The most luxurious adventure of a lifetime awaits you at the French Riviera. One of the most stunning superyacht destinations in the world, the South of France is home to exceptionally beautiful landscapes, sparkling clear waters and pristine beaches. Its sweeping coastal towns, charming villages and sophisticated cities have long been on the top of the international jet setters list for a long time. With no better way to explore the South of France than via a charter yacht, here we share our top 3 reasons why you should book a charter yacht to the South of France now.
French cuisine is often listed among the richest, decadent and divine in the world and nowhere in France is this as evident as in the South. Home to some of the finest dining experiences in the world, the South of France is known for its diverse styles of dishes that titillate all the senses. The distinct flavours of the Mediterranean have impacted the various types of cuisine available in the area, making it completely unique, luxurious, and most of all, flavourful. Local produce, such as seafood, meat, vegetables, and grains, are key ingredients in the South and olive oil, butter, and herbs. Baked goods, such as bread and pastries, really shine in the South of France, so do not be afraid to sample plenty during your charter. Offering everything from upscale, fine-dining restaurants to local salon de thé cafes, the food in the South of France will leave you hungry for more.
The South of France is sure to captivate you and your guests with its rich and vast cultural heritage. Evident and full display in its Old Towns, monuments, museums as well as historical sites, the history of France will enthral even the youngest participants. From the beautiful Vieux Nice in Nice to Le Suquet in Cannes, the magnificent architecture and extravagant sites are not to be missed. Be sure to visit the smaller cities of Avignon and Arles. Explore the UNESCO Heritage Site of Palais des Papes in Avignon, a magnificent fortress that dates back to the 14th century and the Musée du Petit Palais, which showcases some of the most exquisite historical art. In Arles, stop by the 21,000-seat Roman Amphitheatre, constructed in the 1st century and see several of the other Roman historical sites in town.
Next to the array of stunning white beaches found along the coastline of the Cote d’Azur, the South of France is known for its busy events calendar. From the European Heritage Days to the Cannes Film Festival and Grand Prix in Monaco, there is a wealth of cultural, historical, sporting and social events occurring throughout the year. If you plan to cruise along the French Riviera in September, be sure to coincide your charter with the Cannes Yachting Festival and the Monaco Yacht Show to see the most spectacular motor yachts, sailboats and superyachts in person. If you are keen to see some of these yachts in action, then be sure to stop by St Tropez towards the end of the month to watch the sailing regatta Le Voiles de Saint-Tropez. With a plethora of events to choose from, it’s never a dull moment along the French Riviera.
The first signs of spring are just around the corner, which means a plethora of world-class events will soon be arriving on the French Riviera. This idyllic area has long been the go-to destination for the world’s wealthiest, luring in the jet-set crowd with its sublime restaurants, high-end boutiques and refined beach clubs. Indeed, this exclusive area is home to the finest luxury villas to rent on the Cote d’Azur. Conveniently located on one of the most desirable coastlines, these luxury villas are perfect for a spring escape.
However, one of the French Riviera’s major draws is its calendar of year-round luxury events. April through to June are the best months to visit the French Riviera as they are the pinnacle of the 2022 spring social calendar. So, if you are planning a get-away to the Cote d’Azur in 2022, read on to discover our definitive guide to the French Riviera’s 2022 events.
The best French Riviera 2022 events
Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix
Arguably the most anticipated Formula 1 event of the year, the legendary Monaco Grand Prix is a must-see French Riviera 2022 event. From May 26 to 29, 2022, the streets of Monaco are transformed into one of the most exciting race tracks globally. The world’s most talented racing drivers make more than 78 laps of the 3.3-kilometre circuit through the hairpin streets of the principality.
This race is a delight for Formula 1 fans and those who wish to immerse themselves in the party atmosphere. Watch the race from one of the luxury yachts moored in Port Hercules or one of the dedicated grandstands for the best views. One of the oldest and most prestigious car races globally, the Monaco Grand Prix is not to be missed.
Cannes Film Festival 2022
The most glamorous French Riviera’s 2022 event will be bringing another cascade of A-listers to the South of France for the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. For 12 days, starting May 17 to 28, 2022, the chic city of Cannes is transformed from a quiet seaside resort into the densest concentration of film industry activity in the world. The best way to embrace the hustle and bustle and see which celebrities you can spot around the town is to head to Cannes’ famed La Croisette.
Alternatively, head to the Palais, home to all the major screenings during the Cannes Film Festival. While the Palais screenings are only accessible to badge holders, it is not unheard of for particularly well-dressed visitors to be given one of these coveted tickets if the spaces have not been filled. So, put on your best gown or tux and get ready to walk the famous red steps.
For prime access to this iconic event, make the most of exclusive Cap Villas accommodation in Villefranche-sur-Mer or Beaulieu-sur-Mer for an idyllic spring retreat.
Longines Global Champions Tour
From May 19 to 21, 2022, the Longines Global Champions Tour will return to the chic French Riviera town of Ramatuelle, Saint-Tropez, for the 8th edition of the Longines Athina Onassis Horse Show. This fantastic three-day show jumping event is set to take place right on the Mediterranean shores of Pampelonne Beach and is expected to draw in hundreds of passionate spectators. With a total of €600,000 in prize money, the French Riviera’s 2022 event is guaranteed to create an electric atmosphere.
Combining old-world glamour with top-level sport, the events world-class facilities are fit for the occasion, including the main arena for the competitions, a warm-up arena, a village, a VIP area, restaurants, bars, shops, and more. Ticket holders are also treated to front-row seats along with finely crafted Italian dishes, delicious beverage options, and top-quality service at the Global Champions Lounge at the Longines Athina Onassis Horse Show.
To make the most of this glamorous event and the French Riviera’s illustrious charms, rent a luxury villa in Ramatuelle, complete with beautiful interiors and world-class amenities.
Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters
After the missed edition in 2020, the ATP Monte Carlo Rolex Masters will reopen its doors from April 9 to 17, 2022. This superb French Riviera 2022 event is considered one of the oldest and most prestigious tournaments globally, bringing together the top 56 players on clay in a knockout tournament with six rounds.
The Monte-Carlo Country Club is located on the shore of the Mediterranean and features superb panoramic views of the glistening blue sea. Several levels of terraces descend to the intimate Center Court, one of the most beautiful settings in tennis. Visitors can also enjoy the Super Category Courtside seats or upgrade to VIP Loge Box seats with access to VIP hospitality areas and VIP restaurants onsite for an elevated tennis experience.
There’s nothing quite like staying in one of the French Riviera’s luxury villas for a genuinely luxurious Côte d’Azur experience. From here, you will be within easy reach of these exceptional French Riviera 2022 events, as well as a plethora of other world-class offerings.
So, which luxury French Riviera 2022 event are you most excited about experiencing?
Small yet mighty, the stylish principality of Monaco is well-known as the ultimate millionaire’s playground, frequented by the rich and famous. An illustrious place to see and be seen, visiting on a luxury yacht charter provides the perfect opportunity to become immersed in the hedonistic blend of glitz and glamour on offer. Luxury superyacht brokerage Ocean Independence has seen unwavering popularity in this yachting hotspot, driven by a passion for luxury, where rubbing shoulders with A-listers in chic restaurants is commonplace and supercars frequently vie for prime position outside the legendary casino.
Exceptional Monaco measures no more than 0.75 square miles along the Cote d’Azur and can be walked across in less than an hour. An added bonus is the 300 days of sunshine a year and residents who unsurprisingly enjoy the highest life expectancy in the world. Buzzing with a wall-to-wall atmosphere, where spectacular sights and unique character provide a huge draw, a Monaco yacht charter delivers an access-all-areas experience in the heart of the effervescent French Riviera.
