When The Great Gatsby opened the Festival de Cannes in 2013, one could get from Baz Luhrmann’s lavish screen soiree, a feel for the wild parties that played out in sophisticated villas in the Hamptons in the 1920’s.
But author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who called the Riviera his second home, also set some of his stories here in the South of France. His Tender is The Night is a twisted tale about tumultuous couple Nicole and Dick Diver that is set between the big parties at their French Riviera villa.
One can still find some of Fitzgerald’s imprint down here, says long term resident Tim Swannie.
“One of my favourite French Riviera villas is called La Picolette which is next door to the Belles Rives hotel (a previous Fitzgerald home of course) on the Cap d’Antibes,” says Swannie, who is a director of luxury realtor HomeHunts.
“It is from the same era and is full of 1930’s style, but it is has been completely renovated throughout. There is a wonderful tower with a roof terrace,” he says. “The sunset from there, looking west towards Cannes and the islands, is magical.”
The Riviera comes to life every night, but most of all during the annual Festival de Cannes. Parties can be found in other worldly villas overlooking the blue Mediterranean or climbing up the hills that retreat into the distance of a nighttime.
Here are some of the best party villas, homes, and castles in and around Cannes:
The Bubble House: Pierre Cardin
The iconic Palais Bulles, was designed by architect Antti Lovag. Wandering through its curvy curly hallways and rooms is like entering an even more surreal Alice in Wonderland adventure.
The house is, of course, the playground of the designer Pierre Cardin. As a result, the abode is legendary for festival parties and other big events. Built over a decade from 1975 to 1989, it overlooks the Mediterranean and the red cliffs of the Esterel, with a view all the way to the bay of Cannes.
It might feel weird to be inside this pot of bubbles, but the younger set seems to always enjoy it. It has long been a favorite of MTV for their Cannes soirees, though, ironically, the design is apparently meant to evoke cave dwellings.
Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc
For nearly 150 years, the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc has been hosting the most glamorous guests, from Hollywood celebrities to the political elite. The luxury resort is one of the most storied venues on the French Riviera. It can claim Fitzgerald as a guest, but perhaps Madonna overshadows him. The Kennedys vacationed there in 1938. In fact, it is supposedly the place where Joe Kennedy Sr. began an affair with Marlene Dietrich.
Few, if any, locales can boast more than a century of icons. Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall were hotel guests, but today, so are Brad and Angelina.
Château de la Napoule
The Château de La Napoule lies about six miles outside of Cannes. This 14th Century castle has gone through a series of renovations. It was famously bought by American couple Marie and Henry Clews Jr. in 1918. Under their watch, it was made the center for the La Napoule Arts Foundation. To fund the center, the chateau serves as a fabulous venue for soirees and weddings.
For a long time, it was the scene of the most fabled party of the Festival, hosted by the magazine Moving Pictures at the end of the 10-day extravaganza.
The paper’s journalists (including this one) would sleep in one of the myriad of decadent rooms during the Festival. There was always a wild party in the beautiful gardens littered with sculptures and a winding labyrinth of rooms.
Before Villa Domergue was hosting the most elite and covert parties on the French Riviera, it was the home of Venetian painter Jean-Gabriel Domergue, He designed the villa in 1934, and his wife, sculptor Odette Maugendre, designed the gorgeous gardens and pools. The couple donated their divine art deco home to the city of Cannes in 1973.
One of the most memorable soirees at a villa in recent years was Chopard’s 2012 secret mystery party. Guests were driven to this secret location where they found inside masked partygoers and brilliant jazz bands playing.
Villa Jeux de Toits
This fabulous villa will be the site of a VIP filmmakers party this year organized by the Festival, Raindance. As the Raindance website notes, dancing, pool, sauna, hot tub, and a VIP Room will be available to the lucky guests to the villa. They will also get to bask in the the breathtaking view from Super Cannes and live music from the singer/actress, Justyna Kelley.
Villa Saint George
One must take the winding back roads of Cannes to reach this villa, which has hosted a number of fabulous soirees in recent years. During the 65th Festival de Cannes, it hosted Calvin Klein’s Women in Film celebration back. The villa was packed with super models two a penny.
Château de la Colle Noire
Once the Provencal home of Christian Dior, it is lovingly nicknamed the Château Dior. Built in 1860, Château de la Colle Noir is located in Montauroux in the Var region of Provence.
An easy drive, it takes just a half-hour to get there from the French Riviera coast. It has a beautiful set of gardens and outdoor pool. As a treat for fashion buffs, Dior’s bedroom and office have been preserved. The luckiest brides can even splurge and hold their weddings there.