We can all take a little joy from the French Riviera.
From the watery azures that inspired Matisse, to the Monaco casinos built for the world's glitterati, you'll find both beauty and excess along this coastline. (Often simultaneously.)
No day is complete without a glass of rosé at a beach club; every night must involve dancing under the stars. (Or at least attempting to, depending on the ingested quantities of the aforementioned rosé.)
Here are five spots that must be part of any itinerary.
Le Plongeoir, Nice
Dining in Nice can be hit and miss, falling for a good-looking alfresco brasserie only to have the food fall short. There are, of course, certain tricks – like skipping salads and choosing fresh fish – but the most foolproof is to rely on the recommendations of the locals.
Enter the show-stopping Le Plongeoir, a stunning restaurant hovering right on the water near the port, loved by residents and visitors alike, and seeped in Riviera history. The look is very Instagram, with part of the restaurant perched on a rock planted in the middle of the waves, and beside the remnants of an iconic white art deco diving board.
Food-wise, you cannot fault it. Specialities are fall-apart-in-the-mouth sea bream or bass, with wine-drenched baby potatoes and a touch of truffle. To start, share platters of tempura, with cocktail aperitifs to toast the sunset. During the summer season it’s dinner reservations only, with bookings at either 7.30pm or 9.30pm. The earlier seating is the better one for making the most of the view. After the meal, head down to the Moët cocktail bar to finish the night among the rocks and crashing waves.
Anjuna Beach, Eze
On a Sunday, this beach restaurant might divide opinion: its infamous daytime parties start at the height of sophistication and end up with sozzled stragglers looking for shoes and Ubers home.
Describing itself as “Probably The Most Expensive Beach Club in the World”, there is a certain knowing humour that comes with their brand of blue tropical luxury. Located on the coast of Eze – a medieval town you should definitely visit for the views – Anjuna Plage is less about beach beds (there are few) and more about long lunches fuelled by cocktails, tagliata steak and rising music volumes, as well as the occasional real life Spider-Man scrambling over to your table to entertain.
It comes highly recommended by St Tropez locals and chic Iranian friends alike, offering more international debauchery than the average Bond film. The venue itself is very good looking, Bali-esque and leafy, with a smattering of dream catchers and surfer boards that, despite the prices, very much want to come across as boho and relaxed. Regardless, a group lunch here soon turns into table-top dance offs and napkin swinging-sessions, fuelled by possibly the best margaritas you’ll find on the Riviera. Then it’s out at 6pm, as quickly as you can.
La Colombe D’Or, Saint-Paul-De-Vence
The story goes that Paul Roux, the owner of the humble Colombe D’Or – a family-run restaurant and simple auberge – received paintings in place of payment for accommodation from some of the most iconic French artists. On the entrance, a sign translates roughly to “Here we lodge those on foot, on horseback or with paintings”. As a result, the walls of this rustic restaurant are adorned with art by Picasso, Chagall, Mastisse and more.
Located in St Paul de Vence, one of the oldest medieval towns in the French Riviera, this makes for an ideal day trip when you need a break from the Riviera beaches, and the temperature is cool enough to do some sightseeing. Head to the town for midday and, if you can secure it, enjoy a long lunch at Colombe D’Or in the walled garden, then explore the eclectic art collection after too much champagne.
The menu is traditional rustic fare, from foie gras to grilled sole and crème caramel. For couples, this is the absolute business if you’re looking for some old-fashioned romance.
La Note Bleue, Monaco
If you’re well rested and thirsting for a full day and night in Monaco, we recommend a long afternoon spent at La Note Bleue beach club, followed by a late dinner at Monte Carlo’s Coya, finishing with a 1am visit to the iconic Jimmy’z nightclub. And if you don’t have all that in you, a beautiful day at La Note Bleue is absolutely good enough.
The best beach lunch in Monaco, it is worth calling ahead to see if one of its exceptional live jazz nights running, especially during July when the festival is on. Reserve a sunbed in the bucolic setting and enjoy a day of cocktails in serenity. The club is known for its love of music, the welcoming staff – a blessing for a beach club – and for being family friendly, with a play area for kids. (But don’t let that put you off.)
The food is Mediterranean but with an Asian influence; just the ticket when looking for a break from heavy meals, with a range of sushi rolls and a lip-smacking Thai prawn salad. Other highlights include The Mist, a clever water misting system to cool you down and get you all nice and dewy as you relax.
Eden Plage Mala, Cap-d'Ail
A rare find, hidden in a calm-watered cove in Cap D’Ail, Eden Plage Mala makes even the finest of St Tropez beach clubs look like tacky #whiteparty throwbacks, with a laid back bohemian design that’s more Mykanos than Ibiza. It’s so secluded, the very mention of its name among locals invited warnings of “Ah, non, you will have to walk a very long time to find it”, as if trying to protect the last truly exclusive beach club left.
The place is both eccentric and luxurious, shunning the standard ‘white beach-club uniform’ for a design scheme of rich red parasols, wooden decking and leafy green foliage. Surrounded by white limestone cliffs, the sea is flat and jellyfish free, and the shore lacks the hard pebbles of Nice beaches.
The food offers a selection of Poke-like bowls, as well as a delicate burrata pizza-bread, just the ticket to line the stomach before a magnum of rosé. There’s also a beautifully stocked boutique for tipsy shopping, as well as a rustic massage hut.
The crowning glory? A floating platform to swim out to and dive off, ad infinitum, until it’s time for more wine.