Dubbed the home of yachting, Monaco plays host to momentous global events such as the Monaco Tennis Masters, Monaco Grand Prix plus the nearby Cannes Film Festival. For visiting yachts, Port Hercule serves as an incredible hub and plays host to the largest yacht show in the world. This naturally deep marina at the foot of the rock hosts up to 700 of the most sought-after Mediterranean berths and brims with gleaming superyachts adding inimitable embellishment to the lively waterfront.
A Monaco yacht charter offers the perfect jumping-off point to appreciate some well-known enclaves along the Riviera. Drop anchor beneath the towering clifftop at medieval Eze then cruise to picture-perfect Cap Ferrat for magnificent scenery. A hop away along the iconic coastline, discover the dynamic locales of Cannes, Juan-les-Pins and Nice, while enchanting spots such as Portofino can be found to the east over the border in Italy.
Choose from a variety of beaches where sparkling azure waters offer an irresistible setting to launch the yachts’ water toys and while away endless hours with fun activities. Head to private Mala Plage at Cap D’Ail, serving up an impeccable blend of decadence and delicious cuisine on the golden sand, or discover the high-octane vibe at famous Nikki Beach, favoured by celebs.
Alongside the melange of luxury spas and five-star hotels, the charms of the Prince’s Palace are plentiful, with sensational Venetian chandeliers and 16th century frescoes on display. Stop by early to catch the changing of the guard ceremony and watch proud carabinieri in traditional dress follow the 100-year-old ritual to a tee.From the square opposite marvel at the wide-reaching views across the harbour over to the casino’s onion domes on one side and Monaco’s stadium on the other; it will take your breath away. For an experience to capture the essence of a bygone era, wander the character-packed old town streets and follow the pathways through the flagrantly exotic Jardins Saint-Martin to the Oceanographic Museum, packed with a host of enthralling marine treats.
Shopping options are diverse with historic Condamine Market presenting a colourful prospect to buy local fare. Luxury opportunities to satisfy the most elaborate tastes await at the Carré d’Or boutiques, where homage is paid to numerous distinguished brands including Gucci, Valentino, Prada and Christian Dior. Retail therapy builds a healthy appetite, so dinner at the Café de Paris followed by a dice-roll at the prestigious Casino de Monte Carlo are a must when hoppingaboard aMonaco yacht charter. Furthermore, the nightlife here certainly won’t let you down. As dusk falls, beach clubs such as Nikki Beach transition from mellow lounge spots to a vibrant food and music venuewhere you can party untilthe early hours. Oozing glamour at the heart of the elite Monégasque party scene for over 30 years, revelry at Jimmy’z is an exciting indulgence. Alternatively celebrate at Sass Café, a local favourite, located near the Grimaldi Forum, it is the place to go to dance until dawn.
Specialist for Monaco yacht charters, Ocean Independence Senior Charter Manager Rebecca Pattinson comments, “Monaco is, simply put, one of a kind. A luxury yacht charterhere presents a magical blend of pleasure, luxury and indulgence – the sky really is the limit. Chartering a yachtat the Monaco Grand Prix is without a doubt the social occasion of the year and once the cars cross the finish line, the harbour erupts into the biggest party ever! The only way to fully appreciate it is to do it!”.
Yacht charter itineraries that include Monaco offer far more than sand, sea and sunshine. Encompassing all aspects of a grand lifestyle, from dining to yachting, shopping to racing, the ultimate in luxury is visible at every turn. This is the place to admire historical landmarks, stroll through stunning gardens and soak up picturesque seascapes whilst relishing the opulent atmosphere that makes this exclusive principality so very special.
Brunch is a popular pastime in Monaco with both residents and visitors to the principality, offering the best of both breakfast and lunch. Indeed, a leisurely Monaco brunch is the ideal way to punctuate the day and enjoy downtime with friends and family.
While the principality may be one of the smallest countries in the world, it has an incredible selection of world-class restaurants to choose from.
Due to the ongoing Covid pandemic, those enjoying Monaco brunch will need to adhere to the latest guidelines. At the time of publishing, a maximum of 12 people are allowed to dine together and reservations must be made in advance. Monegasques and residents must also present a valid Health Pass to eat inside a restaurant. A Health Pass is not required for dining outside.
Here we highlight some of the best Monaco brunch destinations by the city state’s most elegant districts. Whether you live in Monaco, or are just visiting, the below Monaco brunch spots are guaranteed to become regular dining destinations.
Best brunches in Monaco: Monte Carlo
Hotel Hermitage Monte Carlo
This elegant resort in world-famous Monte Carlo hosts a gourmet Champagne Monaco brunch every Sunday until April 17 2022. The refined affair is held on the hotel’s elegant Eiffel mezzanine and offers a hearty buffet and live cooking stations, all washed down with Champagne. One of the best brunches in Monaco, this dining destination is guaranteed to delight the most discerning gourmands.
Café de Paris
The place to see and be seen! This legendary destination is located in the famed Carré d’Or, home to the most exquisite Monaco luxury real estate. This chic brasserie never fails to disappoint. While it doesn’t offer a set brunch menu, it still makes for one of the best brunch spots in Monaco. Service starts at 8 a.m. with an elegant breakfast menu, which then transforms to a dedicated lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner menu, with last orders at 11:30 p.m. No matter what time you want to enjoy brunch, Cafe de Paris offers an elegant dining experience.
Known for its snackonomy approach to dining, Mada One offers a leisurely breakfast menu that extends into the hours of brunch. Delicious menu options include eggs benedict, freshly baked pastries, smoked salmon toast, and pancakes. Headed up by Michelin-starred chef Marcel Ravin, expect food at its very finest in a relaxed and informal setting that has come to personify Mada One.
Best brunches in Monaco: Larvotto
Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort
Every Sunday, enjoy an elegant Champagne brunch party at this opulent resort until the end of May 2022 in the wonderful district of Larvotto. Created by Blue Bay’s Michelin starred chef Marcel Ravin, this best brunch in Monaco includes a sumptuous buffet full of sweet and savoury surprises served in a lively atmosphere, including a salad bar, an oyster bar, a show cooking station, and a waffle, crêpe and ice cream stand. The perfect Monaco brunch destination to enjoy a relaxing time enjoying good food with friends and family.
Best brunches in Monaco: Monaco-Ville
This iconic Monaco restaurant offers an extensive breakfast menu that easily covers brunch too. Choose from continental, American or a selection of healthy offerings, along with a wide selection of fresh juices and a personalised choice from the cafeteria. Once breakfast ends, it’s straight into the lunch menu, featuring refined Mediterranean-inspired dishes that showcase culinary excellence. The restaurant’s timeless atmosphere is ideal for enjoying a leisurely meal with friends and family, all combined with impeccable service that is a hallmark of this famed eatery.
What other best brunches in Monaco would you add to our guide?
Monaco always celebrates the end of year in glamorous style and this year promises to be no exception. Event organisers are working hard behind the scenes to put on a host of fun-filled, elegant Monaco events, whilst ensuring a safe Covid-secure environment for all. From Monaco’s eagerly anticipated Jazz Festival, to shopping extravaganzas, glamorous fundraisers, and theatre productions, the winter season in Monaco offers something for everyone. If you are looking for things to do in Monaco, then explore our curated selection of some of the best end of year Monaco events that guarantee festive cheer.
End Of Year Monaco Events
Grand Monaco Street Sale – Nov. 6 – 8
This vibrant Monaco event is a wonderful way to stock up on unique gifts for the festive season. Organised by the Union of Traders and Artisans of Monaco, shoppers can enjoy three full days of deep discounts and promotions. This year, the street sale takes place from November 6-8 in Espace Fontvieille.
