Pretty in pink: early evening in St. Tropez.

côte d’Azur
When the siren song of the French riviera beckons, anita Carmin answers the call in style.
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Virtuoso insights

The Lure of The

Brigitte Bardot. Hollywood studio moguls. Reclusive billionaires. The French Riviera has lured the likes of them for decades.
So who was I to resist the call of the Côte d’Azur’s warm, sky-blue waters and lavish lifestyle, especially when local experts EuroPanache promised to roll out the red carpet for me? Meeting me in Nice for my weeklong adventure: très charming Jérôme, driver, guide, and dispenser of juicy gossip. My itinerary: sexy St. Tropez, Belle Époque Cannes, and aristocratic Saint-JeanCap-Ferrat — three decadent and decidedly different destinations. P

Virtuoso insights

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from top: On the Viex Port waterfront; hands on at Chez Bruno; and the peaceful Pan Deï Palais.

St. tropez
OnCE A SLEEpy fiSHinG ViLLAGE and a favored destination for French modern artists, St. Tropez became fashionable in the early twentieth century. One of its first notable residents: the author Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, who loved swimming nude in the sea fronting her villa. But it was Brigitte Bardot — arriving in the late ‘50s for her role in And God Created Woman — who really gave St. Tropez its star cachet. Today, this seaside resort is still a magnet for magnates, models, movie stars, and millionaires. Early evening, the best people-watching is along the Vieux Port waterfront. There you’ll find the yachting crowd sipping cocktails on their aft-decks along with a suntanned parade of high-heeled (and well-heeled) holidayers. For local color, head to the lively Place des Lices to watch the old gents playing boules (the French version of lawn bowling), just as they have for centuries. Have a craving for truffles? Do as Tropeziens do and charter a helicopter to Chez Bruno, the acclaimed Michelin-starred restaurant in the Provençal village of Lorgues. (While EuroPanache would have gladly arranged a lofty transfer, I preferred being chauffeured through the picturesque, vineyard-dotted landscape by Jérôme who surprised me with a private winery tour en route.) Presided over by larger-than-life Clément Bruno, Chez Bruno offers extravagant multi-course lunches and dinners, each course featuring the exquisite local truffles.

day tRIps
aix-en-provence, where you can follow in the footsteps of Paul Cézanne les Baux de provence, an impressive perched village with stone fortress

WheRe to stay
Where does one find peace and quiet in the midst of this notorious party town? Behind the enormous carved wooden doors of pan Deï palais. Located near the Place des Lices town square, and just a stone’s throw from the happening port, this serene manor — built in 1835 and renovated in 2006 — was originally the residence of a French general and his Indian princess bride, Bunna Pan Deï. The enclosed tropical garden is a seductive oasis, complete with mosaic-tiled pool, inviting Indonesian daybeds, terrace dining, and intimate bar. With just 12 guestrooms and a solicitous staff at your beck and call, you’ll feel like privileged royalty yourself. Virtuoso guests receive a room upgrade, if available; buffet breakfast daily; and one poolside luncheon for two (excluding beverages) once during stay. From EUR195 (approx. US$270) per room, per night.
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Virtuoso insights

cAnneS
from top: La Croisette’s seaside promenade; life in the shades; and cushy comforts at the InterContinental Carlton Cannes.

i SAy CAnnES. yOu SAy fiLm fESTiVAL. While nearly everyone associates the “City of the Stars” with cinema and the renowned international extravaganza held each May, Cannes is much more than red carpets and evening gowns. Boasting 300 days of sunshine a year, the city invites you to bask, cocktail in hand, on its white-sand beach beneath a colorful umbrella, and stroll palm-lined La Croisette, the most famous seaside promenade in the world. In a city where fashion reigns and shopping is sport, it’s no surprise there’s a Cannes Shopping Festival. The January event treats fashionistas to private sales, fashion shows by both up-and-coming young designers and recognized talents (think Dior and Valentino), and see-and-be-seen soirées. Surprising to me were the Îles de Lérins — two eerily-quiet, nearly uninhabited islands just a short ferry ride from Cannes’ bustling city center. The largest, Îl Sainte-Marguerite, is a sanctuary for seabirds, herons, egrets, and pipers. It’s also home to the seventeenth-century Fort Royal where the enigmatic Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned by Louis XIV in the late seventeenth century. (For a modern take on the “iron mask” mystery, see the 1998 Hollywood film The Man in the Iron Mask starring Gérard Depardieu, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jeremy Irons.) My favorite isle: forested Île Saint-Honorat which, since the fifth century, has housed a small community of Cistercian monks. The monks, when not praying, make their own wine from grapes grown on the island. Time your visit right and you can enjoy a tasting or purchase wine from their small shop.

