There's nowhere quite like the Cote d'Azur to see and be seen.
Wednesday 08 May 1996
Monaco's international glitterati are to be found here in force, whiling away those untaxing summer afternoons. Unless your personal fortune is over pounds 10m, however, you may feel something of a poor relation.
The younger generation, who are generally out dancing until 4am at Parady'z or Jimmy'z nearby, saunter in during the late afternoon for a couple of hours of bronzing in preparation for the night ahead. Beforehand, you'll mainly see women - lunching with their friends at the club's three restaurants. Afterwards they sunbathe by the pool, still resplendent in all their jewellery.
The Beach Club revolves around a large saltwater pool. Beyond it rows of green-and-white striped tents are ranged down to the sea. If you feel too luxuriously lazy to make it to the club's restaurants, there's a beachside service that will deliver to your tent. The view here is spectacular - particularly if you swim out to sea to the raft moored offshore. The Monte Carlo skyline is overshadowed by the stark cliffs of La Turbie, and high up to your right is one of the most fantastic palaces of the Cote d'Azur. This elegant cream mansion is owned by Prince Ranier who has let it to Carl Lagerfeld in return for its upkeep. Even Monaco's most obscenely rich are green with envy.
Monte Carlo Beach Hotel, Avenue Princesse Grace, 06190 Roquebrune Cap- Martin (00 33 93 28 66 66). Season membership Fr4,600; premiere tent (for the season) Fr64,000; day entrance Fr150.
Moorea Beach, Juan Les Pins
Just beyond the chic town of Juan Les Pins, there is a long stretch of sand, much of it owned privately. Moorea Beach is the trendiest spot here. For the most part, the beach bums and beauties are young and very scantily clad, joining in the party atmosphere as a live band plays Jamaican, Cuban or salsa music. Occasionally, Bono and Michael Hutchene have swelled the bronzing numbers.
The restaurant here is furnished in tropical style, with a bamboo roof and a profusion of palms and plants. Hammocks sway in shady spots and the beach has straw parasols and a bamboo hut that stands on stilts in the shallow water (the purpose of which is unclear other than to look good). From time to time the beach becomes a catwalk for fashion shows and on some occasions "Tahitian" weddings take place, with the bride and groom solemnising their vows in bikini and Bermuda shorts.
Mattress hire Fr60.
Eden Roc, Cap d'Antibes
The Hotel du Cap, to which the Eden Roc belongs, is one of the most exclusive places on the Cote d'Azur - it attracts so many famous personalities that it has even gone to the trouble of printing up a list of them. Charlie Chaplin and Fred Astaire once trod these paths. Last year, the likes of Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro and Rebecca De Mornay could be seen soaking up the sun here.
Set on a small cliff face, there is no beach as such: the hotel has a well-appointed terrace where waiters dressed in white (and sunglasses, of course) attend to every whim. Here the swimming pool looks as if it is spilling over the edge of the cliff. It provides a glamorous playground of high diving boards and swings jutting out over the astonishingly blue sea.
Hotel du Cap, Eden Roc, Boulevard J F Kennedy, 06602 Antibes (00 33 93 61 39 01). Entrance Fr170; mattress hire Fr110.
Le Trayas, near Theoule
When you've had enough of people watching, make for this area between Cannes and St Raphael. On the Basse Corniche (coastal road) there is a spectacular strip of coast from which the red rocks of the Esterel massif rise up, and when the sun is shining strongly the contrast of the red with the bright blue of the sea and sky is stunning. Unfortunately, though, you really need a car to see this since Le Trayas is not near any towns and bus/railway stations.
If you drive about half an hour west of Cannes past Theoule, there is a small car-park on the side of the mountainous road. It is not well signposted, but you can tell you are in the right area because the cliffs are red. There are steps leading down to a small pebble beach, but just opposite the car-park are some rough tracks that take you down to rocky outcrops either side. There it is relatively uncrowded - for the Cote d'Azur - and you should be able to find a flat area to lay a towel on. The water is clear and deep, so you can jump from the rocks and swim out to admire the breathtaking view from the sea.
L'Ile de Porquerolles
This is one of several small islands off Toulon where you'll find some relative peace and quiet. The photogenic Ile de Porquerolles has several long beaches, mainly on the north side facing the mainland. There's a very healthy atmosphere here since much of the island is a no-smoking zone because of its large tracts of forest.
Although packed with tourists, Ile de Porquerolles has a calm atmosphere because there are so few cars. Indeed, the main route to the beaches is a wide shady path used by pedestrians and cyclists. And it's a pleasure to walk along it, for the path twists and turns to reveal superb views of the cliffs and sparkling bays.
The Plage de la Courtade is a long stretch of soft sand around a bay with shallow water - ideal for people with small children. The sea is full of activity, from windsurfers and catamarans (available for hire) to the many sailing boats and yachts which pass by. Ferries from Giens leave hourly and the crossing takes about 15 minutes.
Ferries charge Fr75 return.
Expect something of a price war on flights to the south of France this summer. Jersey European (0345 676676) has started services from Stansted to Marseilles this summer while EasyJet (01582 445566) begins Luton-Nice flights in June; the lowest return fare is pounds 106 including tax.
The railway hugs the coast all the way along France's Mediterranean shore from Menton to Narbonne. Services are frequent and fares are low.
The French Government Tourist Office (details below) has lists of hotels in the south of France but the value of the franc means costs are high. Cheap package holidays to the Cote d'Azur are back this summer, courtesy of Thomsons (0161 911 9000). But the best value is likely to be a camping holiday through companies such as Eurocamp (01565 626262) or Canvas Holidays (01992 553535).
The French Government Tourist Office is at 179 Piccadilly, London W1 (0891 244123 - a premium-rated number).
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