This town may be somewhat tourist-laden, but the historic town (with cobblestone streets expected of a tiny French village) is home to La Colombe d’Or (left), a small hotel which houses artworks from Matisse, Picasso, Calder, and more in the expansive dining room. The restaurant, which has been a hot spot for burgeoning artists since the 1930s, serves homey Provençal cuisine to guests who may just find themselves contemplating a Picasso sculpture on the wall. Meanwhile, the local vineyard produces not just rosé, but also reds and whites, which can be found at La Petite Cave de Saint-Paul, the resident wine boutique located in a 14th-century water cellar (wine expert Frédéric Theys lists Nicole Kidman and the band Muse as former customers).
Closer to Cannes than Nice, and decidedly more celebrity-filled (Leonardo DiCaprio is rumored to have camped out at l'Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, after all), the beach town of Antibes is divided into Old Antibes and New. In Old Antibes, you’ll find the "Little England" of the area along Rue Lacan, with Geoffrey’s Supermarket selling Marmite and biscuits to a slew of expats. For more local produce, browse the Provençal Food Market, both produce stand and restaurant venue, held daily during the summer. And while Antibes is well-known for stellar restaurants, few are more famous than Le Michelangelo, which lists Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt (as well as Rihanna) as past customers and drag tourists in for their excellent pasta and Mamo burger topped with foie gras.
Just a ferry ride away from Cannes are two historic islands off the coast, both with different stories. Île Sainte-Marguerite, seemingly a nature-filled Mediterranean island of boats, restaurants, and hiking trails, also houses a fortress prison, former home to the prisoner in The Man in the Iron Mask. The story was of the prisoner who was forced to wear an iron mask at all times was made famous by Alexandre Dumas.
The second island, Saint-Honorat (left), is home to the Abbaye Notre Dame de Lérins, where the monks have cultivated a 19-acre vineyard producing wines from pinot noir, chardonnay, mourvèdre, and syrah grape varieties. Of course, most of the winery was developed throughout the last 50 years, but some of the vines have been growing since the medieval times (the monk Honorat founded the monastery in 405 AD, after all).
On an off day, few tourists traipse about Mougins' art-gallery-ridden streets, but come summer, the International Gastronomy Festival of Mougins, or "Les Étoiles de Mougins," hits. This year, the festival takes place from Sept. 27 to 29, chaired by chef Gérald Passédat of Marseille’s Le Petit Nice, and culminates in a two-day cooking competition. And of course, the town has been graced with the presence of Alain Ducasse and Paul Bocuse at restaurant L'Amandier de Mougins.
In fact, Ducasse spent quite a while in Mougins; the chef had a stint at Le Moulin de Mougins, a restaurant and hotel in a revamped an old olive mill. A meal here promises classical French cooking (think pan-fried foie gras starters and lobster fricassée) and a good hour spent deciphering celebrities’ autographs along the windows (Hugh Grant, Anthony Hopkins, and Audrey Hepburn, to name a few).
You’ll find most of the Italian influences in this beachside city, where locals may just venture to Italy to buy some more produce. In fact, in Nice you may just find a wet risotto, much like the Italian way, while elsewhere in Provence you’ll find a risotto more like a pilaf. The specialty in this city? Socca, a chickpea flour flatbread, and, of course, Salad Niçoise; Nice is often credited as the founding city of the classic French salad, with their regional version including tuna, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, celery, anchovies, chives, olive oil from Nice (the best olive oil), and specifically, pink radishes.