Speakeasy – Nov. 13
Head to the Grimaldi Forum on November 13 and enjoy a trip back to the 1930s with this gripping theatre production. Speakeasy is the original creation of the Rat Pack company and is set in an American underground bar during the height of prohibition. Elegantly mixing circus art and choreography, this Monaco event offers a fantastic night out at the theatre. Cap the evening off with a delicious meal at one of Monaco’s many award-winning restaurants.
Monte Carlo Jazz Festival – From Nov. 16 – 27
The Monte Carlo Jazz Festival is always an eagerly awaited Monaco event. Now in its 15th year, the Jazz Festival offers a packed programme of concerts by world-renowned musicians at venues across the principality. This year’s line-up includes Kyle Eastwood, Thomas Dutronc, and Hugh Coltman. Running for some ten days from November 16, the Monte Carlo Jazz Festival is a Monaco event not-to-be-missed.
Santa Claus is Missing – Dec. 9
This Monaco event is for little ones and big kids at heart. Held at the Theatre Princesse Grace Monaco, youngsters will delight in watching Mirliton and Sobriquet, two Christmas elves, set off on a treasure hunt in search of Santa Claus who has gone missing. The treasure hunt takes them across the world, from the North Pole to the desert, with lots of twists and turns along the way. This fun-filled Monaco event is followed by a Christmas snack and guaranteed to get the entire family in the festive spirit!
Club Vivanova Charity Gala – Dec. 12
On December 12, the principality will play host to one of the most elegant annual charity fundraisers, Club Vivanova’s 6th annual Luxury Lifestyle Charity Gala Dinner at the Fairmont Monte Carlo. The Monaco event – Turning Luxury into Charity – will raise money for two charities, Chances for Children, and The Animal Fund. Guests at this glittering Monaco event will enjoy a Premier Cru Champagne reception, sumptuous four-course dinner, live musical entertainment by High on Heels, charity auction, and Aston Martin DBX launch. The event will wrap up with the Vodka23 After Party. For those seeking things to do in Monaco that also enable them to do good, Club Vivanova’s Charity Gala is a must.
Of course, one Monaco event that you can enjoy throughout all the year is exploring Monaco luxury real estate. Whether you are seeking to buy an investment property, looking for a larger apartment, penthouse, a luxury villa, or searching for a new Monaco rental, our agents at La Costa Properties Monaco are here to help you, no matter the time of year.
When you’re staying on the French Riviera, you’ll probably want to splurge on one or two excellent restaurants as a treat, but you’ll doubtless want to explore some of the best affordable restaurants on the Cote d’Azur too.
On its five stunning Caps, which are the best affordable restaurants on the Cote d’Azur? Here we’ll discover the hidden gems that serve up delicious food and a fun atmosphere, just with less of the formality and expense.
A look at the best affordable restaurants on the Cote d’Azur
La Joliette: This relaxed beachside club and restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine, with plenty of fresh seafood and vegetarian options too.
Le Cap, Cap d’Antibes Beach Hotel: On this beautiful terrace overlooking the sea, tuck into classics such as Caesar salad or steak tartare, Thai and Asian dishes, pasta, fish and meat. They also have a children’s menu.
Les Amoureux: Just around the Cap in Nice’s old port, this understated restaurant serves up great pizzas, artisan Neapolitan beers and delicious desserts. The staff are friendly and the atmosphere is cosy.
Daki-Daia: While this understated establishment might not shout about itself being the best restaurant in Nice, the Moroccan and Lebanese local offers seasonal mezze dishes and house cocktails, with friendly service in a perfect location overlooking the port.
Jasmine Grill & Lounge, Hotel Royal Riviera:This eaterie is known for its wonderful ambiance and views, welcoming and professional staff and a wide choice of dishes, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.
La Goelette: At a great location overlooking the Port St Jean, this veggie-friendly restaurant also serves up big portions of seafood risotto, paella and pasta with an efficient and friendly service, while its own live DJ entertains.
La Cambuse: Overlooking the port, this unpretentious and dog-friendly restaurant serves fresh seasonal produce, including grilled seafood, fish stews and soups, burgers, charcuterie platters and omelettes.
La Grotte & L’Olivier: Located in a stunning cliffside setting in the old village, this restaurant serves great cocktails, salads, pizzas and fish, as well as vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, all with an excellent service.
To enjoy all that the French Riviera has to offer, why not rent a villa on the Cap de Nice, from where you can try the best restaurant in Nice, as well as some of the best affordable restaurants of the Cote d’Azur?
September is the best month to visit the South of France, and the ideal time to charter a luxury yacht on the stunning French Riviera. Summer has yet to come to an end and Fall has yet to start, which lets you enjoy the warm temperatures, sunshine and scenery with fewer crowds around. The stunning white beaches and turquoise waters that make up the stunning coastline of the Cote d’Azur are easily admired from the comforts of a luxury charter yacht. Evenings are pleasant balmy, offering gorgeous sunsets which can either be enjoyed from the privacy of your deck or a world-class restaurant.
As one of the most popular cruising hotspots in the world, visiting the French Riviera in September means fewer tourists and people, and more time to enjoy the number of festivals, events and parties taking place. Take your time exploring the hidden charms of Cannes, the magical city of Monaco or historical sites in Nice in peace. Be sure to take advantage of the European Heritage Days, which lets you visit unique locations usually closed off to the public. But don’t worry, there will still be plenty of locals around creating a warm, vibrant and welcoming atmosphere wherever you may go – from world-class dining to luxury shopping districts and historical sites.
If you are cruising down the French Riviera in September, then be sure to stop by the Cannes Yachting Festival, taking place from September 8 to 13 at Port Canto. See some of the most amazing motor yachts, sailboats and superyachts up close and in person. If you are looking to see some of these yachts in action, then be sure to stop by St Tropez towards the end of the month to watch the sailing regatta Le Voiles de Saint-Tropez.
Monaco life offers its residents luxury at every turn. Indeed, the French principality is a compact city-state that offers the very best in luxury living and is renowned the world over for the lavish life its residents and visitors enjoy. Whether you are seeking world-class cuisine, ritzy nightlife, world-famous events, or luxurious shopping, check out why living in Monaco offers the very best of the good life.
Here we round up some of the best things to enjoy about Monaco life.
Luxurious Shopping at Every Turn
With one of the highest density of millionaires in the world, there’s no shortage of luxury shopping hot spots when it comes to living in Monaco.
One popular spot is the Metropole Shopping Centre in Monte Carlo, featuring a smorgasbord of some of the world’s most luxurious brands such as Gucci and Versace. Alternatively head to the Carré d’Or district, where exclusive brands jostle for the attention of those with ultra-deep pockets.
Join the High-Rollers
Monte Carlo’s famed casino – or the Casino de Monte-Carlo as it is officially named – is where high-rollers, celebrities, and VIPs go to gamble. Here you’ll find all the traditional gambling games, including English and European roulette and Texas hold-em poker, alongside a dazzling array of slot machines. Remember to dress to impress.
Gourmands will not be disappointed when living in Monaco. Indeed, Monaco life offers a delicious choice of some of the finest restaurants in the world to choose from. Top restaurants include Restaurant Joel Robuchon Monte-Carlo, which boasts an open Teppanyaki-style kitchen, and Le Vistamar, which serves up mouth-watering European cuisine coupled with some of the best views in Monte Carlo.
Party The Night Away
Exclusive parties at some of the world’s best clubs is all part of the fun of Monaco life. Jimmy’z is a local celebrity hot spot and one of the most renowned destinations to party the night away. Dubbed the temple of clubbing, here revellers can enjoy some of the best beats by a roster of celebrity DJs, a stunning terrace coupled with a spectacular sea view, lush gardens, hookah, and some of the world’s best Champagne.
Other notable hot spots include Le Bar Americain, a swanky jazz club renowned for its live music programme, lust worthy cocktails and fabulous sea views.
