The Côte d'Azur, Great Gatsby Style

Journalism: France Travel


  • Category:France Travel
  • Principal role:Author
  • Other role(s):Photographic contributor
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The Cote d’Azur as we know it was invented by the arty expatriate set in the 1920s. Picasso painted it. Cole Porter crooned it. But no one celebrated the Cote d’Azur more tenderly than F Scott Fitzgerald. From the glamorous summer season to the glittering guest list, it’s still his Riviera party that we want to be part of. And the party is in full swing – even if you’re a gate-crasher.

It’s some 90 years since Cole Porter and Scott Fitzgerald resided nearby, raised hell with their Hollywood friends and persuaded the glitterati the Cote d’Azur was the place to party. Midwesterner F Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) sought a change of scenery to spark his creativity. By burnishing that scenery, he sparked our imaginations - and the myth of the irrepressible Riviera was born. Scott Fitzgerald is best-known for The Great Gatsby, the novel which captures the spirit of the Jazz Age. But for France lovers, Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night (1934) is the truest portrait of “the Roaring Twenties,” and was inspired by his racy Riviera life, from the mid-1920s onwards.

Following in Scott Fitzgerald’s footsteps reveals a glamorous route back to the Jazz Age. Cap d’Antibes and Juan Les Pins recall the Roaring Twenties. Here, the summer season swept away memories of the coast as a winter sanatorium. Sunbathing and gambling, the twin 20th-century vices, were celebrated instead. This restless writer loved the Riviera, from the cheap rents to the fast women and hard partying: "One could get away with more on the summer Riviera, and whatever happened seemed to have something to do with art."

The Cap d’Antibes still represents the loveliest ramble in the Riviera, with plunging scenery matched by movie-star mansions and a smooth procession of mega yachts. So far, so Scott Fitzgerald. The glamour lingers on in the gorgeous villas where the `pyjama set’ partied themselves into the pages of a Jazz Age masterpiece. These are villas fit for Flappers. In Villa America, set below the Cap d’Antibes lighthouse, the American socialite Murphys held court and staged the wildest parties, the crazier, the better. In Tender is the Night, Dick Diver, modelled on Gerald Murphy, says, "I want to give a party where there's a brawl and seductions and people going home with their feelings hurt and women passing out in the cabinette de toilette.

Extract from The Cote d’Azur Great Gatsby-style by Lisa Gerard-Sharp published on (copyright ©
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