The French Riviera is made for revelry and romance. The Jazz Age launched the glittering parties and the Great Gatsby lifestyle. But its restless spirit also chimes with our times. When jazz is playing and the cocktails are flowing, the Roaring Twenties feel back in business. As Jay Gatsby says: "Can't repeat the past? Why of course you can!"
A selection of Lisa's images showcases the landscapes and people of the French Riviera, where Lisa lives. Click on any image to enlarge it. Just hover over any image to reveal a detailed caption. All images copyright © Lisa Gerard-Sharp.
Set off Cannes, the Ile de Sainte Marguerite is an island made for walking, picnicking, swimming, snoozing and dreaming. Come armed with a copy of Alexandre Dumas’ “Man with the Iron Mask.” The legendary prisoner was incarcerated on the island’s Fort Royal and you can visit his cell. The island is so near chic but consumerist Cannes, yet so far away in spirit (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).
The Carnival King rules over the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. The city carnival is Europe’s best choreographed affair. Twenty tonnes of confetti, 20 stunning floats, 50 giant heads, 100,000 fresh flowers, and a cast of 1,500 street performers and 2,000 helpers give a sense of the scale (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).
Cannes Film Festival comes to town. The festival spells the start of the red carpet season on the Cote. This year, the oldest and most French of film festivals was opened by the first lady of French cinema, Catherine Deneuve. Cannes is about fun and fashion as much as film, from beach-screenings in bermuda shorts to partying on floating palaces (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).
Set atop a flower-bedecked float, the Nice Carnival Queen commands the city, tossing bunches of mimosa to waving fans. Ballerinas dressed as roses pirouette past sunflower contortionists spinning like tops. Aurelie, a nurse in real life, says: “Being a Carnavalier is a passion, a calling.” (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).
Nice Vieux Port is framed by the Old Town and dominated by “the citadel” on the hill. Down in the harbour, the pointed boats symbolise southern living, along with liquorice-scented pastis. The Italians ruled Nice for centuries, bringing in baroque architecture and a dolce vita lifestyle. Nice retains its cosmopolitan glamour but is also a showcase for southern culture, technically French but temperamentally Italian. Gorgeous art, gourmet cuisine and gambling ensure Nice remains naughty but nice (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).
Villa Ephrussi Rothschild is pretty in pink. Set on Cap Ferrat, Europe’s priciest promontory, this palatial pink folly was designed for Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild. The Italianate mansion boasts fountain-filled gardens inspired by both the Mediterranean and the Orient. Linger in the rose gardens before tea and cake on the terrace (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).
In the South of France, the food is often as painterly as the art. Tapenade is Provence on a plate, an intense dip made from olives, anchovies and garlic. Washed down with a glass of rosé, this savoury treat means that summer is underway (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).
Trundling along in the tourist train above the Croisette in Cannes, where the ruined castle, medieval Old Town and market are more appealing than the glitzy shopping. Cannes only exudes Cote d’Azur glamour during the Film Festival frenzy. The fashionable resort was founded by Lord Brougham in 1835, who halted at the fishing village en route to Nice (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).
Therese is the "mistress of socca" on Cours Saleya in Nice, where she sells chick-pea "socca", the perfect accompaniment to a glass of summery rosé. Served from a sizzling pan, this savoury street food is what the Nicois snack on at any time of day. As the main square in the Old Town, Cours Saleya is a fruit and flower market except on Monday, when Provencal bric a brac, antiques, jewellery and antiquarian prints take over. Cours Saleya is made for assignations and wicked gossip, exchanged over a glass of rosé, of course (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).
Set on the rocky Esterel coast, Theoule is a low-key Riviera resort with lovely walks. The Esterel coast, stretching from here to St Raphael, is as recklessly romantic as the mountainous hinterland. With its porphyry red rocks plunging down to the sea, this is the wildest stretch of coast on the Riviera. This is the quiet Cote d’Azur before the cinema crowd moved in (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).
Nice Carnival takes over Place Massena. From here, head to Vieux Nice, the Old Town, for a drink. Rue Droite is lined with eclectic shops and ethnic outlets and leads into bustling rue de la Poissonerie where the intimate Chapelle de Sainte Rita is dedicated to Saint Rita, the patron saint of lost causes. After a pastis or two, you might be a lost cause, too (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).
Riviera nightlife will never be cool or cutting-edge so abandon any pretensions and prepare for retro Riviera glamour. The Riviera is romancing the Jazz Age, from the glittering parties to the restless spirit that chimes with our times. “The Great Gatsby”, the Scott Fitzgerald novel written on the Riviera, inspires fans of Fitzgerald’s “hot sweet south of France” but “Tender is the Night” is truer to the spirit of the Riviera. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald first visited in 1924, lapping up Hyères, Cannes, St Juan des Pins and Monte Carlo – but eventually settled in Saint-Raphaël, where “Gatsby” was written and “Tender is the Night” was begun. It’s a lyrical tribute to the Riviera: “Deferential palms cover its flushed face” is how the Fitzgerald’s beachfront villa is described in “Tender is the Night” (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).
To live on “le Cap” is the height of chic, with St Jean Cap Ferrat the most prestigious cape of all. The ten-kilometre road around the cape shows you how the other half lives: glorious gardens are secreted behind serious gates. Here, the belle époque villas behave like burlesque stars, dressed in ice cream-colours but hidden behind bougainvillea. It’s all about teasing: you can see me but you can’t afford me. Luckily, several of the loveliest villas can be visited, including Villa Ephrussi Rothschild (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).
Beware of the monks – or at least respect their sanctuary over the water from consumerist Cannes. Meet the monks on the Island of St Honorat, on the Iles de Lerins or simple wander the windswept, wine-growing island. If keen on Bordeaux-style vintages, head to the monastery, where the monks produce award-winning wines, served in their gourmet restaurant and sold on the island, along with their heady liqueurs. Toast the monks in their own brew: if pushing the boat out, buy the pricey but renowned Abbaye de Lerins wines, which can also be sampled over the water in Cannes (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).
A camp stilt-walker struts her stuff at St Raphael Carnival. Flower-bedecked floats and satirical scenes parade past, accompanied by processions of clownish jugglers, balletic tumblers, bold rappers, hip hop street-dancers, whimsical mime artist and top-hatted tightrope artists (photo © Lisa Gerard-Sharp).