19 Apr

Exploring the Cote d’Azur with a Carte Isabelle rail pass

It’s one of the most glamorous and well-known coastlines in the world. Where are we talking about? The French Riviera of course. From Bridget Bardot to Mick Jagger, this geographically-diverse and lavishly affluent coast has been an inspiration to many.

If you are soon to have the privilege of visiting this holiday hotspot and are keen to ‘experience it all’ without re-mortgaging your home, a Carte Isabelle rail pass might be just what you need.

This highly useful one-day pass gives you unlimited travel on the local trains that shoot across the utterly wonderful stretch of Mediterranean coastline. The pass is valid from the historical town of Frejus to the beautiful Italian border  town of Ventimiglia. There is a total of 30 delightful stations to get on and off at along this picturesque route and if you want to see as much as you can of the Cote d’Azur in the spate of the day, it is wise to take advantage and get off at as many of the stops as you can fit in.

These local trains run at 30 minute intervals meaning you never have to wait long for another train to arrive. An early start is the order of the day if you really want to make the most of your Carte Isabelle rail pass. As these quaint local trains start trundling along the tracks as early as 5.30 am, an early exploration is there for the taking. What’s more, as this glamorous holiday spot is a hub for those wanting to party until dawn, these early morning trains can be relatively empty, meaning you can sit back, relax and take in the stunning seascapes on one side and mountain-scapes on the other, without being interrupted by other equally as excited tourists.

So how much does a Carte Isabelle rail pass cost?

In September 2013 a full day’s pass was increased by a mere 3 Euros to 15 Euros per person. When you consider how much of the French Riviera you can actually get to visit and explore with this pass, unlike a lot of things on the Cote d’Azur, you really can’t afford not to get one!


 

05 Apr

La Bastide de Mougins – an excellent family villa on the Cote d’Azur

Cannes might have the glamour and worldwide fame, but nearby Mougins has certainly got the quaintness and character. Mougins is a picturesque and charming village surrounded by forests of pine, cyprus and olive trees.

Throughout the 20th century the village itself has been both lived in and visited by artists and famous names. Pablo Picasso lived and died here from 1961 until 1973. Catherine Deneuve, Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel and our very own Winston Churchill, amongst others, have all been associated with Mougins at one time or another. Just a 6km drive inland from the razzmatazz of Cannes and the other chic coastal Cote d’Azur towns, Mougins is a beautiful inland retreat to escape to.

La Bastide de Mougins is a classy family villa on the Cote d’Azur in a swish residential estate in Mougins. The villa’s enclosed gardens are well-kept with carefully manicured hedges and trees and an abundance of shrubs and plants. The views from the property are beautiful, extremely green, interspersed with colourful villas, which are also surrounded by thickets of plants and trees.

La Bastide de Mougins has four bedrooms and can sleep up to eight guests in comfort. The house is unusually-shaped, which adds to its appeal. The master bedroom for example is a separate annexe which is accessed from the garden. The huge glass front to this wonderful en-suite bedroom bestows a fantastic view of the garden and pool.

The living room and interior dining area are open plan with a tasty mix of old and modern furnishings. Stairs lead to an en-suite double bedroom with a walk in wardrobe. This bedroom is grand and magnificent and jostles for the title of ‘master bedroom’. There are two more double bedrooms on the first floor, one of which has superb country views.  One the same floor, a separate bathroom ensures nobody in a party of eight is kept waiting for their morning shower. Stylish, colourful tiles decorate the bathrooms, as they do in the dining room, kitchen and living room.

La Bastide de Mougins’ kitchen is modern and tasteful with patio doors leading out onto the  second outside dining terrace. You are spoilt for choice when it comes down to eating al fresco at this incredible villa. There are two major dining areas attached to the house, one of which is next to the barbecue. At the bottom of the garden beyond the private pool there is a third dining area in the shape of a pergola, which is another great place to dine as you drink in the tremendousness of the whole of the villa.

For local wining and dining look no further than Mougins, which has a renowned culinary record. Every year the village holds a gastronomic festival in September. There are some great restaurants (some with Michelin stars) and bars in the village. Art lovers are in the right place as Mougins is home to a fantastic art gallery, displaying works of masters both living and deceased. Mougins is a sophisticated village in many ways but it is a village never the less, and a pretty one at that.

For more information, to view photos, and to check out availability and pricing for La Bastide de Mougins, click HERE.


 

02 Mar

Antibes Yacht Show 2014

It’s almost that time of year again, when the world’s most beautiful yachts ascend on the Cote d’Azur for the highly popular Antibes Yacht Show.

