The most romantic places in the French Riviera - Citimarks

Altar of seduction

Grace Kelly at the Carlton Beach Club
Sunset at the Carlton Beach Club.

Sunset at the Carlton Beach Club, in Cannes. © Carlton Beach Club.


“Saint-Tropez was a paradise. [...] Heat, languor, great thirst, long bicycle rides. [...] Girls were sitting shirtless in convertible cars. There was intensity in the pleasure, as if we all knew this would be the last of beautiful summers.”
Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, The Swallow Press / Harcourt, Brace, 1967.
chapter 1

Midnight Swim

They dined at the new Beach Casino at Monte Carlo . . . much later they swam in Beaulieu in a roofless cavern of white moonlight formed by a circlet of pale boulders about a cup of phosphorescent water, facing Monaco and the blur of Mentone. She liked his bringing her there to the eastward vision and the novel tricks of wind and water; it was all as new as they were to each other. 

Symbolically she lay across his saddle-bow as surely as if he had wolfed her away from Damascus and they had come out upon the Mongolian plain. Moment by moment all that Dick had taught her fell away and she was ever nearer to what she had been in the beginning, prototype of that obscure yielding up of swords that was going on in the world about her. Tangled with love in the moonlight she welcomed the anarchy of her lover.

They awoke together finding the moon gone down and the air cool. She struggled up demanding the time and Tommy called it roughly at three.

– “I’ve got to go home then.”

– “I thought we’d sleep in Monte Carlo.” 

– “No. There’s a governess and the children. I’ve got to roll in before daylight.”

– “As you like.”

They dipped for a second, and when he saw her shivering he rubbed her briskly with a towel. As they got into the car with their heads still damp, their skins fresh and glowing, they were loath to start back. It was very bright where they were and as Tommy kissed her she felt him losing himself in the whiteness of her cheeks and her white teeth and her cool brow and the hand that touched his face. Still attuned to Dick, she waited for interpretation or qualification; but none was forthcoming. Reassured sleepily and happily that none would be, she sank low in the seat and drowsed until the sound of the motor changed and she felt them climbing toward Villa Diana. At the gate she kissed him an almost automatic good-by. The sound of her feet on the walk was changed, the night noises of the garden were suddenly in the past but she was glad, nonetheless, to be back. The day had progressed at a staccato rate, and in spite of its satisfactions she was not habituated to such strain.

Scott Fitzgerald,

Tender is the night, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934.

The Hotel Belles Rives seen from its jetty

The Hotel Belles Rives seen from its jetty.

Scott Fitzgerald's photograph at the lobby of the Hotel Belles Rives.

Scott Fitzgerald lived in the villa that later became the Hotel Belles Rives, in Juan-les-Pins.

The terrace of the Hotel Belles Rives

The lovely terrace of the Hotel Belles Rives.

The jetty of the Hotel Belles Rives

Enjoying the sun at the Hotel Belles Rives.

chapter 2

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend

It’s tea time! When one enters the Great Hall of the Hôtel de Paris, golden and scintillating, covered in dark wood and endless marble, a hubbub falls over: a mix of languages, whispered, chirped, screeched by women from all over the world; […] ladies covered in pearls, crossing the salons like figureheads returning from a glorious journey; older women coated in furs, come rain or come shine.

They are there, more than a hundred ladies, every one of them prepared by their chambermaids, plastered and repainted like walls, polished like furniture, made ready for the parade of the day. They are bending under the pearls, displaying their luxurious embroidery, diamond chains and translucent enamels. They speak without listening, reply without understanding; they call out to each other from afar, like semaphores in the storm; their eyes are shining under hats flecked with flowers -real and fake ones-, mingling, like in the Garden of Eden.

They are the universe: they come from Europe, the New York trusts, the industries of Massachusetts, the Bank of London. They got married with magnates of fortune, they represent the oldest families of the Old World: crowns of Germany, duchies of Bavaria, principalities of Italy, and the remaining titles of the French nobility. Monte-Carlo has become their playground […].

