Ooh La La! Everything You Need to Know about the South of France

Ooh La La! Everything You Need to Know about the South of France

The French Riviera lives up to its storied reputation as romantic, sleepy and luxurious

by Maureen Jenkins, September 28, 2012

Ooh La La! Everything You Need to Know about the South of France

Villefranche-sur-Mer and restaurants along quai.

Photo courtesy of Eric Cuvi

gorgeous and friendly village of Villefranche-sur-Mer between Nice and Monaco. Three are housed on the Villefranche waterfront, which overlooks the Bay of Villefranche; most of the others are in the colorful and charming Old Town. Or if you’d rather make Nice your Riviera base, check out Parler Nice Apartments, two stylishly furnished sunny flats perfectly located in the city center. Both apartment-rental firms are offer personalized English-speaking service, all the comforts of home—and THEN some.


The French Riviera’s been a hangout for the gorgeous jet set for decades. These days, everyone from Rihanna (who this summer strolled the streets of St-Tropez) to P. Diddy (known for his yacht parties) to Kanye West and Kim Kardashian plays hard on the Côte d’Azur. But you don’t have to be Hollywood royalty to do it in Cannes during May’s annual Film Festival, or at Les Caves du Roy, the place to be seen and to party in St-Tropez. This always-sizzling nightclub—open weekends April through October but every night in July and August—is housed at the 5-star Hotel Byblos Saint-Tropez and is as well-known for its eternally long lines as for the electro-house sounds spun all night long by legendary DJ Jack.E. Stars like Diddy, Jay-Z, Naomi Campbell and George party here—but if you’re staying onsite at the Byblos, you TOO get to roll like a VIP and skip the endless queue.

Keep your groove going on the eastern side of the Riviera at Black Legend Monaco, another fabulous and upscale nightclub from Groupe Floirat, the French-based enterprise behind Les Caves du Roy and Hotel Byblos. The brainchild of CEO Antoine Chevanne, this stylish, harbor-side restaurant/bar/lounge morphs into a pulsating dance spot about midnight—and it’s all a tribute to black American music, from Motown to contemporary R&B from funk to soul. Live music also reigns here, with French and international singers and bands covering African-American classics from Marvin Gaye and Prince. Spend the evening at Black Legend. Savoring its newly revamped dinner menu with Italian-French-Spanish-with-an-American-twist cuisine and inventive cocktails and then hang half the night when the youthful partiers fill the place later on.

The Côte d’Azur is a jazz lovers’ paradise, with year-round festivals keeping both tourists and locals entertained. The world-class Nice Jazz Festival is a must, with international A-list headliners each July (and with many performances staged in an ancient Roman amphitheater in Cimiez, a swanky hilltop ‘hood in Nice). And don’t miss the Jazz à Juan festival, which follows Nice’s larger fest in nearby, nightclub-happening Juan-les-Pins.

Try your luck in high style in Monaco at the Casino de Monte-Carlo, where guys can channel their inner international spy, wearing jackets in the evening (or at least long pants and closed-toe shoes) at the Salons Privés for a night of roulette and blackjack. Or hit the more relaxed, American-style Sun Casino for poker tournaments, slot machines, and more. Cannes’ massive Casino Croisette is another, as is Nice’s glittering Casino Ruhl and the casino inside the Art Deco-inspired Palais de la Méditerranée. Both stand on the Promenade des Anglais, facing the Mediterranean and offering great views when you enter and exit.

The Riviera’s also known for historic perfume production—and its awesome hillside towns of Grasse and Eze both export scents to the world and explain them to visitors. Stop in Grasse, about 26 miles west of Nice and check out an open-to-the-public 18th century factory owned by perfume legends Fragonard. Take a free, year-round guided factory and museum tour at Galimard, another 18th century gem in picturesque Èze Village. And don’t miss friendly Molinard, which operates a well-stocked store in Nice, not far from the beach.

Car lovers can catch the Grand Prix of Monaco, which takes to the streets of this tiny principality for several days each May.


You’ll dine fabulously across the Côte d’Azur, whether you’re going upscale or casual—and many of the best spots are housed inside hotels. Michelin 2-star restaurants like Le Chantecler, which looks out on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais in Le Negresco hotel, offers a gastronomic adventure, thanks to the creativity of Chef Jean-Denis Rieubland’s Provençal cuisine (with many of its vegetables and herbs grown nearby at his family’s hillside farm!). French celebrity chef Alain Ducasse is the mastermind behind Spoon at Byblos, a gorgeous see-and-be-seen spot whose seasonal Mediterranean cuisine takes its cues both from the French Riviera and nearby Italy. And its jaw-dropping garden-terrace seats hundreds of guests. At Hotel Métropole Monte-Carlo, you can dine at one of the hotel’s two Michelin-star restaurants from celebrity chef Jöel Robuchon—both the Mediterranean-themed, open-kitchen Jöel Robuchon Monte-Carlo and the chef’s first

More great reads from Maureen Jenkins

Have Mom, Will Travel

by Maureen Jenkins

Stay in the Know
Sign up for the Ebony Newsletter