Oh, lovely Cote d’Azur, how grateful I am to experience you amidst the chaos of 2020! Nothing is more soul soothing to me than waking up to the golden light kissing the coast, endless glasses of champagne at the beach to welcome the day in style, my feet touching the sand during lunch, a cold glass of rosé in one hand while nibbling on some fresh seafood. In today’s Travel Tuesday post, I will give you all the inside deets on how to have a fabulous vacay at the Cote d’Azur.
Since I collected so many hotspots throughout the years, I will split this Travel Diaries post into several parts. Part 1 starts off with where to best stay, dine, and wine.
Yes, life is just a little bit more fabulous at the French Riviera! You know what’s funny, though? Even as the pandemic hit us back in March, I somehow knew that we would be able to go on our annual vacay. It was this inner knowing that also told me Roman was the one when I met him on Halloween back in 2015 (I am a witch after all).
And luckily enough, borders in Europe reopened just in time. You’ve probably already seen a glimpse of all the glitz and glamour that surrounds this place on my Instagram stories. Today, I want to give you the full insight on where to stay, wine, and dine! You may not be able to travel right now. But you know what quantum physics say: you are able to create your reality. And by planning your next itinerary in your head, you already laid the foundation for it!
Discover the fabulous Cote d’Azur
France was never at the top of my travel list. For once, there was the language barrier. I heard from so many people that they had a hard time getting around the country because the French refused to speak another language besides their own. And second, as a European (even though we have so many cultures right at our fingertips) I was mostly drawn to far away places.
But as always God, the Universe, or whatever you want to call it, had a divine plan. Almost 10 years ago, my parents were invited to a birthday celebration of one of my Dad’s Russian business partner/friend to Monaco. This friend had discovered the beauty of the French Riviera years ago and had decided to buy a place there to escape the Russian weather a few times throughout the year.
In Antibes – Juan-les-Pins, a beautiful harbor town located between Nice and Cannes, the appartment was overlooking the sea. My parents immediately fell in love! So much so that they decided to spend their summer vacay there the following year.
You have to know that I always had a thing for luxury side of life. So, this place with all its glamour was right up my ally. The people, the food, the vibe, everything is just a little bit more fabulous at the Cote d’Azur!
Where to stay
The first few years, we stayed in a cozy little hotel called Hôtel Sainte Valérie. But then during one of her research spees through the Internet, my Mom stumbled across a cute rental appartment. It was located at the top of a street with just the most breathtaking view over the ocean and a huge outside terrace. Perfect for enjoying life at the fullest at the Cote d’Azur.
We have been staying there every year ever since and it kind of became our second home away from home (even though it’s not ours…yet :-D). So, if you are not a big fan of hotels, there are many great rental options (for any budget that is) via Airbnb or Riviera Ferien.
If you are more the I-want-to-be-pampered-all-the-way-on-vacay kinda gal, then I recommend these accommodations:
This one is the fanciest and thus the most expensive option at the French Riviera. But if you have the money, it’s well worth the splurge! We have dinner there at least once every year and it’s the highlight of our trip every time! The vibe, the view, the architecture, simply everything about this place screams glamour. You can’t but feel like a real movie star when staying there.
It’s just the cutest little 4-star luxury hotel just mere meters from the beach. The owner, Madame Rigotti, is a fabulous personality herself. Each room is decorated in typical Provencal fashion and overlooking the garden. Cozy, yet chic and glamourous. The garden offers several cute little corners where palm trees spend just the right amount of shade to have breakfast at or to just lounge around, enjoying a glass of rosé. If you want to escape the busyness of the beach, the garden also offers a heated pool and jacuzzi to refresh your sun-kissed skin any time during the day.
This Art Deco-style hotel, once known as the ‘Villa Saint-Louis, is where the French Riviera’s rise to fame began. Namely, F. Scott Fitzgerald is responsible for turning the Cote d’Azur into the hottest hotspot for the then (and now) extravagant jet-setters. The time he spent in the villa as well as all the lavish parties he threw there (unlimited champagne included), ultimately served as the foundation for his famous novel ‘The Great Gatsby’. Talk about a historical place!
The hotel definitely holds up to its glamourous background. The private beach offers you the most exclusivity while the Fitzgerald piano bar invites you to travel back in time to the Roaring Twenties. The Michelin star restaurant ‘La Passagere’ will leave your tastebuds spinning. Make sure to reserve a table on the outside terrace, overlooking the ocean for the utmost fabulous experience (read more on that below).
