Saturday, March 8, 2008

Rendez-Vous in the French Riviera

The southeast corner of France known as Provence – called the French Riviera for its maritime area between Toulon and Nice - is a romantic location with a little bit of everything to offer the traveler.

Provence stretches from Cap Nègre on the Maures ledge, to Cap Brun in the Esteral area, and from Cap Roux near Toulon to the Iles d'Or (the Golden Isles) out in the Mediterranean Sea. Inland, the area runs as far as the Argens and the Verdon River to the north.

The region of Provence is so called because it was one of the first outlying provinces established by the Romans. They called it "Provincia Romana" and it was one of the jewels of the Roman Empire. Gradually, over hundreds of years, the word Provincia changed to Provence. "Provencal" is a dialect still spoken here by many people.

Remnants of the ancient empire still abound. There is the Pont duGard aqueduct that towers 160 feet above your head and a Roman arena still used for bullfights and concerts in Avignon. Arles, with its famous Roman arena, and Frejus (a city named and built by Julius Caesar) still has traces of the port where Caesar's navy once docked.

Everywhere you go, historical sites abound with majestic stone castles sitting regally just off the side of country roads, and you might find the remnants of a pagan temple next to an austere Catholic church with tall spires and towers that took decades to build.

The rich and famous flocks to the Riviera every year, much like the swallows to Capistrano. Walk along the city streets in the spring, or one of the many bustling open-air fruit and vegetable markets, and you might just find yourself passing a famous movie star or fashion model.

Even the names of some of the Riviera's most famous cities bring to mind pictures of white sandy beaches, a turquoise sea, and endless days under a tropical sun -- St. Tropez, Monaco, Nice, Cannes.

Do you enjoy biking and hiking? Swimming? Boating? How about taking a walking tour along narrow cobblestone streets in tiny villages that date back to mediaeval times? A romantic river cruise? Swimming in the Mediterranean Sea? You'll find all of this and more in Provence.

And of course, there are numerous opportunities for experiencing French cooking at its best. Dining in France is almost a religious experience! When dining at someone's home, it's not unusual for dinner to last three to four hours. If the occasion is an especially memorable one, dinner can go until two or three in the morning!

When eating at a French restaurant, it won't matter if you choose a four star restaurant, or a tiny sidewalk café. Your experience is sure to be a gastronomic delight for your palette. And don't even think of rushing through your meal! Each course is presented with a certain formality and ceremony that makes dining a pleasure. And you are always given plenty of time to savor each course and never made to feel as if you must vacate your table quickly for the next diners.

The Mediterranean Sea is breathtaking, whether you're seeing it from the air for the first time as your plane lands in Nice, or while walking along the rocky beaches at Cannes. Its colors change with its moods – turquoise, emerald, and sapphire – and the water is clear and warm for 6 months of the year. In the winter, although it's too cold to swim (except for the most hardy of souls), the Med's mood and color matches the steel gray clouds, and you'll enjoy the practically deserted beaches and the bracing wind as you walk along the shore.

You have many choices for lodging in Provence. Stay at a four-star hotel, and you may find yourself sleeping on crisp Egyptian cotton sheets, in a bed once used by kings and queens. There are charming bed and breakfast cottages, where you'll be served your meals family-style and learn the history behind the best places in the area to visit from your hostess. Or choose a former monastery, where you'll find peace and tranquility, staying in small, quiet rooms with thick stone walls and enjoy walking through outdoor gardens with large fountains where wild rosemary and thyme grow abundantly.

The people of Provence are friendly and helpful. They won't mind if your French is a little rusty, and will go out of their way to talk to you, and answer your questions.

Each season has its own charms. Spring, when the mimosa trees are bursting with the delicate yellow blooms, red poppies grow wild alongside the autoroute and there are fields of tulips to rival those in Holland.

