The 10 Most Surprising Facts About The South Of France

The French Riviera. Cote d’Azur. That Mediterranean Coast With The Croissants. No matter what you call it, there’s one image that comes to mind: wealth, in the form of private, pebble beaches; yachts with their own Wikipedia page that are worth $210 million and owned by Saudi billionaires; and bronzed French men, too. And while that’s all there – oh, is it there – you’ll also find a lot more that you wouldn’t expect. Having just returned from my mother-daughter bonding trip to the French coast, here are the top 10 surprising facts about the south of France.

1.     Between the hours of 2pm and 7pm, no restaurants serve food, which completely explains how the French stay thin. For Americans (me), this is devastating. Bring trail mix.

2.     But French people really do eat a lot. I saw so many fit women devouring –and finishing – dessert samplers filled with profiteroles and crème brûlée at lunch, which means either it’s probably all genetic, they only eat one meal a day, and/or their ingredients are just a lot fresher and less manufactured than ours so they don’t need to be vegan.

3.     While St. Tropez is as glamorous as you think it is with its $12 cappuccinos from Sénéquier Café and white sand-covered floors in L’Escale, the serene cobblestone village Ramatuelle just 20 minutes away provides the calm you may crave amid the wild nights and opulence.

4.     Five days in, and you realize you might as well be on the island of Manhattan, standing in the middle of the Meatpacking District with a bag of very fresh baguettes, because that’s totally what the coast feels like; the wealth, the rosé, the nightclubs, the fashion, and everyone looking like they’re ready to go out – at 2pm.

5.     The cappuccinos really aren’t better than at NYC places like Bee’s Knee’s, and they’re a lot less strong. I missed that spot.

6.     If you’re an American, you will feel both incandescently happy to be there and devastatingly insecure because no matter how many suede black heels, pastel blazers, and satin scarves you wear, you will fall short of looking like “them.” The French folks look both effortless and effortful, since they’re naturally good looking and, on top of it, impeccably put together.

7.     Elton John bought a massive house in Nice that overlooks the entire city, can be seen from the main port, and is next door to a castle.

8.     Nice feels like a mixture of Barcelona cosmopolitan and St. Tropez charm. And the building in Cannes where the film festival takes place – the Palais des Festivals – looks like a convention center in Kansas.

9.     Monaco is its own country, and the language and food of choice: Italian. Want the best? Head to Le Pinocchio, right by the Prince’s Palace.

10.   Leave your sneakers at home. You’re in French country now, suga.

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World’s Biggest Superyachts Converge at Monaco Yacht Show, Owners of Lesser Yachts Seethe

You might have problems in your life that a few extra bucks could solve, but take comfort in the knowledge that the rich suffer too, and on a far greater scale. Their pain is on display for all La Côte d’azur to see, now that the 2011 Monaco Yacht Show has gotten underway, with some of the world’s most opulent superyachts making the owners of loser lesser yachts feel downright miserable.

As a future superyacht owner myself (it could happen), I’m always curious to see the latest and greatest in floating palaces, and this year’s show has a few humdingers. There’s the Seven Seas, the largest yacht in the world at 282 feet, and the Hemisphere, which is, at 145 feet, the world’s largest sailing catamaran. As an American, though, I’m partial to the U.S.-made Cakewalk (pictured), which might be one foot shorter than the Seven Seas, but has a way cooler interior and an awesome name.

So if you’re the billionaire owner of one of these bodacious boats, you’re probably feeling pretty good this week as you stride across the upper deck and watch the monocles of the mere millionaires plop into their champagne flutes like so many tablets of Alka-Seltzer. But if you sailed your regular, non-super yacht to Monaco expecting the admiration of the yachtless hordes on land, you’re hating life right now. After all, I know you either worked or inherited hard to buy that boat, and in most marinas you’re the biggest thing around. But here, next to some $200 million monster, your pride and joy looks like a mere dinghy. You have my sympathy.

In fact, I’ll do you the favor of taking that embarrassing yacht off your hands. I’m talking to you, the owners of the 149-foot Carpe Diem, the 120-foot Doubleshot, and the downright shrimpy 105-foot Antheya II. I’m sure you’re all either in the process of upgrading or giving up entirely, but I’m just modest enough to accept second class status in the yacht world.

But I’ll have to draw the line at the 88-foot Aurora Dignitatis. Thanks but no thanks, Fraser Yachts. There’s only so much I’m willing to compromise.