These ladies of the world -courtesans and actresses all-in-one- live off of men. Luxury is their emblem, their weapon, their trap. They are more elegant than aristocrats; more loaded with jewels, pearls and emeralds than the richest bourgeois.

When they choose a man, it is a grace they are granting to him, a passport to fame. The opportunity to be seen in their company will raise their wallets by some billions of gold Francs; the money they will spend on these ladies is a placement on their own future and glory.

They are the flowers of boudoirs, vestal virgins of private mansions; their battlefield is not the living room, but the bedroom. They surround themselves with admirers, courtiers, a circle of artists; they have lovers of the heart and lovers of the body; they are queens of the twilight, the long nights, the break of dawn; they are society’s favorite secret nectar. […] They are following money […], roaming the gardens of Monte-Carlo, and sleeping in new villas where […] the sky takes on the color of porcelain. But, in the afternoon, like everyone else, they take their chambermaid along […] and have tea at the Hotel de Paris.

Raoul Mille,

La Belle Otero, Albin Michel, 1994.

Detail of the Salle Empire, the majestic dining room of the Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo. © Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo.

Caroline “La Belle” Otero, the most idolized dancer and courtesan of her time. It is said that the twin domes of Carlton Hotel in Cannes were based on a molding of her breast. © Reutlinger Paris.

View of the Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo from the Casino square. © Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo.

chapter 3

Hips in white satin

The beach is not yet invaded. This means that it is not four o’clock yet. Ten bathers, however, are already savoring the delicious sensation of a warm, clear and luminous sea […]. I count about thirty bodies, lying on the sand motionless and almost naked: a good suntan needs patience. […] At ten in the morning they are already settled on the sand. They leave at noon and come back after lunch to digest on the sand; they stay there through the evening, permitting themselves to bathe for only a few minutes. […]

At the hotel-bar, beautiful ladies in pajamas stay there all afternoon […] these ladies are keen on undressing themselves easily -day or night; they are always eager to hang around gigolos at the beach bar and have the time of their lives. […] These lovely ladies demonstrate their sweetness by wiggling their hips in their pajamas.

The pajamas! This Mexican outfit has set, since 1929, such a strong trend that nothing can stop it. Rarely, in fact, has fashion tolerated such a prolonged reign. But, in truth, pajamas are more than a mere sartorial fantasy; they are one of the conquests of modern women […]. In the future, they might be used for doing sports, traveling, even attending galas, until they become fully accustomed to everyday life. The trend was launched in Saint-Tropez and Juan-les-Pins, two small Mediterranean resorts which set the rules, in terms of summer elegance, not only at the Côte d’Azur, but also on other high-society coasts in France.

At first, no one dared to wear them in places other than the beach, where they reigned for two whole years. Then, they started appearing on the streets, at cafés, at dance-halls, at restaurants, pretty much everywhere; up until 1933, pajama outfits -in jersey, shantung, tussore, organdy, in all fabrics and colors – continued to triumph as the undisputed master…

All these originalities are allowed at the “beautiful Azur” for it seems that no color is too conspicuous under the magical sky of Provence.

Fernand Veron and Fernand Ben,

L’enchantement de Saint-Tropez, Eugène Figuière, 1937.

ladies hanging by the beach in their pajamas

Ladies hanging at the jetty in their beach pajamas. Source: La mode pyjama.

Lady in beach pajama by Jean Patou.

Lady posing in her pajamas outfit designed by famous French couturier Jean Patou, circa 1929. © Luigi Diaz, source: La mode pyjama.

young girlfriends posing under the shade, circa 1930.

Suntanned young ladies joyfully posing at a French Coast beach bar, circa 1930. Source: Messy Nessy.

Rene Perle, a young beauty of the 1930s.

Renée Perle, a young beauty of the 1930s and muse of the French photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue, posing in her beach pajamas. Source: Messy Nessy.

The French Riviera for seducers

Explore the most romantic spots to seduce your object of desire.

French Riviera