LuxeGetaways Magazine – Fall 2016 | The resorts and villages that dot the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the South of France offer some of the dreamiest destinations for ladies looking to escape for relaxation, retail therapy, cultural immersion and creating the perfect girls’ getaway. Whether taking a trip with your best girl friend, or an entourage from the college days, simple pleasures along the Côte d’Azur are plentiful. Imagine basking on the beach bathed in Bain de Soleil suntan lotion while enjoying the views of the vibrant Cobalt blue water, and listening to the melodic sounds of the waves crashing on the shoreline with a refreshing glass of chilled Sancerre in one hand, and an Evian mist bottle to fend off the heat in the other. These kinds of days are priceless. Le sigh…
While known for the pristine beaches, and for boasting over 300 days of sunshine per year, the beauty and charm of the Côte d’Azur lies in the wide variety of activities geared towards the arts, fashion, gastronomy and recreation. Three of my favorite destinations to experience the best of the French Riviera with girl friends include the unmistakable destinations of Menton, Nice and Monaco.
While many Riviera cities lead with pure opulence, Menton leads with its charming pedestrian streets and gorgeous mountain and ocean views. There are no five-star accommodations; the luxury here in Menton is being able to dine en plein air almost every day of the year at casual bistros serving the best combination of Italian and French cuisine.
Leave the heels behind, and climb the cobblestone-paved streets to the Saint-Michel Basilica [Parvis Saint-Michel | 06500 | Menton] for breathtaking views of the Italian Alps, and down to the azure blue Mediterranean waters below. Experience the friendly locals at their finest while shopping at outdoor markets. Here you will find edible souvenirs under the shade of blue and white-striped canopies in the Careï Valley. The Marché Couvert on quai de Monléon features knick-knacks (brocante), herbs and items from their Italian neighbors on Fridays.
If your gals are gardeners, or wannabes like moi, you will love the nine major gardens; the best of which is at Villa Maria Serena [21 Prom. Reine Astrid | 06500 | Menton]. Fragrant fruit trees and sweet smelling flowers fill the air, and the stunning views of the bay are hailed from the sweeping staircases of the villa.
Take advantage of the warm sunshine, and rent a paddleboard or kayak at the Nautical Sports Center on the Promenade de la Mer. However, remember to take along a waterproof case for your camera so that you do not miss the opportunity to take pictures of the magnificent colorful buildings from these unique nautical vantage points. www.tourisme-menton.fr
Where To Stay:
29 Porte de France | 06500 | Menton, France
Tip: The best rooms are on the 5th floor seaside, with terrace.
Le Royal Westminster
28 Avenue Félix Faure | 06500 | Menton, France
Tip: Ask for a renovated prestige sea view room, if available.
Mornings are better with friends. Wake up early for a walk along the four miles of white sandy beaches (15 private and 20 public) flanked by the Promenade des Anglais, and end at Castle Hill (Colline du Château), which is the highest peak in Nice. Only a few fragments of the original walls and building remain, but the observation deck provides a majestic view of the city’s tropical colored buildings with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains in one outstanding panoramic setting.
Afterwards, pop over to Café Le Flore [9 Cours Saleya | 06300 | Nice] for a quick coffee before hitting the legendary flower market, Marché aux Fleurs. Located in the Cours Saleya, it is open every morning, except Mondays and French public holidays. Not only do they sell the most beautiful ready-made bouquets, but they also have fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, jellies, jams, olive oil and candies. Mondays are reserved for an antiques market, and in the summer evenings, arts and crafts replace fruits and vegetables where shoppers can shop till they drop – it is open from 6:00pm, until just after midnight.
On the rare cloudy day, we enjoy checking out the architectural and historical landmarks spread throughout the very walkable city of Nice while shopping. The area of Place Masséna is home to couture fashion houses like Louis Vuitton and Hermès; jewelers such as Cartier; and an endless number of specialty shops. However, there are also smaller, independent boutiques like Kantzé [10 rue Alphonse Karr | 06000 | Nice], where you will find the perfect little black dress and silk scarf to take home, knowing that it is truly a one-of-a-kind.
