Location Guide: French Riviera and Provence

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Antibes & Cap d'Antibes

ANTIBES. As the name Antibes, and that of its inland neighbour Sophia Antipols imply, this coast has a long and colourful history! Antibes itself was founded as a Greek colony and trading centre in the 5th century BC, primarily due to its protected port which is still an important port today. By the time of Christ Rome was in charge and Antipolis was the largest and most important town in the province of Gallia. Roman artefacts, walls and aqueducts can still be seen today, but after 500 years the Roman Empire fell apart and another 500 years of barbarian raids, disease and pestilence followed until in the 10th century when there began an age of some renewal, and the fortified walls familiar to visitors today begun to be constructed, to protect the residents from the horrors around them. Times were still very hard and characterised by endless wars and epidemics however, until finally some relative stability descended over the region under the reign of Louis XI in the 15th century. It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that Antibes began to become popular with aristocrats and wealthy people from around Europe. The climate and the natural beauty of the area started to become appreciated abroad, and travel was becoming popular. The property boom began! The rich and famous began to build fabulous luxurious villas for holidays and to escape northern winters, a practice that continues today! So many people have enjoyed the pleasures of owning a property in Antibes and its surrounding towns and villages, and indeed on the Cap d’Antibes itself, since then. The list includes many well known names such as Pablo Picasso who lived and painted there, and in whose honour a very impressive museum, well worth visiting, has been created in the Castle. Numerous other museums of archaeology, naval history and even one to absinthe, the local green liquor make sure the visitor is never at a loss for something to do. The area is renowned for its art and culture, and the “Jazz a Juan” attracts the world’s greatest musicians for a fortnight every July (BB King, George Benson, Tracey Chapman, Katie Melua, Roberta Flack, Norah Jones to mention a few) It is widely regarded as one of the best Jazz festivals in the world! There are no fewer than 48 beaches on the 25 km coastline around Antibes, the Cap d’Antibes and Juan les Pins and five yachting harbours which provide moorings for a range of ships ranging from fishing vessels to full sized luxury yachts – the biggest and most luxurious in the world. Parks and gardens, Mediterranean, Roman, organised, natural, exotic, classical Italian or simply lining the paths and walks around the Cap all form part of the environment which is also home to some of the world’s most exclusive villas and property, so loved by Marlene Deitrich, Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Graham Greene and scores of equally household names today. CAP D'ANTIBES Nicknamed the bay of billionaires for its valuable real estate, the Cap d’Antibes enjoys privileged exposure to panoramic views westwards towards Cannes and the Iles de Lérins, eastwards across the sea to Nice and the Baie des Anges. Cocooned in quiet and seclusion and flanked by sandy beaches, the Cap d’Antibes provides total privacy to its many and varied prestigious property owners and residents. Within it is the mythic Eden Roc Hotel known for being the most discreet, and host to the rich and famous, most notably during the Film Festival and the congresses taking place at the Palais des Festivals in nearby Cannes. The price of property on the Cap d’Antibes is in keeping with its reputation as some of the most desirable in the world.

