What is l’art de vivre? Firstly it’s so French a phrase that we decided to keep the original in English. The French art of living is renowned over the world; the country welcomes 83 million tourists per year, eager to get their annual booster of that je ne sais quoi, scores of people from all over the world dream of leaving behind their grey homelands and setting up over there.
With its glittering coastline, its superb climate, its innate glamour, its natural beauty (much of it protected), the dazzling Côte d’Azur is a natural location to enjoy this lifestyle. Close enough for (long) weekends, yet on the Mediterranean coast and thus enjoying 300 days of sunshine per year – certainly enough to beat the vitamin D deficiency you may be suffering back in Blighty!
L’art de vivre most definitely begins with good food. When better to start living well than at the start of the day? Buy your morning baguette from the Jean Luc Pelé boulangerie on Rue Meynadier in Cannes, the best boulangerie in France – stay for a coffee and croissant. The relaxed pace of life on the Côte d’Azur means you can savour and truly enjoy your meals, eating lunch al desko is simply not acceptable. Sample local markets and their fresh seasonal produce – you will come to see that food seasons are just as (if not more) important as fashion seasons in France. Fresh fish and seafood are, of course, abundant, as are some superb provençal rosés. There are also innumerable wonderful restaurants serving classic fare as well as more experimental establishments. One of the best places to enjoy a meal is at one of several beachside restaurants just as the sun is setting, the combination of French cuisine, the sound of the waves lapping against the shore and the clear pink sky is simply sublime.
Having nourished the body, you must nourish the mind and soul; this is where culture and the arts come in. France famously places great importance on cultural development and enrichment. The Côte d’Azur is no exception, simply brimming with cultural events, cinemas, festivals, museums and exhibitions. Most famously of course, each year Cannes rolls out the red carpet for international celebrities ready to climb the 24 steps ‘towards glory’ and welcomes thousands of press officers, sponsors and photographers. This event is covered by major TV channels all over the world and is the very definition of French glamour: art, the French Riviera and luxury. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to be invited to attend screenings at the Palais des Festivals, free open-air beach screenings take place each night at Plage Mace and free early-morning screenings take place at the Espace Miramar for Critics’ Week.
Paris is perhaps best known as the spiritual home of French trendsetters, though the Côte d’Azur could give it a good run for its money. Coco Chanel had a second home, La Pausa, in Cap Martin, Brigitte Bardot is synonymous with St Tropez, while Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Sophia Loren and Jane Birkin are among some of the names associated with the area.
Good quality of life makes l’art de vivre possible, luckily France performs consistently well in many well-being surveys compared to most other countries. Set on the Mediterranean coast, life isn’t rushed; you have the time to take everything in. You can enjoy the little things, like taking your children or grandchildren to the beach to swim in the clear azure waters of the Med, which is likely to be a short drive or stroll from your home. Living on the French Riviera, you can be sure of never being short of visitors: family and friends will always be keen to pop over and visit. Equally, you won’t have to miss out on any events back home as flights are very regular and not too taxing, only 2 hours’ flight time back to the UK. Not many airports can claim a glamorous landing, yet Nice airport can; expect super views of blue skies, yachts bobbing in the sea, and the French Alps and Esterel mountain range in the distance.
A permanent base or pied-à-terre is ideal to fully enjoy l’art de vivre. We have recently entered a number of properties onto our books which meet the criteria required to enjoy the good life on the French Riviera. For those who want to be at the centre of all the action in Cannes, a stunning development on the Croisette, just opposite the Palais des Festivals may be just right for you. The apartments are selling fast, enjoying sea views and within walking distance of fine sandy beaches, the hotel Majestic Barrière where chef Pierre Gagnaire has collaborated on the restaurant’s menu and rue d’Antibes for shopping. For those happy in the tranquillity and beauty of clear water coves and revelling in the beauty of nature, a freehold apartment in Theoule-sur-Mer, a short drive from Cannes, may be what you’re after.
As Yves Saint Laurent once said, ‘les modes passent. Le style est éternel’ [‘Fashions fade. Style is eternal’]. Dare we say it, this is true for the Côte d’Azur; other prime property markets have come and gone, the French Riviera has survived them all with flair. Having been a hotspot for those with taste since Victorian times, its popularity has endured and with good reason. It is one of the most exclusive and arguably most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world; demand for property will always be greater than supply. The property market in the Côte d’Azur is considered a safe investment, having been largely immune to the effects of the economic crisis. Furthermore, due to the area’s popularity as a holiday destination, seasonal lettings are also a highly lucrative option. L’art de vivre really is straightforward on the French Riviera; breathing in the sea air and the familiar scents of fresh lavender and lemon trees, the ever present pink hue of the Estérel massif, eating al fresco on balmy evenings, relaxing walks along the coast and much more.