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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A Mother-Daughter Cote d’Azur Adventure On Azamara Club Cruises

Last week I embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure: a seven-day mother-daughter trip to Europe. While variations on The Family Bonding Trip exist­­—father-son, grandparents-grandkids—the mother-daughter voyage is a special breed. It’s a time when diets are broken, shoes are bought, and the Oh-my-gosh-I’ve-become-my-mother realization hits around day five. But what made my mother-daughter trip special was its setting: we were aboard the small, luxury cruise line Azamara, en route to some of the greatest cities of the Côte d’Azur: Saint Tropez, Monte Carlo, Nice, and Cannes. And they’re all they’re cracked up to be.

Being that Azamara was a "maiden voyage" for both my Mom and me, we anticipated the typical cruise crowd of bridge players, buffet enthusiasts, and shuffleboard champions. And while we did meet gaggles of bridge players at breakfast (overheard: “Playing bridge overlooking Monte Carlo. Does it get any classier than this, girls?”), we also discovered one surprising fact: Azamara loves its nightlife – both on the ship (if you’re into really good ABBA and Beatles nights), and especially at the destinations you boarded the ship to see.

Instead of leaving cities at the usual 5pm or 8pm cruise curfew, Azamara keeps the night young in all of its destinations, like Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo, giving time to explore until 10pm and even all night long, since it frequently stays in the more cosmopolitan spots like Monte Carlo and Nice overnight. And thanks to its uniquely small size, it can venture to ports other big cruises can’t—such as Seville in Spain, Langkawi Geopark in Malaysia, and the island-village Vila do Abraão of Brazil.

During our voyage, Mom and I stayed out late every night, feasting on fresh sea bass and cantaloupe grappa at L’Auberge de Maures in Saint Tropez, peeking into the private Monte Carlo Casino rooms with their mermaid-inspired mosaic bars, spreading foie gras on baguettes at Café de Paris, and sipping rosé at Le Statu,co in Nice. Mom surprised me with her wine consumption, I surprised her with my thrice-daily croissant cravings. Our relationship blossomed under the Mediterranean sun.

And the adventures of our nights trickled into our days. Azamara arranged trips to the sun-drenched, golden town of Aix-en-Provence to see the greenery and shops that inspired artists like Van Gogh and Cezanne, the Domaine de La Croix Winery near Saint Tropez for an afternoon rosé tasting, and to Saint Tropez’ serene cobblestone village Ramatuelle, which I suspect is the "small provincial town" Belle from Beauty and the Beast sings about. With 500 inhabitants year-round, and a Sunday morning flea market full of sheer-white blouses and pottery, it’s the small-town respite from the nearby Saint Tropez glam.

Every night of our seven-day trip, we hit our pillows gleefully exhausted, our outfits—attempts at blending in with the effortlessly fashionable French—stained with gnocchi cream sauce and dirt from places like Nice’s hilltop medieval village St. Paul de Vence, and Cezanne’s rustic Provence studio, where his paint-splattered smocks still hang from their wall hooks.

To relax, I wrote some music at the piano in the Cabaret Room and hit Azamara Quest’s spa, where a masseuse named Amber dug into my back like a miner with some really hot stones, and nearly sold me on purchasing the warming Elemis oil. Mom was tempted to take a dip in the ship’s outdoor hot tubs and pool overlooking the Mediterranean, but the breakfast buffet and flea market excursions took priority.

While our mother-daughter trip was certainly peppered with Mom’s usual classics—"Bonnie, you should learn a language," "Cover your mouth when you yawn," and "How do I log onto the wi-fi"—it was also flush with the trip’s number one question: "What city are we waking up in today?" And what a way to get up and go.

Over the course of seven days, I discovered both the beauty of the French coast and how great of a traveling companion a parent can be. Sure, you both nag, frustrate, argue—but they still wake up your parent and you their kid—and let’s be frank: the same can’t be said of friends on a seven-day voyage across six cities with limited wi-fi and occasional bouts of indigestion.

This trip on Azamara will be something Mom and I talk about for years—at Thanksgivings, birthdays, get-togethers—all to the utmost irritation of our family members who can’t relate. But who cares. It will be our adventure, memories between just the two of us. And that’s what I call bonding.

Read more about Azamara Club Cruises, BlackBook’s Côte d’Azur Guide, & follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Conquer Your Self-Tanning Fears with St. Tropez

If you experimented with self tanner before the year 2000, you are probably too scarred to ever dabble in faux bronzing again. The old process went a little like this: put on lotion, go to bed, wake up resembling an orange zebra, listen to your mother yell at you about ruining your sheets, smell funny for days. Thanks to improvements on the basic formula, sunless tanning lotions work much better now, but they’re not entirely foolproof, either. (And let’s get this straight: tanning the solar way is out of the question.) Which gives us another reason to love St. Tropez products this season.

Aside from providing some of the best self tanning products on the market, St. Tropez offers an assortment of solutions to cure all your self-tanning blunders. The products are designed to be at-home companions, specifically formulated to remove any unwanted tan blotches or stripes. I’m particularly jazzed about the variety of uses for my ankle area—a place where tans always tend to go awry. Check ’em:

St. Tropez Tan Detox ($35) Natural lavender and hazelnut oils gently remove tan residue and prep skin for a new application. Tip for chronic self-tan addicts: pour two cap-fulls into a hot bath. It hydrates skin, and in about twelve hours your peau is ready for a fresh tan.

St. Tropez Tan Remover ($18) Gentle exfoliating beads remove unwanted tans quickly and easily. Especially effective for removing self tan from the palms and from between fingers or toes when used up to 4 hours after application.

