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10 Best Family Activities in the French Riviera (Part 2)

By Cheryl Antier

This is part 2 of a two-part article that gives you 10 of the best ideas for family activities when planning a vacation on the French Riviera.

6. MarineLand

MarineLand is Europe’s biggest marine park, located in Antibes. Come and watch as the Bottlenose Dolphins show off their speed, dexterity and agility – and marvel at the complete trust they display in their trainers, as man and dolphin work together in a beautiful water ballet. And your kids will enjoy the “talking” sea lion who seems a little jealous and constantly interrupts the show, wanting all the attention for himself.

Your kids are sure to fall in love with the “mammoths of the sea” after sitting spellbound during the whale show. Housed in a glass tank the size of a small lagoon, the killer whales offer a glimpse of what life is like as they demonstrate some of the natural behaviors of whales in their natural habitat – rushing onto the beach to catch seals, swimming at top speed to catch prey and even the showing off through jumps and leaps practiced by young whales.

Walk through the 30 meter tunnel that’s located inside a huge aquarium containing nearly 2 million liters of water, and you’ll get a look at sharks – up close and personal as they swim above, below and all around you. You’ll see Sandtiger Sharks with their huge teeth, Nurse Sharks that enjoy lying lazily in the sand, and Sandbar Sharks with torpedo shaped bodies that allow them to move swiftly through the water. A giant manta ray (almost 1.5 meters wide) shares the tunnel with these mysterious and deadly creatures, and you’ll feel as if you could reach out and touch them – but happy they can’t say the same thing!

The tropical aquarium gallery is home to the world of coral reefs, and gives you a look at the very different volumes represented: from small modules with starfish, shrimp, horse-shoe crabs and clown-fish in their sea anemones and multi-colored corals, to reef walls with monstrous green moray ells and so many other fish that you have to see it to believe it. The gallery is your invitation to stroll through the heart of the tropical seas of the world.

Dogs are allowed on leash, and MarineLand is handicap accessible. There is also a children’s playground available. The museum provides a variety of special activities every month, including a chance to see and touch with dolphins under the close supervision of their trainers.

Call for rates and times – reservations are required for special activities.

What to Bring: sweaters (it can get chilly inside the aquarium), walking shoes. If you have an infant, strollers are also recommended. Location, Contact Information and Hours of Operation: 306 av. Mozart Tel +33 (0)4 93 33 49 49 Call for fees and hours of operation.

7. Parfumerie Mollinard

Located in the city of Grasse, which is the perfume capital of the world, the Parfumerie Mollinard offers guided tours. Your children will see first hand how flowers are gathered, dried and used to create perfumes.

They will see the huge copper distilleries, and see how production of perfumes is carried out. They’ll also learn about a time in history when people were afraid of soap, and taking a bath was thought to make you sick as they visit the room where all of the Mollinard soaps are made – by only one man!

During the tour, they’ll learn about the mysterious geniuses who are known as “the nose” and who earn large salaries because of their ability to create exotic new perfumes. You can even create your own perfume (reservations for these special lessons must be made in advance). Dogs are welcome on leash, and the facility is handicapped accessible.

What to bring: Your curiosity.

Location, Contact Information and Hours of Operation:

60 bd Vicor Hugo

Tel +33 (0)4 92 42 33 11

Fax +33 (0)4 93 36 03 91

Open: all year, every day from April-September and during school holidays. 9am-6pm during the Christmas and February school holidays, 9am-6.30pm in April, May, June and September and 9am-7pm in July and August. Winter hours: 9am-12pm and 2pm-6pm, Mondays to Saturdays. Price: free entrance.

8. Musee Escoffier de L’art Culinaire (The Escoffier Art of Cooking Museum)

This museum is dedicated to Auguste Escoffier – a man known as the “King of Chefs and Chef to Kings.” He was known as the creator of many mouth-watering recipes, among them the “Peach Melba.”

The museum is located in the house Mr. Escoffier was born in, and has eight exhibition rooms dedicated to the most illustrious French Chefs of all time.

Your children will enjoy seeing what a real kitchen would have looked like in the 1800s along with all of the different utensils used back in those days. Kids receive a special map that offers special insights and information just for them.

After visiting the museum, take them to the Villeneuve Loubet – a village perched high on a cliff, and let them discover the giant maze and adventure playground.

