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France: Joie de Vivre

Head for the finest beaches on the coast, blue seas of the South and laid-back Riviera lifestyle.

Photos @CrystalMcClory

The Côte d’Azur; from seaside resort cities to mediaeval villages, museums to gourmet restaurants. Swim in the ocean, stroll through the city, hike in nature. See unforgettable landscapes with incredible views.

Visit the old town of Nice. Lunch on the beach at Plage Beau Rivage. Art lovers can see Musée Matisse, exhibiting a collection of works by French painter Henri Matisse.

Drive past incredible architecture Marina Baie des Anges in Nice to the Antibes.

Head south for St Tropez, Port Grimaud, and La Lavandou for beautiful beaches.

Château de la Messardière is a luxurious hotel in St Tropez, La Réserve à la Plage a charming cabana on Pampelonne beach at Ramatuelle.

Our hotel balcony in Cavalière overlooks tall Cypress trees, bougainvillaea and the blue ocean. On the beach, the sand sparkles in between my French red pedicured toes. A refreshing dip in the sea. The waves look like they’re full of glitter. White parasols flutter in the breeze. Relax, enjoy the music and eat creative cuisine at beach bar Les Canetons.

Drive back via Cannes and Mougins to sit on the soft sandy beaches of Juan Les Pins, Antibes.

At Les Pirates La Pinède, piers jut out with sun loungers above the sea, a French flag flutters, a topless woman sways past in the sea. The sand is soft and sparkles in the sunshine of 29°C. Pay extra to sit on the pontoon - it's worth it for the sea breeze and VIP treatment with super friendly staff. They are pirates, after all, but jolly ones!

We lunch on tuna salad and frites with ice buckets of rosé and drinks with eco-friendly pasta straws.

The sun is scorching, relieved by a dip in the ocean, floating star-shaped on the salty water. The hard ridges from the gentle waves on the seabed massage the soles of my feet, as I wade out of the water onto the powder-white sand. It’s hot all day, gratefully receiving the vitamin D rays of sun on skin. A rainbow forms in the spray of the shower on the beach.

We walk through the pine trees, listening to the sounds of the annual July Jazz à Juan

festival drifting in the air as the night ebbs away. Drinks at Le Crystal on the strip offer great people-watching.

There is a nightclub which looks popular with 20-somethings, judging by the queues outside on the weekend. A lovely beachside meal, we dine at Cap Riviera.

Cartier love bangles adorn tanned wrists amongst the sun-kissed clientele.

Stay at fabulous 5-star beachfront Hotel Belles Rives, its history steeped in literature and champagne on the Cap d'Antibes. Hotel Antibes Les Strélitzias has apartments and rooms for either self-catering facilities or full hotel service in a superb location. Peruse the paintings at Musée Picasso museum or grab a crazy cocktail at lively bar Pam Pam on the strip. Eat burgers, lobster linguine at Restaurant Le Perroquet. Browse the night market as you head down the Grande Plage to L' Effet Mer for cocktails on the beach. Or sit outside the delightful Restaurant l'Oursin in the old town with fun, attentive staff in a large municipal square.

Treat yourself to a sublime buffet lunch in the most beautiful setting at the iconic Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc. Overlooking the Mediterranean: super yachts, boats, jet skis and motorised surfboards pass by, leaving white trails on the azure blue sea. Its calming decor blends in with the natural surroundings. Dress code is chic, expensive, cool, and elegant, Service is unpretentious, subtly attentive and relaxed. We stroll poolside, evoking the iconic 70s Slim Aarons photograph. I spy a naked woman swimming in the ocean.

A fond farewell. It’s easy to drive (or hop on a train) to Beaulieu-sur-Mer.

Drive via Vence for culture at Henri Matisse’s La Chapelle du Rosaire and lunch at rustic hotel Colombe d’or.

Villefranche-sur-Mer is a beautiful viewpoint en route with views of the bay and the west coast of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula, dedicated to Princess Grace.

Beaulieu-sur-Mer has opulent Belle époque pre-war architecture and buildings like fondant fancies. The French Fancy pastel facade of the Royal Riviera looks down on the sun loungers on the shingle beach, Plage Des Fourmis.

At Anao Plage, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, we sit on taupe beach towels under cream parasols that complement the rocky mountains behind.

La Voile d'Or hotel swimming pool looks out to sea and you can walk onto the marina.

Idyllic beach club, Paloma Beach, named after Paloma Picasso, is on a cove surrounded by greenery. Eating moules marinière at Le Bar du Port, overlooking the marina, as the sky turns pink, it feels like you’re in a French movie.

Baia Bella on Plage Afrique is an eco-friendly carbon-neutral beach with hot staff and cool design. Crystal clear water shows a fine shingle beach with mountains behind.

Enjoy pizza and pasta on the marina at African Queen amongst suntanned yachtsman. Sip a sunset cocktail at decadent Circé Restaurant in the round La Rotunda building with a terrace amidst lush gardens with sea views. Gordon Bennett... is the bar at 5-star hotel La Réserve de Beaulieu.

A not-so-easy ride to Èze, driving hairpin bends through the mountains to explore the village. Climb up to the botanical garden, Jardin exotique d’Eze, and wander past waterfalls and cacti. In the mountain village, little caves reveal boutique shops selling rocks in the rocks.

Take a breath, visit La Fragonard parfumeur factory. Take in the view from the bar overlooking the sea at legendary hotel Château de la Chèvre d'Or on the French Riviera.

Anjuna Beach is a beautiful Ibiza-vibe beach bar and restaurant with live music, dream catchers, lanterns, aqua blue accents, macramé white umbrellas and wooden pelicans. Savour the Mediterranean flavours overlooking the ocean, watching the sky gradually change colour.

La Belle Etoile is a traditional French restaurant, its beautiful star shining bright in the cute old town of Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Tyres screech around corners on the hot streets of Monaco. Porsches, Bentleys, buses and hire cars on winding roads. Visit a casino, shop (or window shop) at Goyard, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Hermès. Grand Prix fans will marvel at magnifique Monaco. A few steps from the casino, the Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and has incredible suites, a glass-domed atrium, and excellent food in Carre d’Or.

Parking in the stuffy casino car park, grateful for the automatic open-top hire car. Hot air blows up a pavement grill - a Marilyn Monroe moment. A series of lifts ascending as our temperatures rise to reach the Jardin Exotique close to Villa Paloma Museum.

Back at contemporary Le Versailles Hotel, my feet are black and I leave a carbon footprint in the shower!

At breakfast, there's a Shoreditch house vibe with eggs as orange as the fresh fruit juice. Relaxing around the pool on black-and-white striped loungers in the shade of raffia disc parasols.

Dinner is at La Terrasse Du Versailles for James Bond-style views overlooking the inky blue Port de Villefranche-sur-Mer and the flashing lighthouse. The boats in the ocean have lights that remind me of crocs eyeing me from the water. Pastel smudges of lights reflected on the water. The sea turns lavender as the sky turns pink. Dinner is divine, washed down with what else, but chilled pale pink rosé.

Written by Crystal McClory

Crystal’s Tips

Hire an automatic car to help with steep hill starts.

Upgrade to a convertible to look... I mean...keep cool!

Take a dashboard phone holder for navigating Google maps.

If you have a knack of losing things, AirTags is an easy way to keep track of your luggage or valuables.

Pack a Chilly's bottle to keep drinks cold.

Travel money card - Revolut.

Photos @CrystalMcClory

For more info and to organise your trip contact Abbotts Travel

Abbotts Travel 134 George Lane, South Woodford, E18 1BA, 020 8989 9445


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