Living in Monaco includes the opportunity to join in the fun of some of the world’s most exclusive events. The Monaco Yacht Show and the Monaco Grand Prix are two of the most eagerly awaited events on the annual Monaco social calendar and are both an intrinsic part of Monaco life.
The Monaco Yacht show is held annually at the end of September and is the world’s leading superyacht event boasting more than 100 yachts and mega yachts. Some 30,000 visitors join in the revellery of the event, which spans four fabulous days.
Held every May, the Monaco Grand Prix is the slowest and most difficult of all circuits in the Formula 1 World Championship and offers four-days of spectacular racing and wraparound events. Thousands of spectators gather to watch the world’s best racers speed through the streets of Monaco, offering a not-to-miss spectacle.
So, if you’re looking to enjoy a luxurious life, investing in Monte Carlo real estate will enable you to enjoy Monaco life at its very best.
In the heavenly landscapes of the South of France, vineyards abound. The rolling landscapes of Provence are criss-crossed with vines, some of which run right down to the blue-green sea, while other wineries sit back from the coast in gently rolling countryside, or perch high in the steep hills behind Nice.
The South of France has been blessed with the perfect wine-growing jackpot. The region is drenched in sunshine, benefits from an environment largely free of pests, and has excellent soils for vines which vary across the different areas: in the west, soil rich in limestone from an ancient inland sea, while granitic and volcanic soil dominates the east. There are also wild-growing herbs throughout the region, which are said to gently permeate the soil – and ultimately, the flavour of the wine. This variety of soil and landscapes lead to a wide variety of grapes being grown, and while the pale-blush rosés of Provence still dominate the winemaking reputation of the region, there are a growing number of exceptional red, white, and sparkling wines being produced.
Wineries and Yacht Charter : A Match Made in Heaven
From visiting the tiniest local producer to sampling famous vintages that grace Michelin-star menus, a wine journey along the French Riviera and Provencal coastline is an exercise in the good life. A French Riviera yacht charter is the ideal way to experience the spectacular wineries of the South of France, whether you’re dropping anchor off the Cannes Islands or taking a tender to a clifftop winery in Cassis. Floating slowly down the stunning coastline from Monaco to Marseilles against a backdrop of mountains and beaches, you’ll enjoy all the yachting pleasures of life on board, before coming back to land for your next winery experience. A yacht charter effortlessly avoids the hassle of daily transfers to and from your hotel (or moving between hotels as you travel down the coast), making it the ultimate luxury wine tourism experience.
You might even like to plan your South of France yacht charter for the fall, to coincide with grape harvest season and the local wine festivals of October – which is also a great time to take advantage of the reduced charter rates and blissfully quiet anchorages of the shoulder season.
Here are a few of the best vineyards to visit on a South of France wine-themed yacht charter. Our list predominantly features vineyards either on or in close proximity to the coast for effortless access; however, we have included a couple of show-stoppers that are well worth a gorgeous day trip into the Provencal interior.
Get your palates ready!
Chateau de Bellet, Nice
A day up at Chateau de Bellet is tinged with that ‘pinch yourself’ feeling a person gets sometimes on the French Riviera; that you have somehow fallen into a movie set; one where the expectation perfectly merges with the reality. Part of the appeal is the magnificent setting: elevated high above Nice with the vineyard terraces dropping away to distant views of the Mediterranean, Chateau de Bellet offers a glorious tasting room in a deconsecrated chapel, a brand new 8000m2 cellar, and tables on a sunny flagstone terrace overlooking the grand view of Alps and sea.
This centuries-old vineyard produces only organic wines, including the prestigious white wines, Cuvee La Chapelle, and Cuvee Baron G. This is a genuinely lovely place to wander among the vines, and is easily accessible from your yacht in Nice.
Abbaye des Lerins, Ile de Saint Honorat, Cannes Islands
In the pine-scented isles just off Cannes, you’ll find a vineyard out of a dream. Tended by Cistercian monks from the island’s medieval abbey, this tiny vineyard produces award-winning wines and liqueurs that appear on fine restaurant tables across the Riviera and beyond. The 8.5 hectare property grows Clairette, Chardonnay, Viognier, Syrah, Mourvedre and Pinot Noir grapes, as well as making Limoncello and the herby 19th century liqueur, Lérina. The highlight is the Saint Pierre, a Chardonnay-Clairette blend with apple and honey notes and a delicate white fruit perfume.
With no cars on the island and an exquisite sense of peace, St Honorat is a lovely island to explore on foot, taking a walk along the coastal path to visit the 10th century fortified monastery and stroll among the sweet-smelling Aleppo pines and olive groves. You’ll want to stay on the island for lunch at La Tonelle restaurant, enjoying its glorious view back across the water to the neighbouring Ile Saint Marguerite.
The monks of the Abbey take a vow to live out their days on the island and never leave, and by the end of your day on Ile St Honorat, you may just think they’re onto something.
Chateau d’Esclans, Gorge de Pennafort
A bottle of Whispering Angel Rosé, frosted with condensation as it is pulled out of a solid silver ice bucket, is perhaps one of the signature sights of the superyacht world. Vast quantities of this pale pink rosé are quaffed on yachts each summer as guests drift down the French Riviera, partying in Cannes and dropping anchor off a beach club in St Tropez.
25 kilometres inland of Frejus, you can come and taste it for yourself at Chateau d’Esclans, a breathtaking vineyard with a view back across the coast. The first glimpse of the 19th century chateau through the avenue of trees is enough to make you gasp.
With the property once used as a lookout to spot pirates entering the Gulf of Frejus, the winery’s cellar dates from the Dark Ages and is the oldest in the region. The vineyard is renowned for the age of its Grenache vines, some of which are 90 years old, lending a greater concentration of flavour to the wines.
Chateau Saint-Maur, Cogolin
Just outside glamorous St Tropez, this exceptional vineyard was snatched from obscurity in 2011, when celebrated wine maker Roger Zannier saw the potential of the 70-hectare estate. It was a gamble that paid off, with a number of their wines gaining rapid acclaim, including the Cuvee Excellence White and the superb Clos de Capelune Rosé for its white peach flavours, light perfume, and heavy-based signature bottle.
Their high-tech vineyard sits opposite the historic Grimaud Castle, surrounded by cork oak forest and the Maures hills. Chateau Saint-Maur is considered one of the standout wineries of the Provence region, and tours are by appointment only.
Chateau de Berne
An hour’s drive inland of St Tropez lies the spectacular Chateau de Berne. Located near the village of Lorgues, this five-star hotel and winery is ground zero for Provencal wine tourism. This sprawling Provencal chateau houses a Cinq de Mondes spa and a Michelin-starred restaurant, and is set in a hilly landscape of vines and forest. It is a vision.
And in case you’d thought we’d forgotten we were here to talk about wine, Chateau de Berne has plenty to remind us. 200 acres of this 1480-acre estate is dedicated to viniculture, resulting in some of most acclaimed rosés, whites and reds in Provence.
Clos Sainte Magdeleine, Cassis
The final entry on our list has another jaw-dropping location, right on the cliffs of Cassis in the Calanques National Park. The vines grow right to the Mediterranean at Clos Sainte Magdeleine, making this winery extremely accessible from your yacht. Set on a private wooded headland, this limited-production vineyard benefits from limestone and clay soils, creating exquisite rosé and white wines.
Four generations of the family have grown wine at this art deco-style chateau, stretching back to founder Jules Savon, who won the gold medal at the World Fair in 1900. It’s not hard to see why the generations continue to live out their years making wine here; it would be difficult to come up with a reason to leave this heavenly place.
Making the Dream a Reality
This list is a mere fragment of the world-class vineyards you could visit on a week-long wine connoisseur’s yacht charter on the French Riviera. In fact, you may need longer than a week! To book a South of France yacht charter taking in the best wineries of the region, contact the French Riviera Yacht Charter experts at Bespoke Yacht Charter.
