica of San Marino
  9. The 3 Towers – Guaita, Cesta and the Montale Tower
  10. The Museum of Ancient Arms
  11. The Monument of Giuseppe Garibaldi
  12. The Museum of Torture
  13. Porta San Francesco
San Marino
San Marino

Liberty Square (Piazza della Libertà) is located at the heart of San Marino’s Historic Centre, offering important landmarks, marvelous panorama and the exquisite charm of its cafés.

The Statue of Liberty (Statua della Libertà), also depicted on the San Marino’s two-cent euro coins, dominating the square’s center, is made of white Carrara marble, in the neoclassical style, symbolizing freedom. The statue is a carrying a crown with three towers representing the fortified city of San Marino. It stands atop a fountain with drinkable water.

  Liberty Square (Piazza della Libertà)
Liberty Square (Piazza della Libertà) 

The Palazzo Pubblico on the north side of the square is the city’s town hall and its official Government Building. It was built between 1884 and 1894 by Roman architect Francesco Azzurri, and completely restored in 1996. The building is made of stone, recreating the majestic style of 13th- and 14th-century Italian buildings with the Gothic arches, the rooftop battlements and the clock tower, adorned with a mosaic of the saints Agata, Leo and Quirino.

You will also find there The State Museum of San Marino, inside the Palazzo Pergami-Belluzzi. It was formed in the second half of the 19th century, of the donations from all over the world, with numerous archeological findings, historic objects and works of art.

A short walk from Liberty Square there are other major city attractions such as the Basilica of San Marino and Guaita Tower.

San Marino’s cable car (Funivia di San Marino)
San Marino’s cable car (Funivia di San Marino)

It’s also close to San Marino’s cable car, travelling between the Historic Center and Borgo Maggiore.

 The Basilica of San Marino
The Basilica of San Marino

The Basilica of San Marino, another impressive building here, dedicated to Saint Marinus, the founder and patron of the Republic is a Catholic church situated on Piazza Domus Plebis in the northeastern edge of the city, adjacent to the Church of St. Peter. It is an elegant Neoclassical Style Cathedral built in 1836 with a porch of eight Corinthian columns.

 The Basilica of San Marino
The Basilica of San Marino

The 3 towers Guaita, Cesta and the Montale Tower, at the peaks of Mount Titano, were bastions of the liberty.

The First Tower, called the “Rocca Guaita” was built in the X century, directly on the rock with no foundation, with a pentagonal base. It was a refuge for the population during sieges and some parts of it were used as prisons up to 1970.

 The Cesta Castle
The Cesta Castle

The Second Tower, on the highest pinnacle of Mount Titano (756 meters), is The Cesta Castle, also with a pentagonal floor plan. It was built at the end of the XI century, and today it houses The Museum of Ancient Arms, containing more than 500 pieces.

The Third Tower, called Montale is the smallest, and dates back to the end of the XIII century.

 The Monument of Giuseppe Garibaldi
The Monument of Giuseppe Garibaldi

Going back down, you may find interesting The Monument of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the famous Italian general and politician, considered the father of the modern Italy, at beautiful Garibaldi Square, full of flowers.  He is celebrated here as the one who permitted San Marino to stay out from the unification movement.

 The Museum of Torture
The Museum of Torture

Coming to the end of the visit, near the entrance to the city, you may also want to see The Museum of Torture, interesting and shocking at the same time. It gives a fascinating overview of our ability to inflict pain and suffering on each other.

Torture devices themselves are shocking, but reading the descriptions is even worse, as they give an amazing insight into how evil the human mind can be.

 Porta San Francesco
Porta San Francesco

Porta San Francesco is right next to it. This gate was constructed as a watchtower in1361 and restored in 1581. It is an impressive, well-preserved building, adorned with the coat of arms of the Republic. It is the main entrance to the city, with a uniform guard, regulating the traffic.

San Marino
San Marino

I highly recommend a visit to this dream town, where postage stamps are the number one purchased product.

San Remo in a Few Hours

San Remo

 

San Remo is a picturesque city in north-western Italy, on the Mediterranean coast, and a well-known tourist destination famous for its tropical parks and gardens, palaces, casinos, boutiques and its never-ending festive atmosphere.

