In the moment that the famous writer and his family needed to find “a new rhythm to our lives” as Fitzgerald wrote, they left their home on Long Island for the South of France, hoping to find a cheaper place to live and some quietude do write. They traveled through the then-cheap French Riviera Hotels. Many of the sunbaked restaurants, villas, and hotels they frequented still exist on the mythic stretch of coastline he dubbed “a playground for the world.”
Here’s where to walk in the French Riviera Hotels in the same way that Fitzgerald did.
The stately Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, in Antibes, France, has held court on the rocky Côte d’Azur since the 1870s—playing host to everybody from Hemingway and Picasso to Liz in Dick to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The world’s most glamorous have flocked to Hotel du Cap since Scott’s day: his friends Gerald and Sara Murphy, the models for Dick and Nicole Diver, once rented the hotel for an entire summer, drawing compatriots like the Fitzgeralds, Ernest Hemingway, and Pablo Picasso into their magnetic orbit. Of course, nowadays the hotel is packed during the summer and is the virtual center of the universe during the Cannes Film Festival.
Opened in 1920 as Chez Robinson, an open-air terrace cafe, and bar. Scott and Zelda have known fans of the hotel’s restaurant, a traditional French spot featuring the main dining hall, private room, and garden terrace, reportedly spending many a raucous evening at La Colombe D’Or. It was here that a jealous Zelda once threw herself down a flight of stairs after Scott drunkenly flirted with the dancer Isadora Duncan.
While Gerald and Sara Murphy were living at the Hotel du Cap, waiting for renovations to be completed on their retreat Villa America, the Fitzgeralds stayed at the Continental Hotel in Saint-Raphaël in 1924. It’s here that Scott wrote the majority of The Great Gatsby.
“Once in the middle twenties, I was driving along the High Corniche Road through the twilight with the whole French Riviera twinkling on the sea below. As far ahead as I could see was Monte Carlo … when life was literally a dream.” – On Authorship, Scott Fitzgerald. Monte Carlo Casino was a favorite destination for the couple, mentioned frequently in their letters and writings.
Here, the hard-reveling couple would drink themselves into a stupor, with Scott reportedly a fan of the hotel bar’s gin fizz and mint juleps.
The Hotel Beau Rivage was another spot where the couple stayed and played—although, in Zelda’s words, more “economically” than at other spots. Today, the hotel has been renovated, offering air conditioning, a private beach, and a terrace front restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean.
In 1926, Scott, Zelda, and Scottie returned to the Riviera and rented a seaside house in Juan-les-Pins. Take note of the letter from Fitzgerald to Hemingway in 1926, framed and on display in the lobby: “With our being back in a nice villa on my beloved Riviera (between Nice and Cannes) I’m happier than I’ve been for years. It’s one of those strange, precious and all too transitory moments when everything in one’s life seems to be going well.”
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