The natural location of Monaco provides the perfect setting; a miniature city set into the hillside, overlooking the glistening Mediterranean Sea, where historic buildings sit side by side with modern Monaco real estate and an impressive collection of mega yachts are moored in the bay between Casino Square and the Prince’s Palace of Monaco.
Best known for being a tax haven and playground of the uber rich, Monaco is the smallest country in the world (excluding Vatican City) yet it packs a whole lot into its 2km². Famous landmarks, luxury resorts, exclusive nightlife and a calendar of major events, such as the Rolex Monte Carlo Master’s Tennis tournament, Formula 1® Grand Prix and the Monte-Carlo Sporting Summer Festival draw visitors from all over the world to experience the unique location and its glamourous atmosphere.
Yet Monaco has much more to offer than simply a luxury lifestyle. Step off the beaten track to explore Monaco and you will find a place that the locals love, with plenty of unique sights and experiences to take you from morning until night, without venturing onto the tourist circuit.
Enjoy a gentle stroll through the colourful, pedestrian streets of Monaco-Ville, Monaco’s old town located high on a headland and home to the Prince’s Palace. Pause for coffee in one of the many welcoming cafes, or take in the impressive and beautifully preserved architecture in Le Rocher, where on Rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette the homes date back to the 16th Century.
In La Condamine, the daily market is open from 6am until 2pm and offers a range of stalls selling regional produce, while at the indoor food court it is possible to sample the renowned barbajuan, a kind of giant ravioli stuffed with Swiss chard, cheese and meat, most often served as an appetizer. You will also find truffle pasta and socca, a traditional flatbread made with chickpea flour, originating from the neighbouring city of Nice.
Terrace with a View
If you’re keen to hang out with the locals, head for Club Bouliste du Rocher, situated above the port at the Fort Antoine gardens. There you can experience a game of pétanque and a cold beer on the terrace at the small restaurant which offers a panoramic view of the city. Looking back across the port, the vista features part of the Grand Prix circuit, from the tunnel under the Fairmont Monte-Carlo and the Nouvelle Chicane towards the piscine, making it a fantastic spot from which to observe the race action, even if you’re not fortunate enough to have a ticket. Just don’t forget your binoculars!
Escape the Crowds
Below the popular Oceanographic Museum is the secluded Fisherman Cove. This hidden gem is reached via narrow steps leading down to a shallow, shingle beach and the cool, clear waters of the Mediterranean. Rarely occupied by more than a handful of Monegasque locals, it offers a peaceful suntrap and respite from the vibrant city.
If the beach doesn’t appeal, there are several gardens in Monaco that can provide a sense of escape and the chance to absorb natural beauty amidst the backdrop of the bustling city; the Princess Grace Rose Garden is probably the most traditional, while the Jardin Exotique de Monaco the most famous, but just a short walk from the centre is the lesser known, but no less beautiful Japanese Gardens. This Japanese-inspired garden strictly adheres to Zen principles, seamlessly harmonising stone, water and vegetation in the most serene and tranquil setting.
Not all evening entertainment in Monaco is about the glitz and glamour. For something a little more low-key, during July and August, those in-the-know head for the Monaco Open Air cinema behind the Oceanographic Museum. Here it is possible to spend a balmy summer evening watching the latest movie blockbuster with a glass of chilled rosé from the comfort of a cushioned lounge chair, as seagulls fly overhead and the sound of the sea rises from the rocks below.
From morning until night Monaco has something to offer for those keen to follow the path less travelled. If you are keen to explore the real Monaco, you’ll quickly come to appreciate the uniqueness of this compact principality as observed through the eyes of the locals.
The Italian Riviera is north-western Italy’s coastal showcase, a place where the Ligurian Alps meet the Apennines with a dash of la dolce vita and a well-deserved reputation alluring yachts to one of the most popular yachting hotspots in the Mediterranean, Portofino.
Decades of tourism have ensured that the beauty of the Cinque Terre and Portofino rank highly on places you need to visit and the entire coastline has bewitched royalty, writers and celebrities who have been drawn to the Mediterranean climate, beautiful towns and the blend of old and new.
There’s no denying the appeal of Portofino, tucked into a sheltered inlet surrounded by colourful buildings and olive-clad terraces it has been grabbing headlines and attracting the international jet set for decades.
In the height of peak season, the town morphs into Italy’s version of Saint-Tropez, however if you’re looking for Champagne-spraying nightclubs and hedonistic beach clubs you’ve come to the wrong place.
Many visitors to Portofino don’t venture beyond the harbour and Piazzetta (small square), but renting a yacht on the Italian Riviera will introduce you to places of quiet beauty – especially in spring or autumn, ornate villas hidden amongst the trees and gorgeous scenery with romantic restaurants sandwiched between the mountains and sea.
Portofino is not off-the-beaten path, however it’s possible to escape the crowds of day trippers and celebrities who visit Portofino for one day.
Read this Guide to Yacht Charters in Portofino to discover the best things to see and do while on a Portofino yacht charter, where you can discover some of the celebrated highlights and the charter spots less visited amidst the surrounding attractions of the Gulf of Tigullio.
Does the French Riviera live up to its glamorous reputation? The simple answer is, yes! Yes it does. Especially if you’re exploring on board a luxury yacht. From cocktails aboard your fly deck and cosmopolitan bars to quaint towns and lavender fields, this destination truly has everything and you’ll never want to leave.
Yacht Charter on the French Riviera
Yacht charter with Incrediblue allows you to broaden your horizons and makes sailing more accessible around the world, as you are no longer limited to one yacht type or destination. So where better to start than in the stunning French Riviera? Also known as Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera is the Mediterranean coastline of the Southeast corner of France, also including Monaco. There is no official boundary, but we generally consider it to extend from Cassis or Toulon or Saint-Tropez located on the West to France-Italy border in the East, where the Italian Riviera joins.
Where to start
You have heard of Nice and Cannes right? Well that’s just a couple more of the towns that make up this beautiful stretch of paradise on earth. When is comes to yacht charter you’re truly spoilt for choice of where to start your adventure. A popular route is to begin in Monaco, before heading to Nice and then onto St Tropez.
Selecting your own charter yacht
Selecting your own yacht on the French Riviera is easy with the help of a highly experienced team such as Incrediblue, who will be happy to understand and ensure your every need is catered for. As you will have a crew on board you can discuss meals plans with the chefand also the perfect route with the ckipper before you set sail for the time of your life.
Prepare to be amazed by the sheer beauty of the gleaming superyachts lined up in Monaco harbour. If you’re lucky enough to be there during an event such as the Monaco Grand Prix, you will not only enjoy the electric atmosphere but you can also gawp at more amazing yachts that will appear throughout. There were in fact over €2 billion worth of yachts attending the Grand Prix in 2016.
Any trip to the French Riviera should begin with a stop in Nice. The Port of Nice is the perfect place to moor your yacht overnight and enjoy a traditional light dinner such as salade niçoise made by your personal on board chef. If you would like to hit the town you will not be dissapointed. Especially during the summer season, nightlife is in abundance and offers many options for after dark enthusiasts.
In the morning you will appreciate the sparkles reflecting off the warm Mediterranean waters whilst you’re having your breakfast. Whether you’re there for one day or five, be sure to venture up to Castle Hill. The phrase ‘it was worth the climb’ is truly fitting in this instance. The panoramic views of the Baie des Anges are simply to die for. You may also want to visit Nice’s famous lavender fields, the verdant park which is the perfect spot to take a picnic, or simply just relax and watch the world go by before boarding your yacht again and moving onto the next divine destination.
Home to the rich and famous, Cannes should definitely be on your bucket list. With its sandy beaches, upmarket boutiques and 5* restaurants there is plenty to see and do.
