France: French Riviera: Introduction: Just Back From
One of the reasons that I love the South of France is that it has so many facets, so many faces of France that can be seen in one day. On my most recent trip this summer, I explored the hill towns of Provence on tiny back roads (easier than ever thanks to a good GPS), had lunch and lounged by the pool at the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, shopped with my daughter in Cannes (where people watching was more exciting than the clothes shopping) and dined at my new favorite restaurant under a giant linden tree in St. Paul de Vence—all in the same day. I cannot think of another place where it is so easy and enjoyable to mix full-on glamour and spoiling, untouched natural beauty, spectacular food and major doses of culture in one day.
When friends and members ask my advice for how best to enjoy the region, I always suggest trying to combine an art fix (there are museums devoted to Bonnard, Picasso, Renoir, Matisse and Cocteau as well as the Fondation Maeght and more); with great food (my favorites range from the gourmet temples like Les Bacchanales and Chevre d’Or to simpler but really memorable spots like Le Tilleul in St. Paul de Vence and L’Affable in Cannes) and nature (whether you take a boat along the coast or out to the islands of Porquerolles or just hike along the coastal route in Cap Ferrat or up around the exotic garden in Eze or in the hills around Gourdon). Another tip I recommend is coming up with a local strategy so you group attractions in manageable forays. The traffic in July and August is appalling, which is why this is even more important. (Also why my favorite months are September and June, which are sunny and warm but much less crowded.)
So, for instance, one day when we were staying at the Royal Riviera on Cap Ferrat, I walked over to the Villa Kerylos, the fabulous Greek villa just across the bay. (I had heard for years from friends who are designers that it is an aesthetic treasure, and it lives up to their hype.) Then I followed the coastal walk into Le Saint-Jean for lunch and after some pool time at the hotel, we drove into Nice to the Matisse museum and later up to Eze for dinner. It was a perfect mix of culture, nature and food and I didn’t spend more than an hour in the car the entire day. So in addition to adding some food and fashion discoveries to our report (including a favorite new restaurant), I have also added some suggestions for family days and food and art days.