Visiting museums is always and excursion that is more fun in tandem. Take in the Marc Chagall National Museum [36 Avenue Dr Ménard | 06000 | Nice], and explore their permanent collection of biblical message paintings, stained-glass windows, prints, lithographs and tapestries. If you have some flexibility, the museum is free to visit on the first Sunday of each month.
Put down the heavy shopping bags, rest your feet, and savor some local people watching during Happy Hour at Côte Lounge [4 rue de France | 06000 | Nice] where super friendly waiters automatically deliver a round of hot, cold and sweet treats the moment that your cocktails are ordered.
One of the best things about Nice is that the city can be as upscale as you desire with Michelin-star restaurants, top designers, world famous art collections and more; or a perfect destination if you prefer a casual and stress-free getaway. Ideal for a group of friends during a girls’ getaway (or any visitors), the cooking class by Chef Christian Plumail [54 Boulevard Jean Jaures | 06300 | Nice | www.christian-plumail.com] begins with choosing top quality ingredients at the Cours Saleya, and ends with a cooking demonstration at his private apartment. Here, you can be as hands-on as you wish while helping to prepare the dinner; or simply taking in the killer views from his terrace, knowing that you are just moments away from an amazing culinary experience. www.nicetourisme.com
Where To Stay:
Hyatt Palais de la Méditerranée
13 Promenade des Anglais | 06000 | Nice, France
Tip: There are partial sea view and full sea view options, but the full sea views are worth the extra expense, if available.
58 Rue Gioffredo | 06000 | Nice, France
Tip: There are newly renovated rooms, and for two or more people in a room, you can upgrade to the double deluxe category for more space and a private balcony.
The Principality of Monaco
If you want the safest getaway city for you and your girls in the South of France, Monte Carlo is the answer. The principality of Monaco is tiny – it is roughly the size of Central Park, and is full of twists, turns and one-way streets. Beyond being one of the most sought-after residential addresses on the globe, it is also known to have more police, per capita, than anywhere else in the world. According to Wikipedia, there are 515 police officers for the 35,000 people who live in the area.
Monaco is also one of the most expensive destinations, but it is not impossible to enjoy Monaco on a tighter budget, and can be even more economical during certain times of the year. There is simply not a “bad” time to visit Monaco, and since January tends to be a slow month, with the exception of the International Circus Festival, travelers can take advantage of the greatly reduced hotel prices.
As you might imagine, it is an upscale shoppers paradise. But for those with a tighter budget, plenty of retail therapy can be accomplished at unique boutiques where you can shop alongside the locals. There is a plethora of chic and unique bars and lounges to experience on holiday. Jimmy’z [26 Avenue Princesse Grace | 98000 | Monaco | www.jimmyzmontecarlo.com] is the be-all and end-all of nightclub experiences in Monte Carlo. If you need to burn off some of those calories, you can dance the night away on the dance floor, beneath the VIP section of the private Boom Boom Room where celebrities are known to congregate well into the night. A summer hotspot for some fun with your friends is Le Sea Lounge [40 Avenue Princesse Grace | 98000 | Monaco | www.sealoungemontecarlo.com/en]. This is a dynamic beachside hotspot, but be prepared to be sprayed with champagne when the action heats up, since some reverie seekers have been known to let the cork rip into the crowd. www.visitmonaco.com
Where To Stay:
4, Avenue de la Madone | 98000 | Monaco
Tip: They have the best healthy non-alcoholic mocktails for pre- and post-workouts. Enjoy!
12, Avenue des Spélugues | 98000 | Monaco
Tip: If possible, try to reserve either a water view or a room/suite with a view of the Monte Carlo Grand Prix hairpin turn.
The Côte d’Azur is so much more than I can possibly describe in one short article, but I hope that you can appreciate that no matter what type of getaway with the girls you might be looking to schedule, you can find it in the South of France. It is a gal’s prerogative to not be forced to choose between these options, so why not visit each of these destinations and see for yourself what kind of getaway is perfectly designed for you and your travel companions.