In an age when environmental, ethical, and social concerns are becoming more important, the region of Provence and the Riviera is beginning to embrace sustainability and implement various green initiatives.
There is an excellent public transportation system in the region. The rail network, including high-speed TGV trains (Train à Grande Vitesse, meaning high-speed train) and local TER trains (Transport Express Régional), makes getting around the region quick and easy. There is also a widespread network of buses, which can take you to small towns that would otherwise be inaccessible via train.
Several cities also have modern, user-friendly public transportation systems. In Nice, in addition to offering over 40 bus and tram lines within the city limits, the city's public transportation organization, Lignes d'Azur (www.lignesdazur.com), offers public buses to nearly any destination along the Riviera for a mere 1 euro -- an unbelievable bargain. Marseille has been expanding its metro system and has extended its network of trams and buses. Montpellier also offers a comprehensive tram system, in addition to buses that travel around the city and surrounding area.
Many cities in Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon, and the Riviera have set up public bicycle-rental programs, which allow people to rent bikes on a short-term basis, and then return these bikes to various stations around town -- similar to the Vélib' bike scheme in Paris. These public bike-rental programs offer both locals and visitors a fast and inexpensive way to get around the cities; you'll find these bike-rental programs in Avignon, Montpellier, Marseille, Nice, and Perpignan. Alternatively, since many of the cities and towns in these regions are relatively small, many people choose to get around simply by walking.
Many hotels in Provence and the Riviera have undertaken measures to preserve the environment, and those that have are awarded with a green label; look for hotels with the certification of Green Globe (www.greenglobe.com), La Clef Verte (Green Key; www.laclefverte.org), or the European Eco-Label. These labels reward hotels that take a more environmental approach to water, energy, and waste, and raise environmental awareness among their guests. The Hotel Martinez and Carlton in Cannes, the Palais de la Méditerranée in Nice, and the Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc in Antibes have been certified as Green Globe properties for their environmental initiatives, including the use of eco-label cleaning products, locally sourced food in their restaurants, and recycling programs.
France is experiencing a huge growth in the organic farming of everything from vegetables to winemaking. Despite the fact that France is the biggest user of pesticides in Europe, more producers have opted for the organic approach to farming, and more organic markets are spring up all over the region. Look for signs saying BIO (organic) on products and in shops and restaurants.
However, despite all of these advances, France does still lag behind on some environmental issues, such as its heavy reliance on nuclear power and its use of pesticides on most of its farms. Still, Provence and the Riviera have made tremendous strides toward protecting the local environment.
Responsible tourism means leaving a destination in the same condition as you found it. You can do this by not dropping litter and recycling. Support the local economy and culture by shopping in smaller, neighborhood shops, and eating in local, family-run restaurants rather than big chain stores and restaurants. For more information and tips on responsible travel, see www.frommers.com/tips.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.