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Mougins

The Mediaeval fortified village of Mougins with its environment of pines, olives and cyprus trees and truly magnificent views, lies between Cannes and Grasse and just 3 km north of the A8 motorway. This makes access to all centres on the Cote d’Azur, and especially the airport very easy. It is just 20 minutes from Nice Airport. The Valmasque forest which surrounds it is 430 hectares in extent and ensures the quality of life and the environment that makes property in this area some of the most desired in France. It is set approximately 250 to 300m above the Mediterranean so the views looking down across the Baie de Cannes to the sea from one’s villa or luxury apartment in Mougins are panoramic! World class! Beyond Cannes and appearing to float dreamily in the Bay are the twin historic Iles de Lerins, and looking northward the Perfume Capital of Grasse with the often snowy Alps behind it. The ancient village is seductive and charming with narrow cobbled pedestrian passages, wonderfully coloured floral displays at all times of the year, superb ancient houses and villas, picturesque doorways and window-frames, and delightful touches every way one looks. With the character and history of the area carefully and sensitively preserved, the famous quality of light which has captivated so many famous artists for generations is still appreciated and remains inspirational for artists today. There are more than 20 working, living artist galleries in Mougins, and the list of artists past is impressive, and includes such names as Picasso who lived here for 15 years, Jean Cocteau, Winston Churchill who painted the 12th century chapel at the heart off the village, and many others. Celebrities past and present appreciate Mougins too – but the roll-call of famous names is too long to include here. Its links to the worlds of art, culture and the influential people who have shaped our world are everywhere. In the hills and valleys surrounding the Old Town are luxurious properties set into the most wonderful Mediterranean gardens, and villas with views and surrounds to take ones breath away. Although close and very accessible to Cannes, Antibes, Juan les Pins and Nice, Mougins itself is set in its own quiet and private world apart, and it is for that reason primarily that luxury property is so sought after here. It has two major golf courses, more than 40 world class restaurants including the Moulin de Mougins, and famous automobile and photography museums to add to the list of galleries and other assets already mentioned.

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Grasse

Grasse is perched in the hills overlooking Cannes and Mougins just half an hour from Cannes, but it is also well served by busses and a recently established rail link. Started in March 2005, the line connects Grasse to Cannes (in 25 minutes), and on to Antibes, Nice, Monaco, Menton, and Ventimiglia, all without changing. The hourly trains are modern TER double-deckers and the top level allows one excellent views of the countryside, villages and homes, rose plantations and olive groves, ancient “mas” (a mas being an old farm house), stone aqueducts and wild flowers. Grasse has been the home and perfume capital of France and the world since the 17th century and still accounts for two thirds of France’s production. The three historic perfume houses, Fragonard, Galimard and Molinard, welcome visitors and provide free guided tours of their factories and the chance to test (and buy) their products on site. The smell of flowers and the cool clear summer air 350m above the sea have drawn visitors and property investors for centuries including Princess Pauline Bonaparte the Emperors sister and Queen Victoria who both spent considerable time here, the latter staying at the Rothschild’s villa or the Grand Hotel! The centre of the town is a melee of narrow winding streets and stairways, a square Saracen tower, remains of the 16th century ramparts and medieval homes dating to the 17th and 18th centuries. There are also superb private mansions including the Hôtel de Cabris, Hôtel de Pontevès, and Court de Fontmichel, magnificent 18th century villas, and the Belle Époque casino (now converted into a conference centre). Property today is just as highly sought after for the same reasons, cooler air in summer and breathtaking views, so there are many more recent villas and apartments than there were, but Grasse retains its character. Back in the old village a narrow street comes out onto the Place du Petit Puy with the 11th-century Notre Dame du Puy cathedral and its huge 18th century clock tower. Inside the cathedral are three paintings by Rubens, commissioned from the then-unknown artist in 1601 by the Archduke Albert for the Santa Croce di Gerusalemme in Rome and gifted to Grasse in the 19th century, and the 1754 painting “Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, whose name is now synonymous with perfume! A 90 minute historical walking tour of Grasse has been mapped by the Office de Tourisme for those interested, and the walks through the forests to discover the many caves and grottos in the limestone hills are well worth while for the more adventurous and the nature lovers. The Trou du Curé reaches a depth of 60 meters and the Grotte de la Cascade de St. Sauveur delves to 150 m. There are a number of very ancient artefacts in the region of Grasse going back to the bronze age but what we see today is a true medieval town that withstood Saracen raids in the 9th century and has had a rich but turbulent history since that time including being an independent republic with Genoa and Piza in the 12th century. It was destroyed on orders from the Bishopric of Antibes in the 16th century, and acted as the Capital of the Var during the French Revolution, becoming part of the Alpes Maritimes when Nice became a part of France in 1860. In addition to the three perfume museums, the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Provence displays the regions painting, archaeology, ethnology and history, and there are three traditional and ancient working olive mills well worth a visit.

