Luxury Yacht Charter Destinations
The French Riviera or the Cote d’Azur. Whichever name you call this region, the images conjured up are sure to include beautiful women, handsome men, glitzy casinos, ancient villages, fast cars and beautiful luxury yacht charters and luxury yachts line the quays. Following are some side trips that you may want to take when renting a yacht in the region.
Monaco was originally founded as a Greek trading post in about 500 BC, long before anyone One can only imagine the looks on the faces of the ancients if they were transported into the future, standing quayside as the Grand Prix cars zip past. The Principality of Monaco was created via a treaty signed with France on Feb. 2, 1861. Monaco’s economy as we know it today was based on a small casino originally started in 1856 by Charles, son of Prince Florestan I, with the intent of saving the House of Grimaldi from bankruptcy. In 1862, it moved to its current location and rose to glory under the direction of Francois Blanc.
The current casino was built in 1878 and as it gained popularity, luxurious houses began to cover the surrounding hills, and as they say, the rest is history. Even if you do not want to gamble, a visit to the casino is well worth it. The walls and ceilings of the magnificent gaming halls are decorated with carvings and paintings. The atmosphere is hushed, but seems charged with suspense as the croupiers announce “Faites vos jeux,” or “Lay your bets.”
High on the hill on the opposite side of the harbor from the casino is the royal palace. Every day at 11:55AM sharp, the royal guards parade onto the palace’s front square, some with swords drawn, others shouldering rifles with bayonets. As the drums beat and the trumpets blare, they change guards and march off just at the palace clock strikes noon. The sight is well worth the short walk up the hill. Remember, the entire Principality is only about 486 acres, which is smaller than New York’s Central Park, so it is easy to get around on foot.
Saint Jean Cap Ferrat and Villefrance
A short jaunt down the coast brings you to Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, a small peninsula between Monaco and Nice. Once there, one of the best ways to see and appreciate its beauty is by wandering along the coastal path, which is divided into three parts. The entire length is only about six miles, a nice walk, made even nicer if you get a ride back. The three parts include a tour of Cap Ferrat, a stroll through a lovely pine forest and the Maurice Rouvier walk linking Saint Jean Cap Ferrat to Beaulieu. One of the highlights of Beaulieu is the Greek villa “Kerylos.”. This extravagant reproduction of a luxurious Greek villa is filled with mosaics, frescos and other treasures from the 6th to 10th century BCE. Topping it off are the superb gardens and incredible view of the sea, another “must do.”
Closer to Nice is Villefrance, with its port, old town and gently curving coastline. The old village has narrow streets and stairways with covered passages leading down to carefully restored houses with colorful facades. The Saint Elme Citadel, dating back to the 16th century CE, guards the old village.
Nice is another ancient city. The Greeks established it around 350 BC as part of a string of trading posts, naming it Nikaia. However, it was probably the Romans who made the city attractive when they established their own city of Cemenelum as a trading post and built extensive baths at Cimiez on a hill several kilometers from the town center. The grounds include a large park filled with olive groves introduced by the Greeks, the Archeological Museum, Matisse Museum, Franciscan Museum and the Monastery. In August, the Nice Jazz Festival takes place here upon three stages, set amidst the olive groves and the Roman Amphitheater.
The “Vieille Ville” (Old Town) section of Nice is filled with narrow streets curving in irregular fashion between buildings topped with red-tiled roofs. The Cours Saleya has a daily flower market and food market in the mornings. The length of the Cours Saleya is lined with low buildings separating the “Cours” from the seaside. These were once used by fishermen to hold their catch, but now are mostly seafood restaurants, serving the freshest fish. This area might just be the most perfect spot when planning a yacht charter in the French Riviera to linger at an outdoor café with a lovely glass of wine, golden sun warm on your face and let the scent of the nearby ocean and the smell of myriad flowers wash over you. It’s quintessential Cote d’Azur!
Antibes was originally named “Antipolis” by the Greeks when they founded it in the 5th century BCE. Rome annexed it in 43 BCE, and the town is full of Roman artifacts such as walls, aquaducts, amphora, and more from the ancient settlement and nearby sea bottom. When the Roman Empire fell in 476 CE, the barbarians invaded the region. Vandals, Visigoths, Burgundians, Ostrogoths and Franks all had their turn, with the central theme being destruction. The French took their turn at the end of the 14th Century, as the kings of France realized the key military role Antibes could play with its location on the Franco-Savoyard frontier. Several museums here are worth a visit, including the Musee Picasso (originally the Chateau Grimaldi), Musee Archeologique, and just for fun, the Musee de la Tour des Arts et Traditions Populaires (Museum of Folk Arts and Tradition). All this museum hopping is sure to make you thirsty, so you might want to go visit the Hop Store Irish Pub, located near one of the luxury yacht charter marinas. Once used for storing salt, its impressive vaulted cellars have been converted to an Irish pub that is a popular meeting place for the English-speaking community.
