25th July 2019

Riviera glamour – is it lost?

Cap Ferrat is the most expensive piece of real estate on the entire French Mediterranean coast, but construction hoardings and the occasional crane mask many of the unoccupied villas lining its prime avenues.

The famed Grand Hôtel du Cap Ferrat, the finest hotel on this stretch of the Riviera, is now managed by Four Seasons. It offers an undeniably good product and we are delighted to see the indefatigable octogenarian instructor par-excellence Pierre Gruneberg presiding over the Club Dauphin pool.

Sadly, our once-favourite boutique, Hôtel de la Voile d’Or, perfectly positioned above the picture-postcard harbour of Saint-Jean, is now closed.

Monte Carlo no longer has quite the cachet it once had. Its soigné and dressy clientele of yesteryear, who once gathered nightly on the terrace of Hôtel de Paris, are long gone. However, the harbour is still lined with glamorous yachts, the Grand Prix is a major annual fixture and the boutiques remain filled with beautiful designer-label merchandise.

Beaulieu-sur-Mer retains some of that old-world charm but it is not what it was when the good and the great gathered at the African Queen restaurant, some staying at the little pink palace hotel that is La Réserve, others at what was Le Metropole but is now long closed, a distant memory of Beaulieu as it was in its heyday.

On the other side of Nice, Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc sits proudly and majestically in its gorgeous park-like grounds, exuding that confident aura of a grande-dame supremo. As resort hotels go, it is incomparable: there is the perfect, main hotel château; that famous walkway down to the Eden Roc pavilion; the cabanas scattered on the rocky shoreline; the famous seawater pool; tennis courts; the Grill restaurant and Champagne Terrace. But, aside from the hotel and its great staff there is little in the immediate region that excites us any more. Yes, we like Plage Keller around the peninsula on the ‘lesser’ side of the cap at La Garoupe for a casual beachfront venue. Yes, old Antibes has authenticity and a certain charm. And Nice is a highly interesting and culturally diverse city. But somehow, in our opinion, the Côte d’Azur feels as if it needs to reinvent itself.

Why? For a start, French cooking is either not as good as it once was or, as we travel more our tastes have changed and moved on; this kind of cuisine seems to be stuck in a time warp. Traffic has worsened, too, and taxis are overpriced; Cannes has become a conference and designer-brand shopping town with an average beachfront, lacking its former chic.

The Lérins islands of Sainte-Marguerite and the smaller Saint-Honorat, accessible only by boat, have lost none of their charm and character. On Sainte-Marguerite we are rather fond of lunch at La Guérite, where there is both ambience and a beautiful setting.

In summary, our advice when considering the fabled Côte d’Azur, is to stay in a beautiful suite at a top grande-dame, or better still on a yacht, as this ravishingly beautiful coastline is best when seen from the ocean; and choose what to see and where to dine with caution.

French Riviera glamour is not entirely lost but, with the demise of Cannes, the diminished number of really good restaurants and the renaissance under way in Saint-Tropez, it is clearly concentrated in fewer areas.

The Riviera is easily accessible from the United States and from almost anywhere in Europe. It combines perfectly with Saint-Tropez, the Hyères Islands and rural Provence.

It all comes down to careful planning plus insider knowledge and discernment. Let us plan something unforgettable. Let us plan something unforgettable. Contact Elizabeth Mowbray and find out about becoming a private client.