Part 1 // Côte d'Azur
The jewel of the Mediterranean coastline, the name Côte d'Azur was given to this stunning strip of French coastline by the writer Stéphen Liégeard in his book, ‘La Côte d'Azur’, published in December 1887 — but as the good ol’ French Riviera (as it’s colloquially known) it has been a favourite stomping ground for the rich and famous since the 1850s.
From celebrities like Brigitte Bardot, to bohemian painters such as Monet, Munch, Renoir, Picasso and Van Gogh, royals including Queen Victoria and Tsar Alexander II, literary icons like F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald — and even fashionistas like Coco Chanel — everyone who was anyone in Europe and beyond has lived or holidayed here at some point.
Those days of old-world glory may be gone — but, today, this area is still a magnet for its mix of R&R by day and exclusive star-studded nightlife by evening, and known for its backdrop of rolling mountain ranges which gives way to cliffs, caves and clear, pebble-stoned beaches filled with sparkling sapphire waters — all frequented by chic locals and affluent jet-setters from around the world. Naturally.
In a nutshell — the perfect destination for glitz, glamour and a whole lot of sunshine, in plush, posh & extravagant style.
French Riviera official insta: @visitcotedazur
Food here is a mix of Provençal cuisine — served rustic on the many terrasses by the sea, in cute, traditional and family-owned establishments; tucked into little cobble-stoned laneways in the shade, or sold street-style from vendors — or haute cuisine (French of fusion) from Michelin starred restaurants which have a reputation which precedes them, top celebrity chefs at the helm, and a pricey menu to match.
Then there are the colourful market stalls which overflow with sun-kissed, locally-sourced produce alongside gourmet specialities (honey, candied fruits) and craft products (especially fragrances derived from flowers — like the regional classic lavender — but also Vallauris pottery, or glass artworks from Biot) — where you can spend an entire day selecting and tasting delicious fruits, veggies and delicacies made by locals and merrily marketed to yours truly with gusto each and every day during the summer months.
This is the place to learn how to properly execute that fantastic French pastime — the Art de Vivre — and the best way to do that, is without a plan. Just get out there and walk the streets, sit wherever strikes your fancy (or let the locals lure you into their bistros and cafés with their haggling) and order anything that gets your appetite and imagination going.
For dining experiences to remember which are a little more up-market, we recommend the following:
La Passagère Restaurant (Cap D'Antibes)
It’s at this spot in the Belle Rives Hôtel that Fitzgerald wrote “Tender is the Night” and where celebrities from Hemingway to Picasso once shared champagne together and partied ‘til sun rise.
A three-star Michelin restaurant run by chef Mauro Colagreco — this place was recently named the 2019 Number One restaurant in the world — the first time in the award’s 18-year history that a French restaurant has received the top spot. Some serious talent here, well worth a tasting if you can afford it and book a table in advance.
La Colombe d’Or (St Paul de Vence)
Nestled high up in the hills within one of the most beautiful villages in Provence, the world famous Colombe d'Or hotel and its restaurant enjoys a privileged location which is second-to-none.
La Bastide Saint Antoine (Grasse)
Restaurant Le Mas Provençal (Eze Village)
From the Cannes Film Festival to the Lemon Festival at Menton, the Saint-Raphael Festival of Light, to the Grand Prix in Monaco — the French Riviera has come a long way since its humble origins as a sleepy 19th century place of medieval villages and rocky sheep farms.
Over time, the area and the stunning series of ocean-facing villages, mountain-top towns and sparkling mini-cities which line the coast have become known as the ultimate celebrity destination, a hub for famous artists, the birthplace of the super-yacht industry — and one rocking place to spend the summer, filled with parties, festivals, food markets, museums, outdoor activities — and all-round fun.
There’s never any shortage of options to choose from when it comes to entertainment — so whether it’s a day-trip to a French seaside villa-come-museum and tea salon, designed by the French architect Aaron Messiah, and once home to the Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild; sun-baking to a crisp with the attractive locals, or getting lost in the music with jazz musicians from far and wide — the Côte d'Azur has it all, and we have you covered with our hand-picked shortlist of the best to attend on the seasonal calendar for this July/August.
Here are our top three picks for where to play on this sapphire-set coast this summer season.
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild (Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat)
A stunning escape to one of the most beautiful Renaissance palaces of the French Riviera, built on a summit of the peninsula of Cap Ferrat between 1905 and 1912. A fantastic fairytale of a place, well worth the trek to get up there. You won’t want to leave.
Website : https://www.villa-ephrussi.com/
Passable Beach (Cap Ferrat)
A hidden beach with a breathtaking view of the Villefranche harbour, where privacy and peaceful relaxation are a given.
Nice Jazz Festival
Festival d’Art Pyrotechnique de Cannes (Pyromelodic Festival)
Each year, the Bay of Cannes erupts into a vibrant celebration of lights, fireworks and music for the festive event of the summer season — Le Festival d’Art Pyrotechnique de Cannes (Pyromelodic Festival) — a competition of countries from Europe and across the Atlantic who join forces at the seashore stretching from Cannes to Antibes Juan les Pins to come and do battle in the middle of the night. A spectacle to behold and a visual and audible delight for the senses as countries compete with firework shows set to music.
Dates: July 14 to August 24, 2019
Address: (By train) Cannes station is a 5-minute walk from La Croisette.
