Posted on 07 April 2015 by Dan Johnson
The Cote d’Azur is famous for its glamour, but is it popular to feel the same star dust when you ditch the extortionate five-star hotel for an affordable holiday village? We asked south of France specialist ANDREW THRELFALL how to have a celebrity break on a budget.
For sheer chutzpah only LAX (Los Angeles) feels anything like Nice airport the first time you walk out of arrivals. You guessed correctly. Endless blue skies and a couple of telephoto lenses are the typical greeting anyone, especially anyone looking remotely famous and carrying a piece of LV luggage worthy of paparazzi attention, receives.
But is it the real thing, this 75 mile stretch of beach road, heading south west from the airport? Well, the Cote d’Azur certainly hosts the highest concentration of, famous, privileged, glamourous people in the world from the month of April until October when those blue skies start to disappear.
The weather of course is crucial to this mini migration, but so too is how close to London, Stockholm, Munich, etc the Riviera is. Even before air travel this place was a favourite for the posh British and their families, not a coincidence then that Nice locals love their Promenade Des Anglais, which was paid for by an English vicar in 1820 around the time the English aritoctats were flocking there.
True glamour arrived when the wealthy and famous Americans, The Hollywood Set, made the Riveira their playground. The Second World War had pushed back the inaugural Cannes Film Festival from it’s original 1939 stating date to 1946 but after Prince Rainier married Princess Grace (Kelly) of Monaco in 1956, Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, and others were greeted by those same blues skies and long lenses, adorning the front pages of the world’s magazines and newspapers as they were lavishly entertained at hotels like Hotel du Cap in Antibes, where, a generation earlier writers like Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald who brought the stunning establishment to life as Hotel des Etrangers in Tender Is The Night had stayed.
Money-saving on France’s south coast
The famous sunsets in Cap du Antibes don’t cost anything. Other than your time, and if you are trying to recreate, on a budget naturally, the mood that inspired these famous guests, find a spot, pull over and watch one of the great light shows on earth. It’s not all about the coast though. Travel inland to the village of Correns and see what the most famous couple on earth fell in love with. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie loved the 1,200 acre 17th Century Chateau Miraval they moved in in 2008 and married there last year.
Affordable dining in a luxury restaurant on the Cote d’Azur sounds like a misnomer. But the Hotel Martinez Terrace in Cannes has long been, if not quite an exception, certainly an exceptional place to not just eat food with two, yes TWO Michelin stars for an average £55 average per head spend, but almost worth the outlay in it’s own right when one considers the view. You are about 60 feet up in the air and able to scan the entire Croisette as well as the yachts out to sea. In that respect this is where you should head to tick off ‘Glamourous place to eat with amazing view’. Following dinner if you are dining in Cannes during the Film Festival, only one place equals it for affordable glamour: The unique and mysterious Belvedere vodka Black Room (Le Chambre Noire) that is erected each year in the JW Marriot Hotel is the place to star gaze. This is where Rita Ora wafted through to play her show in 2014 and Yelena Noah, daughter of former tennis champion Yannick Noah. sets up her affordable jewellry concession. You just have to dig a bit to discover these places.
Films and glamour
Surprises abound on the Cote d’Azur, for example Cannes doesn’t just do glamour and wonderful cuisine for those 12 days of cinematic glory in May (and yes you can still watch a film outdoor for free on huge screens on the public beach). Now it has fashion shows, rivalling Paris for glamorous attendees during the Cannes Shopping Festival every April. This event more than any other kicks off the glamorous season on the coastline as the famous red carpet of the Palais des Festivals is dusted down and plays backdrop to the shows. Ask a Gendarme politely and it’s not difficult to quickly get that all important selfie on the carpet.
If you are really adventurous you could take a short boat trip to The Lérins Islands visiting the fortress on Île Sainte-Marguerite and Île Saint-Honorat, the former where The Man in the Iron Mask – turned into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jeremy Irons – was held.
The Bardot effect
St Tropez is where our day trip ends, though probably you need three or four to do it justice, and actually where it all began for the French. One person, more than any other has come to embody the enduring glamour of the Cote d’Azur.
Born in Paris in 1934, Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot retired from starring in movies in 1973 to live in St Tropez and dedicate her life to caring for animals. Recognised these days for her, let’s say, ‘inner beauty’, it is nevertheless impossible not to come across black and white photographs of Bardot, the most famous French film star of them all, wherever you go in St Tropez. And perhaps this, in essence, is why the Riviera retains it’s glamour. You are never stood far from a historical building; a cinema, a restaurant, a church, a boutique, where the rich, glamourous and, let’s not be too mean, often exceptionally talented have made famous. Maybe last week, maybe last century.
Want to explore further?
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