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Provence

Provence in south-eastern France extends from the lower Rhône River on the west to the Italian border on the east, and from the Mediterranean in the south to the mountains in the north. Today it mostly falls within the administrative region known as Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. The coastline has some of the earliest known sites of human habitation in Europe. Primitive stone tools dated to over 1 million years BC were found in the Grotte du Vallonnet near Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and more sophisticated tools, worked on both sides of the stone and dating to 600,000 BC were found in the Cave d’Escale at Saint Estėve-Janson. More tools from 400,000 BC and some of the first fireplaces in Europe were found at Terra Amata in Nice. The region has a history which includes the Ligures and the Celts around 10th century BC, the Greeks from the 7th century BC, and the Romans from the 2nd century BC for the next 700 years until 5th Century AD. For the Romans it became the first Roman province beyond the Alps and they called it Provincia Romana, hence its present day name. Christianity arrived between the 3rd and 6th centuries, and Germanic invasions of the Holy Roman Empire between the 6th and 9th centuries. Various dynasties of Counts ruled the region from their Capital in Aix en Provence during the middle ages, and the alternative and deadly challenge to Rome, the Popes of Avignon ruled the Catholic Church during the 13th century. The people had to endure such horrors as the Black Death which reduced the population of the region by a half, and the Hundred Years War during the Middle Ages. The rule of the Counts of Provence ended in 1481, when it became a province of the Kings of France, but to this day it retains a proud and distinct cultural and linguistic identity. Today the area is remarkable for the numerous and well-preserved remains from Roman times. Arenas, baths, forums, temples and theatres can still be seen all over Provence. For visitors, there is the rich history, but there is also one of the most alluring and beautiful coastlines in the world, mountains, rivers, the deepest and most beautiful canyons in Europe, and hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of natural forest reserves. Add to all that a quality of life and a climate renowned and recognised around the world – 300 days of sunshine, world class wines and gastronomy, and the absolute freedom to enjoy it all. Put together these qualities make Provence and the Cote d’Azur the most sought after destination for holidays, for second homes and for primary living that exist anywhere in today’s world. It is a trend that began millennia ago, but gathered momentum with the arrival of the railway in the latter half of the 19th Century. With easier access and travel, and the popularity the region quickly acquired with the Victorian English and the Russian aristocracy, Provence “took off”. Today Provence is the jewel of France, and very few doubt it.

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Theoule-sur-Mer & Le Trayas

To get there follow the magnificent Corniche d’Or westward from Cannes for 20 minutes, past the lovely and lively seaside villages of La Napoule and Mandelieu, over the hill and through gorgeous Theoule-sur-Mer with its quaint white beaches – up and over again to where the blood-red Esterel Mountain range plunges into the sea at Cap Roux – Le Trayas and Antheor sit comfortably at the foot of this rugged terrain. There are a succession of protected, sometimes isolated coves and beaches mixing dramatic Mediterranean colours and the astonishing contrasts of the white sands, the red rocks and the deep blue sea. As one takes the steep roads up from the coast and the beach-front of le Trayas into the area famous for some of the most beautiful second homes and villas on the Cote d’Azur, the panoramic views from every vantage point and twist in the road are some of the most spectacular in the region. Nice airport is only 32 kms away and Frejus just 15, and connection to the A8 motorway is very quick and easy. This is a very popular area for French and non-French people looking to buy a home on the French Riviera .