To add to Cannes’ glamour, this destination is very well known for the international film festival that occurs here once per year in May. If there is any event with the potential to dethrone the Oscars than this is it. If you’re lucky enough to be around during the festival you will be guaranteed to spot some famous faces strutting their stuff down the red carpet.
A short sail away from Cannes you will embark upon the Lérins Islands. The Lérins Islands are a group of four Mediterranean islands off the French Riviera, in Cannes. The two largest islands in this group are the Île Sainte-Marguerite and the Île Saint-Honorat. Here you will get away from the hustle and bustle of busy life and have the opportunity to relax in the ambience of tranquility. The islands are full of undisturbed beauty with small wild beaches and secret coves you could spend hours exploring. The panoramic views and sparkling turquoise blue waters are guaranteed to take your breath away.
If your yachting trip happens to fall on July 14th, try and spend the evening here to enjoy the famous firework night.
On your way to St Tropez be sure to soak up not only the sun but the best views of the French Riviera. It sounds only right to have a margarita in your hand whilst you enjoy these truly blissful few hours of cruising through the crystal waters. If you are coming directly from Nice it will take approximately 3 hours but if you want to take any detours you can discuss this with your captain. It might be a nice idea to stop and take a swim. If you have a diving instructor on board you should take advantage of the experience. The Mediterranean is home to some of the most colourful and interesting underwater life.
Upon arrival in St Tropez you will notice how big and vibrant this port is. With a capacity of 734 moorings there is definitely plenty of space for any size yacht. St Tropez is well known for its innovation and quality services, making it one of the most famous marinas in the world.
The height of St Tropez’ popularity comes from the 9 day regatta occuring once a year, known as “Voiles de Saint Tropez”. It begins here at the foot of the Portalet tower and bypasses the Nioulargue buoy before returning to the port. Over the duration of 9 day regatta, 300 of the finest yachts from around the world are brought together and it is a sight not to be missed!
If coffee is your thing you absolutely MUST not miss out on the famous espresso made in the even more famous bar that is Senequier. Whilst enjoying ‘the best French coffee known to man’ you can enjoy watching artists painting people or landscapes around the ports.
There are few places on earth better-suited to a golfing yacht charter than the French Riviera. With an abundance of historic, challenging, and downright swanky courses along the Cote d’Azur, the South of France really is a golfer’s paradise.
And what better way to experience the golf courses of the French Riviera than on a luxury yacht charter? You won’t have to swap hotels, carrying luggage and golfing gear, as you make your way along the coast, on a charter yacht your ‘hotel’ moves with you! This is a golfing holiday, done right.
Imagine getting a group of your golfing buddies together for a 10-day jaunt down the French Riviera on a superyacht, stopping at world-class golf courses along the way.
With views of the Mediterranean and the Alps and old hunting estates among the pines, it will be near-impossible to have a bad game. And even if you do spend half the day in the bunkers, there’s plenty of fine restaurants, watersports, and beach clubs along the Riviera to cheer you up! You might even bring a pro-golfing instructor along on your charter to radically improve your game over the duration of the charter.
When planning a holiday, you normally have to choose between snow and sand, mountain and beach, chalet and superyacht. Not on the French Riviera in spring—one of the few locations on earth where you can enjoy a sea and ski yacht charter.
In the south of France, Alpine ski fields are in close proximity to warm, sunny beaches. The French Riviera is famously known as a destination where you can be hurtling down fresh powder in the morning, only to find yourself relaxing in a Cannes beach club in the afternoon, enjoying the spring sunshine as you drink rose with your feet in the sand.
A yacht charter than involves snow skiing and beach clubs, art galleries and opera, Michelin-star dining and hill villages, après ski and boutique shopping.
Sunshine, calm seas, and snow. Where else but spring on the French Riviera?
MIPIM 2018 will be hosted in Cannes from 13–16 March 2018 and continues as one of the world’s largest events for global property professionals.
Hosted at the Palais des Festivals, which is a key venue for other major Cannes events including Cannes Lions, Cannes Film Festival and MAPIC, over 24,000 participants will be inspired and make new discoveries during four days of intensive networking, conferences about property trends and the MIPIM Awards.
A scant 100 years ago, the idea of visiting the French Riviera in the summertime was unheard of in polite society, who deemed the South of France in July and August to be far too hot and bothersome.
Instead, the first-class trains and ornate horse-drawn carriages would start to arrive as the weather cooled and the first snows fell on the Alps, delivering queens and tsars, dukes and duchesses, writers and artists for a glittering winter season of parties and operas and promenading under the palms.
In winter at the turn of the 19th century, the Cote d’Azur was the centre of the fashionable world. In summer, the carriages departed, and the opulent villas and belle époque hotels were shuttered up once more until the haze of summer cleared and the sea again held its enchanting winter sparkle.
And that’s how the Riviera stayed—a resolutely wintertime resort— until the 1920’s, when New York socialites, Gerard and Sarah Murphy, convinced the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc to keep a wing open for them for a summer. After buying a nearby villa the next year, they invited friends F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway for decadent, endless summers of jumping off the rocks into the sea, fabulous parties, and long boozy lunches under the shade of pine trees that buzzed with cicadas.
Inspired by the beauty of the recent snowfalls, I started thinking of a white Christmas. With all the rich heavy food around, a crisp clean white wine is a refreshing tonic. Looking at three varieties in very different styles to give a harmonious theme to a meal and enough diversity to accompany a meal.
Starting off with a Blanquette de Limoux, traditionally held to be the oldest sparkling wine, created by the 16th century monks at the Abbey of St Hilaire in the Pyrenees. This gentle fizz, such as that from Domaine de Peyret, has crisp acidity from a blend of high altitude vineyards with three varieties: Mauzac, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay.
The crisp apple-fruit flavours of Mauzac can also be found further north in the vineyards of Gaillac. But looking for something that extra bit special, try the old vine, oak-fermented and aged Mauzac from Clos Rocailleux. Crisp, tart apple fruit with a hint of biscuit toastiness.
Chardonnay is a variety par excellence for the range of styles it can offer. To accompany any rich meat course, an oaked buttery and ripe fruit Burgundian Chardonnay has both the power and acidity to offer. The 2014 vintage has beautiful balance. Domaine Leflaive’s Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru is rich and intense while Domaine Raveneau’s Valmur Grand Cru has elegant minerality with floral hints for a slightly less rich meal. Both with great ageing potential.
Champagne might not be everyone’s first choice to accompany the cheese course, but Stefanie Köhler of Cuvée magazine recently conducted a mammoth cheese and wine report for her latest Champagne edition (www.cuvee-magazine.com/shop). She suggested three blanc de blancs (100% Chardonnay): Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs with Cantal Entre-Deux, Champagne AR Lenoble Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 1996 (recently released) Demi-Sec with an extra-old Mimolette or Champagne Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Brut with a Chaource.
To finish off with a dessert wine, a rich, botrytized wine made with Chenin Blanc has all the fresh acidity typical of the variety, much needed at the end of a rich festive meal. The Loire vineyards of Coteaux du Layon and Bonnezeaux, sloping down to the Layon river, produce high quality, elegant and luscious sweet wines. Domaine des Petits Quarts from Bonnezeaux, has rich baked quince, honey, ripe apricots and dried fruit.
This article was written for French Riviera Luxury by Elizabeth Gabay MW – A long-time lover of the wines of southern France, and based in the hills behind Nice, Elizabeth is currently immersed in all things rosé for a forthcoming book on pink wines around the world. Other passions are the wines of Hungary, the Mediterranean, unusual grape varieties and history. She writes about for various journals and websites, including her own – www.elizabethgabay.com
Winter on the French Riviera is an absolute delight, as the summer crowds thin out, the snow gathers on the Alps behind the coast, and the landscape is covered in a vivid yellow carpet of mimosa flowers.