Cannes is the “star” of the French Riviera, famous for the International Film Festival and its glitzy hotels, cars and sandy beaches, and of course, its marina where you can moor your yacht rental. The city of Cannes is centered around the old port and is quite compact. Le Suquet is the old section of town, overlooking the west end of the port. The ramparts date back to the 12th Century and give a medieval flavor to the city, as do the narrow, winding streets. The city was probably the site of a small Ligurian port and later a Roman outpost situated on Le Suquet hill, as Gallo-Roman and Roman tombs have been discovered there.
The large harbor is a comfortable anchorage, and yacht charters anchoring here find both protection from the wind and waves, not to mention admiring looks from the people strolling along the Boulevard de la Croisette. In the morning, the Allees de la Liberte houses a flower market, plus a popular flea market on Saturdays.
Most of the ancient activity in the area, especially for protection of the settlements, was on the Iles de Lerins, a small archipelago just off the coast. The two main islands are Sainte-Marguerite and Sainte Honorat and the two smaller islands are Tradeliere and Sainte Fereol. These islands are great for exploring when you charter a yacht.
Ile Sainte-Marguerite is the larger, closer island. Covered by forests of Allepo pine and eucalyptus, it has wide paths that crisscross it. All of the islands are pedestrian-only, with no motor vehicles allowed. Like all of the area, the islands came under various rules as different tribes and nations invaded them and drove off the former inhabitants. Though built by an earlier group, the Fort Royal was fortified by the Spanish in 1635, who were subsequently chased out in 1637. Fort Royal is noteable as it was used as a prison in the 17th century with the Man in the Iron Mask incarcerated there. The fort still stands and you can visit the small cell where he was kept.
Ile Sainte-Honorat is smaller, however, the walks are still quite nice and there is a Cisterian abbey there to visit. The passage between the two islands is narrow and protected. Called the “Plateau du Mileu,” it is a very popular anchorage for yacht rentals.
Legend has it that the name of Saint Tropez came from Torpes, a martyr who refused to abjure his faith. He was beheaded and his body placed in a boat and sent adrift. The boat was last seen drifting in the local bay, heading towards shore. Regardless of the dubious beginnings of its name, Saint Tropez was the hot spot of the Cote d’Azur during the 1950s and into the 60s, with its glittering jet-set crowds. Still very popular with tourists, it is quieter now that the crowds have moved on. Situated on the lovely blue waters of the Bay of St. Tropez, the quay is lined with terrace cafes, perfect places to linger as the clientele admire the luxury yacht charters docked there. Behind the cafes, the small streets and old buildings are picturesque but are more popular for the shopping than for the historical value.
For a change of pace, visit a local vineyard as several are near, including Domaine du Bourrian, Les Celliers des Vignerons and Domaine de Pin Pinon.
A bit south of St. Tropez, just east of Toulon, are the three Hyeres Islands named Porquerolles, Port-Cross and Levant, which are also wonderful places to visit when chartering a yacht. They are also referred to as the Iles d’Or, or the “Golden Islands,” the name given to them during the Renaissance for the way the light reflected off the golden-brown mica shale.
Porquerolles is a mostly uninhabited island of Mediterranean forests, rocky coastlines, nature preserves, beaches and one small village. The major part of the island was acquired by the state in 1979 to protect its natural heritage and is known as the Conservatoire Botanique National Mediterraneen. Because of this, it is also an island of “nos,” no camping, no smoking outside the village limits and no drinking water, which is also only available in the village. On the positive side, Porquerolles Island is a great place for walking and cycling. In addition to the natural pines and pin parasol, myrtle, heather and fields of white cistes, there are also vineyards.
Port-Cros was called “Mese,”or Middle Island by the Greeks. Higher and wider than Porquerolles, Port-Cros gets its name from the deep, hollowed-out shape (creux) of its small harbor. The entire area is thickly forested and designated a Parc National together with Ile de Bagaud and the neighboring islets, Rascas and La Gabiniere, and an area around the coastline.
Levant Island consists of a long, narrow rocky ridge, rimmed by prodigious vertical cliffs inaccessible except for the two ports, Avis Inlet to the North and Aiguade on the western end. When the Lerins monks inhabited the islands, the Ile du Levant was the abbey’s garden and granary. Unlike the other two larger islands, it is not a National Park,nor a Botanical Conservatory, however, 80% of the island is occupied by the Marine Nationale, and access is forbidden.
The French Riviera. The Cote d’Azur. Known for its beautiful women, handsome men, glitzy casinos, ancient villages, fast cars and beautiful yachts for rent lining the quays. But now you know there is so much more than that. Plenty of glitter and nightlife are there, if that is what you desire, but many beautiful gardens and quiet, private places are yours to enjoy, along with the latest in fashion and centuries of history. Savor the sparkle of the water as it laps against the side of your charter yacht, the smell of fresh baguettes, the whisper of the breeze as it brushes through the pines are. Whatever you seek, you will find it here, again and again.