St. Tropez Tan Cleansing Wipes ($10 for 25 wipes) Removes any unwanted color immediately after application with green tea (reputed for antioxidant properties) and chamomile extracts (known for soothing benefits).

Bringing St. Tropez to NYC: Chanel Pop-Up Shop at Jeffrey

If you couldn’t make it to the south of France for the debut of Chanel’s Resort 2011 collection, you’re in luck. The iconic Parisian brand is bringing St. Tropez to Manhattan’s Meatpacking District with a temporary boutique at shopping hot spot Jeffrey New York. Recreating the Café Sénéquier where the brand held its cruise runway show last May, the Chanel pop-up has transformed the store into an authentic imitation of the red-roofed resort town.

With this small taste of life in the European seaside village, shoppers will be transported onto the chic Tropezien beaches that were known in the 1920s for attracting famous personalities from the fashion world including Coco Chanel herself.

Summer Try-Outs: The Season’s Best Creams, Bronzers, and Sunscreens

Big news in the world of beauty: there is no big news, at least on the anti-aging front. Despite the appearance of progress—due in part to the recent revamps of reality-androids like Heidi Montag—the products themselves haven’t improved considerably. That $300 bottle of youth serum in your medicine cabinet is about as useless as a virgin Bloody Mary if it doesn’t have the sperm-like power to penetrate the epidermis and dive deep into the skin, where collagen and elastin fibers hang out. But while the science hasn’t changed much, we’ve figured out ways to make it more effective.

A derma roller can help. Its up-to-three-inch-long needles puncture skin repeatedly, forging deep paths into the subcutaneous tissue, so that today’s best anti-aging products can work their magic. For those with an aversion to needles, there’s plankton, which is found in fortified creams and serums like those in the Biotherm Skin Vivo Reversive Anti-Aging Care range. The plant source is full of enzymes and does the work that sad, aging DNA has gotten too lazy to accomplish.

It’s important to remember that wrinkles and sunspots are often our own fault. Just because Diane Lane spent all that time cavorting under the Tuscan sun doesn’t mean everyone else should—unless, of course, it’s with the newest protective sunscreens. Estée Lauder’s Bronze Goddess Sunscreen SPF 30 is an indulgent, non-greasy lotion made especially for the face, and it doesn’t smell like Eau de Doctor’s Office. Chantecaille’s Protection Naturelle SPF 46 is an innovative powder sunscreen for those whose skin is already oily enough. Another popular choice among dermatologists and wrinkle fighters is the well-rounded Neutrogena Spectrum+ with Helioplex360 because of its ability to block UVA and UVB rays while also fighting wrinkles with vitamin E.

One of the more blush-inducing trends to emerge this summer is butt care, which has raised its profile with a barrage of advances in the war on cellulite. Biotherm’s Celluli Laser D.Code is sending everyone with hot-pants fever into a tizzy because it activates cellulite-fighting enzymes usually only triggered by exercise.

Another way to avoid yoga classes is to trick the eye with self-tanners. For the Miranda Kerr effect, try Victoria’s Secret’s Beach Sexy Sunkissed Bronze Instant Self Tan Lotion with Tint, which smells incredible and includes a bit of shimmer. St. Tropez offers a new alternative to self-tanner with its Wash Off Instant Glow Mousse. Better yet, apply Illamasqua’s Powdered Metal in Thalia or Youngblood’s Mineral Radiance Moisture Tint in Golden Sun to hide those unsightly imperfections on the thighs and other areas of the body—and to divert attention from dimples in places they should not be.

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Counter Intelligence Tanning the old-fashioned way can be a death sentence. But there are plenty of innovative cosmetics one can use to achieve that sun-kissed shine this summer without wrinkling into a California raisin. Makeup artist Walter Obal sheds light on how to get the glow while avoiding the look of a 75-year-old chain-smoker. —Christopher Campbell

SkincareLancôme’s Flash Bronzer Tinted Anti-Age Self-Tanning Face Lotion creates an even, gradual tan with a healthy glow and also helps to promote beautiful, ageless skin. For a bronzed body, use L’Oréal’s Sublime Bronze ProPerfect Salon Airbrush Self-Tanning Mist. This tan- in-a-can provides an even mist and allows sunbathers to target all those difficult-to-reach spots without having to bare it all in front of a salon worker.” Face “On photo shoots, I oft en opt for Temptu SB Foundation to even out skin tones. It’s a lightweight foundation that allows the skin to radiate from underneath while providing the perfect finish. Lightly powder the whole face with Bare Escentuals’ bareMinerals SPF 25 Mineral Veil for extra ray protection.”

Cheeks “For a pronounced, chiseled effect, add contour underneath the cheekbones and along the temples with Make Up For Ever Mat Bronze. Finish this structured cheek by highlighting the upper cheekbone with Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess Soft Shimmer Bronzer. It can also be used along the collarbone.”

Lips “For a nice burst of color, apply MAC Cosmetics’ Ruby Woo to the lips. Since the overall look for this shoot was a healthy, bronzed glow, I wanted to use a product that would make a statement. That’s why I chose a bright red matte lipstick.”

On Model: Body Suit by American Apparel, Headband by Charlotte Ronson, Shoes by Christian Louboutin. Stylist: Christopher Campbell Makeup: Walter Obal for Temptu Pro Hair: Anthony Nader Manicurist: Dawn Sterling Studio Manager/Digital Tech: Jennifer Thomas Photo Assistant: Aaron Muntz Model: Hartje Andresen @ Trump Model Management Exercise Equipment: Paragon Sports