Whether it’s a crisp blue sky day with endless views of sparkling sea, or a blustery afternoon where the palm trees bend and wave along the seafront at Cannes, there’s nothing quite as lovely as warming up after a walk with a steaming cup of vin chaud, a mug of rich hot chocolate, or a paper cone full of roasted chestnuts.
And with the Cote d’Azur lighting up with Christmas markets, and the ski resorts within easy reach of the coast, the French Riviera offers a winter experience with just the right amount of joie de vivre.
Here are some delicious wintry drinks and treats to enjoy in France, as well as a few select places to enjoy them.
Whether you want to call it vin chaud, mulled wine, or gluhwein, the fact remains: the first sip of this warm red wine spiced with cloves and cinnamon is pure Christmas in a glass.
And on the French Riviera, there are so many places to enjoy this wintery beverage!
Is there anything more festive than wandering around a brightly-lit Christmas market on a dark winter’s night, cold air on your face and a warm cup of mulled wine in your hand? We think not. Wonderful Christmas markets spring up all along the French Riviera in the wintertime, as well as in the pretty hill villages behind the coast. The Christmas markets at Nice and Antibes even have a giant Ferris wheel on site, giving dizzying views across the city, sea and mountains.
All of these Christmas markets have pretty little Christmas stalls with pitched rooves dusted in fake snow, their stallholders wrapped up tight in scarves dishing out steaming cups of vin chaud—as well as other warming treats like roasted chestnuts wrapped in paper, gooey Nutella crepes, and unbelievably moreish slices of socca sprinkled with pepper and wrapped in tinfoil.
The Christmas markets (and the yummy food and drink to be found at them) is one of the best things about a winter holiday in the South of France. Every time you drink mulled wine in future, you’ll be instantly transported back to that holiday feeling of winter on the French Riviera.
Local Cafés and Bars
If you’re looking for vin chaud outside the Christmas market experience, our best tip is to go local. Find a café or bar displaying the sign ‘maison vin chaud’, which means they make the drink in house. Perhaps even more importantly, look for a bustling café full of locals, because you want a busy place where the vin chaud isn’t allowed to get old, as it becomes bitter when it’s reheated.
Besides, the experience of walking into a warm, noisy French café on a cold winter’s day and taking a table to watch the comings and goings is so utterly French that you really can’t miss it when on holiday! Avoid the sophisticated bars aimed at tourists and go somewhere with a bit of local heart and colour if you can.
In Antibes, try one of the cheap and cheerful local bars up near the market, or Le Vieil Antibes café by the fountain on Rue Republique. In Cannes, you might like to enjoy the cosy atmosphere of 72 Croisette, sipping vin chaud as you look out across the boulevard to the superyachts in the port. In Nice, Bistrot Chaud Vin really ought to be a winner for mulled wine given the name, and in Monaco, try the unpretentious Monte Carlo Bar in La Condamine, any time of day or night.
One of the most incredible aspects of a winter holiday on the French Riviera is the proximity to the ski-fields, with the closest ski resorts only an hour away. And vin chaud is an unmissable part of the French ski field experience!
You might like to stop at one of the mountain terraces for a steaming cup of the mulled wine between ski runs, or get into the spirit of things with an après ski session, with hot mugs of vin chaud, spiked hot chocolate, or shots of schnapps warming up the chill in your bones.
Of the ski resorts within 2 hours of Nice airport, Isola 2000 has the most bars and nightlife if you want to get into the après ski spirit after a brisk day on the slopes, but you’ll find that all the ski fields in the area offer vin chaud and a welcoming buzz in the evenings.
Again, the key is to look for a busy place that won’t let the vin chaud sit around for long enough to get bitter!
The first question you must decide on: what is your perfect hot chocolate? Is it the powdered stuff you have at home, laden with marshmallows? Or is it French hot chocolate, with its dark and silken combination of real bitter chocolate and milk? Or perhaps your idea of perfect hot chocolate is Italian, which is so thick and gooey you can almost stand your spoon up in it?
You can find all three kinds of hot chocolate on the French Riviera, all coming under the title of ‘chocolat chaud’. You’ll generally find the powdered cocoa version at your cheaper cafes, but we urge you towards the decadent drinking chocolate experience to be found at the finer establishments of the Riviera.
Famous Luxury Hotels
Drinking top quality hot chocolate in one of the world’s most opulent hotels is not a bad way to spend a leisurely hour or two. A hot chocolate at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco is a memorable, refined affair, as is the hot chocolate served during high tea at the glamorous Hotel Carlton Intercontinental.
Perhaps the very best hot chocolate, however, is to visit one the French chocolatiers along the Riviera, whose thick delicious concoctions are pure bliss on the tastebuds. Jean Luc Pele’ has flagship stores in both Cannes and Antibes, where you can sit in the little nook overlooking the street and drink your hot chocolate and feast on their heavenly pastries and artisan chocolates.
As mentioned, many cafés now use cocoa powder in the American or British style, which results in a fairly thin, not particularly chocolatey drink. If you’re looking for thick, Italian style chocolate while on holiday, one very good option is Caffe Lalu in Cannes, which incidentally, also does very good coffee (not an easy thing to find in France!)
If you’re visiting the coast in February, you’re guaranteed to get a superb hot chocolate at the Antibes Chocolate Festival, ‘Bread, Love, and Chocolate’, which begins, rather fittingly, on Valentine’s Day. Warm your hands with a hot chocolate and take a wander through the port, where you’ll see crew on deck of the beautiful yachts, beginning to ready them for the spring yacht charters.
Make your own spiked hot chocolate
If your accommodation is self-catering, you can experiment by buying top quality chocolate and milk, with pouring cream to add if you like.
If you’re looking to really get in the spirit, add a glug of alcohol into the mix for a spiked hot chocolate. Boozy hot chocolate is utterly, utterly Christmassy and very warming on a cold night. A splash of dark rum adds a wicked depth, while liquors like Kahlua, Baileys and Amaretto are huge crowd pleasers.
People are getting ever more creative with their spiked hot chocolate creations, whether it’s the recent trend for red wine in hot chocolate, a dash of Guinness, or the magical combination of Nutella and Frangelico for the perfect hazelnut hot choccy.
Other Wintery Drinks to Enjoy in France
A glass of Armagnac, cognac, or calvados will light the fire in your belly, and are perfect tipples for a cold winter’s evening. Whatever your favourite liquor is, we suggest that you head to a bar with an atmosphere of French Riviera glamour, and preferably some classy live music. Think Bar Americain in Monaco, where live jazz and soft armchairs will put you in the mood, the historic bar at Nice’s stunning Hotel Negresco, or the piano bar at Bar l’Amiral at the Hotel Martinez in Cannes.
If you fancy something a bit more lively and a good sight less salubrious, it’s hard to go past the famous Absinthe Bar in Antibes, where you head downstairs into a vaulted cellar bar festooned with art deco posters and silly hats. Once you take a seat, you’ll choose off a vast absinthe menu, and a glass absinthe fountain is delivered to your table, along with ornate spoons and cubes of sugar. The absinthe is beautifully warming…and very alcoholic. Be warned!
On some nights there’s a musician playing piano, and this often leads to rowdy sing a-longs and much hat swapping. It’s a fabulous night out, but check before heading there, as winter hours can be wildly undependable.
Of course, there’s also the option of heading to a local café and enjoying a laid back glass of pastis, diluted with just the right amount of water. This is best drunk in a café with a nice warming fug and lots of activity for people watching.
With these decadent warming drinks on the menu, winter on the French Riviera will warm the cockles of your heart. Happy indulging!
Christmas is almost upon us, and villages and cities across France are preparing for the seasonal Gallic rush on oysters.
The French have a proud history of oyster growing, with cultivation stretching back to ancient Roman times, and world-beating rates of oyster consumption, eating an impressive 4.4 pounds per person per year—more than anywhere else in Europe.
