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Hopefully you will find here an observer's viewpoint that is interesting, readable, occasionally amusing, and most important, useful. I try to keep it up to date and add new pages where I can add anything more of interest. I share my home between London and Nice, I am not a tourist, I live here.

It is not the purpose of these pages to tell you about me, though, as with all travel, you may discover a little on the journey. You will not find any poetry in these pages nor lists of favourite books, bands, song lyrics, astrology signs or pictures of loved-ones or pets. For that you will need to visit some of my fellow VTers. Nothing here is written in hippy orange and purple fonts. I do not upload personal holiday photos of the " me in front of <insert placename>..." school of popular photography. I do not recommend that you "Live your dream!" unless it comes with a return ticket and unlimited medical insurance. And when flying, always remember to pack your sense of humour - nowadays its the only sharp item allowed on board.

Welcome to this portrait of the French Riviera, a magical place that has been a magnet to high society for thousands of years. My canvas is the people of the Riviera as much as the places. I try to capture the flow of life on the Riviera, particularly of the more rich and famous.

VT is my studio, my camera is my brush. (Ed: am I stretching this metaphor too far do you think?). Readers of celebrity magazines might want to "cut the foreplay" and go straight to St Tropez. Others might do as well to set off from here...


As some of my fellow-countrymen would say, "Welcome to Fwance. And the Fwench Wivi-ewa"...

...especially Nice . It is my drug of choice, and it's entirely legal. So join me, it's alright to inhale (virtually) starting with the larger than life people who have made the Riviera one of their homes, some of whom have also found it necessary to invent new names for themselves. (Stay with me - all will be revealed)

Elton in Nice

An honorary citizen of Nice, Reginald Dwight (Sir Elton John, 63) commands what is probably the finest view of all Nice, perched on top of Mont Alban above the port, looking out East and West. Expect guests like Liz Hurley, Posh Spice, and Liz Taylor, civil partner David Furnish and friends on occasional visits and parties, especially around the time of concerts and festivals along the riviera. Expect Eltons new baby boy Zachary to keep the residents of Mont Boron awake all night.

Actor David Niven, at Cap Ferrat

The magnificent villa Lo Scoglietto - renamed La Fleur du Cap on Cap Ferrat Built in 1880 for a Nice olive oil merchant Alfred Bounin, it was owned in the ninteen fiftes by Charlie Chaplin, and was home to actor David Niven in his final years. His wife joined the Grace Kelly social circle, but sadly the Nivens separated. The villa has been recently refurbished but shows no sign of personal residence.

The whole of Cap Ferrat now has an estimated 60 properties owned by Russian new money but Niven Place perhaps lacks the level of security they require, so we visitors can carry on enjoying its presence on a pleasant stroll to St Jean. In few places of the world does sugar-pink go so well with azure blue. As a stroll down Promenade Maurice Rouvier past Niven Place will amply confirm.

Singer Bono at Eze bord du Mer

U2 singer Paul Hewson (Bono,50) has a villa on the beachfront at Eze-bord de-mer, totally private apart from the Nice - Monaco railway line behind. Bono has received an honorary knighthood for "his services to the music industry and for his humanitarian work". Late UK Prime Minister Tony Blair congratulated him, telling the singer in a letter: "You have tirelessly used your voice to speak up for Africa."

Ironically Bono lives a few kilometres from Villa Maria Irina, the former home of one of the greatest causes of Africa's poverty, the now deceased dictator General Mobutu, who bled Zaire dry over 30 years before stashing billions away in Swiss bank accounts and fleeing to the French Riviera. To his credit, at least, Bono earned his place in the south of France. However Bono does endorse rather conspicuous consumption products: Louis Vuiton - Bono Complicated, this good life, isn't it?

Bono neighbours in Eze bord de Mer now include fellow U2 member David Evans aka "The Edge" (48) and Julian Lennon (45), offspring of Beatle John Lennon and Cynthia - Wife 1.0 (beta)

Singer Tina Turner at Villefranche, and more...

Rock legend Anna Mae Bullock (Tina Turner, 68) is a regular visitor to her Villa Anna Fleur in the gated community of Le Castellet on Mont Vinaigrier, perched high in the hills above Villefranche. Plenty of room here for her collection of antique furniture and a Buddist shrine on an uppper floor.

From among the trees, this private estate's high vantage point looks out over the magnificent Cap Ferrat peninsula and the coast towards Monaco and, as it happens, looks down on Sir Elton.

Tina's other European home is in Geneva. Elton's other homes are everywhere, including Venice, Atlanta, Holland Park and Windsor.

Apart from Elton, "neighbours" include another famous gay pop singer, one-time teen heartthrob Georgios Panayiotou (George Michael, 45) who has a villa in the chic Marres quarter of Saint-Tropez.

