Maritime Alps is one of the six departments of the region of Provence – Alpes-Côte d’Azur which is situated in south-eastern France. Its administrative center is Nice. The population of the region is slightly over 1.0 mln people.
The coast of Maritime Alps is known as the French Riviera. The biggest cities of Riviera are Nice and Cannes. The area of the department is 4099 km2.
In the south the region is washed by the Mediterranean, which causes here mild Mediterranean and marine climate with average temperatures of +23 C in summer and +6 C in winter. The characteristic feature of the local climate is the wind Mistral, which may be very hard and rough.
These beautiful places, protected from enemies and winds by the mountains, attracted representatives of various nationalities from of old; migrating, they wanted to settle here for long.
In the 10th century B.C. ancient Ligurians lived in these places. Later Hellenian seamen arrived at this coast and founded their trade settlements here; including Nice. Greeks brought with them the culture of growing grapes, olive and fig trees. In the 6th century B.C. Celtic tribes of the Gauls appeared at the southern coast of France, which explains the appearance of France’s ancient name – Gallia.
Shortly before the new era this area was captured by the Romans; they made it their province, after which the region obtained a new name which remained up to the present, - Provence.
The period of the Roman rule had a positive influence on the region’s development: under the Romans solid and well-planed roads were built, new towns were founded (Cannes in particular), arable farming and vine-growing were actively developing, as well as olive oil trade. Besides, in the times of the Roman rule the resistance of belligerent tribes, which settled high in the mountains and lived by plundering wealthy coastal regions, was suppressed.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire the development of the area was suspended, because instead of progressive Romans, wild barbaric tribes rushed here which brought with them only plunder and devastation.
Later on new cruel invaders – the Moors - tore into the area from Spain and North Africa.
Saving themselves from plunder, local people abandoned their homes and went high to the mountains, where they built new houses and churches or chapels nearby, and surrounded new settlements with solid massive walls.
Monasteries and houses looked more and more like citadels, capable of beating back the enemies’ attacks. Now such settlements (they are also called ‘stone ‘ or ‘eagle nests’) are the most attractive tourists’ curiosity. Among the most interesting ones are the settlements of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, de Peille, de Peillon and Gourdon.
Later on much grief was brought to local people by hordes of Saracens, and also by pirates’ raids. Besides, by the awful epidemic of plague, which struck Côte d’Azur during the Middle Ages.
In IX century the Kingdom of Provence was formed. However, from time to time it was torn into pieces and added to more powerful states. The conflicts with Italians were regular, as well as religious wars, resulting only in total devastation. In 1815, by side-way trails, via Grasse and mountainous regions of Provence, to avoid the meeting with king’s supporters, Napoléon Bonaparte and his modest-sized army were heading to these places from the Isle of Elbe. Today this trail is one of the most popular tourist routes in France known as ‘Napoleon route’.
In 1834 the then-fishermen settlement of Cannes was visited by Lord Brougham, and afterwards it became the favourite winter resort for British aristocracy. In 1860 County of Nice joined France (for the previous five centuries it was under the rule of Savoy dynasty).
After the end of World War II, Côte d’Azur, which was liberated from the fascists in 1944, become the favourite place of leisure for Europeans. The resort won special popularity after the opening of the Cannes Film Festival in 1946. The rich and the famous from around the world began arriving here en masse.
The landscape of Maritime Alps is majestic and various; these are picturesque mountains, rocky and lush; deep canyons with winding rapid rivers, sheer drops and waterfalls; vineyards, olive and almond groves, lavender and poppy fields; the coast with inviting azure waters. And also fascinating cities and towns, sitting in mountain valleys or climbing up…
Maritime Alps is a beautiful choice for a family holiday. At the same time it is just the place for romantic trips, as well as for educational and cultural tours and for active beach-related rest. The range of tourist services in Maritime Alps is extremely wide. It is determined by a definite region (Mountainous or coastal part) and the season of the year. All the year round there exist here wonderful opportunities for a good rest, which are created by the Nature itself and caring human hands.
