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French Riviera Local Secrets

As an organization that sends thousands of students abroad each year, CEA has captured a list of local secrets - a collection of discoveries from our students, resident staff, as well as other locals - that make this city unique. We hope you will find the information helpful and, at the very least, an interesting read.

Le Grand Bleu

The "Iles de Lérins" is a small archipelago located just off the coast of Cannes, made up of two main islands; Ste. Marguerite and St. Honorat. Ste. Marguerite is a nature reserve noted for its eucalyptus and pine trees and variety of rare birds. It is also the site of the 18th-century fort and prison where the man in the iron mask, the hero of Alexander Dumas' famous novel, was incarcerated in the 17th century. The prison cell can be visited in conjunction with the Maritime Museum.

St. Honorat provides some spectacular walks and views across the Bay of Cannes on to the Esterel Mountains. The Cistercian abbey has a gift shop selling Lérina, a chartreuse-like liqueur produced by the monks living on the island, as well as other souvenirs and handicrafts.

Both islands are great places to get away from it all or to spend a day studying as you soak up the Mediterranean sun on the beautiful tranquil beaches, where you can swim in crystal clear blue water. The 5-mile jogging circuit around Ste. Marguerite is one of the most scenic work-outs you will ever have. Luc Besson filmed much of "Le Grand Bleu" in the waters between these islands and the Esterel Mountains. From Juan-Les-Pins, it takes about 20 minutes to get to Île Ste.-Marguerite and about 30 minutes to St.-Honorat on the regular boat service.

Marché Provençale

The Marché Provençale, located in Antibes’ old town is open Tuesday through Sunday, and is a feast of color, freshness and friendliness. Local sellers know what fresh is, and what good food is all about. From large producers taking up several stalls, to single stalls with one old lady selling honey, or bunches of lavender, there is an amazing variety of regional products for sale including fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, fresh pasta, herbs, flowers and many local specialties such as panisses (chickpea pancakes) and tapenade (olive paste). You will also see many delicate Mediterranean varieties of vegetables that are rarely seen outside of the French Riviera. If you are preparing your own food at home in your apartment, this is the address for you!

Downhill Skiing

The Southern Alps are popular for downhill skiing in the spring. Two major ski resorts, Isola 2000 and Auron, are less than two hours drive from the coast. Both resorts have long and varied runs, extensive lift-networks and excellent facilities. The mild weather and beautiful blue skies make for some of the most enjoyable skiing in Europe. At any of the resorts you can simply turn up, buy a pass and rent equipment by the day. SKEMA-EAI organizes day skiing trips from January through April, depending on the snowfall in this area. Information about Isola 2000 and Auron can be obtained online at

Train des Merveilles

Take the "Train of Wonders" (Train des Merveilles) and discover one of France's best-kept secrets located in the hinterland of the French Riviera. Starting from Nice, via hundreds of tunnels and viaducts, the appropriately named train climbs slowly but steadily into the foothills of the Alps via the scenic valleys of Roya and Bevera, offering breathtaking views of steep hillsides, plunging ravines, and medieval Provençal perched villages such as Saorge and Breil. In less than two hours you can reach the alpine mountain village of Tende, gateway to the Vallée des Merveilles, which boasts over 40,000 rock engravings dating from 1800 to 1500 BC!

Socca Chez Theresa

Try a delicacy you will only find in Nice. People line up all day at "Chez Theresa", just to get a slice of her socca, a Provencal pancake made from chick pea flour and olive oil. Many eateries in the old town centre of Nice are selling large portions for as little as EUR 2.00, making it an inexpensive snack for hungry students. Don't expect to get a knife and fork, since this hot delicacy is traditionally eaten with the fingers. Part of the charm of this unique experience is that Theresa's socca is made a few blocks away, in a wood-fired oven in a back alley in the old town, then brought down to the Cours Saleya, two at a time, in enormous black cast iron pans that are hitched to the back of an old Peugeot motorcycle! Bon Appetit!

Art on the French Riviera

Since the late 19th century, the clear light and vivid colors of the French Riviera have captivated many of the world's leading artists. In the 1880's Claude Monet came to live in Antibes at the same time as Van Gogh painted in Arles. Paul Signac, moved to St. Tropez, soon to be followed by Bonnard, Chagall and Matisse. Auguste Renoir made Cagnes his home from 1907-19, and Picasso spent the later part of his life on the Côte d'Azur.

All these great artists have left their mark on the French Riviera, with over 250 art galleries and museums for you to enjoy their works.