From 24 – 27 April, 2014, all eyes in the world of yachting will be cast on Port Vauban in Antibes. Being the first major show of the year, this prestigious event marks the beginning of the sailing season. For some the Antibes Yacht Show also represents the arrival of spring to the French Riviera. Being the first major exhibition of the year, this vibrant show enables professionals to show off their products or services ahead of the forthcoming summer months.

This year will be the eighth Antibes Yacht Show. More than 15,000 visitors attended the 2013 event  with yacht enthusiasts as far away as Chine and America travelling to the delightful town of Antibes to check out some of the most exquisite yachts and sailing products in existence.

This year’s show looks set to be equally, if not more, well-attended. Due to an increased amount of shipyards requesting to take part in the event each year, the show’s organisers have granted them access, meaning this year’s show will present more yachts than ever before.

Being the first meeting point of the season for crew, Antibes attracts crew from around the world, looking to embark on a yacht for the season. Thus making Antibes the yachting centre in Europe.

Port Vauban

There could not be a more apt setting to host this prestigious and important yachting event. Port Vauban is the largest harbour in Europe and is home to more than 100 berths over 23 metres in length. Many of these berths accommodate yachts of more than 165 metres. It is hardly surprising that Port Vauban has gained international recognition as being the place where the super yachts gather. This exquisite and elegant harbour is truly geared up for serious yachting and is surrounded by boating facilities of practically every kind. Next to the ‘Billionaire’s Quay’ there is an on-site heliport.

Asides the yachts, the port is home to a number of quality restaurants, cafés and bars. Even if you’re not a fan of sailing, you are likely to find pleasure sipping a drink overlooking Europe’s most prestigious of harbours, watching the world’s most expensive yachts bob up and down on the azure waters of the Mediterranean.


 

24 Feb

Luxury villa near St Tropez – Villa Rose

Villa Rose, Grimaud – a cheery, characterful villa and poised near the action of the Cote d’Azur.

Vintage Travel is delighted to introduce Villa Rose to our Provence program of villas. The lovely Villa Rose is situated close to the medieval village of Grimaud.

Perched on top of a hill, Grimaud offers superb views of the gulf of St Tropez. The village is dominated by a ruined castle, which in its day was part of an important strategically-positioned line of defence. Grimaud is positioned deep into French wine growing territory and vines reign the landscape that surrounds this pretty old town.

Villa Rose has everything you could ask of a holiday villa. Just a kilometre or so away from Grimaud, the villa boasts sweeping countryside views, which includes a stunning aspect of the old ruined castle.

This elegant villa can sleep up to eight guests. Four light and airy bedrooms are comfortably furnished with cute and cosy furnishings that give a real homely vibe. The villa’s three bathrooms are equally as characterful with  volcanic stone wash bowls and tops, radiating style and typical Provencal taste. Chunky terracotta ceramic floor tiles run throughout the house, also putting a stamp of Mediterranean style on the villa’s interior.

For anyone visiting in early or late season when the nights are cooler, there is a splendid open fire in the living room with a super feature hearth. It is easy to imagine a roaring log fire, an exquisite  bottle of local wine on the go and stimulating conversation developing in this characterful living room.

For evenings eating in, Villa Rose’s well-equipped kitchen has everything the cook will require to prepare a meal that’s up to Provence standards!  The kitchen’s volcanic stone worktop is set against a tasteful lemon and blue colour scheme, thoroughly in-keeping with the overall character of this southern France villa.

Prizing yourself from the cheery and characterful ambience of Villa Rose might be difficult but is well worth the effort. Step outside the patio doors and you’re faced with well-kept lawns and a huge  private swimming pool. For when the Cote d’Azur sun gets too hot there is plenty of shade under the garden’s thicket of trees to sprawl out under. For anyone who fancies some relaxing traditional French exercise, there is a boules pitch for guests to enjoy.

Whether you play boules, take a dip in the pool or simply relax under the shade of a tree, lavender and rosemary bushes perfume the air in a garden that’s surrounded by beautiful vistas.

A short drive from Villa Rose will see you in Grimaud with its chic art galleries and bistros. Many a memorable day and night is there for the taking in this picturesque village. Just five kilometres from Villa Rose is the fascinating  Port Grimaud. The construction of Port Grimaud started in the 1960s. Many locals opposed the idea of building a small new town in an old style. Despite opposition Port Grimaud works superbly well as one million visitors per year will testify. Port Grimaud has been likened to a little Venice with  a network of canals and moorings intertwined with houses. Only slightly further afield the ultra-glamorous St Tropez is there to be explored and to really discover the glamour of the Cote d’ Azur, the world-renowned Cannes is 83km from the tranquillity of Villa Rose.