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Agay & Antheor

Agay is a glorious and very popular little village, in a beautiful natural bay, ringed by the Esterel Mountains. The bay is about a kilometre wide and encompasses two wonderful sandy beaches. Historically, it is certain is that there have been people living on the Cote d'Azur for thousands of years and relics around the Bay of Agay show the presence of prehistoric settlements in the area. It is presumed that Greek sailors founded the town itself some 500 B.C. and a number of remains from Greek, Etruscan and Carthaginian maritime traders have been found by archaeological researchers in the waters around Agay and Le Dramont. What has been an important factor through the centuries is that Agay was only reachable by sea. The first road along the Corniche d'Or was constructed in the beginning of the 20th century when from 1900-1903 a road (the RN98) and the railway from Saint-Raphäel to Cannes were built. The Agay of today however is a lovely village very popular among tourists; its undeniable character and seductively quiet atmosphere preserved. The beaches are pristine and the sea temperature never gets much below 14°C keeping the bay remarkably warm in winter (where temperatures seldom fall below 10°C). Add to that lovely restaurants, boutique hotels, delightful local shops, and the fact that on Wednesdays the market comes to town, and in the evenings in summer a bustling antique market fills the little streets, and the picture becomes alluring and complete. Inland from Agay is the Foret d'Esterel, a natural forest of 100 square kilometres, and rising beyond that are the natural shield of Esterel Mountains famous for the remarkable red rocks which form them. Agay is a jewel on the Mediterranean, and has a great deal to offer. ANTHEOR: Anthéor in the department of the Var lies on the rugged and extraordinary coastline between St Raphael and Cannes, hugging the precipitous red cliffs and mountain sides east of the Bay of Agay. The views across the Mediterranean and of the exquisite coastline with its multitude of sea-colours and shades of turquoise and blue are breathtaking. For this reason the properties for sale in Anthéor generally come with “a view to die for”. When the writer Stéphen Liégeard coined the phrase by titling his 1887 book “La Côte d’Azur”, substituting the azure-blue colour of the Mediterranean for the gold of Côte-d'Or, he must surely have been writing from Anthéor. Everything is beautiful – the landscape, nearby beaches, the proximate resorts, the climate, and even the people of the Var. With 341,000 hectares of forest, the Var is the second most wooded department of France after Landes and its coastline of fine sand, rocky caps and wild creeks, and magnificent natural wonders including the Canyons of Verdon, the largest and deepest in Europe, make it amongst the most spectacular of all departments. Long warm summers and mild winters are just the final reasons that Anthéor has become a very popular place for people searching for their second home on the Cote d’Azur.

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Sainte-Maxime

Sainte-Maxime is a charming seaside town in the department of the Var on the French Riviera just 90 km from Nice and 130 km from Marseille. It faces south at the northern shore of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez and is well protected from the cold winds of the Mistral by the mountain range known as the Massif des Maures. She was founded around 1000 AD by the Monks from the Lérins Islands off Cannes who built a monastery there. Fishing was the mainstay for the inhabitants but during the early 19th century increasing amounts of lumber, cork, olive oil and wine were shipped to Marseilles and to Italy. The village grew and in the 20th century it started to attract artists, poets and writers who enjoyed the climate, the beautiful surroundings and the azure blue water. In front of the old town is the characteristic tower - La Tour Carrée - built by the monks in the early 16th century to protect the village and the Bay of St Tropez from invaders. In August 1944, the beaches of Sainte Maxime were at the centre of Operation Dragoon designed to liberate Southern France from the Nazis. There was house to house fighting before the Germans were decimated and eventually gave up. On the harbour pier and by La Garonette beach there are memorials at the landing places honouring the US troops involved in that action. Today tourism has overtaken agriculture as the largest source of revenue for Sainte Maxime and the town is very much alive all year round with its Old Town, with shops, markets, restaurants, bars and cafés and a bustling harbour with fast boats available to take you to Les Issambres, St Tropez and Port Grimaud. In addition to the town’s sandy beaches there are the Blue Flag supervised ones, a sailing school, water-skiing and jet-ski activities. In total St Maxime offers 10 km of public accessible shoreline, and there are 8 golf courses within 30 minutes by car. Property in Sainte-Maxime is sought after and there are charming town-houses, modern villas with spectacular views, and holiday apartments to tempt investors of all persuasions.

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