It hosts numerous events, such as the San Remo Music Festival, the Milan–San Remo cycling race, the biggest annual flower fair in Italy, many contests, performances, car races, tennis tournaments, rowing competitions, a sailing regatta, and a variety of fashion shows.

The Lolli Palace
The Lolli Palace

If you have just a few hours at your disposal to visit it, I suggest, as always, my itinerary, that will enable you to see its most interesting sites in the shortest period of time.

  1. The Lungomare dell’Imperatrice
  2. The Russian Orthodox Church
  3. The Villa Angerer
  4. The Casino of San Remo
  5. Corso Matteotti
  6. The Convent of the Capuchin Friars
  7. The Cathedral of San Siro
  8. La Pigna
  9. The Sanctuary of the Madonna Della Costa
  10. The Statue of Mike Bongiorno
  11. The Museum of Palazzo Borea d’Olmo
  12. The Ariston Theater
  13. The Monumento ai caduti
  14. The Forte Santa Tecla
  15. The Anima in Quartetto
  16. The Villa Ormond
  17. The Villa of Alfred Nobel

The Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church

We will start our tour from the Lungomare dell’Imperatrice, and the Lolli Palace.

It is a long, seafront street, with palms and a cozy pedestrian area of a white and reddish checkerboard floor, and with a white marble statue called “Venere dei Fiori” or “Primavera”, representing young, barefoot lady with raising arms full of flowers.

Next to the Lolli Palace there is the Russian Orthodox Church, a legacy of the Russian Empress Maria Alexandrovna, an amazing structure built in 1913 resembling a classic Russian cathedral from the 17th century, with a beautiful stone carving, and a sophisticated interior design, and with an inestimable collection of Russian icons.

The Villa Angerer
The Villa Angerer

Just before the Casino of San Remo there is a hidden sleeping beauty, the Villa Angerer, a beautiful Art Nouveau masterpiece, unfortunately left to oblivion by its present owner. It was built in the early 1900’s by the Austrian lawyer Angerer, with beautiful flower motives on the walls and the windows and sculptures of dragons below. There are so many other beautiful details which can’t be seen as the house is totally closed.

The Casino of San Remo
The Casino of San Remo

The Casino is a magnificent building and a must-see in San Remo. Although it looks absolutely amazing on the outside, it is a bit dull inside. It was opened in 1905 and has operated continuously since then with the only exception of the years of World War II. It is right in the heart of the town, connected to Piazza Colombo via the pedestrian street Via Matteotti, which is an ideal street for shopping, culture and entertainment.

The Convent of the Capuchin Friars
The Convent of the Capuchin Friars

The Convent of the Capuchin Friars, was consecrated in 1668, and dedicated to Saints Bernard and Francis of Assisi and to the Immaculate Conception. The facade is quite simple, with a statue of a friar in the churchyard. The interior has a single nave while, on the walls of the right and left, there are numerous and valuable wooden altars, preciously carved, and dedicated to Saints Capuchins.

In Via Matteotti we will also find the Ariston Theatre and Palazzo Borea d’Olmo, but we will leave it for a moment, taking the Via Francesco Corradi to get to the Cathedral of San Siro.

The Cathedral of San Siro
The Cathedral of San Siro

It is the oldest religious structure in the city, built in the 12th century. The last major reconstruction of the temple took place in the 18th century. It is not an astonishing cathedral, but yet worth visiting.

If you have more time to spend visiting this beautiful town, you can choose the option to explore the Pigna, the medieval quarter and the ancient heart of San Remo. A few steps from its market square you will find a continuous sequence of ancient houses, alleys, silent little squares, covered passageways, and arches. At the top of the hill, there is the Sanctuary of the Madonna Della Costa from the 17th-century with a beautiful interior worth climbing and an amazing terrace with a fantastic view all around.

The Statue of Mike Bongiorno
The Statue of Mike Bongiorno

We will go back to Corso Matteotti to enjoy its shops, bakeries, restaurants and beautiful buildings. One of things that you can see there and that will probably make you smile, is The Statue of Mike Bongiorno, one of the most famous and loved Italian TV presenters, who conducted many shows including the “San Remo Festival” of Italian music. He is waving and every time you see him, you will want to wave back or at least, to have a selfie with him!

The Museum of Palazzo Borea d'Olmo
The Museum of Palazzo Borea d’Olmo

Very close to it, we will find the beautiful Civic Museum of Palazzo Borea d’Olmo and the famous Ariston Theater.