Where to dine
It’s almost impossible to eat anything less than extraordinary in France. Even the tiniest bistro seems to serve Michelin star-worthy food. However, there are a few exceptionally great places where everything from the food over the ambiance and the service is right.
Always the first and the last place for us to dine. And anytime in between, actually. It’s the best restaurant in town. Serge and Jill are such lovely hosts who go out of their way to make you feel nothing less like king and queen. During the season, you have to reserve a table if you want to snag one of the eligible places outside. Which I totally recommend you do because a) who wants to sit inside on a lovely Summer night and b) from there you have the best spot to people watch.
Start your dinner the most fabulous way possible by ordering a glass of champagne (and a pastis for the men) to prepare your tastebuds for what’s to come. For starter, I recommend the crab tartare or the fried zucchini flowers, a specialty you will find all over the South of France.
All their main courses are crazy delicious but I especially like the sesame-crusted tuna (cooked pink), the salmon filet (I always ask for a side salad instead of the heavy Sauce Bernaise, even though it is a real delight), and the Nage homard et St. Jacques. A heavenly combination of lobster, shrimps, and scallops in a safran cream sauce (my mouth is watering at the mere thought).
But to be honest, I always look forward to dessert the most. And not any but the most delicious one you will ever eat in your entire life: the infamous Gateau au chocolat! Seriously guys, this is (chocolate) heaven on earth in every bite!
DRESSCODE: A little side note on the dresscode because yes, in some (good) restaurants you are required to dress a certain way. It just once again shows how much the French celebrate food. Every little detail counts such as the way you dress. So even though it might be hot, men are required to wear long pants (shorts are reserved for the beach or a stroll around town) and a button-down. Women should dress accordingly, meaning a nice elegant dress, a pant suit or anything that you look nothing less but fabulous in.
Ever dreamed about dining where parties a la ‘The Great Gatsby’ were thrown? Well, you can! The restaurant ‘La Passagere’ belongs to the Hôtel Belles Rives I mentioned above. We celebrated Roman’s birthday there twice and it was nothing short of glamourous. The first time, I asked them to bake a chocolate cake and OMG it was the most delicious cake we’ve ever had! They really do know their craft.
Make sure to reserve a table in the first row on the outside terrace where you have a breathtaking view over the ocean and get a glimpse of the gorgeous sunset (great for those Insta pics). It’s a Michelin star restaurant so their portions are generally on the smaller side. But even if you don’t order a starter, you won’t leave hungry. In these kind of restaurants it’s normal to have an amuse-bouche (a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre) as well as several in-between-courses before you even get your actual starter (something we still love to joke about). So make sure to bring some appetite!
This is probably the most expensive but also the most delicious restaurant I’ve ever dined at (and I dined at many). Here, you just feel the glitz and glamour that have inhabited this place over the years. From the moment you enter the salon where a piano player gently welcomes you to the evening, you are catapulted to a different time. When you then set foot on the outside terrace overlooking the Mediterrenean Sea, you have entirely emerged into the world of the rich and famous.
And don’t get me started on the menu. The first thing you realize as a woman is that yours doesn’t show any prices. Probably a relict of earlier times where the gentlemen were required to worry about the money whereas you are just here to have the most fabulous time. Something I’m totally fine with! Just like at ‘La Passagere’ you receive several in-between-courses and even though the portions are rather small, I always leave this placed stuffed. Probably also because of their very delicious bread. Each flavour more delicious than the next that you just have to try them all!
BONUS TIP: Arrive an hour prior your reservation to have a glass of champagne on their sunset deck. The bar opens at 7 pm, just in time to watch the sunset in style!
With all the crazy fancy restaurants, I also had to throw a more moderate option into the mix. Maybe hard to believe but it doesn’t have to be champagne and caviar all the time for me. Sometimes all a girl needs is good food in a cozy atmosphere with great company. Welcome to Lou Ciapacan right in the heart of Juan-les-Pins, a down-to-earth and moderately priced restaurant that nevertheless offers very delicious food. I first fell in love with this place because of their yummy goat cheese pasta (something my sensitive gut forced me to give up now). But actually everything on their menu is worth a try.
The owner is very cordial and we know him for many years now. But the special treat is one of his waiters Ben, also known as Prince Charming of Juan-les-Pins. No, what am I saying?! The entire French Riviera! No woman is safe from him. But where others fail or come across as greasy, he wins due to his sense of humor (he is married and has a kid btw). With him you just know to not take anything too seriously. Thus, we have become great friends over the years and it’s always a feast with lots of comical episodes when we go there (I don’t know how much Roman agrees :-D).