And to make up a Sunday morning five-a-side, there is always Eric Cantona in the tiny vallage of Le Beaume past Marseilles, and David "O oooh..err, I think I've scored!" Beckham (real name, David Beckham, 33), at his 10 bedroom 250 acre estate Domaine Saint Vincent at Bargemon in the Var.

The Var is now choca with "Les Hollywoodiens" since Brad-gelina moved in with an estate at Correns, and Johnny Depp (46) and Vanessa Paradis (37) (amazingly, both their real names) also said to be settling on the Var. Forget the idiotic excess of Beverly Hills - go France, c'est chic.

Roman Abramovich at Cap d'Antibes

Inspired by the Chateau Anglaise at Clermont, this villa was built at the end of the roaring twenties for British press baron Sir William Pomeroy Burton of Associated Newspapers. The Duke of Windsor, former King Edward VIII, moved in 1938 with Mrs Wallace Simpson after he gave up the British Crown for her. Sadly, the decadent Duke became bored with the Riviera and in 1948 sold up and moved to Paris, dashed conveniently missing World War Two entirely!

The villa was sold to Stavros Niarkos, the Greek shipping magnate, and then passed through various money-soiled hands until it was bought recently for a rumoured £15m by Roman Abramovich, the thirty nine year old year old russian former oil billionnaire who also owns Chelsea Football Club and three megayachts known locally as "Abramowich's Navy". Chateau de la Croe is said to require as much again to refurbish it. With Eilenroc as neighbour, the Chateau is in good company on the southern tip of exclusive Cap d'Antibes.

Paul Allen at St Jean Cap Ferrat

Co-founder of Microsoft Paul Allen, 54, (the "accidental zillionnaire"), magnificent Villa Maryland on Cap Ferrat overlooking the chic yachting harbour of St Jean. Focal point for entertaining Hollywood stars during the Cannes Film Festival in May, and briefly home to Hollywood's golden couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie before the birth of their twins at Hospital Lenval in Nice.

Savour also the magnificent Villa Ile de France on the Cap Ferrat, bequeathed by the Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild to the French Academy of Fine Arts, along with its seven themed gardens and her collections of fine arts. Others, like La Leopolda overlooking Cap Ferrat/ Villefranche, built by the monstrous King Leopold of the Belgians are sadly not open to the public. That fabled villa was owned at one time by Fiat chairman and tycoon Gianni Agnelli, and later aquired by the multi-billionaire banker Edmond Safra, who died in mysterious circumstances in his Monte Carlo bathroom in 1999. Safra was said to be one of only two hundred people in the world who could afford to live at this standard. His widow Lily scooped the worlds largest lost deposit when Russian oligarch Mikhael Prokhorov was forced to withdraw from his proposed £400m purchase offer for the estate

Emil Jellinek-Mercedes in Nice Cimetieres

The rich and powerful families of Nice make their final resting place in the three grand Cimitieres de Nice, high above the city overlooking the Bay.

Among the illustrious names of Nice like Massena and Garribaldi, there you will find the family mausoleum of Emile Jellinek, founder of the Daimler-Benz automotive empire. He would winter in Nice at his villa at 54 Promenade des Anglais, curiously the only even-number in this length of the Prom, which are all odds. In 1900 he named his new car after his daughter Mecedes. Which is just as well, as the news "Hey mom, my company promotion means I get to drive a top of the range Jellinek!" doesn't quite have the right ring to it.

Here in peace at last, he has no need to find somewhere to park. Unlike the hundreds and thousands of Mercedes owners circulating below in Nice .

What do these people all have in common?

Homo Erectus. The Ancient Greeks. The Holy Roman Empire. Queen Victoria and the British Royal Family. American industrial pioneers and literary figures of the nineteeen twenties. The giants of French Imressionist painting, Africa dictators, global rock stars, millionaire footballers and their wives, Russian oligarchs, technology squillionaires and tax exiles.

Let's be frank: what they have in common (apart from the first) is money. Though Riviera-on-a-shoestring is possible, for the most part it takes serious money to live well here. Not "fair"?

NiceLife's "One-third Law of Wealth" says that around a third of the seriously rich inherit or marry into money, one third have stolen it, and one third earn and richly deserve it. (The fourth third don't deserve anything because they are no good with arithmetic) The statistics may be a bit approximate but, in my view, all this is probably a fairer distribution today than at any point in our history on this planet. Go back a million years and someone always had a bigger cave with more concubines.

Notwithstanding their source of wealth, they all share a common passion for the good things in life, and this is one of them, the French Riviera. It's a passion which once contracted, there is no known cure. Just more of it. And thanks to VT, any day.

  • Intro Updated Mar 11, 2013
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