The Ariston Theater
The Ariston Theater

It is a legendary movie theater, and a tourist attraction of national importance, opened more than a hundred years ago, that has become a permanent venue for various cultural events including the annual San Remo Music Festival Competitions, since 1977.

The Monumento ai caduti
The Monumento ai caduti

Following Corso Augusto Mombello, we will pass the Monumento ai caduti, a beautiful bronze statue in memory of the fallen of the First World War, representing a woman on horseback with a sword, and then we will come to the Forte Santa Tecla.

It is located next to San Remo’s port and is one of its main attractions. Built in the 18th century, it was used as a prison until 2002. Now, it has been transformed into a museum and is also used as a place for cultural events.

There is an interesting art structure in the park in front of it, created by the artist Enrico Benetta, and called the Anima in Quartetto.

The Anima in Quartetto
The Anima in Quartetto

These, very original and unusual giant metal chairs, are so appealing and ideal for taking photos…

There is another statue in this area, put in honor of Italian resistance as well as a small piece of ancient ruins.

The Forte Santa Tecla
The Forte Santa Tecla

Our visit finishes here, but for those ones who have more time to spend, there are two other beautiful villas to visit. One is Villa Ormond, an extraordinary architectural monument, built in the 19th century and located on the territory of one of the largest and most beautiful parks in the city. The other is the Villa of Alfred Nobel, the great chemist, where he spent the last years of his life. Today it is a museum with the exposition devoted to his life and achievements.

Those would be the top things to see in San Remo during a short visit. If you find this useful, please leave me a comment. Keep sending me your suggestions regarding my next choice of the city to write about.

Menton in a Few Hours

Menton

 

Menton, also known as a “Pearl of France” is a cute little town situated on the French Riviera, along the Franco-Italian border.

This popular resort for the aristocracy in the 1800s is also famous for its gardens, beaches, a scenic port, fine restaurants, and the Lemon Festival organized every February in the Casino Gardens in the center.

The following itinerary should allow you to see its most interesting sights in just a couple of hours.

Menton
Menton

  1. Promenade du Soleil
  2. The Casino Barriere
  3. Jardins Biovès
  4. The Marché des Halles
  5. The Jean Cocteau Museum
  6. The Bastion Museum
  7. The Cathedral of Saint Michel
  8. The Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs
  9. The Old Cemetery

We will start our tour from the Promenade du Soleil, an amazing promenade where you can stroll and enjoy the sea and beautiful views, or some of many great restaurants alongside.

The Casino Barriere
The Casino Barriere

The Casino Barriere, a small version of the famous casino in Monte-Carlo, with a cozy terrace that is an ideal place to have a drink, is very hard to miss at this gorgeous promenade.

Jardins Biovès
Jardins Biovès

In front of it, on the opposite side of the sea, there is a huge park Jardins Biovès, the venue for the “Fete du citron” Lemon festival in February and March. Huge sculptures, entirely made of tons of lemons and oranges, each year following a different theme, make this event unique and truly spectacular. Try to see the gardens also in the evenings, when the sculptures are illuminated and accompanied by music, performances, refreshments and local citrus-made products.

Down the promenade, towards the old port we will find the Marché des Halles, one of the most beautiful market places in France, offering some fine examples of French food. This historic covered market was built in 1898 by a local architect and is open every day from 5 am in summer or 5:30 am in winter until 1 pm.

The Jean Cocteau Museum
The Jean Cocteau Museum

Right opposite it, there is the Jean Cocteau Museum (Musee Jean Cocteau Collection Severin Wunderman) opened in 2011.

Jean Cocteau, a poet, an artist, a film director, and a close friend of Picassoe, liked Menton very much and left many traces here.

The largest one is his museum, an amazing square building, with curved white pillars interspersed with dark glass, which offers, depending on the current exhibition, drawings, paintings, ceramics and film clips of this multi-talented artist, collected and donated by his greatest fan Sévérin Wunderman.

The Bastion Museum
The Bastion Museum

Right next to it, there is the Bastion Museum, which Jean Cocteau was given full range to decorate. His marvelous stone mosaics outside the Bastion walls and the lively eccentric works inside this small museum gave a special new look to the gloomy old fortress, built overwater in 1636.