For more information about this pretty French Riviera villa and all its charms, click HERE.


 

15 Jan

Mas-du-Peintre – a beautiful village based villa near Grasse

Auribeau-Sur-Siagne is an 11th century medieval  hilltop village overlooking the River Siagne. This ivy-covered village that perches over the Gorges de la Siagne is situated between the towns of Cannes and Grasse and is charming in every respect.

The house Mas-du-Peintre lies on the edge of the village and echo’s the beauty of Auribeau and indeed of Provence as a whole. This house has the traditional Mediterranean feel to it as one might expect being just 15 minutes from the sandy beaches of the Cote d’Azur with an addition privilege of being owned by an artist.

The owner (who lives next door) is a painter and original paintings hang all over this glorious house. Each room has different floor tiles or even polished wood, a quirky touch that is void from many villas.  Mas-du-Peintre sleeps five people comfortably in three bedrooms.

The single and double upstairs bedrooms both have French doors leading to a shared balcony which boasts sensational views over rolling hills and the  Tannerone Valley. You can imagine the eating and drinking, fun times, great sunsets and superb sunrises this balcony has known. The downstairs’ double bedroom is en-suite and with its imposing paintings, grand bed and delicately pastel tiles, exudes an ambiance of regal Provence, augmented somewhat with French doors  that lead out to a huge covered terrace.

The open plan living room/dining room has a modern feel with artistic tapestries weaved within its make-up. The wonderful country kitchen has all the spices you’ll need to cook up some mouthwatering Provence delight. Mas-du-Peintre is stylish yet rustic, arty yet practical, with the finesse of the French artisan felt in every corner and  nook and cranny of this stunning French house.

Set on a lower terrace below the house amidst shrubs, palm trees and bright Mediterranean flowers is a huge private pool, which invites guests to dive in, cool down and get some serious lengths swam. Life does not come much more idyllic than sunbathing and relaxing by the poolside, followed by wining and dining in the pollution-free Cote d’Azur air on the comprehensive barbecue area.

With its three quality restaurants and being just a short walk from the house, guests at Mas-du-Peintre are likely to spend a fair it of time at Auribeau-Sur-Siagne. If you fancy a trip to the world-renowned Cannes, Nice or St. Tropez, you’ll reach these ultra-glamorous towns and the vast stretches of golden sand that lies between them in no time at all.

For more information, photos, prices and availability of Mas-du-Peintre and all its rustic, stylish and artistic charm, click HERE.


 

07 Oct

St. Tropez’s Pampelonne Beach

“Where beauty conquers all” – It’s no wonder Pampelonne’s fate is hotly contested. When it comes to iconic coastlines, the French Riviera has to be amongst the world leaders. Ever since Bridget Bardot donned her beautiful bikini-clad body on the beach at St. Tropez, this stunning strip of coastline has been renowned for attracting an exclusive crowd and has never seemed to have had any difficulties luring the tourists.

In fact when Joan Collins first visited St. Tropez’s beach in her teens, when feeling the glorious feeling of sand between her toes she thought she had died and gone to heaven.

“It was the most dazzling, beautiful, exciting, glamorous place I’d ever seen,” the style icon and actress wrote in the Daily Mail.

“I have visited many places since that first trip but, to me, the Riviera still has a magical charm that nowhere else can emulate,” Joan Collins continues.

It has to be said that if you have had the privilege of visiting the Cote d’Azur you’ll likely to be in agreement with Ms Collins that this place of “sublime contrasts” always manages to get your heart beating with excitement on arrival, no matter how many times you’ve been there.

With villages that have remained unaltered for decades with some of the world’s most exclusive designer shops, restaurants and casinos woven amongst the ancient architecture, there is certainly something a tad special about a place where “beauty conquers all.”

Despite being one of the best-known and most exclusive European tourism hotspot, commissioners are looking at development plans that aim to increase tourism along St. Tropez’s Pampelonne Beach. The plan proposes to restore a huge sand dune along the beach, which will become publicly owned land. The proposals have been discussed since 2006 but have been delayed due to a failure to reach an agreement between the council and local businesses.

Due to the prestige of the Cote d’Azur that Joan Collins talks about, the beach at St. Tropez occupies a paradoxical legal position. On the one hand it falls under the Costal Law, which declares the beach is a “natural and remarkable” place that must not be tampered with.