Summer, when succulent fruits are abundant everywhere, the leaves of the grapevines become an endless "sea of green" when viewed from the road, and the Mediterranean sea offers a respite from the tropical heat.

Fall, when the grapevines are heavy and full with their harvest, the red, yellow and oranges leaves clothe the trees in splendid cloaks and community festivals happen almost every weekend.
Winter, when the weather is mild and sunny days are plentiful, but tourists are not.

Provence is an ideal spot for the perfect vacation at any time of year. The area is so spectacular that even visitors who are just "passing through" find it hard to say good-bye.

Riviera Maya, Mexico - Your Next Vacation

Set in the eastern section of the Yucatan Peninsula and bathed on two sides by the crystal clear turquoise water of the Caribbean lies the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. There situated south of Cancun and stretching down the peninsula coastline is Riviera Maya. Due to its lush jungle, landscape, shoreline and history, Riviera Maya has a variety of attractions to entice travelers. A vacationer in Riviera Maya has a rich selection of either relaxing or stimulating activities to embark on.

Water Activities

Water activities in Riviera Maya run the spectrum from the quiet tranquility of secluded white sandy beaches to thrilling scuba diving. Those who are into adventure and scuba diving will be amazed exploring the breathtaking Great Maya coral reef. Formed due to the warm transparent water, it is the second largest barrier reef system in the world. The reef is home for varieties of corals. It is teeming with numerous kinds or reef-dwelling fish. Not to mention the colorful marine life that can also be found there, such as, sponges, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, starfish, sea urchins, lobsters and crabs. Divers and those who like to snorkel will also be impressed investigating the subterranean freshwater rivers with exceptional cavern structures. The ardent fisherman will take great pleasure in the sport fishing that is available here.


The area boasts a choice of professionally designed courses for enjoying a challenging round of golf. Along with the magnificent landscape, there are driving ranges, putting greens and club houses. Quality golf merchandise can be purchased in the pro shops.


During the day, one can visit a spa for ultimate relaxation. Each spa provides its own forms of service from various types of exercises and massage methods, such as Yoga, Shiatsu, Reflexology, hot stone massage and scalp massage to soothing body scrubs and wrap treatments. In addition, you can awaken your senses with aromatherapy baths or indulge in more traditional therapies, like facials, hair treatments, manicures and pedicures.

Natural Parks and Archaeological Sites

While vacationing in Riviera Maya, one ought to visit at least one ecological reserve in the area. The Sian Ka'an biosphere affords the visitor an astonishing view of nature at her finest. It is here that many diverse species of flora and fauna converge into a nature lover's delight. Xcaret EcoPark is both an ecological and archaeological park. Sightseeing is a wonderful cultural indulgence at the ancient Mayan ruins. While most structures are Mayan in origin, there is a Catholic church erected by the Spaniards. Some of the exhibits that can be seen at Xcaret are the Orchid Greenhouse, Butterfly Pavilion, Manatee Lagoon, the Mushroom Farm and Coral Reef Aquarium. You can even swim with bottle-nose dolphins.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is the major town in the region and runs along the beach; offering tourists prominent hotels. The pulse of the city is Fifth Avenue (Quinto Avenida) which is the main street and caters to pedestrians as cars are not allowed. While strolling down Fifth Avenue, you are likely to see artists, musical groups and other unusual sights. Playa del Carmen affords the avid shopper a wide-ranging choice from delightful browsing in boutiques for colorful local handicrafts to picking up the latest trends in European fashions. Most Riviera Maya's restaurants are located in Playa del Carmen and of these the greater part is located on or near Fifth Avenue. You are able to dine on authentic Mexican cuisine, American style or International menus like Italian. After a fun-filled day about town, tourists can partake of intense partying and dancing throughout the night in the bars and night clubs.

Glorious Riviera Maya is a vacation destination that appeals to every taste and desire which is sure to produce warm memories that are able to endure a lifetime. For an outstanding tropical getaway, it is hard to find a better resort location for your next vacation.