Côte d'Azur

Your suggested itinerary in the Côte d'Azur

Visit the Cannes Film Festival

Air France, Air Inter and many international airlines serve the Nice-Côte d'Azur airport. Rail connections from Paris via TGV, or by car on the Autoroute du Soleil, A6 - A8.

Beneficent. Temperate winters are what started the Riviera craze in the 1830's; dry, hot summers; spring and fall usually perfect traveling weather. Enough rain to keep all that greenery in bloom, usually in November and February, but it rarely lasts long.

This is the land of the Mediterranean diet, in its best French-Provençal-Niçoise form. Fresh seafood, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, artichokes, olives and olive oil, garlic and onions, orchard fruits, thyme, rosemary, sage, basil, anise-regale yourself. Bouillabaisse has its local variations all along the coast. Nice specialties include ravioli and gnocchi; salade niçoise with tomatoes, tuna and anchovies; pissaladiera, an onion-and-anchovy pizza. Pan Bagnat is a breadroll filled with everything in the garden, drizzled with olive oil. Aïoli is garlic mayonnaise, often served with fish soup. Pistou is a version of pesto, a paste of basil, garlic and olive oil, sometimes with parmesan or pine nuts incorporated. Tapenade is a paste of black olives, anchovies, capers and oil. And of course, the lemons of Menton.

Wines are fresh and fruity Côtes de Provence, Bandol, Cassis, the rare Bellet from near Nice, and local wines from the regions of La Gaude, St-Jeannet and Menton.

Provençal specialties-perfumes, honey, herbs, lavender, olive wood bowls and artifacts-are available in shops throughout the region. Biot and Vallauris are renowned for pottery and glass. Tourrettes-sur-Loup has more than a dozen real, working artisans-weavers, gold- and silversmiths, jewelers, leather craftsmen, potters-who sell their wares from their workshops.

The food markets are irresistible: Forville in Cannes, the Cours Saleya in old Nice, the Cours Masséna in old Antibes, the old town in Vence, the Halles and the Place aux Herbes in Menton. All of these have vendors of locally pressed virgin olive oil, too. Flea markets on Saturdays in Antibes, Wednesdays in Vence, Sunday mornings in Villefranche-sur-Mer. Grasse, of course, has perfume. Carved wooden santons, traditional figures for Christmas cr&egrav;ches make charming souvenir gifts.

Swimming, water skiing, boating, sailing and all other water sports, as well as golf, are available. In the back country, hiking, biking and, in winter, skiing. And of course, boules or petanque, the ultimate regional pastime.

For table-top sports, there are 13 casinos on the Riviera.

In the back country the roads can be perilously steep and winding, so even minor mileage can be slow going. Relax and enjoy the views.

Many small village churches cannot afford full-time lighting; be prepared with lots of one-franc and two-franc coins for automatic lighting of important paintings, statues and altarpieces.

Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald Perfume, Patrick Suskind

Monaco: Circus Festival, January 27 to February 3
Nice: Carnival, February 10-27
Menton: Lemon Festival, February 12-27
Tourrettes-sur-Loup: Violet Festival, March 13
Monaco: Grand Prix Formula I Race, May 12-15
Grasse: Rose Festival, May 12-16
Cannes: International Film Festival, May 12-23
Nice: Jazz Festival, July 8-19
Juan-les-Pins: Jazz Festival, End of July
Grasse: Jasmine Festival, August 4-7