Cap d’Ail: The Riviera’s Cheaper Destination

Along the beach in Cap d'Ail, Cote d'Azur, France

Cap d'Ail, Cote d'Azur, France

The new issue of Perceptive Travel editor Tim Leffel’s book The World’s Cheapest Destinations has just landed in my mailbox, and in devouring it eagerly (and looking forward to reviewing it next week) I’ve been reminded of some trips to supposedly pricey areas that turned out to be, if not dirt-cheap, at least surprisingly less expensive than budgeted for.

One of those trips was to a friend’s wedding in the little town of Cap d’Ail on the Cote d’Azur in France. Almost any town in France is worth seeing, and eating in, but Cap d’Ail has the distinct and unexpected advantange of being exactly one kilometer from Monaco, and a short drive from Nice.

Both Monaco and Nice are destinations bursting with tourists, things to do and see, and people with a lot of cash. Cap d’Ail, with a population barely over 4500, provides a base for seeing its more famous neighbors without emptying your wallet.

It might be the beach access that reduces costs. Getting down to the beach (which is rather small but hugs a bay of heart-stopping clear blue water) involves a 20- to 30-minute walk down steep streets and seemingly neverending winding stairs. Plenty of visitors to Monaco, who can access the beach simply by strolling out of a hotel, simply wouldn’t have the stamina or knee stability for what is, frankly, a pretty serious aerobic exercise.

Personally, I loved it. Once you’re on the beach you can stay most of the day, following shade or sun as you prefer, lunching on seafood and fresh salad at one of the excellent restaurants right at your back. Or, to feel posh and say you’ve been, you can stroll along the oceanfront path to eat in Monaco. A kilometer of walking along a rocky and sometimes slippery passage, where you’re bound to get splashed by waves, can go a long way to making you feel superior to the over-rich and over-fed visitors of the French Riviera.

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