On the other hand, Pampelonne Beach also falls under France’s 10th State Plan 1989 – 1992, of being a World Tourism Centre because of the vast number of visitors it attracts each year. Tourism development is therefore essential on this popular coastline yet so is retaining its natural beauty.

As the fate of one of the French Riviera’s most famous and idyllic coastal hotspots remains hotly debated, for now Ms Collin’s description of Pampelonne Beach is still intensely true – “A mecca to people all over the world who love good food, a wonderful ambience and gorgeous weather.”


 

23 Sep

The casinos in the South of France and the recently renovated ‘La Siesta’ in Antibes

When we think about ultra-glam, oozing with wealth and exquisiteness casino hotspots, Las Vegas immediately springs to mind, followed quickly by the French Riviera.

From Bay Casino in Monaco, which features 139 new-generation slot machines without tokens, to Casino Barriere Les Princes in Cannes, for decades, the likes of Monte Carlo, Cannes, Nice and St. Tropez have been the home of stylish, contemporary casinos.

These casinos in the South of France are renowned throughout the world for being a magnet for the world’s elite. In recent years several of the French Riviera casinos have been renovated by the French casino operator, JOA Group. JOA owns 20 casinos throughout France and is recognised for weaving modernity, friendliness and transparency into casinos to provide a more comfortable customer experience.

The latest casino to be transformed by the company is La Siesta on the beach at Antibes. Located not far from the stunning Marina Baie, La Siesta has always been a favourite haunt of the French Riviera set, with the rich and famous from around the globe flocking to this ultra-glam venue.

Although it has to be said that with a five million Euro renovation under its belt, La Siesta’s exquisiteness has moved up a gear. Making the most of its Mediterranean-facing position, the casino has been decked out with new slot machines and card tables on a terrace, so clients can play whilst watching the waves lap against sandy shores at Antibes. The new dynamic club includes a modern brasserie restaurant.

What is particularly refreshing about the newly renovated La Siesta is that despite its endless list of iconic clientele that includes the likes of the Beatles, Lino Ventura and David Guetta, its prices are relatively reasonable. For example, some of the dishes on the brasserie’s menu cost as little as 12 Euros meaning that visiting and dining in the exclusive spot with the Med all but lapping at your feet can be accomplished by more than just the richest members of society.

A renovated reception area welcomes events tailor made to a client’s requirements, such as fashion shows, weddings and product launches.

So it you are looking for a prestigious venue to hold an event, want to spend an evening testing your luck at Poker while looking out to the Med, or simply want to wine and dine in style, Antibes recently renovated La Siesta could be just the ticket.


 

13 Sep

Wine and dine like a celebrity in Cap Ferrat in one of the Cote d’Azur’s most exclusive restaurants – Paloma

When it comes to exclusive European wining and dining, the French Riviera has to be in pole position. With so many lavish haunts with Michelin chefs and their assistants ferrying away behind the scenes in the kitchen, it’s no wonder the world’s elitist members can’t seem to resist flocking to the Cote d’Azur for their epicurean dining delight.

Paloma, located on the rocky peninsula or Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, could be described as epitomising the justifiably deserved reputation of wining and dining on the French Riviera. What has been expressed as being not just a beach restaurant but an institution, Paloma was opened in 1948 and immediately became popular with the south of France holidaying aristocracy.

Retaining its privileged clientele, the proceeding decades have seen the biggest and most glamorous names in entertainment, politics and art take a seat in one of the Cote d’Azur’s most exclusive restaurants. If we are going to start name-dropping, Winston Churchill, Jean Cocteau, Mick Jagger, Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Jack Nicholson make up just a snippet of Paloma’s impressive portfolio of star clients.

So what’s the star attraction of this French Riviera beach restaurant?

Asides the breath-taking views this sheltered north-east facing bay endows, it legendary cuisine comprising of only the freshest ingredients prepared by world-class chefs, Saint Jean Cap Ferrat is home to some of the world’s priciest real estate. The allurement of the densely forested peninsula between the ultra-glamorous towns of Monaco and Nice have enticed many an aristocracy and millionaires from around the world to buy a holiday home in Cap Ferrat.

As far back as the beginning of the twentieth century, this exclusive yet refreshingly raw spot has beckoned a regal crowd of property investors. During this time King Leopold II of Belgium built several houses and an artificial lake on Cap Ferrat.

