The French Riviera. Three words that conjure up images of sophisticated glamour, refined elegance and, oh, so much more. Our Senior Marketing Executive, Sarah Lancashire, discovered that life really is beautiful on the Côte d’Azur.
The diversity and beauty of France is never more epitomised than on this stretch of Mediterranean coastline. The contrast of the bluest of blue seas set against the lush green hillside and golden sands is nature's perfect juxtaposition. Driving along the coastal highway from Nice to Eze, each curve in the road reveals one spectacular vista after another, but none quite prepare you for the sight that greets you upon arrival at Le Château de la Chèvre d'Or... See above! Utterly unique and idiosyncratically charming, the rooms of this property are scattered around a tiny medieval village; perched high on a hillside that cascades down to the sparkling seas below, the views from here quite literally take your breath away. Indulgence is enjoying a glass of Champagne (served in bespoke Lalique flutes no less) whilst drinking in the incredible panoramas. I could continue to wax lyrical about this idyllic hidden gem, but my trip had to continue - the uberglitz of Monte Carlo was calling.
The high-adrenalin Grand Prix, the superyachtfilled harbour, the streets dressed with designer boutiques and the opulent casinos; Monaco is an intoxicating cocktail indeed. Immerse yourself in this hedonistic heaven and sip a chilled drink at the infamous Café de Paris in Casino Square watching the great and good glide by, surrounded by the irresistible chic of the city. Hotel Métropole Monte-Carlo is the perfect base. Imbued with a true sense of style, this is one property that does not disappoint on the design front with interiors by Jacques Garcia and the ODYSSEY pool area and restaurant designed by Karl Lagerfeld.
Leaving Monaco, we head to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat - this time taking the lower coastal road that weaves through pretty French fishing towns and tiny ports. In divine contrast to the buzz of Monte Carlo, the Royal-Riviera nestles down by a stretch of beach, shimmering in the sunshine haze with an air of cool and relaxed refinement. Lazing in the sun by the pool on a plush sun lounger, drink in hand or relaxing on the large terrace with cooling sea breezes caressing your skin, you can't help but feel that this is the quintessential Riviera. Following a refurbishment, the rooms are airy and fresh - with accents of colour such as coral and duck egg blue - and the air is filled with the scent of the bespoke Royal-Riviera perfume. A lovely touch - guests are gifted with a packaged pillow fragrance when they leave; the aroma of the Côte d'Azur can fill your dreams at home!
Leaving the beaches behind, we head inland to the picturesque hilltop village of Mougins and hotel Le Mas Candille - an absolute hidden gem. Timelessly charming with views through the purple haze of distant mountains and landscapes of cypresses and lavender, the contrast is spectacular.
Exceptional views aside, this retreat swaddles guests in Provençal charm; each individually designed room is a masterpiece of interior design, the shady grounds and exquisite pool areas provide perfect pockets of privacy and Le Candille restaurant offers Michelin-starred culinary creations to savour. It seems that one cannot help but relinquish everyday worries here; I spent my time at Le Mas Candille in a state of serene bliss.
Mougins itself is a gentle five minute stroll away, perfectly positioned for exploration. It has a strong culinary history with renowned chefs such as Roger Vergé and Alain Ducasse having managed restaurants here, whilst art is interwoven into the very fabric of the village. Pablo Picasso spent the last 12 years of his life here; his studio was housed in a building that is now the tourist office. A visit to the Musée d'art Classique de Mougins is an absolute must - the extensive collection is a captivating combination of ancient, neoclassical, modern and contemporary art including the world's largest private collection of ancient arms and armour.
Too soon my French Riviera journey is at an end and I fly home with the South of France imprinted on my heart and my head filled with dreams of a return.