I’d choose the French over the Italian cuisine any time but I would make an exception for the famous lobster pasta at Sapori d’Italia. Besides that, the restaurant serves as a great stop if you feel like exploring or taking an evening stroll to the Old Town of Antibes. This year, the pasta unfortunately did not raise up to its usual standard. But I just hold Corona responsible for that. Additionally, I can recommend their Melanzane alla Parmigina (oven-baked eggplant with parmesan) and sesame-crusted tuna on grilled Mediterrenean veggies.
This little bistro is a hot new discovery we just made this year. On our way back from Nice, my parents were in the mood for truffle risotto. They serve the best one at a restaurant right around Antibes’ harbor called L’Annex. But due to Corona and lesser guests than usual, they changed their opening hours and were closed when we arrived.
Being overly hungry after running around Nice the entire day, we were all a little bit on the moodier side. That’s when I spotted a cute little restaurant with an outside patio overlooking the Marche Provencal (the main farmers market in Antibes).
Lucky for us because this place turned out to serve the best galettes in town. Galette is a pancake-like dish filled with different savory toppings such as ham or cheese. I think it’s the French answer to Pizza. They also used buckwheat flour (the Breton variety as I learned) instead of regular flour, which you surprisingly didn’t taste at all. I (the health buff I am) actually preferred their goat cheese salad, though.
This restaurant is definitely a great option if you just want to hop in quickly somewhere to get a bite to eat.
Plage de la Jetée
This is our beach of choice after the beach where we originally sunbathed at was sold to another owner and then unfortunately lost its exquisite appeal. In hindsight, lucky for us because Plage de la Jetée has become our second (beach) home. The supervisor, Pierre, is Italian but has lived in Bavaria for many years so he speaks German perfectly as well as of course Italian, French, and English.
You immediately feel the family-like atmosphere here. In the morning, before the craze of the day starts, the entire staff sits together and has breakfast, all still in their off-duty attire. For your understanding, this means 9 to 9.30 am. The French never go to the beach before 11.00/11.30 am. It’s a very peaceful environment. As a regular (such as us) you are being greeted so cordially and like you belong to the fam.
The beach section is not too big but also not too small and therefore has just the right amount of intimacy. Many people decide to book a sunbed on the pier but we love to lay on the beach. Thick and cushy mattresses invite you to fabulously lounge around while the sun is kissing your skin. Feeling like a cold glass of champagne or a fancy detox juice? One of their friendly stuff members will be right there to serve you.
Lunch with your feet in the sand
For lunch, you just throw over a glamorous cover-up (eating in your bikini is a big no no and something you should never do in France) and sit down at the restaurant section of the beach (reserving a table is advised if you want to sit front row with a nice view over the ocean). The moment my feet touch the sand and I hold a cold glass of rosé in my hand is when vacay in the South of France has officially began!
Their entire menu is worth trying but I usually opt for a plate of Sashimi, the Detox Salad (a lovely combination of spinach, quinoa, and avocado with honey dressing), or something equally light off their daily suggestions. Having a light yet nutritious lunch with lots of veggies and fruits or lean protein will keep your skin glowing from the inside out so that you feel your most fabulous at the beach. Besides that, it’s usually way too hot around noon to be hungry for more. Make sure you also try their Cocktail du jour (cocktail of the day)! It’s usually something very fancy, very out of the ordinary but still incredibly delicious!
When you go there for dinner, you definitely have to try their pan-seared tuna with red pepper, the shrimps on a salad bouquet or a sushi platter. They have the best sushi chef in town! Their chillout area invites you any time throughout the day to lounge, work or have a sunset cocktail in. It’s just the perfect little oasis you can spend your entire day at.
Another beach restaurant that has just the perfect enchanting atmosphere at night. We celebrated Romans’ birthday here this year and besides the service not holding up to the standard we’re used to in the South of France, the food is definitely very good. Make sure to reserve a table in the front row from where you can experience the incredible lighting that occurs when the sun says good night to the beautiful French Riviera (my favorite for photos). I can definitely recommend any of their seafood dishes as well their burrata with tomatoes.
