Pembury Partners Travel Diaries: The French Riviera
Mentioning the French Riviera conjures up images of crystal blue water (it’s not known as the Côte d’Azur for nothing), fantastically glamorous beach resorts, grand casinos and the well-heeled at play. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find historic cities, art, museums, wonderful architecture, parks, hills and picturesque villages. It’s obviously a fabulous destination for a holiday (or vacation for our American friends), but it’s a very rewarding place to live and work as well. Here at Pembury Partners we’re currently offering a number of positions in the region, so thought it might be nice to have a closer look at this most desirable area of the south-eastern French coast.
Despite being geographically located in the east of the region, Nice is often considered to be its heart. Historically traceable as far back as ancient Greece, the city has variously belonged to France, Italy and Sardinia, and architecturally these influences can still be found today. It is undoubtedly worthy of exploration in its own right, and many knowledgeable travellers choose to base themselves here as a hub to explore further afield.
Cannes is known worldwide for the film festival which has been a fixture since the 1930s, and it has been firmly on the map as a favourite with movie stars and wider cohorts of the rich and famous ever since. The city has more to offer than this annual celebration of celluloid – notably La Croisette, its beachfront with seafood, cocktails and some of the finest sandy beaches in the region.
However probably the best-known beachgoing destination is St-Tropez. As with Cannes, there’s also a strong association with lavish parties, yachts and nightlife. The beaches and coastline are obviously wonderful, but the old port and 17th-century Citadel act to remind us that St-Tropez has a history stretching back much further than its hotels and nightclubs.
One can’t discuss the Rivera without mentioning Monte Carlo, the iconic port city of the Principality of Monaco. Perhaps the global city most synonymous with wealth and luxury, it’s a must-visit for yacht owners, James Bond fans and those attracted to its legendary nightlife.
Less well known, and entirely different to Monte Carlo, is Porquerolles Island, just 10 minutes on a boat from the coastal town of Hyères. It’s an oasis of calm with pristine beaches, hiking trails and over 300 days of sun every year. It’s been designated as a national park to preserve its uniquely diverse flora and fauna.
Somewhat off the beaten track, Hotel Epi 1959 in St Tropez opened, as you might reasonably expect, in the late 1950s and still has the feel about it of that golden era of the Côte d’Azur. It’s not outdated in terms of the amenities on offer however, featuring a full spa, fitness centre, tennis courts and sublime dining (the hotel takes its name, Epi, from the French word épicerie, meaning grocery).
128 Route de l’Épi, 83350 Ramatuelle, France https://epi1959.com
Another peaceful gem is The Maybourne Riviera, in the village of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. With wonderful panoramic views of the coastline and headland of Cap Martin, there’s an inviting terrace restaurant, a holistic spa, a botanical garden and an outdoor swimming pool built into the rock face.
1551 Rte de la Turbie, 06190 Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France https://maybourneriviera.com
Chateau De Valmer is set in 5 hectares of land, reached via an avenue of palm trees through an organic vineyard. Owned by the same family since the 1940s, it is a pantheon of seclusion and relaxation, despite being only approx. 10 miles from the bright lights of St-Tropez. Particularly desirable are the fully-equipped treehouses, and there are indoor and outdoor pools, a luxury spa and restaurants. It’s a short walk to white sandy beaches, reputedly quiet even in high season.
81 Bd de Gigaro, 83420 La Croix-Valmer, France https://chateauvalmer.com
Mirazur is a three-Michelin-starred restaurant situated in Menton, very near the Italian border. There’s a tight focus on seasonal produce harvested from its own kitchen gardens. Mirazur was titled the world’s best restaurant in 2019.
30 Av. Aristide Briand, 06500 Menton, France https://mirazur.fr
La Palme d’Or is located on the boardwalk of La Croisette (see above) in Cannes, and you’re correct in thinking it’s named after the highest accolade available at the eponymous film festival. Holding two Michelin stars, there’s a delicious artistry to the menus, known as movements.
Located in Hôtel Martinez, 73 Bd de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes, France https://lapalmedor-restaurant.fr
La Ponche is a much more traditional restaurant with a notably relaxed atmosphere, popular with locals and travellers alike. Classic Provencal dishes, truly excellent non-discriminatory vegetarian and vegan fare, and exceptionally fresh seafood are on offer, perfectly complementing the harbour views of the old fisherman’s district location in St-Tropez.
5 Rue des Remparts, 83990 Saint-Tropez, France https://laponche.com