In spring and summer it is fascinating to take a walking tour of the National park of Mercantour, which is situated among picturesque mountains with breath-taking views; an excursion on a pleasure-boat to the nearest islands; there are also hang-gliding, walking tours, bicycle and four-wheeler drives, mountaineering, rope waftage, horse-riding, canoeing, wind-surfing, deep diving, spa services. And of course, there is beach-related rest –from May to Indian summer including.
Winter suggests skiing and a lot of other entertainments, and first of all – traditional mountain-slope descends among amazing snow-covered Alps. One can try something more extreme, like snowboard or snowmobile driving, and off- trail descends. And also – try horse- or dog-sledding or sledging. And those, who dislike mountain descends, can use the trails for cross-country skis, which run through protected zones of national nature reserves. In entertainment-free time one can take part in numerous cultural and fun events: these are Cinema week, Jazz week, Puppet week, Festival of lemons and many other events.
Maritime Alps can boast of an extremely developed infrastructure. A great number of winter sport resorts and ski trails are ready to serve both experienced skiers and beginners. The most popular resorts are d'Isola 2000, d'Auron, de Valberg, Col de Turenne.
Staying in Côte d’Azur, one should take the chance and visit the most interesting places of the department.
Nice. It is very pleasant to have a walk in Bay of Angels, to visit the historical center of the city with its beautiful multi-coloured houses, and also the colouful Flower market where the incredible variety of flowers, fruits and vegetables delights the eye, and all this goes with magnificent Provence aromas.
Architectural and cultural monuments of Nice are a harmonious interlacing of Italian and French styles, which coexisted, constantly competing, for centuries.
It is a real must to visit Cannes – the world cinema capital, where the famous annual Cannes Film Festival takes place. Beautiful ancient architecture is well-preserved here, and at the same time it is a modern resort with luxuriant hotels and galleries, boutiques and museums. The winding streets of the old town are especially charming, where houses under red tiled roofs are simply smothered in palms and bougainvillea.
It is cool to laze on the beaches of Côte d’Azur, which are rightfully considered to be among the world-best. These can be lively town beaches of Nice and Cannes, or beautiful deserted beaches in distant cozy bays and capes of Cap-Ferrat and Cap d'Antibes.
If you have some time, do visit the town of Grasse – the perfumery capital of France, a real realm of scents and aromas. It is here that the majority of volatile essences are made, which are used to produce famous French perfumes.
On the way to Grasse children and grown-ups will enjoy wandering in the 4-kilometre ‘Adventure Maze’ and find the exit.
The town of Gourdon is wonderfully colourful with endless lavender fields in its suburbs. It is here that Alfred Hitchcock was shooting his film with Grace Kelly in the part, when she met her future husband, Prince Renée of Monaco.
The town of Mentone on the Italian border strikes with its unforgettable beauty. Here popular Festivals of Lemons and classic music festivals are held. The castle-town Saint-Paul-de-Vence, which is preserved in a very good condition, is a wonder. Time seems to have stopped here, and one feels as if in a different dimension. The town of Biot houses a beautiful Museum of Glass and Villeneuve-Loubet - a Museum of Culinary Art.
The beauty of the region and its mild climate, and also its history and original architecture have always drawn here magnet-like the people of art, who after a short rest here preferred to stay in the place for ever. Here they created their masterpieces, poetizing these blessed places, and today the mere fact of their staying here attracts the tourists from over the whole world. In different periods here lived Picasso, Marc Chagall, César, Manet, Modigliani, Léon Tolstoï, Renoir, Cocteau, Hemingway, Bunin and many others.
Maritime Alps is the French region, which is incredibly beautiful, fragrant and scent-laden, and also ‘delicious’, thanks to special Provence cuisine. One will never forget the experience of tasting the vegetable ratatouille, full of Provence summer smells and flavors,the exotic fish soup bouillabaisse, the truffle pizza and pistachio cakes for desert. And certainly, famous local red wines and most delicious potions are unforgettable, for instance pastis – anise potion, or white wine with black currants – kir.
To remember the trip to Maritime Alps tourists usually buy French spices, Olive oil, natural oils soap, sun-dried tomatoes, and also lavender honey and lemon marmalade.
There is no exaggeration to say that anyone, who visits Maritime Alps, finds the occupation to his heart here and enjoys the trip immensely.
This is just the place to visit!