Discover Boutique Hotels in 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.
When to 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.
PlanesBritish 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.
TrainsFrom 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).
AutomobilesDriving 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).
TaxisTowns 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.