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A visit to the superyacht mecca

Contributed by: Jo Morgan

If there is anything on earth more glamorous than chartering a yacht along the French Riviera in the summertime, then I’d like to know what it is. The Cote d’Azur has been a glittering playground for kings and queens, film stars and oligarchs for well over a century now, since Queen Victoria first visited in the late 1800’s and completely fell in love with the sleepy backwater, calling it the ‘sunny, flowery south.’

With the Queen of England’s blessing, the French Riviera was a sleepy backwater no more. The beautiful rocky coastline, previously used for little more than sheep grazing, was soon transformed into a place of grand white villas of marble and gold and exotic gardens under the Mediterranean sun. The Rothschilds would come of course, as would Somerset Maugham, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Winston Churchill, Robert Louis Stevenson and endless more.

Grace Kelly would soon put Monaco on the map by marrying the Prince, Isadora Duncan would famously die when her long headscarf gets tangled in an automobile in Nice, and the French starlet Brigitte Bardot would make Saint Tropez the byword for celebrity when she posed in a skimpy bikini on Pampelonne Beach. The great artists of Europe would come too, craving that extraordinary light – Picasso, Matisse and Signac to name just a few.

From the kings to the Kennedys, everyone who was anyone did a season on the Riviera, attending endless society parties in columned mansions and lazing their days away playing tennis under the tall pines. The coastline between Menton and Marseilles was quickly brought to life with the lights and music and wild shenanigans of the gambling casinos and art deco hotels that rose along the palm-lined boulevards.

And the yachts began to come and anchor off in the crystal clear coves, first the beautiful wooden sailboats and then the grand yacht of Aristotle Onassis- Christina O, the first real superyacht of our time and the one that would change the game forever.  Luxury yachting soon became de riguer on the French Riviera: the true spiritual home of superyachts.

I don’t tend to speak of famous people when describing a yachting destination- but the French Riviera is the exception to all such rules. For it is as if the glamour has somehow soaked into the earth and the air and the sparkling sea.

This summer, you can be part of the superyacht set on the Riviera- and for much the same cost as staying in a luxury hotel.

As your luxury yacht cruises from the moneyed cliffs of Monaco to the champagne and caviar beach clubs of Saint Tropez, it’s hard not to feel it- that heady magic of hot nights and elegant parties under the palms, fireworks lighting up the sea and helicopters buzzing above spectacular yachts.

You feel it in the electric atmosphere of the Cannes Film festival as silver screen royalty walk the red carpet, or at Monaco Grand Prix, where the whine and roar of the F1 cars hammer through your body as the low sleek cars race around the winding city track.

You feel that hedonistic buzz as you drink cocktails in plush piano bars where Sinatra once played, and dine in 3 star Michelin star restaurants so ornate they are likened to the Palace of Versailles. As you party with celebrities and tycoons in the infamous clubs of Saint Tropez, where champagne flows and sprays about the room in true Riviera style. You feel the thrill up your spine as you race in the yacht’s tender towards Monte Carlo at night, palace lit up golden on the hill, warm wind streaming through your hair and across bare shoulders.

And yet, for all that undeniable glamour, something of the quiet sleepy backwater remains- in the quiet forests of the Porquerolles, the towering empty cliffs of the Calanques, the crystal clear coves and the cicadas buzzing in the midday heat.  The light, that stunning, famous light, the Gulf of Saint Tropez shining a burnished sapphire under a pale pink sky, the Alps a hazy blue in the last moments of a summer’s day.

The quiet, Provencal South remains as you wander through local markets selling lavender and giant wheels of cheeses, or eat a slice of socca, a woodfired peasant’s crepe made of chickpea flour and served all oily and peppery in a sheet of tin foil.

You can feel the old way of life in the rustic restaurants, where vines grow across overhead tresses in cool paved courtyards, as you dine on whole fish baked with lemons, tomatoes and olives, or crispy duck with crunchy confit potatoes- all washed down with a drop of crisp local rosé, bien sur.

You walk back in time in old Roman fortresses, along high ramparts overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, through cobblestone streets lined with boutiques, people dripping trails of ice cream in the heat. The old ways live on here, in this place where glamour and history and culture combine in a most magical way.

This summer, feel the glamour, the heat, the light, the languor, the heady excitement of being alive in such a splendid place, as you float on a luxury yacht down the coastline of the sunny, flowery south.

For a suggested itinerary, please click here.

Yachts available to charter here: