Côte d'Azur, France

This is where rustic glamour was invented: a balmy playground, equally endowed with show-off glitz and craggy, pine-clad coastline. Beautiful beaches stretch east from Hyères towards the Italian border; the celebrated hot spots – Cannes, Nice and Monte Carlo – are synonymous with unashamed ostentation, and have Italianate architecture and rock-star villas to match. When the boats and Bulgari get too much, you can retreat to the region’s mediaeval villages. Èze, Mougins and Saint-Paul- de-Vence crown the cypress-dotted hills, all quaint cobbled alleys, casual cafés and ruined ramparts. The one thing you can’t escape is the Mediterranean, its blue brilliance a timeless lure, whether you’re Pablo Picasso or Paris Hilton.

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Do Go/Don’t go

To make the most of the coast, go May to September, but check the social calendar to avoid the road-clogging traffic that accompanies events such as the Monaco Grand Prix and Cannes Film Festival.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    British Airways, BMI Baby, EasyJet and Air France cover the regional airports of Nice (in the east) and Marseille (in the west) between them (www.ba.com; www.bmibaby.com; www.easyjet. com; www.airfrance.com). As of Summer 2011, CityJet (www.cityjet.com) will offer flights from London City airport to Toulon.
  • Trains

    From London, take the train via Lille to Marseille; from Paris, board the TGV. The coast-hugging track from Marseille to Menton – stopping at Toulon, Saint-Raphaël, Cannes, Antibes, Nice and Monaco – is spectacular, in some spots putting you closer to the Med than a beachfront sunlounger (www.tgv.com).
  • Automobiles

    Driving to the south coast can be a cross-country epic. Instead, put your car on the train in Paris, courtesy of Autotrain, board a separate passenger train, and take to the road in Avignon, Fréjus or Nice (ring Rail Europe on 0844 848 4050).
  • Taxis

    Towns such as Nice, Cannes and Monte Carlo have taxi ranks, but you’ll have no luck hailing. For middle-of-nowhere fares, ask your hotel to book a cab.