La Plage du Festival Cannes
We lunched here on our day-trip to Cannes (I will do an entire blog post about that soon) and it was hard not to feel like a movie star right away! That’s what I imagine it must feel like residing in Cannes during the film festival in Spring. Beautifully in white tableclothes covered tables are lined in front of a beachy yet elegant bar. Refreshing mist being sprayed everywhere to ensure guests are well-temperatured at all times while soothing lounge music is playing in the back.
An old lady goes from table to table and offers complimentory fans to fancy dressed women wearing gold jewellery and expensive watches on their wrists. Their menu offering is just as exquisite and tasty as their interior (or rather exterior) design. I had a Buddha Bowl with salmon in Sashimi quality but seriously I could have ordered everything off their menu.
Yes, if you want to have a whiff of Old Hollywood glam than definitely check out this beach restaurant.
We always visit St. Tropez when in the South of France. It has became a vacay staple over the years. And even though the town is rather small and we have seen everything by now, its unique charme never seizes to intrigue us. During our multiple trips over there, we have tried several restaurants but none has met our high standard on every level quite like ‘Le Quai’.
For one, there is the very fancy interior design. Everything is kept in white with the occasional silver detail. The front part of the restaurant is just the perfect combination of outdoor and indoor dining with the best view out on the harbor. If you are lucky, you can watch the rich and famous having a fabulous lunch themselves on the back of one of the glamorous yachts.
The food is as delicious as you would expect it from a restaurant in St. Tropez (but which is unfortunately not always the case). I can totally recommend all their truffle dishes from burrata to risotto and even french fries (a dream!). But they also offer a very fresh selection of seafood such as lobster and sushi.
Where to wine (or have a great cocktail)
You just got to love the French lifestyle. No one ever goes to dinner before 8 or 9 pm, sometimes even later. But that doesn’t mean that they are hanging around the house waiting for the sun to set so that it’s cold enough to have a bite. No! You will find them enjoying the evening having an aperitif (or two, or three) at the beach, at this stylish little bar around the corner or at the most famous cocktail bar in Juan-les-Pins!
Bringing the Brazilian vibes to the French Riviera! I love to have a cocktail here and the branding is just on point. Most of their cocktails are on a rum base and you can even do a rum tasting. But that’s actually not what makes this place so special.
When ordering a cocktail there you don’t get just that, you get an entire cocktail experience! How the cocktails are served is a spectacle on its own. From fancy wooden monkeys with a straw coming out of their head to pineapples, every cocktail is styled differently. Making not only the taste of the cocktail a surprise but also its appearance.
In the afternoon, they also serve you unlimited little snacks like salty popcorn, nuts, and special fried treats (they are always changing and I never really know what I’m eating but I know it’s tasty). Sometimes you are so full from them that you don’t even need dinner afterwards.
But the real entertainment happens at night when the dancers come out to spice up your experience with their luxurious bodies and persuavive hip moves. That’s what I imagine life at the Copacabana to be like (pre-corona of course). This cocktail bar is definitely worth a visit and will you have coming back for more!
This one is a real secret tip! When we discovered Fred 6 or 7 years ago, he was still called Vins des Stars (a franchise as I learned this year). He has now turned his back on the Stars (already being a star himself!) and renamed his little wine shop ‘Chez Fred’. And rightfully so!
Because what has made us coming back (and bringing all our friends) all these years are not the fancy wines made by celebs such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt or Gerard Depardieu but the owner himself!
Fred is an unicum. With his grey hair pulled back in a low ponytail, his rockstar bracelets and rings, and the never ending smirk on his face suited only for a man who has seen it all. You just know he has lived a wild life with no regrets. He is also the perfect host: always smiling, always having something cool to say. Yes, having a digestif wine at Fred’s is a must while in the South of France!
The ‘Le 360’ rooftop bar is located atop the Radisson Blu 1835 & Thalasso hotel in Cannes. From there you have the perfect view over the city, the harbor, the Mediterrenean Sea, and the mountains. It’s also one of the best places to experience the breathtaking sunset at the French Riviera.
The Panoramic Lounge Bar (Le 360 is the official name of the restaurant) is equipped with lounge seats and even a small rooftop pool. At night, you can also enjoy a fine selection of sushi alongside your cocktail while watching the sophisticated and cosmopolitan crowd lounging around.
Alright, fab people, that’s it for Part 1 of my Cote d’Azur travel series. Next week I will share all my inside deets on where to shop and what to see!
Happy #TravelTuesday and make sure to follow me over on the ‘gram and on Pinterest @madeleinestanev for more fabulous fashion, fitness, food, and travel inspo!