Corso De Lavande (Lavender Festival)
Another beautiful event which will titillate the senses. For over 50 years, Digne-les-Bains has celebrated their lavender harvest with a colorful festival which sees tens of thousands of visitors attending the day and night parades, two firework displays, a funfair and an international parade dedicated to a grand parade of folk groups from all over the world (Sweden, France, Russia). First held in 1929 and dubbed Corso De Lavande (‘The Corso of Lavender’), the inaugural event event aimed to promote lavender production, the economic base of the Provence region. Interrupted by World War II, the Corso of Lavender returned in 1945 as a regular event, and today it is a great festival that takes place over five days between the end of July and the beginning of August. The first night features a grand opening with music, followed by fireworks and a grand ball on Place Général de Gaulle, while Saturday is dedicated the international parade.
Dates: August 2 to 6, 2019
Address: 1 Boulevard Martin Bret, 04000 Digne-les-Bains
Is there anything more fabulous than ordering a martini on a million-dollar yacht, enjoying a top wine from a local vineyard while shooting the breeze on a clifftop terrace; or having a coffee ensconced in lush greenery and hanging gardens with a view to the sea from a five-star luxury hotel? The answer is no.
Welcome to the Côte d'Azur life — where every bar stop and cute little restaurant is actually an experience to remember, embarrassingly Instagrammable, and makes you look and feel like something of a celebrity straight of ‘La Piscine’ (if you haven’t watched that classic French film — WATCH IT — you’ll be buying your ticket to the coast before you can get to the critical pool scene).
Without giving too much away, let us just say that sipping a cocktail or a vintage vino in style is easy to do on the French Riviera — and it should be done. By the pool, on a terrace, from a clifftop, or in one of the many sexy, dim-lit speakeasys you’ll enter from cobble-stone streets.
This is where we go for alcoholic refreshment and good vibes by night when we’re on vacation here.
White 1921 (St Tropez)
When Louis Vuitton- Moet Hennessy (aka LVMH group), finally ventured into its first-ever hotel — it did so with White 1921 — and the chic, minimalist bar they’ve created here is a fashionistas heaven.
Address: Place des Lices, 83990 Saint-Tropez
Website : http://www.white1921.com/en
The View Restaurant Club (Antibes)
Le Plongeoir (Nice)
Located at one of Nice's iconic sites overlooking the sea, this ancient diving platform has been restored as a bar and restaurant which welcomes you for sunset drinks in an unusual and unique setting.
Absinthe Bar (Antibes)
Located in the heart of Old Antibes, near a Provençal market and a stone’s throw away from the Musée Picasso — this opulent speakeasy-style bar packs a punch and guarantees a fabulous night to remember — just don’t hit the green fairy too hard. Or do ;)
Address: 25 Cours Masséna, 06600 Antibes
Rest and relaxation are less of a past-time in the South of France than a must. The locals and regular visitors here practically invented the term ‘art de vivre’.
Each year, couples, families and fabulous singles flock to the French Riviera and surrounds to holiday, stay for the summer months, or weekend-trip from places like Paris — and when they do, they have a selection of accommodation to choose from — whether it’s gorgeous ‘glamping’ next to a pristine beach, five-star hotels, cosy village-style homes and villas — and even seaside châteaus.
If you love luxury, then this place is particularly your jam — celebrities from Brad and Angelina, to Johnny Deep and Vanessa Paradis, Rihanna, The Cure, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, the Rolling Stones and Sting have all rented or bought property here at some point — and the Côte d'Azur’s prestige list of previous tenants and vacationers stretches far further than that.
The fact that many homes and hotels here are built on cliffs, mountain-tops, or are encased in gorgeous greenery without obscuring a vista — means that privacy and tranquility are also a given at many locations, so it’s no surprise that people like Bono — the lead singer of the world-famous band U2 — owns a fantastic secluded villa in the seafront village of Eze-sur-Mer; and that Chanel’s lover Hugh Grosvenor, second Duke of Westminster, chose to build her a home here, on the coast she loved so dearly.
There Madame Coco welcomed artists, musicians and writers including Stravinsky, Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Luchino Visconti into her beautiful home for years — and today, ‘La Pausa’ stands proud in prime position on Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, where Chanel’s aesthetic vision for style, décor and landscaping of the five acres of garden her house contains still continue to inspire the look and feel of other mansion homes in the region.
Grand dame, castle-by-the-sea or celebrity haunt — these hotels we’ve spotlighted to stay are definitely pricey, but well-worth the spend for an experience to remember.
Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat (Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat)
Enjoy the glamorous resort lifestyle of the Cote d’Azur – close to Nice and Monaco – in the iconic luxury of the Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel surrounded by seven hectares of Mediterranean gardens and perched on the tip of the magnificent Cap-Ferrat cliffs, facing the ocean.
Hôtel Byblos (St Tropez)
A mythical, legendary and star-studded five-star Palace hotel with a swimming pool and a celebrity following, tucked into the cobble-stoned laneways and pretty little port of St Tropez village.
Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc (Antibes)
Located between Nice and Cannes, nestled in a park of centuries-old pine trees, stands an elegant Napoleon III style building at the southern tip of Cap d’Antibes overlooking the ocean, providing panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea and the Lérins Islands — a legendary establishment which has been hosting the rich and famous since 1870.