Cocteau also painted the Wedding Room at the Mairie (Town Hall) in the 1950s and, transformed it into a giant work of art.

The Cathedral of Saint Michel
The Cathedral of Saint Michel

The Baroque Cathedral of Saint Michel, with its bell tower, was built in the 17th century by the town’s residents after an outbreak of the Black Death in gratitude for their survival. The decoration around the altar and ceiling frescoes are impressive, and there is also an interesting 17th-century organ inside. The Festival of Classical Music of Menton is celebrated in this church every August.

In front of the Saint Michel basilica, there is the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs, a chapel belonging to the White Penitents, Catholic laymen. It is a jewel of Baroque art, built between 1680 and 1687, with a beautiful facade and tower.

The Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs
The Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs

Quite close to this place, and definitely worth climbing is the Old Cemetery, offering some very interesting graves of many British and Russian aristocrats, but more importantly a breathtaking, fabulous view of Menton.

Menton
Menton

We will end our tour here. If you have more time, you will certainly enjoy wandering around, sneaking into its narrow streets, sweet shops and adorable restaurants. Whatever you choose, Menton will not leave you indifferent.

Menton
Menton

Strasbourg in a Few Hours

Strasbourg

Strasbourg, the capital and largest city of the Grand Est region of France is located at the border with Germany in the historic region of Alsace. Being the official seat of the European Parliament and of many other European institutions, it is one of the three main capitals of the European Union, alongside Brussels and Luxembourg,

Strasbourg’s historic center, the Grand Island (Grande Île), was the first of its kind in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and it was the first time such an honor was placed on an entire city center.

Its rather mixed heritage with almost as much German influence in its history as French has been a cultural bridge between France and Germany for centuries, especially through the University of Strasbourg, currently the second largest in France, and the coexistence of Catholic and Protestant culture.

Johannes Gutenberg created the first printing press here and made Strasbourg one of the first centers of the printing industry.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg

If we have only a few hours at our disposal to visit this beautiful city, we will have to stick to the old city center, and the best way to start our tour is from The Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg).

  1. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg
  2. The Astronomical Clock
  3. The Rohan Palace
  4. The Kammerzell House
  5. Gutenberg Square
  6. St Thomas’ Church
  7. The Petite France
  8. The Barrage Vauban
  9. The Ponts Couverts
  10. Place Kléber
  11. Place Broglie
  12. Place de la République
  13. The St. Paul’s Church

Strasbourg Cathedral, also known as Strasbourg Minster, is a Catholic cathedral, considered one of the finest examples of late Gothic architecture, although considerable parts of it belong to Romanesque architecture. Sandstone from the Vosges used in construction gives it its characteristic pink hue.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg

With its 142 meters (466 feet), it had been the world’s tallest building for 227 years (from 1647 to 1874), when it was surpassed by St. Nikolai’s Church, Hamburg. Today it is the sixth-tallest church in the world.

Victor Hugo described it as a “gigantic and delicate marvel”, and Goethe as a “sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God”.

Like the city of Strasbourg, the cathedral connects German and French cultural influences, and its famous west front, decorated with thousands of figures, is a masterpiece of the Gothic era.

Astronomical clock
Astronomical clock

The cathedral’s south transept houses an 18-metre astronomical clock, one of the largest in the world, inaugurated in 1547.

Unusually accurate, it was much more a complex calculating machine than a clock, and only specialized mathematicians could use it. The clock was able to determine the date of Easter in the Christian calendar at a time when computers did not yet exist.

It also indicates solar time, the day of the week (each represented by a god of mythology), the month, the year, the sign of the zodiac, the phase of the moon, and the position of several planets.

The Rohan Palace
The Rohan Palace

Right next to the Cathedral, there is a major architectural, historical, and cultural landmark of the city, The Rohan Palace (Palais Rohan), built in the 1730s. It was the former residence of the prince-bishops and cardinals of the House of Rohan, an ancient French noble family originally from Brittany, and it is considered a masterpiece of French Baroque architecture. The palace hosted a number of French monarchs such as Louis XV, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon and Joséphine, and Charles X.

It was owned by the nobility, the municipality, the monarchy, the state, the university, and the municipality again, following the history of Strasbourg.