day tRIps
antibes’ “Billionaires’ Quay” with its cruise-ship-size private yachts saint-paul de Vence and its Maeght Foundation museum of contemporary and modern art

WheRe to stay
A recognizable face on the Boulevard de la Croisette, the interContinental Carlton Cannes played a starring role in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. The cult film inspired the recent redesign of all the hotel’s sea-view rooms and suites. The most glamorous of all: the ten new seventh-floor suites, each named after a famous star. (My favorite: the Grace Kelly Suite with its sweeping view of the Bay of Cannes.) Many movie deals have been sealed on the terrace of the Carlton Restaurant and, during the Film Festival, the hotel’s Bar des Célébrités buzzes with celebs. Hotel guests enjoy all the amenities of the private Carlton Beach and pier located smack-dab in the center of La Croisette. Virtuoso guests receive a room upgrade, if available; Champagne buffet breakfast daily; complimentary access to beach sun-loungers on Carlton Beach; dedicated Guest Relations manager; and more. Contact your Virtuoso travel advisor for up-to-the-minute pricing.
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Doing it
With two full-time staff on the Côte d’Azur, europanache can show you the region from an insider’s perspective, offering the personal insights and exclusive access that add depth to your travels. Working with your Virtuoso travel advisor, EuroPanache will create a customized itinerary that reflects your unique interests — arranging everything from cooking classes, winery visits, and art tours to fashion programs, perfume workshops, and spa getaways. Contact your Virtuoso travel advisor for all the details.

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Virtuoso insights

SAint-JeAn-cAp-FerrAt

WheRe to stay
An EXCLuSiVE (AnD VERy EXpEnSiVE) residential community, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is also a prestigious holiday destination for European aristocrats and international glitterati. Located on Cap Ferrat — aka the “Billionaires’ Peninsula” — it offers a peaceful respite from the non-stop activity of St. Tropez and Cannes, and is the perfect finale to a Côte d’Azur vacation. Among the mustsees: The Ephrussi de Rothschild Villa & Gardens. Built by Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild a century ago to house her impressive private art collection, the Italian-style villa displays a wealth of eighteenth-century furniture, rare porcelain, and Old Master paintings. But it’s the mansion’s nine themed gardens that will take your breath away. When not mansion-ogling, yacht-coveting, and celebrityspotting, take time to stroll the nine-mile coastal footpath circling the cape. You’ll be richly rewarded with stunning views — and, at the tip, the most magnificent of hotels: the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat. Heads of state, royalty, celebrities, and famous artists have made the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-ferrat their mansion away from home since 1908. The white Belle Époque palace reopened in May 2009, following an extensive 14-month facelift by acclaimed interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon. A new wing, the “Residence,” designed by Nicean architect Luc Svetchine, offers 16 striking rooms, eight exclusive suites with private swimming pools, and an 8,000-squarefoot spa. Overlooking 17 manicured acres and the sparkling sea, La Véranda dishes up creative Mediterranean cuisine in an elegant al fresco setting. (For a splurge, order the Poolside at the Aquitaine caviar lasagna as a starter.) Connected Grand-Hôtel du to the hotel by funicular, the Olympic-sized Cap-Ferrat. saltwater pool is the perfect place to perfect your backstroke. Pierre Gruneberg, Europe’s most famous swimming instructor, has taught everyone from Picasso to Paul McCartney during his 50-plus-year career at the Grand-Hôtel. Virtuoso guests receive a room upgrade, if available; continental breakfast daily; entrance for two persons to the Ephrussi de Rothschild museum; early check-in and late checkout, if available; and welcome gift. From EUR320 (approx. US$442) per room, per night.

Work of art: the Ephrussi de Rothschild mansion, home to eighteenthcentury antiques and Old Master paintings.

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nice, the fashionable capital of the Côte d’Azur eze Village, for Michelin-starred cuisine and stunning views of the Med at Château Eza (shown on cover)

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