Chateau La Napoule
This medieval fortress set in magnificent gardens was built in 1387 by the Counts of Villeneuve, but by the early 20th century had been reduced to a semi-ruin. An American artist couple, Henry and Marie Clews, bought it in 1917 and set about restoring it. Whilst Henry focussed on the restoration of the castle's architecture, Marie was the driving force behind the gardens, which are recognised as outstanding by the Ministry of Culture. There are various artworks dotted around the gardens, and Henry's own art can be seen in the chateau museum.
A day at the beach
There are several beaches to choose from in and around Mandelieu-La Napoule. The main town beaches are Dauphins, Sables d'Or, Robinson and Fon Marina. These are close to amenities and water sports are available at Dauphins. Just outside of town, going west towards Théoule sur Mer, you will come to the quieter beaches of Plage de la Rague and the smaller Plage de la Raguette.
A trip to Cannes
...should start on the Promenade de la Croisette: a tree-lined avenue stretching along the Mediterranean coastline, and at the heart of all the city's action. The town's most famous hotels are to be found here, along with a great selection of designer shops and restaurants. Be sure to take in the Palais des Festivals, the hub of all the red-carpet action during the Cannes festival. Wander west of the Palais des Festivals to discover the real Cannes beneath the showbiz glitz and glamour. Stroll around the beautiful Vieux Port before following rue St-Antoine up to Le Suquet, Cannes' oldest district, for incredible views of the bay.
Experience the local market
Markets are held in Mandelieu every Sunday and Wednesday morning, and also a smaller market on a Friday. It's always a great place to get tasty lunch ingredients, to brush up on your French and to mix with the locals.
Take a scenic drive
along the 'Corniche d’Or', the iconic winding coast road between Mandelieu-La Napoule and Saint-Raphaël. The road snakes right beside the Mediterranean, hemmed in by the dramatic Esterel cliffs whose rust-red rocks contrast stunningly with the blue of the sea and sky. As it is a popular route it can get busy, but enjoy the views at a slow pace and plan to stop at one of the seaside towns en route for lunch, and perhaps a dip?
Mougins and its art heritage
Mougins has been considered home by many famous artists including Fernand Léger and Pablo Picasso who spent the last 12 years of his life living in the village. Picasso's studio was in the old village in a building that is now the tourist office, while the studio of Fernand Léger was above what is now the village wine shop. Today, there are many art galleries to explore in the narrow streets and the Musee d'Art Classique de Mougins should not be missed.
Boat trip to the Lérins islands
Boats depart from Mandelieu between May and September to the larger island, Sainte-Marguerite. 3km long, it is covered by 152 hectares of protected forest with plenty of walking trails. Points of interest include the bird sanctuary, the Batéguier pond, and the Royal Fort, the old State prison where the Man in the Iron Mask was held! The oldest part of the fort now houses the Museum of the Sea. The smaller island, Saint-Honorat, is only 1.5km long by 400m wide. Amongst its pine forest nestles Lérins abbey, established in the 5th century by the Cistercian monk Honorat. Boats to Saint-Honorat island depart from Cannes all year round.
Anyone for golf?
Keen golfers will surely want to try their swing on the Old Course at Mandelieu, the Côte d'Azur's oldest golf course and modelled on the famous course at St Andrews in Scotland. And they are spoilt for choice in this area as there are also several other courses nearby, including two near Mougins, two near Biot/Antibes, and a few around Grasse.
Parc Zoologique de Fréjus
Built in 1971, this Zoological Parc stretches over a vast 20 hectares, which can visited either by foot or in the car. It boasts over 110 different species of mammals, reptiles and birds, and is a fantastically entertaining and educational day out for all the family.
Wander its authentic narrow streets and take in the atmostphere of the old port, overlooked by the distinctive domes and pink sandstone of the basilica. If you go early you can see all the activity of the fish market. Stop for lunch, perhaps the typical Provencal fish stew 'bouillabaisse'. Then stroll through the Bonaparte garden where, in summer, night markets are held.
Explore the little streets of the Vieux Ville (old town) where you will discover the impressive cathedral as well as the Picasso museum, housed in the Chateau Grimaldi. Then follow the coast road around the headland, to admire the fancy yachts in the marina as well as the more humble fishing boats with their nets piled up on the quay.
Visit Biot's glassworks factory and museum
... to learn about the history of glassmaking there, with the chance to watch master glass-blowers at work. And of course the opportunity to buy a special souvenir or gift to take home. The Fernard Léger museum is also located in Biot, and is well worth a visit. Léger (1881-1955) was a painter who became a key figure in the Cubist movement, and this museum has a good collection of his work. The frontage is adorned with a huge colourful mural designed by the artist.
Keep the children entertained
Have a fun family day out down on the coast near Antibes, where you can choose from the Espace Marineland marine park, the Aquasplash water park, the Far West theme park and also a mini-golf course.
Day out in Nice
Explore one of the oldest human settlements in Europe taking in the sights of the old quarter, Place Rossetti, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral and Place Massena which is the main square of the city. Held in the Cours Saleya, the daily morning Marché des Fleurs is a riot of colour and fragrances. Then why not stay on for a spot of lunch on a terrace restaurant in one of the picturesque squares. Being so close to the Italian border, the pizzas are very good but when in Nice, perhaps only a quintessential Salade Niçoise will do?
Many famous painters and sculptors have been inspired by the light and landscape of this region, so it is no surprise that it is blessed with art galleries and museums. To name but a few: Fine Arts and Modern & Contemporary Art museums in Nice as well as museums dedicated to Matisse and Marc Chagall, the Renoir Museum in Cagnes-sur-Mer, the Fondation Maeght in St-Paul-de-Vence, the Picasso Museum in Antibes, and the Fragonard Museum in Grasse.
Messing about on the water!
Water sports such as water skiing, scuba diving, wakeboarding and jet-skiing are available at La Napoule, as well as boat hire.
Day at the lake
Have some fun on the water by heading to Lac St Cassien where boats, canoes and pedalo hire are available. There are little lake beaches from which to swim, and café-restaurants for lunch and refreshments. Fishing permits are available too.
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