The Rohan Palace
The Rohan Palace

Since the end of the 19th century, the palace has been home to three of Strasbourg’s most important museums: the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts, and the Museum of Fine Arts.

The Kammerzell House
The Kammerzell House

The Kammerzell House (Maison Kammerzell) built in 1427 and situated on the Place de la Cathédrale, north-west of the Strasbourg Cathedral, is one of the most famous buildings of Strasbourg.

It belongs to the German Renaissance but is stylistically still attached to the Rhineland black and white timber-framed style of civil architecture. It now houses a restaurant.

Gutenberg Square
Gutenberg Square

Leaving the Cathedral and following Mercière St, we will get to Gutenberg Square (La Place Gutenberg).

It is one of the city’s most famous squares, with the bronze statue on granite base, created in 1840, commemorating Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the mechanical movable type print, one of the human civilization’s greatest inventions.

Behind the statue, there is a beautiful building of Strasbourg’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry that used to be the building of the town hall (which is now found in Place Broglie).

St Thomas' Church
St Thomas’ Church

Right beneath the square, underground, there is one of Strasbourg’s best public car parks.

The square is usually decorated with a precious and large merry-go-round, and in winter, with Christmas markets that are every year dedicated to another country.

Rue des Serruriers, on the way to the Petite France area, will lead us to St Thomas’ Church (Église Saint-Thomas), also known as the “Protestant Cathedral”, the main Protestant church in the region.

It is a five-naved hall church, the oldest on the territory of former south-west Germany and famous for its historic organs, played also by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Thus, we arrive to the district of Petite-France (La Petite France), at the western end of the Grande Île, where the river splits up into a number of channels that pass through the area that once used to be home to the city’s tanners, millers and fishermen. Now, it is one of Strasbourg’s main tourist attractions with adorable and enchanting half-timbered buildings full of flowers.

The Petite France
The Petite France

Upstream of Petite France, the River Ill flows through the Barrage Vauban, a bridge, weir and defensive work erected in the 17th century to enable, in the event of an attack, the raising the level of the River Ill and thus the flooding of all the lands south of the city, making them impassable to the enemy.

Today it serves to display sculptures and has a viewing terrace on its roof.

Four of its channels are spanned by the Ponts Couverts, erected in the 13th century, which consists of three bridges and four towers. The name comes from the wooden roofs that were built over the bridges to protect soldiers in times of war, but despite the name, it has not been covered since the 18th century.

The Ponts Couverts
The Ponts Couverts

Leaving this beautiful area, we will cross Pont du Faisan, and follow Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes, and then Rue du Fossé-des-Tanneurs, that will take us to the Place Kléber.

The Place Kléber is the central and the largest square of Strasbourg, named after general Jean-Baptiste Kléber, a famous military hero from the French Revolution, born in Strasbourg in 1753. It is located in the heart of the city’s prestigious historical and commercial area, where most of the luxury brands have opened their shops, and it is a host to many city’s events, the famous Christmas markets, flea markets, street protests, etc…

Following Rue de l’Outre we will get to Place Broglie, another interesting square of Strasbourg, famous for its prestigious surroundings: The Opera House, the City Hall, the Governor’s Palace, the Prefect’s Palace and others. Close to the Opera House, there is a huge monument inaugurated in 1951, a sandstone obelisk adorned with bronze statues, commemorating the Liberation of Strasbourg.

The Rhin Palace
The Rhin Palace

Right behind the opera building, there is a huge Republic Square (Place de la République), surrounded on three sides by five buildings, all classified as historical monuments: The Rhin Palace, the National and University Library, the National Theatre, the Préfecture of Grand Est and Bas-Rhin, and the Tax Center.

The Rhin Palace, a magnificent Neorenaissance building with a heavy dome built in 1887, is the former Imperial Palace, surrounded by its own garden and separated from the square by a monumental wrought iron fence.

The St. Paul's Church
The St. Paul’s Church

Avenue de la Liberté will take us to our final destination, to The St. Paul’s Church of Strasbourg (Église réformée Saint-Paul) a major building of Gothic Revival architecture.

It was built in 1897 for the Lutheran members of the Imperial German garrison stationed in Strasbourg, but then it was handed over to the Protestant Reformed Church in 1919, after the return of Alsace to France.

Thanks to its spires of 76 m (249 ft.) and its spectacular location the church can be seen from far away.

