The eastern Riviera is one thing. Monaco is another, providing the requisite pinch of bling for a total French Riviera experience. The principality definitely knows how to treat people. Spend a single night in a partner hotel there—I chose to decompress at the Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo (rooms, from $480; 4 Av. de la Madone; 377/93-15-15-15; metropole.com) before moving into the house I rented in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin—and you can arrive in style in a helicopter from Nice Airport (and get lots of other freebies and discounts) by joining the city-state’s Le Club Diamant Rouge for a mere $85 (212-286-3330; clubdiamantrouge.com).
After dinner at Le Bouchon (11 Av. Princesse Grace; 377/97-77-08-80), a classic French bistro, I spent my first morning at the Métropole’s outdoor rooftop swimming pool, newly redesigned in graphic black-and-white by the great fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld (a longtime habitué of the outré Riviera), followed by a poolside lunch at Odyssey (4 Av. de la Madone; 377/93-15-15-56; metropole.com), Joël Robuchon’s new restaurant there. The food was as refined as Lagerfeld’s looming mural of toga-clad models is vaguely ridiculous.
Monaco is full of such contrasts: The Monte Carlo Beach Club (Av. Princesse Grace, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin; monte-carlo-beach.com) is a diverting place to spend a day, with its Olympic-sized saltwater pool, ladders into the Mediterranean, chic Le Deck restaurant for lunch and the Sea Lounge for chilling over cocktails and world-class people-watching. During my visit, burly Russians juggled sylphlike young women and multiple cell phones in the cabana next to mine; an Italian fellow in scuffed monk-strap shoes, who sat near me at lunch, briefly stopped ignoring his companion, a Russian blonde in Prada and Ferragamo, to tell her she didn’t know how to eat spaghetti; and I overheard one American child boast to another, “My driver is putting my scooter together.”