For mere mortals experiencing the Cote d' Azur by land, summer is a 'cauchemar' of gridlock. With millionaires kept far from the billionaires, months like July and August are only tolerable when kept behind a bevy of bodyguards and safe at bay on the biggest yacht you can rent. And that was before the weak Euro. But May through late-June is different, magical and unaffected, so much so that you can forgo that helicopter to Monaco or Saint Tropez to rent a Porsche 356 Speedster or Austin Healy from Nice's top classic car operator.
East or West? From Nice the path is divided between those that want to party or preen. The latter is a shorter path, up the hills and out of the urban sprawl where poetic towns like Grasse, Cap Martin and seaside Villefranche-sur-Mer lure you for a long lunch along the terrace of Restaurant Des Rois as the valet huddle curiously around your topical automotive. From there it's onto our beloved Grand Hotel Cap-Ferrat and its Club Dauphin that doesn't require an advance booking or perhaps more casual Paloma Beach with its grilled sea bass and showy guest arrival from the sea. For dinner, it's a lovely drive into Eze where there are more Michelin stars than any other coastal city at epicurean spots like La Table De Patrick Raingeard and La Chèvre d'Or. The even more adventurous might make a black tie arrival at Monaco's Hotel de Paris where 3-star Louis XV just got a new look and name as Alain Ducasse à l'Hôtel de Paris - just not over F1 Grand Prix weekend on May 21st.
West of Nice, you'll want to arrive to Hotel du Cap in early June to avoid the over-hyped mayhem of the Cannes Film Festival from May 13th. But thereafter it's an affair of grandiosity at the newly renovated Eden-Rock restaurant and Bar La Rotonde. If that's a bit too much wattage, Cap d'Antibes Beach Hotel with its Les Pêcheurs restaurant and youthful luxury is one of our favorite small hotel in the South of France. And for those that can't imagine a season without Saint Tropez, May and June give glimpses of the former fishing village with incognito celebs and busied residents that fill harbor restaurants like Cristina Saulini. At the Byblos you'll find a the revamped 'Hameau' originally designed by the French architects Christian Auvrignon, Philippe Sicardon and Monnin with a more modern art vibe complete with weekend access to Les Caves du Roy - that's a far cry from the scene that awaits come August.