The Cote d'Azur stretches along France's Mediterranean coast from Toulon to the Italian border. It has 40km of beach and includes the French Riviera. Towns made famous by the tanned idle rich include Saint Tropez, Cannes, Antibes, Nice and Monaco.
In the 19th century, wealthy French, English, American and Russian tourists spent winters in the Cote d'Azur. Humble little fishing ports evolved into exclusive resorts and it became a playground year-round with a high season from May to October.
Cannes is in the Provence Alpes-Cote-d'Azur region and within easy reach of the Maritime Alps. Mega yachts have taken over Vieux Port, once a place busy with fishing vessels.
The famous promenade, the Boulvard de la Promenade, begins at the Palais des Festivals and continues around the Baie de Cannes to Pointe de la Croisette. Each hotel lining Boulevard de la Croisette has its own private beach.
Busy year-round, Cannes simply bursts at the seams in May when it hosts the famous film festival. Successful and would-be movie stars, producers, directors, writers and others shove to be seen and photographed, and it's like heaven for paparazzi. The red carpet at the Festival de Palais is there year-round and those who wish can follow the footsteps of the famous.
The Hotel Martinez on the seafront is where the rich and famous love to stay. The seven storey property is one of Europe's top luxury hotels. It has 412 rooms and suites and the Continent's largest penthouse. It opened in 1926 and has a classic Art Deco interior. Its private beach, Zplage, has an open-air restaurant and bar and 300 sun lounges. Think of any huge name in the movie world and you can bet they stay at Martinez.
There are several ways to travel from Cannes to Saint Tropez. The two most popular are by boat in the Mediterranean or by car. The coast road is always bumper-to-bumper traffic and the drive can take up to two hours. If you want to cut down on time, take the inland highway and you will save at least half an hour.
Saint Tropez, like Cannes, was a sleepy little fishing village but has a rather colourful history.
The Greeks settled the area, followed by the Romans. Statues and other artefacts remain as signs of the city's classical past. After the end of the Roman Empire the city was ruled by various viscounts. It was destroyed in the 14th century, rebuilt by Genoese families in the 15th century and became an independent republic.
Saint Tropez was home to Corsair pirates and later, shipbuilders and fishermen. It has survived attacks by the Turks and Spanish, and during World War II it was the central site of a beach landing in Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of southern France. It was destroyed in 1944 and rebuilt after the war.
Since then it has been an active shipping port and attracts artists, writers, actors and loads of tourists. In 1956 Brigitte Bardot put on a skimpy bikini, starred in And God Created Woman and many say that really put Saint Tropez on the map. She loved the area so much she settled there, and everyone followed.
Ochre-coloured buildings surround the port and narrow streets and alleys climb the hills. The Citadel, an ancient fortress on a rise, stands guard and is visible from the sea.
The nickname "Trop" meaning "too much" in French is given to Saint Tropez because it is said people there indulge in excess getting too tanned or too thin.
To get yourself on the road when you arrive, DriveAway Holidays can arrange car rental before you leave home.
The Cote d'Azur on France's Mediterranean coast.
The Leading Hotels of the World has accommodation at Hotel Martinez starting at around $410 a double a night.
Emirates has flights to Nice.
- Perth $1876
- Melbourne $1979
- Brisbane $1999
- Adelaide $2073
- Sydney $2091
Valid for sale until December 15, 2008, and for travel between April 1 and October 31, 2009.
Prices correct at November 6, 2008.
For further information
The Leading Hotels of the World
Level 2, 18-20 York Street
Ph: (02) 9377 8444
Fax: (02) 9279 0780
73, La Croisette
Ph: +33 4 9298 7300
Fax: +33 4 9339 6782
Level 2, 157 Walker Street
North Sydney 2060
Ph: (02) 9900 9352
Fax: (02) 9922 7944
Ph: 1300 303 777
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