The French Riviera is one of those unique locations in this world that you simply cannot replicate anywhere else. It's a dazzling combination of beautiful summers, soft evening light, super-yachts, the French joie de vivre, designer clothes, excess, OMG delicious French food, parades of people, euro-trash and so much more. It's a whole microcosm that seems to have been designed solely for your own enjoyment. Does anyone even work here?
We come here every summer for Robin's business partner has a house in Mougins, just above Cannes. And even though the itinerary every summer is the same: sitting by the pool, drinking lots of rose wine, going to Monte Carlo, taking the yacht for a spin to St. Tropez, promenading around Cannes ... it's still something I always look forward too, even though I'm not a creature of habit.
And even though it's a recessionary year, where no one has walked away unscathed from the economic downturn, the Cote d'Azure has maintained it's sparkle. Perhaps there were fewer yachts in front of St Tropez, but the Russians were still there in full force and the Cavalli-clad women were strutting there stuff everywhere. It's good to see that this small part of the world still is able to deliver excess like few other places can :-)
I also have to share with you my theory of relativity that I devised right here, on the Cote d'Azure. Don't worry ... it's by far not as complicated as Einstein's theory. This is how it goes. As you're sitting on your luxury yacht, cruising along at sunset, thinking 'God, I'm on top of the world' ... just then it appears, the bigger and more luxurious yacht cruising at a distance from you, that makes you feel insignificant. Remember folks, there's always someone out there with a bigger yacht!
And lastly ... a line that says it all about the French Riviers: the 3 F rule. Ready? So, if it Flies, if it Floats and if it Fucks ... rent it! Just passing on some words of wisdom that I've learnt here!
HOW TO GET HERE:
The gateway to the French Riviera is Nice International Airport. Given the importance of this beautiful region, both regular and discount European airlines fly here on a very regular basis, especially in the summer. In terms of international flights originating outside of Europe, you have direct flights here from the US and of course from Dubai ... given the importance of this region for the cash-rich Arabs.
When you land and taxi to your gate, don't forget to look out the window. There you will see a parade of private jets of all sizes, including BBJ's (Boeing Business Jets) ... and even some 767's and the like.
Depending on which side of the plane you're sitting on, as you're landing you will have a beautiful view of Monte Carlo, Nice and the rest of the coast. Have your camera ready!
WHAT TO DO:
> cruise down the riviera in a yacht: this has been our summer tradition for 6 years now. And it's totally glamorous and very, very enjoyable. How can it not be :-) We usually depart around 0930 in the morning, where we board a magnificent yacht in Cannes. Sometimes from in front of the Carlton Hotel, or from the Cannes harbour. Once aboard the yacht, we head towards a serene bay along the coast where we anchor for a few hours and go swimming. And this is where the first bottle of rose gets opened. And it's by far not the last! The coastline here is stunning. And it's even more stunning after the rose. Your problems just dissolve, your troubles are long forgotten and you live totally in the moment. A very glamorous moment. After our swim we head to Tahiti beach right next to St. Tropez for lunch. Now this is something to be seen. As you approach the beach by yacht, you will see a parking lot of massive yachts moored, with only staff onboard. A water taxi comes to pick you up and takes you to the beach, which is packed with quasi nude sun worshippers and orange and blue umbrellas. The restaurant on Tahiti beach is another experience. The food is amazing: big baskets of fresh vegetables (crudites ... just love the sound of this French word!), large bottles of rose, delicious fish platters, did I mention rose? and desserts that push you to the point of explosion. Best of all, as you sit at your outdoor tented table, you are privy to a fashion show. One male and two female models parade around changing clothes every 10 minutes. This is the life and there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. Once lunch is done ... which takes several hours, we all head to the pier where the water taxi picks us up ... and as per my tradition, me and some other courageous people swim back to the yacht. It's the only way to burn all those calories after our spectacular lunch. After lunch comes nap time ... and there is nothing nicer than to fall asleep on the yacht in the Mediterranean sun as you head to St. Tropez ... because ... when you arrive you need to be rested and beautiful. As you enter the harbour of St. Tropez on your yacht it's all about posing and showing off. You show off your boat, you show off your guests and you show off your body. So suck it all in, take off all your clothes and just stand there with your Prada glasses as your captain maneuvers the yacht into the small port. Once in St. Tropez ... of course you need to walk around a bit ... show-off, show-off, show-off ... turn and head back to the yacht. The one thing you have to do here is stop at Barbarac ice-cream shop, right on the bay! It's the best ice-cream in the world! And always full. St. Tropez is not very big ... and after an hour or so, you're ready to leave ... and head back to Cannes in the late afternoon sun. Once back, anchored in the Cannes bay, it's time to watch the sunset and observe the city come alive with all the glittering lights. Did I mention more rose? To end this spectacular day we finish off with a great dinner on the yacht. What can I say ... this is the life!
> Cannes: even though Nice is the entryway to the French Riviera, Cannes is the destination everyone is headed to. It's chic-er, smaller, more showy, more exclusive and full of glitz. Ferrari's zooming up and down the Boulevard de la Croisette, Hotel Carlton (the place to be) gleaming in it's beauty and mega yachts moored in the bay in front of Cannes. This is the place to be seen. You have great shopping on the street parallel to the Croisette, and in the evening ... restaurants galore.
> Monte Carlo: this is also an obligatory trip for us. Hop into the Ferrari at night and zoom down to Monte Carlo, a 40 minute ride from Cannes. The destination is Sun Casino in the Fairmont Hotel. Even though everyone envisions Monte Carlo being full of gamblers dressed in black-tie and stylish evening gowns, the truth is quite contrary! Other than the main casino around Hotel Paris, all the other casinos are filled with (mostly) Italian and French white trash. It's amazing what both men and women will put on to go out. The word euro-trash must have been coined right here. It's a combination of hyper sexiness that's gone completely wrong. Since I don't gamble, my main game the once a year that we come here is spot the hookers. Primarily Russian, and very easy to spot. This year I even saw a mother-daughter combination. And when I get tired of my game ... I go for a walk. Past the very glamorous cafe de Paris and down to the harbour. If you want to see mega-yachts, then this is where to go. These are living hotels owned by very rich individuals. Mega impressive is the only word that comes to mind!
> Nice: Nice is the largest city on the Cote d'Azur. Much bigger than Cannes. And just like Nice, the main thing to do here is walk along the Promenade des Anglais, and stop for lunch at one of the many restaurants that are on the beach. Beware that the beach in Nice is full of pebbles and not sandy.
> Mougins - Vieux Village: when we come to the French Riviera we always stay in our friends' villa in Mougins ... in a beautiful gated community. Although Mougins, located above Cannes, is quite spread out, the old village (vieux village) is a beautiful Mediterranean town. Very walkable, wonderful little galleries and restaurants. This is also the town where Picasso died in 1973.
> Valbonne: this is another town on the Cote d'Azur. What is unique about this little town is that the city centre was built on a grid, which is very unusual for France/Europe. The central square is large and full of restaurants. Great for a lunch and a break from the strong summer sun.
> Grasse perfumery: Grasse is the birthplace of the world's perfume industry. I bet you didn't know that! Visit the Grasse Institute of Perfumery to get an idea of how fragrances are made. Even though I don't wear colognes or perfumes ... I was captivated by this ancient technique of extracting fragrances from flowers and other ingredients.