Strasbourg is a city offering a little of something for everyone, and if you are lucky enough to have more time to visit it, you will certainly enjoy every second of it!

Strasbourg
Strasbourg

Baden-Baden in a Few Hours

Baden-Baden

Baden-Baden is a picturesque spa town in a valley of the Northern Black Forest in southwestern Germany, and on the small river Oos.

Its name means “baths” and it got it thanks to 29 natural springs of water rich in salt with temperatures from 46 to 67 °C (115 to 153 °F). Baden-Baden means the town of Baden in the territory of Baden, and it was doubled to be distinguished from the other cities with the same name, particularly Baden near Zürich in Switzerland and Baden near Vienna in Austria.

The Romans first discovered the charm of this place, and we can still visit the remains of their baths and enjoy the spa experiences at Friedrichsbad and the modern Caracalla Baths.

Baden-Baden
Baden-Baden

In the 19th-century Baden-Baden became the summer meeting point of European aristocracy and social elite. Many members of royalty, wealthy bankers, industrialists, famous artists came to enjoy the benefits of the healing thermal springs of Baden-Baden on the slopes of Schwarzwald.

It is also an ideal destination for sports enthusiasts, for hiking and horse racing, with many golf and tennis clubs.

If you happen to find yourself in this scenic town without many hours at your disposal, I hope this itinerary will help you see as much of its beauty as possible.

  1. The Festspielhaus
  2. The Trinkhalle
  3. The Kurhaus
  4. The Theater of Baden-Baden
  5. The Old Town
  6. The Rathaus
  7. The Stiftskirche
  8. Roman Bath Ruins
  9. The Fabergé Museum
  10. The Evangelist Town Church
  11. The Russian Orthodox Church
  12. The Lichtentaler Allee

The Festspielhaus
The Festspielhaus

As our starting point, we will choose The Festspielhaus, Germany’s largest opera and concert hall, with a 2,500-seat capacity. It was originally built in 1904 as Baden-Baden central railway station.

The new construction was opened in 1998, and after the initial public start-up funding, the Festspielhaus successfully converted to become the first privately financed European opera and concert company.

The Trinkhalle
The Trinkhalle

Following the river Oos, we will get to The Trinkhalle (pump house) in the Kurhaus spa complex, built in 1942 as the spa’s main building. It is a lovely place in the center of the city with great photo motives, surrounded by a very beautiful and well-kept park. The 90-meter arcade is lined with benches, and decorated with monumental allegorical paintings, illustrating many local legends and myths.

The Kurhaus
The Kurhaus

Right next to it, there is Baden-Baden’s Casino, and conference complex built in 1824 in its unique Belle Epoch styled elegance, with the Corinthian columns and paired-griffins frieze of the grand entrance. It achieved the international fame in the mid-1830’s, when gambling was forbidden in France, which encouraged gamblers to cross the border and try their luck at Baden-Baden’s casino. Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Gambler” was inspired by it.

The Kurhaus represents Baden-Baden’s sparkling center stage.

You can stroll through the immaculate Kurhaus gardens or go shopping in the elegant boutiques along the Kurhaus colonnade.

You can pay a visit to casino or to its stylish banqueting rooms. Or, you can simply take a seat in front of the open air stage and listen to the delightful sounds of the Baden-Baden Philharmonic.

The Kurhaus
The Kurhaus

We will then pass by the Theater of Baden-Baden. Especially for its opening, in August 1862, Hector Berlioz composed his opera Béatrice et Bénédict.

Thus, we get to the Old Town. Strolling around its alleys and lanes we can explore its Baroque-influenced architecture, and visit its charming jewelry and antique shops, galleries, and cafes.

The Rathaus
The Rathaus

Gernsbacher Street will lead us to the Rathaus, and immediately after to the Stiftskirche, the Romanesque-style basilica located directly on the Florentinerberg in the old town of Baden-Baden. The Parish Church of Baden-Baden, or the Collegiate Church of Our Lady is dedicated to the holy apostles Peter and Paul.

The Stiftskirche
The Stiftskirche

It is the burial place of the margraves of Baden, where 14 of them found their final resting place. It was redesigned for the first time in the 15th century in the late Gothic style. It received its present tower in the 18th century. At the same time, the interior was baroque. Finally, the church got the present appearance in 1867.

