As the saying goes, “Paris is always a good idea,” but when you’ve already been to the City of Lights and you’re longing to explore more of France, where do you go? The answer is clear: The Cote d’ Azure.
When To Go
A trip the French Riviera is best enjoyed when the weather is warm and a suitcase full of sundresses, sandals, and swimsuits is most fitting. One caveat: June through August is high season, so prepare to see a lot of tourists and make sure to book your hotels, flights, and restaurant reservations well in advance.
How to Get There
Fly into Nice and then rent or hire a car to get you from the airport to your final destination. If you plan to take day trips along the Riviera (which I highly recommend doing), you will need access to a car or car service throughout much of your trip.
Where to Stay
Short of spending your week on a yacht (can you imagine?), the iconic Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes is the next best bet if luxe living is what you desire. There was no vacancy at Eden-Roc, so we stayed at the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat instead and could not have loved it more.
For starters, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is quiet, quaint, and just a little out of the way—which is a welcome change of pace from the more popular and predictable tourists spots such a Saint Tropez, Nice, and Cannes.
The hotel itself is charming, elegant, and grand, but it still manages to feel warm and inviting. The grounds are filled with beautifully manicured gardens and the hotel’s large pool is simply gorgeous. If you’re the in mood to take a swim in the ocean, just hop onto the glass funicular and enjoy your ride down the beach. The views are stunning!
I am a sucker for breakfast buffets, and I must say that this buffet was the most delicious and exquisite breakfast experience of my life to date. Each morning, we were treated to just-baked baguettes, buttery croissants, freshly-squeezed juices, finger sandwiches, and an array of organic fruits, soft cheeses, homemade jams and jellies, and so much more. To this day, I still compare every breakfast buffet to the one we experienced at the Grand Hotel and no other hotel has been able to compare.
What to Do
Day Trip to Monte Carlo: We anchored ourselves in Cap Ferrat, but we spent two days on the road en route to different destinations along the Riviera. Our first stop was an afternoon in Monte Carlo, Monaco. I didn’t know much about Monaco other than the fact that it’s a small country, a fancy place to visit, and a popular spot for gambling. We spent our afternoon window shopping and walking around Monte Carlo and had an early dinner at a casual eatery. All in all, we were underwhelmed with Monaco. I have no regrets about visiting Monte Carlo (especially since it was just a 20 minute car ride away from our hotel) but this small country didn’t leave a very big impression on my husband or I.
Day Trip to Saint Tropez: Our second day trip consisted of a very long car ride to Saint Tropez. During high season, the traffic to Saint Tropez is ridiculous, so plan ahead and be prepared to practice patience because there’s only one main road that can get you to one of the dreamiest restaurants I’ve ever been to: The iconic Le Club 55.
We left in the morning in order to arrive in right in time for lunch. Be sure to make a reservation well in advance because the only thing hotter than getting a table here is the people-watching.
Once we settled in, my husband and I ordered a bottle of rose’ and enjoyed a leisurely lunch outdoors amongst a crowd of sexy, well-heeled men and women. Stuffed and perfectly buzzed, we slipped into our swimsuits and spent the afternoon drinking more rose’ while soaking in some sun.
Before we headed back home, we decided to tour Saint Tropez by foot. We encountered a sea of docked boats, gelato stands, and several adorable local shops, including a famous sandal shop called Rondini. If you’ve got the time, make sure to stop in and treat yourself to a pair or two of custom-made sandals.
All in all, I’m really glad we made a pit stop in Saint Tropez, but I’m happy that we didn’t make it a more central part of our trip because it paled in comparison to Saint Jean Cap Ferrat.
An Afternoon in Paloma Beach: During one of our daily walks along the coastline, my husband and I stumbled upon a hidden gem: Paloma Beach. A long flight down hundreds of stairs led us to a gorgeous, calm, sandy beach with clean and crisp blue waters and access to what would become our favorite local restaurant: The Paloma restaurant. We quickly secured two umbrella beach chairs, ordered some rose, and sunbathed until we were ready to cool off in the ocean. When it was time to eat, we snagged at table at the Paloma and ordered some ridiculously fresh and tasty grilled fish. We loved this meal and the ambience so much that we came back a second time the next day. If you’re every in Cap Ferrat you’d be foolish to not spend a day or two at this piece of paradise.
The Cote d’Azure offers French flair, fantastically-delicious food, beautifully blue waters, and a coastline that won’t quit. I can’t wait to go back.