The Telegraph once commended Cap Ferrat for, unlike the Waggish elements of the likes of St. Tropez, managing to remain delectably unspoilt. With its time-honoured appeal and meticulously-prepared cuisine and views looking out towards Eze and Moyenne Corniche, the Paloma restaurant compliments the ageless and stylish desirability of Cap Ferrat impeccably – No wonder the stars of young and old can’t resist this exquisite Cote d’Azur beach restaurant.


 

18 Aug

Five best beaches on the Cote d’Azur

With beaches carpeted with beautiful bodies surrounded by an equally as stunning landscape, exclusivity, glamour and cosmopolitanism is certainly at the heart of the Cote d’Azur. If you have had the privilege of visiting this stretch of ultra-glam coastline, then you’ll appreciate why the Absolutely Fabulous film was set in the region in 2011.

If you’ve not had the privilege of ticking the French Riviera off your ‘been there done it’ list, then you can only take our – and the BBC’s – word for it when we say that the Cote d’Azur is absolutely fabulous.

Check out five best beaches on the Cote d’Azur.

Plage de Notre-Dame, Ile de Porquerolles

The beach on the north-east coast of Ile de Porquerolles, an island on the Cote d’Azur, has been described as looking like it’s straight out of a Bounty advert. The scent of pine trees and eucalyptus blows over the island while painted fishing ships bob up and down in the translucent waters of this crescent shaped bay. Most of the island is a nature reserve where bikes riding down the myriad of sandy paths provide a much cleaner mode of transport. Yes it’s safe to say that the Plage de Notre-Dame is one of the region’s most magnetic beaches.

Calanque Creek

When asked what town is synonymous with the luxury and opulence of the Cote d’Azur, St. Tropez immediately springs to mind. Golden sand beaches provide the perfect place for beautiful bodies to soak up the sun, but for those looking for a more tranquil spot to lay down their towel, the rocky outcrop of Calanque Creek will do much more than suffice.

Plage de l’Almanarre, Hyeres

Somewhere between Nice and Marseille, the Plage de l’Almanarre can be found, a stunning beach which runs to the rustic town of Giens. Being windswept and invigorating, this atmospheric beach is a popular spot for kite and windsurfers.

If you are a nature lover or have kids in tow then heading to the marsh area of the beach to check out the area’s famous pink flamencos is well worth the effort.

Boulevard de la Croisette

Of course one simply couldn’t write a Cote d’Azur ‘best of’ without mentioning Cannes and its legendary Boulevard de la Croisette. This world-renowned beach is naturally a hot spot for the French Riviera elite or anyone wanted spend an afternoon celeb watching. If you’re really lucky you may even spot Patsy and Eddie propping up one of the exclusive bars that line the Boulevard de la Croisette.

Pampelonne Beach

Another ultra-exclusive beach on the Cote d’Azur is Pampelonne Beach in St. Tropez. This famous seaside resort attracts a hive of glamorous beach goers all summer long. This excellently facilitated beach boasts some of the most exclusive clubs and bars in the region and instead of water melon and beach balls being sold you can expect to be pestered to have your foot massaged or buy a glass of champagne or two!

 


 

22 May

Why you should head to Paloma Plage on The Cote d’Azur

“The land is owned by no man and its fruits are for all” – Let’s all head to Paloma Plage. Paloma Plage is situated at the end of a thin peninsula to the east of Nice.

This pebble beach and is extremely beautiful and is kept meticulously clean and it is hardly surprising that the rich and famous are regularly seen here, making Paloma Plage a paparazzo’s dream hangout.

Of course there is no reason on earth why you shouldn’t join the elite. As a French philosopher one wisely said: “The land is owned by no man and its fruits are for all.”

The rocky peninsula at Saint-Jean-Cap –Ferrat is no secret. Just to the East of Nice, the high class villas and hotels have long been the playground of the rich. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were spotted here last year amongst other stars.

These Cote d’Azur loving celebrities often dine at the Paloma beach restaurant, which is renowned for serving some mouth-watering and is refreshing not too expensive.

Despite its reputation as being a top hangout for celebrities on the French Riviera, anybody is allowed to sunbathe on Paloma Beach, as it has to be said, the French are quite a democratic nation.

Stars, glamour and famous French cuisine aside, there is a beautiful coastal walk that is crying out to be discovered at Paloma Plage. Starting at Beaulieu-Sur-Mer follow the shoreline path all the way to Paloma Plage.

Although it has to be said that even when you attempt to concentrate on the stunning natural beauty of this area, your attention is almost inevitably riveted back to some kind of glamorous and celebrity-endorsed reminder, as even the Beaulieu-Sur-Mer to Paloma Plage walk takes you right pass the former home of a certain David Niven.