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Southampton Sidetrips

You can't go all the way to to the European boat shows and not do a little exploring! Here are six side trips you should consider.

September 3, 2009
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Nice by night, along the Baie des Anges and the mouth of the Paillon. Photo by Atout France/Cedric Helsly. ATOUT FRANCE/Cedric Helsly

Cowes

Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, is ground zero for England’s sailors. At the mouth of the Medina, Cowes is home to The Royal Yacht Club and several shipyards. Cowes Castle, built by Henry VIII in 1540, is home to the Royal Yacht Squadron (1815), one of the most famous yacht clubs in the world. Cowes Week, held on the first weekend in August, and the Admiral’s Cup, held every two years, are big draws for the town. But there are plenty of other reasons to visit. The town’s high street is narrow and pedestrian, lined with boutiques, antique shops, restaurants, pubs, and chandleries. Be sure and visit the Cowes Maritime Museum.

Brighton

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Not long ago, Brighton had a reputation as a somewhat seedy resort town on England’s south coast. Today, it’s a hip and bohemian getaway beloved for its Georgian architecture, chic shops, and fine restaurants. It’s also a cultural hot spot and home to the annual Brighton Arts Festival each May. While you’re there, check out the Edwardian Preston Manor, the Sea Life Center, the stunning Royal Pavilion, and the arcade attractions of the famous Brighton Pier.

Poole

Poole is dominated by its large, deep harbor-the second largest in the world-so it’s no surprise that maritime trade has a long history within the town. Queen Victoria granted Poole the exclusive rights to fish off Newfoundland reaching in the 19th century and the town was one of the departure points for the D-Day landings of the Normandy Invasions. Poole is home to the Headquarters of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), and is, along with Cowes, one of the principal sailing and yachting centers of the United Kingdom. It’s also home to luxury yacht manufacturer Sunseeker and several other, smaller builders. There are nautical events all summer long, but the town’s become a popular tourist destination for others, too, thanks to its quayside pubs and Poole Lighthouse, England’s largest Arts center outside of London.

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From Monaco

Monaco is great, but once you’ve covered the show, you ought to leave the tiny principality for a taste of the Riviera. Here are just a couple of spots you might want to visit.

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

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The small village of Saint-Jean is situated on a cove on the eastern side of the Cap Ferrat peninsula, in between Nice and Monaco. The town is known mostly for its stunning scenery and deluxe accommodations. A marina built in the 1970’s is home to some of the Mediterranean’s most luxurious yachts. A footpath from the center of the village circles the promontory of Saint-Hospice and from the top the hill, a large bronze Madonna overlooks the Bay of Beaulieu. Don’t miss the zoo or the neo-Venetian Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, but you may want to spend most of your time on the beach: Plage la Paloma south of St.Jean Cap Ferrat has been voted one of the ten best beaches on the Côte d’Azur and Plage Passables, which faces Villefranche-sur-Mer, is also a great place to work on your Mediterranean tan.

San Remo

If you head in the other direction, you’ll cross the Italian border and come to San Remo, which is known for its spectacular year-round spring-like climate. Warm days and cool nights have fostered a local flower-growing industry, but, to tourists, San Remo’s a romantic town of bustling cafes, old villas, and exotic gardens. Unlike many Riviera towns, San Remo is popular even in the winter-it hosts the Parade of Flowers in January and the San Remo Music Festival in February. And if you want to feel like Bond, James Bond, make a trip to the famous art nouveau San Remo Casino. In addition to the usual gaming, it has a restaurant, a theater, and a nightclub.

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Nice

Nice has to be one of the world’s most beautiful yet under-rated cities. Perched right on the Mediterranean, in the Cote-d’Azur Region region, about 16 miles from Cannes and 7 miles from Monaco, it offers spectacular natural scenery, wonderful museums (including one devoted to Matisse), a famous flower market, ancient ruins, and more relaxed al fresco dining than you could ever tire of trying. Wandering around the Old Town is a trip in itself, and a nice respite from the beach. Explore the waterfront restaurants, shops, bars, theaters, museums, and galleries and do some great people watching, too!

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