Thinking of a trip to the South of France? Picturing the almost Italian architecture in old Nice? Or the Film Festival in Cannes? Or does the image of lavender-filled fields in Provence come to mind?
These are great and picturesque locations that are definitely worth seeing. But, there are also hidden areas that I would like to share. Why not add these to your to-visit-list? You won’t regret it!
1. St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral
If you’re in Nice, apart from taking a nice walk around the old city with its narrow streets and colourful Italian-style architecture, try making a trip to this Russian Orthodox Cathedral.
This unexpected Russian Orthodox Cathedral is situated towards the western side of Nice, nicely placed in a well-maintained garden on a land that belongs to the Russian Federation.
Russians started frequenting the French Riviera, following the trend started by the English, in the 19th century. When Tsar Alexander II visited Nice, he liked the mild weather so much that he established an official liaison between Russia and the French Riviera. The Cathedral was built to serve the large Russian community that settled in Nice and is dedicated to Tsar Nicholas II who died in Nice.
The architecture and its detailed deco is a sight to behold. Elegantly towered by 5 domes, decorated with navy blue tiles interlaced with golden designs, and its earthy orange-red exterior walls makes one think of how down-to-earth it looks, yet carries a majestic charm!
The interior is as impressive, or more so. Solemnly lit by candles, with the nave sharing the same colour theme as the tiles of the domes, it gives you a peaceful feeling just standing right at the centre, appreciating the elegance of it all!
2. Canyon of Verdon
This was the first river canyon that I’d ever seen in my life. despite seeing it while driving through the winding roads on a misty, rainy day, I can see why its natural beauty is so charming!
The river has a luminous light turquoise colour, making it look very magical, while the canyon towers over it, its whiteness lending a certain gracefulness to the whole look!
This canyon is just north of the French Riviera. Hiking is supposed to be a popular summer activity. Some go kayaking in the river too!
If you happen to visit it under the same weather condition as I did, I think it is even more magical. Why? Because the canyon is partially covered by mist. Or, when you reach the higher points, about 700 metres high, where the clouds are below you, you feel like you’ve reached a hidden palace above the clouds!
3. Lake Ste. Croix
This lake is actually an artificial lake that was the result of the Sainte Croix dam. But, as it is so well-integrated into the naturalness surrounding it, which is now a natural park, you couldn’t have guessed it is artificially built.
The lake is filled with water that came from the Verdon River. Because of that, it has the same magical colour.
You can even swim in its waters. It is supposed to be very populated over the summer season, but I guess it depends on how well you can spot a nice beach area and grab it first before the crowd arrives.
4. The “Chapel Between 2 Rocks”
Lake Ste. Croix is surrounded by numerous tiny and quaint villages. One of them, called Moustiere Ste. Marie, has a very interesting jewel: A chapel built between two cliffs. Right above it, hangs a gold-painted start.
This chapel, named Notre Dame de Beauvoir, is quite a hike, but it has ancient pebble-stoned paths and steps that lead up to it. Built in the 8th century on an older site dating back to the 5th century, it was once a pilgrimage destination. The view from the top is fantastic and presents the red-tiled roofs of the village just below. At certain angles, you can also spot the beautiful lake in the distance!
The village itself also makes a very pleasant visit. It’s famous for its pottery. From dishes to lamp posts, the white-background potteries hand-painted with various designs make great practical souvenirs!
5. Berre les Alpes
This very tiny village is the best spot to get a 360 degree view of the northern part of the French Riviera. On a clear day, you can also see the snow-capped Alps in the distance.
It is also a village from which several nature hiking trails start. It’s a great place for nature lovers to hike through the forests on a sunny weather.
I hope these are great destinations for you and that you enjoy feasting your eyes on their beauty whether it’s natural or artificial! Remember to make the journey to these places as enjoyable too!