9. L’Ecole des Champs

If you want a little grownup time, or are interested in finding excellent supervised activities for your children, then check out the School of Champs.

Situated in the middle of fantastic countryside, near Nice and Monaco (approx. 13kms), this children’s holiday and leisure complex, is unique in the region. It offers original activities centered around an educational farm, and includes a productive garden and comprehensive sports facility. They provide special workshops during school vacations, including: English, horseback riding, IT classes, music, arts and crafts, and also have an adventure park, and Indian camp and dance sessions. There is even a bus that services Nice and Monaco.

Location, Contact Information and Hours of Operation:

9, Route du Château, La Colle

Tel: +33 (0)4 93 54 03 83

Open from April until the end of July during school holidays and on Wednesdays.

10. La Dolce Vita

You’ll be hard pressed to find another private beach anywhere on the French Riviera that was designed with families in mind. Take a walk along the pedestrian zone in Menton, and you’ll run into La Dolce Vita.

It offers a ramp for wheelchairs and strollers. A section of the beach has been designated for children, and there is even a roped-off section of the sea right next to the lifeguard shack where kids can play in the water in complete safety. You can rent inflatables and water toys.

If you fancy a dip in the water or want to lie on the beach quietly for a while, there are even supervised activities for children aged 5 and up, available every day from 9 a.m. until 5 or 6 p.m. (If your children are younger, they’re welcome to participate, but need an adult with them.)

They offer an air-conditioned children’s playroom and DVD movies are shown every afternoon at 2:00 p.m. (Younger children can even nap in a mini-bed just for them!) Your kids can eat lunch with you, or enjoy their own food in the Kid’s Club. The facility even offers private toilets and showers just for kids.

Your older children can enjoy access to some of Menton’s other private beaches and try water skiing as well as other water sports activities.

While your kids are enjoying themselves, if you get tired of lying on the beach, why not schedule some time at the gym, or indulge yourself in a relaxing massage?

What to bring: Sunblock, swim suits, towels and bottled water.

Location, Contact Information and Hours of Operation:

Promenade de la Mer Menton

Tel +33 (0)4 93 35 44 50

Open from May to September, from 9am to midnight. Call for prices and to make reservations.

There are literally hundreds of family activities waiting for you in the French Riviera. No matter what time of year, the ages of your children or their interests, you’ll find something for every member of your family in the French Riviera.

About the Author

Author Cheryl Antier invites you to learn all about where to go and what to do in the French Riviera from an American who lives there! Discover the best places to eat, stay and shop. Why settle for an ordinary vacation, when you can create an extraordinary one? French Riviera Vacation Guide


10 Best Family Activities in the French Riviera (Part 1)

By Cheryl Antier

If you’re planning a family vacation to the French Riviera, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the large number of indoor and outdoor activities that will appeal to children of all ages, abilities and preferences. There are also activities that will fit any budget. Here are 10 ideas that are sure to be a hit with your kids:

1. The Côte d’Azur – Through the Eyes of the Masters

Spend some time discovering the French Riviera by walking in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest artists and see the Côte d’Azur through their eyes.

From Monet to Duffy, Renoir to Chagall, Bonnard to Cocteau to Soutine and others, this unique program will become a permanent display, and gives visitors the chance to see first hand the landscapes that inspired some of the world’s greatest painters. This walk goes from the villages of Cannet to Menton and makes for a wonderful family outing that will let your children experience a unique view of the French Riviera. They can see a reproduction of a famous painting in front of the landscape that inspired it. (And since many of the originals are on display at local museums, they’ll enjoy visiting them afterwards, to get a look at the originals. Dogs are allowed on leash. What to bring: Walking shoes, sweater if it’s chilly, bottled water, camera Location, Contact Information and Hours of Operation: Cannet – Menton Tel +33 (0)4 93 37 78 78

2. The Tourist Train in Nice

Because parking can be a problem, especially during tourist season, consider taking the train to Nice, and walking around the city to explore. Another option is the small “tourist train” that provides you with a tour of all the best places to visit in Nice.

You’ll leave from the Promenade des Anglais and ride in comfort to the top of the cliff where a castle once stood, guarding the old part of the city. Stop here to let the kids play in the children’s play area and enjoy a delicious ice cream cone while you enjoy the view of the Mediterranean Sea.