Right behind it, there are Roman Bath Ruins, the Museum of Ancient Bathing Culture. The Romans appreciated very much the relaxing effects of Baden-Baden’s thermal spring water, and we can admire their masterwork by visiting the 2000-year-old bath ruins, which are one of the oldest and best-kept examples in the country.

Roman Bath Ruins
Roman Bath Ruins

Leaving the famous Caracalla Spa behind us, we will take Sophienstraße and find The Fabergé Museum devoted to the work of Carl Fabergé, a Russian goldsmith and jeweler, born in St. Petersburg.

The complete spectrum of his work is represented in this unique collection starting with the famous imperial Easter eggs for the Tsar’s family to the exquisite pieces of jewelry and high quality everyday items from the time of the First World War.

The Evangelist Town Church
The Evangelist Town Church

Taking Lichtentaler Street on the left, we will soon get to the Evangelist Town Church and a little bit further to the beautiful Russian Orthodox Church.

We will finish our tour going back to the river Oos, to enjoy the Lichtentaler Allee, a historic park and arboretum. It is 2.3-kilometer long strolling avenue along the west bank of the river Oos.

The Lichtentaler Allee
The Lichtentaler Allee

 

 

In 1655, it used to be just a path between the town market and Lichtenthal monastery, and today the avenue contains about 300 types of native and exotic woody plants, including alders, azaleas, chestnuts, ginkgoes, limes, magnolias, maples, oaks, etc.

 

 

There are many other interesting things to see in Baden-Baden, like Brahms House, The Paradise Cascade, Geroldsau Waterfall, The Museum Frieder Burda or Merkur Bergbahn (Merkur Mountain Railway), but it would take a much longer visit. I am sure that you will completely enjoy Baden-Baden even with this shorter itinerary, and that you will bring home marvelous memories and many beautiful photos.

Riquewihr in an Hour

Riquewhir

Although you will not need my itinerary to go around this tiny little village, I decided to write about it, just to show you how beautiful it is, and to make sure that you will not miss it, when visiting Alsace.

Riquewhir

Situated on The Wines Road, close to Colmar, in northeastern France, between the peaks of the Vosges Mountains and the Plain of Alsace, this magnificent medieval town is officially considered one of the most beautiful villages in France.

Riquewihr

With its amazing architecture and its world-famous wines, especially the Riesling, this popular tourist attraction is rightly called “The Gem of the Alsace”.

Riquewhir

Riquewihr today looks more or less, as it did in the 16th century, and it was one of the few towns in this area not to be badly damaged during World War II.

It is surrounded by its medieval fortifications, and overlooked by a castle, which is a museum now.

Riquewhir

Within its well-preserved walls, there are tight alleys and uneven streets with no cars, and every piece of architecture is miraculously preserved. Charming half-timbered houses, each one of a different color, dating back to the 15th – 18th centuries, are built very close to each other, and admirably decorated with flowers in the spring and in the summer. Their inner courtyards are embellished by old wells and fountains.

Riquewhir

Do not miss the opportunity to leave the main street and discover some secluded ones, which offer so many wonderful architectural details…

The Dolder Tower
The Dolder Tower

On the upper part of the main street, there is the famous Dolder medieval tower. The five-story tower of the “Dolder”(meaning “the highest point” in Alsatian dialect), is a remarkable 25 meter-high building, constructed of pink sandstone and timber from the nearby Vosges.  This defensive gateway was built in 1291, and strengthened in the 15 and 16 century. It was the house of the caretaker and his family, who were in charge of closing the entry door to the village every night and sounding the alarm in case of attack.

Riquewihr

Today, it is the local history museum, offering details about the rural medieval town of Riquewihr and its evolution from the 13th to the 17th, about its fortification, its lords, its means of defense and its occupants.

Riquewihr

You should also see The Thieves’ Tower (Tour des voleurs), a former prison of Riquewihr, built in 1550. Its pentagonal shape is 18 meters high, and it houses inside the museum with the torture room and authentic instruments of torture of the time, and the guards’ room used for the cross’ examination of the prisoners.

Riquewihr

Although being only a village of 1300 inhabitants, Riquewihr, with its multi-colored flowers and cobblestone streets, is certainly the object of an enchantment, which lasts for centuries.

Riquewihr