THE COLOURFUL COTE D'AZUR
The sun-kissed coastline stretching from Saint- Tropez in Southeast France all the way up to the Italian border boasts the perfect balance of splendour and serenity. It’s no surprise the French Riviera became the playground of choice for artists and aristocrats of the 19th and 20th centuries, seeking inspiration and an escape from the humdrum of home. Today, visitors journey to the Côte d’Azur in search of that almost mythical eternal paradise, filled with the same yearning to savour its myriad delights.
Except the Côte d’Azur is no myth. Its riches are very, very real. And with picturesque ports and marinas peppered along the entire coast, you are more than spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where to stopover. “The area is called Alpes-Maritimes and the mountains quite literally end in the sea,” says Frederic Hestin, Sunseeker’s senior broker in the region. “There’s a long tradition of people coming to enjoy the Côte d’Azur year after year,” he adds. “Every little coastal town down here has a marina, there’s a lot of beautiful old ports and everything you need if you have a boat.”
The unofficial capital, Nice, is known for its majestic vistas, seven-mile Promenade des Anglais, and staggering architecture from ʻLa Belle Époque’. Its colours pop everywhere you look – from the ochre and pastel coloured buildings along the narrow alleyways, to the bursts of brightness at the flower market of Cours Saleya in the heart of the Old Town.
No trip to Nice is complete without sampling the local delicacies, and Le Safari, a well-loved watering hole on the vibrant Cours Saleya esplanade, is where you want to be, says Hestin. The terrace is perfectly placed to people-watch while tucking into a braised beef ravioli or a refreshing Salad Niçoise. And you don’t need to stray far from the Old Town to find respite from the bustle, he adds. Nestled against the hill of the old castle, the chic Hôtel La Pérouse offers exceptional views of the Bay of Angels.
Nice’s sexy sister Cannes needs no introduction. The city shines even when it isn’t glittering with celebrities during its famed film festival or boat show – a stroll along Promenade de la Croisette with its palm trees and palaces overlooking the Bay of Cannes is proof enough. Hestin recommends grabbing a bite at beach restaurant La Môme Plage, or escaping on a day trip to the tranquil Lérins Islands just across the bay. And if you’re mooring at Port Canto marina, you absolutely have to dine at L’Ecrin, a secluded beach restaurant far away from prying eyes, says Hestin.
Another jewel in the Côte d’Azur crown is Saint-Tropez. The coastal town has the feel of a charming Provençal village, while undeniably deserving its reputation as the sumptuous amusement park for the rich and famous. Pampelonne Beach is by far the trendiest of Saint-Tropez’s golden beaches, located in neighbouring Ramatuelle. Vibrant crowds flock to its array of sophisticated, exclusive beach clubs, to sun themselves on daybeds, dine, drink, and dance the night away. If you just have time to visit one, make sure its Nikki Beach, says Hestin.
Back in Saint-Tropez the choices are endless. Spend an afternoon sunning at the colourful harbour or take a gentle climb up to the citadel to admire panoramic views of the sea and mountains. Enjoy a sundowner at Le QUAI Saint-Tropez before heading to one of the famed night clubs. But if you’re looking for top-notch night life, Monaco is the place you want to be, says Matt Palmer, Sunseeker’s senior broker in the principality. “Anything goes in Monaco,” he jokes. “The glamour, history and exclusivity is what draws people here. Not to mention the high chance of seeing celebrities in their natural habitat.”
For a lively Latin American dining experience, Palmer suggests hitting up COYA Monte-Carlo for its sweeping views of the Mediterranean and close proximity to popular night clubs Jimmy’z and Twiga. If light, live music in opulent surroundings is more to your taste, the Bar Américain in the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo is where you’ll want to settle in for the evening, he adds. Looking to level up? Cipriani Monte Carlo or rooftop restaurant Le Grill will help make any special occasion truly unforgettable. You could also be among the first to explore the newly renovated Lavrotto beach and its well-loved beach front stores, or pop to the football stadium to experience “the quietest most civilised game you’ll ever see,” suggests Palmer.
And if you feel like you’ve overdosed on the glitz and glam and are looking for an antidote, the perched villages of Saint-Paul-de-Vence and Èze Village are famed for their relaxed ambience. Hestin recommends stopping by hotel-restaurant La Colombe d’Or in the charming Saint- Paul-de-Vence. “At the entrance of the fortified village is an old [boutique hotel] with an impressive history from where you can walk the little streets of the village,” he says. Picasso and Matisse once frequented La Colombe d’Or, which now boasts a fascinating modern art collection.
If you have a few hours to spare in this quaint artistic village, head over to modern art museum La Fondation Maeght and get lost in the exhibitions, sculpture gardens, courtyards and chapel. While both hilltop villages offer exceptional views of the French Riviera, one of the most stunning you’ll find is in the medieval village of Èze at a hotel called La Chevre d’Or, with its charming cliffside gardens and terraces, says Hestin. It’s also worth a trip to the botanical gardens – Le Jardin Exotique – to marvel at the cacti, succulents and views of the village’s roofs, the mountains and the sea. And if you have to leave the Côte d’Azur with just one tangible souvenir, let it be a soft, summery scent from The Fragonard perfumery in Èze village. Join a guided tour of the factory before browsing the boutique to find the perfume that perfectly matches your – or that special someone’s – personality.
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