Then it’s “All Aboard” and the journey continues through the open air flower market and an exploration of the “vielle” (old) part of Nice. Finally you’ll want to have your camera ready as you travel along the seafront of the Baie des Anges and the Quai des Etats-Unis.

This is an activity suited for everyone, and dogs may come along too, as long as they’re on leash. What to bring: Sweater during cooler weather, camera, walking shoes, bottled water Location, Contact Information and Hours of Operation: Board the train at the Départ de la Promenade des Anglais (face au jardin Albert 1er) Tel +33 (0)6 16 39 53 51 Fax +33 (0)4 93 62 85 48

Open: all year except November 20 to December 20th and from January 1 to January 20th. Open every day in the summer, 10am-8pm and in the winter, 10am-6pm. Call for times and rates for groups.

3. 3. Antibes Land – Amusement Park

The Antibes Amusement park offers fun for the whole family. It’s always brightly lit at night and can be seen for miles. There are 30 “international rides” that appeal to the young and the young at heart. There are also places where you can sit and enjoy a picnic lunch or dinner, or you can eat at any of their small cafes which offer a selection of beer and wines also. Some of the park is wheelchair accessible (although not all of the rides), and dogs are allowed on leash. What to bring: bottled water, healthy snacks, tissues (in case there is no toilet paper) Location, Contact Information and Hours of Operation Ave. Mozart Antibes

Open: 1st April-30th Sept, 8.30pm-2am. April-mid-June, weekends and bank holidays, 2pm-7pm. Open later on Saturdays; Mid-June-August, every day, 8.30pm-1am. Saturdays from 4pm and Sundays from 3pm, September, weekends from 4pm-2am.

4. Mat et Eau

If your family enjoys more adventuresome activities, then Mat and Eau will be just the thing. Providing the best in white water activities, the half-day or all day water activities are a great way to explore a different side of the Cote d’Azur. Try Hot dogging, hydro-speeding, rafting, water tours, cannoning. Note: All participants must know how to swim, and the owners suggest that children must be at least six years of age.

What to Bring: tennis shoes, swim suit.

Location, Contact Information and Hours of Operation: 1177 rte de la Madone

Tel +33 (0)6 81 56 21 56 / +33(0)6 83 18 48 74 Call for fees and times. Reservations are recommended during busy seasons.

5. Aoubre

Come prepared to spend the day at this 30 hectare park and preserve that offers walking trails, a miniature adventure track (only a few centimeters off the ground that makes it perfect for toddlers), a children’s adventure track (about a meter off the ground suitable for 5 to 8 year olds – you can walk alongside your kids) and other adventure and climbing tracks that are in century-old trees and much higher off the ground.

They offer 85 different workshops on 7 different tracks, most suitable for anyone 5 years and older. There are also parent/child activities that you can do together.

Don’t miss the small farm with animals that love to be petted. Take any of the walking trails to learn more about the forests of Provence and nature.

You can purchase sandwiches and drinks on site, or bring your own picnic lunch – but please put all containers in the appropriate recycling bins.

What to Bring: Walking shoes, sweaters, bottled water, picnic lunch and if you have a baby, make sure that the stroller can handle rocky and uneven ground – otherwise you might want to use an infant backpack or carrier.

Location, Contact Information and Hours of Operation: Parc des cèdres, Domaine Rouvière Tel +33 (0)6 12 58 02 26 Fax +33 (0)4 94 86 10 92

Open on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays and school holidays, from 9am to 8pm in the summer and 9.30am to 5.30pm in the winter. Reservations are required. Check out the next five best family activities in the French Riviera in part two of this article!

About the Author

Author Cheryl Antier invites you to learn all about where to go and what to do in the French Riviera from an American who lives there! Discover the best places to eat, stay and shop. Why settle for an ordinary vacation, when you can create an extraordinary one? French Riviera Vacation Guide


Looking for a Wine Tasting Tour? Sample the Wines of Provence in the French Riviera

By Cheryl Antier

If you’re planning to travel to the south of France in the near future, think about adding a trip to one of the vineyards of the 60 wine growers in the “Côtes de Provence” region to your vacation itinerary.

A small, yet beautiful area, the Provence area of wines takes in the departments of the Var and part of the Bouches-du-Rhône.