Of those oysters, 50% are eaten in the single week between Christmas and New Year. Vive la France!
The French are justifiably proud of their oysters; they are, after all, considered some of the finest on earth. With a shared language of ‘terroir’ and ‘cru’ and descriptive terms like ‘crisp’, ‘buttery’, or ‘fruity’, the French appreciation of oysters goes hand in hand with their appreciation of wine.
But the French are also far from alone in their love and pride of their home grown oysters, with many other countries across the world vying for the title of the world’s best oyster.
For those of you celebrating the festive season in Europe, here are a selection of the finest oysters available in Europe this Christmas, as well as what to drink with them.
(N.B. There are many other deserving candidates further afield, such as in Australia, New Zealand and America, but as we know, the freshness of an oyster is paramount, so this list will concentrate on the best of European oyster growers.)
The Finest Oysters in Europe
Possibly the most famous oyster of them all are the Speciales Gillardeau, grown by the Gillardeau family near La Rochelle in Western France. Meaty, nutty, firm and savoury, the oysters are grown and carefully tended for four years, and due to their cultivation process are less briny than many other varieties. Known as the ‘Royals Royce’ of oysters, these very fine oysters come at a premium.
FINES DE CLAIRE
This sweet, fruity oyster grows in Marenne-Oleron on the west coast of France, the largest oyster growing region in Europe. The crisp fruitiness of the oyster is derived from the way they are cultivated, with a minimum ‘fattening’ period of two months spent in the nutrient-rich water of salty marsh beds. Prized by the Parisians, this delicate oyster is found in fine restaurants around the world.
For something deliciously salty and fleshy with a fruity aftertaste, try Bouzigues oysters, which are farmed in a saltwater lake called the Etang de Thau. With a salt water content higher than the sea and no tides to contend with, the oysters grow rapidly and are some of the fleshiest in France. There are both flat (native European) and creased (Pacific rock) varieties cultivated in the lake, some have an almost hazelnut aftertaste, while some are reminiscent of watermelon.
Bouzigues may not be able to compete with the above two producers for notoriety, but their name is growing. Besides, oyster preference is an extremely personal thing, and one that does not always correspond with either fame or price tag. Let your tastebuds be your guide!
DELTA DE L’EBRE, CATALONIA
Located between Barcelona and Valencia in the pristine wetlands of the Delta de l’Ebre National Park, these delicious oysters benefit from the salt water of the Mediterranean and the fresh water of the River Ebro. The resulting oysters are silky in texture, with an addictive sweet-salty flavour.
(Don’t tell the French, but nearly 80% of the oysters here are exported to France and many are then sold in France and internationally under a French label. Tut, tut.)
While most French oysters are now Pacific Oysters, the Kelly Galway native oyster is an extremely fine example of the native flat European oyster that used to be prevalent in France, before disease and overconsumption almost entirely wiped them out.
The Kelly Galway is a very large oyster grown in wild oyster fisheries along Ireland’s West Coast, before being moved to oyster beds to fatten and develop their flavour, giving them the flavour of the Atlantic and the fresh waters of the Clarinbridge and Kilcolgan rivers. Due to their unique taste, their longer maturation (up to 6 years), as well as their relative scarcity compared to the Pacific oyster, the native Kelly Galway oysters are prized by connoisseurs and chefs alike.
Julius Caesar claimed that Scotland’s Loch Ryan oysters were ‘the best in the world’, or so the story goes. Whether true or apocryphal, these are some mighty fine oysters, famed for their tangy, lingering flavour.
Like Kelly Galways, Loch Ryans are native oysters of the European variety, and they have been grown by the Wallace family since 1701, when King William II gave the family the rights to harvest the beds.
As the only oyster fishery still operating in Scotland, and a very slow maturation time of up to 8 years, the Loch Ryan oysters are a true delicacy to savour over Christmas and New Year.
What to Drink with Your Oysters
The general rule for oysters is the accompanying beverage must be crisp, and it must be dry. For white wines, they should be young rather than aged as complexity competes with the oyster flavour, and only the very bravest attempt red wine, although some spirits and stouts can be excellent choices.
As mentioned above, there’s a language of ‘terroir’ and ‘crus’ that accompanies oysters, particularly in the French oyster industry, and some of the very best pairings are when an oyster is paired with a local wine, particularly in regions where the soil the vines are grown in was once seabed, and therefore rich in marine sediment.
Here are a few superb pairings for your oyster feast this Christmas:
Champagne and Sparkling Wine: Sparkles and Salt are a Match Made in Heaven.
The crisp, acidic flavour of dry sparkling wines- whether prosecco, cava, or any other iteration, work splendidly with oysters, cutting through the creaminess of the meat and singing with the salinity.
However, the reigning champion must always be true Champagne from the Champagne region, partly because it is grown in soil which is rich in marine sediments and chalky notes, creating a magnificent mineral, almost saline partnership with the salty oysters.
Go for a Brut (dry), bright, citrusy, non-vintage champagne. This is an occasion where you don’t need to fork out hundreds for a bottle of Cristal- and in fact shouldn’t, as the complexity of a vintage champagne will only compete and clash with the oyster’s flavour profile.
A Brut Blanc de Blanc (100% chardonnay) is a very good choice, such as either Pierre Gimonnet Premier Cru Brut NV, or Chapuy Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne.
Outside the Champagne region, a bottle of Cremant de Limoux will go down very nicely.
White Wine: Chablis and Sancerre, if you please.
The best white wine pairings for oysters are cool-climate, high-acidity wines grown in mineral-rich soils. Make it a young wine, as you’ll again run into the pesky complexity clash with older vintages, and don’t overchill, or you’ll ruin the flavour.
Chablis is one of the finest choices, as its chardonnay grapes are grown in soil that was once the ocean floor, lending it a flinty, racy, palate cleansing acidity which complements the oysters of that region supremely. A bottle of Domaine Servin Chablis Premiere Cuvee les Pargues could be just the drop.
Sancerre is another excellent pairing. Coming from the Loire Valley, this cool climate wine is grown on an ancient sea bed known as the Paris basin, and its bracing acidity, citrus notes, and mineral profile matches exceedingly well with oysters. The Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre does nicely here.
For other strong white wine accompaniments, a very dry Muscadet from the Loire Valley promises a clean and crisp flavour profile, while a dry German Riesling is outstanding with meatier, creamier oysters. You can very rarely go wrong with a Pouilly Fuisse when eating oysters, or a pale, crisp Provencal rose could also be considered.
Sherry: dry, dry sherry.
Not sickly sweet stuff, but the desperately dry Manzanilla, which delivers acidity, crispness and salinity in droves.
Spirits: Gin Martini, up with a twist.
Its lovely cucumber notes make Hendricks Gin a standout for oyster accompaniments, but any good gin will do. Whether you’re fancying a gin and tonic, or a shaken martini, the marriage between gin and oysters is a thing of beauty.
Bartenders are getting creative with their martini and oyster collaborations; some now make martinis with an actual oyster thrown in there to take place of the vermouth, while others pop the oyster’s own salty, delicious juice in there to take the traditional olive’s ‘dirty’ role.
Beer: Guinness is Good for…Eating Oysters
Some say a crisp, dry pilsner is just the ticket, but the Irish beg to differ. They’ve drunk malty, creamy stout with their oysters for generations, and it works surprisingly well with the salty hit of the oysters. The famous advertising slogan for Guinness ‘Guinness is good for you’ rings true in this case, but Murphy’s or your preferred Irish Stout will be just as good.
So now that you know which oysters you want, and which drink to pair them with, it’s time to join the oyster rush in time for Christmas. Expect some competition, as for the French, getting the best oysters is somewhat of a national sport. Sharpen your elbows, grab your shucker, and join the fray!