An indigo sky, azure sea and miles of white, sandy beaches welcome you to this place. Limestone cliffs and medieval villages give way to miles of sharply-scented pine forests that shelter and protect peaceful lakes and lazy, winding rivers.

Whether you prefer to stay in a bustling, crowded metropolis with all the modern conveniences, or a turn-of-the-century country guest house filled with 17th and 18th century antiques, in Provence your days will be filled with sunshine and warmth, and your nights lush and full of promise, scented with jasmine, lavender and wild thyme.

Perhaps because of the breathtaking beauty of the Mediterranean Sea and the abundance of tourist attractions on found in Nice, Cannes and elsewhere along the French Riviera, Provence is often overlooked by those companies that offer traditional wine tasting tours, in spite of the excellence of its wines.

2600 years ago, the Phoenicians settled in what is now France and created the first vineyards to honor Bacchus (the God of wine). They left behind a legacy of full-bodied wines that have a sparkle and fullness that is as rich as the area they are grown in.

In Provence, as everywhere in the Mediterranean, you’ll find the people full of warmth, spontaneity and a “joie de vivre”. As you will soon discover, any of these master oenologists or vintners (wine growers) will be delighted to introduce you to the wines they have become famous for – and share a little of the region’s history with you.

If you’re very lucky, and your host is in the right mood, he might even share some closely guarded secrets of how to blend the right food with exactly the right wine, something that most French wine growers are passionate about!

As it is throughout all of France, winemaking in Provence is a serious business. Many of the winegrowers here have won the rights to include the prestigious “AOC” designation (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) on their bottles of wines. This label assures the buyer of a guaranteed vintage from the designated region.

In order to win the right to become designated as an appellation wine, winegrowers much pass rigorous tests and inspections. This is a truly prestigious and coveted award, as only the Ministry of Agriculture in Paris can bestow the title of an AOC on a wine.

As you will discover from the first delicious sip, the Côtes de Provence winegrowers are experts in utilizing traditional methods when harvesting and bottling their wines. Their deep respect for the soil, the climate and the different varieties of grapes they use comes through in the quality and taste of each bottle.

Want some ideas for where to go? Located in the heart of Provence’s winemaking region, the “Maison des Côtes de Provence” boasts an outstanding selection of appellation wines. Or try stopping in at one of the cooperative wine stores, where you can sample the wines of many different growers. (Be prepared either to buy a bottle or two, or be charged for tasting however. Winegrowers here want you to try their delicious vintages, but business is business!)

If you’re not worried about the thickness of your waist (or your wallet), a visit to the four-star restaurant the “Bacchus Gourmand” is a must, where you can savor real Provençal cuisine accompanied (of course) by the perfect bottle of a Côtes de Provence wine.

Or try sampling a home-cooked meal at one of the many out of the way cafes you’ll find tucked away on a narrow side street in any village, where your host is also often your chef, and he will be delighted to recommend a wine to you.

If you choose to take one of the organized tours that are available, you can even arrange to take a wine tasting course at one of the vineyards. Your host will do his best to give you a complete understanding of wine: its robe (color), its bouquet (perfume), its body (strength) and everything you need to know about service, conservation etc.

The Provence Rosés were the first wines ever produced here in the region. It is from these excellent vintages that the reputation of the Côtes de Provence was built on. Dry and fruity, recognizable by their brilliance – that touch of light so characteristic of Provence, these wines are enjoyed and appreciated throughout the world.

For the lover of white wines, Provence wines never fail to delight. A top producer of a wide selection of white wines, you’ll find varieties that have been described as lively, fresh, supple or fleshy. Whether you’re a true wine connoisseur or a novice, you’ll find these wines add a new dimension to Mediterranean fish and shellfish.

Depending on the terroir (the special interaction that takes place between the vine, micro climate and soil), the red wines of Provence are fruity and supple, bursting on your tongue with the subtle flavors of red berries and flowers.

Come and sample the subtle flavors of Provence’s wines, and of the French Riviera, and enjoy life the way it was meant to be enjoyed – one delicious taste at a time.

Learn all about where to go and what to do in the French Riviera from an American who lives there! Discover the best places to eat, stay and shop. Why settle for an ordinary vacation, when you can create an extraordinary one? French Riviera Vacation Guide