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A hub of the super wealthy and fashionable jet set, the south of France also offers quieter; more affordable pleasures. Côte d’ Azur resident Lanie Goodman shares her address book.

Description: And while it’s true that the coastal Riviera is still a show-off’s paradise, inland the region is also home to quieter, more authentic pleasures.

And while it’s true that the coastal Riviera is still a show-off’s paradise, inland the region is also home to quieter, more authentic pleasures.

Henri Matisse summed up the appeal of Nice thus:  “Do you remember the light through the shutters?” he said. “It came from below, as it from theatre footlights. Everything was fake, absurd, amazing, delicious.”

Description: The real French Riviera is still here, even in peak season.

The real French Riviera is still here, even in peak season.

And while it’s true that the coastal Riviera is still a show-off’s paradise, inland the region is also home to quieter, more authentic pleasures. Last summer I braved the steep roads north of Menton to attend a sit-down feast celebrating a bountiful chestnut harvest. We consumed creamy polenta, wild boar stew, marron pastries and robust red wine. It was a joyous event, and cost only €10 per person.

As soon as temperatures rise, residents head for the hills. To walk through cool forests of truffle oaks and sip rosé en piscine on a shady village square. One of my favourite escapes is to jump on a ferry to Ile Saint – Honorat for a lunch of fresh, grilled lobster, or to go to Théoule-sur-Mer for a swim at one of its tiny inlets. The real French Riviera is still here, even in peak season. To help you on your way, here is a selection of my favourite restaurants and affordable hotels and guest houses.

1.    From Menton to Cannes

Where to stay Hôtel Napoléon, Menton

Description: Hôtel Napoléon, Menton

Hôtel Napoléon, Menton

This 44-bedroom hotel on the coast road near the Italian border was refurbished in 2005 by its enterprising young owner. Matthew Likierman (He also owns the Hôtel Victoria in nearby Roquebrune).

Description: The most popular rooms are the Cocteau and Sutherland suites

The most popular rooms are the Cocteau and Sutherland suites

A comfortable alternative to the palace hotels of Monaco, it has bright walls and striped curtains, and original drawings and photographs by Jean Cocteau, among other artists associated with the area. There is a stylish, 24-hour bar and a small pool, sun deck and dining patio shaded by banana trees. The most popular rooms are the Cocteau and Sutherland suites (the artist Graham Sutherland lived in the nearby village of Castel lar in the 1950s), both with seas-view terraces big enough for an intimate cocktail party. The hotel’s beach restaurant serves fresh salads and fish; it also has a modern do-it-yourself ice-cream parlour.

La Maison du Frêne, Vence

Description: The sitting room is packed with Thierry’s eye-popping art collection

The sitting room is packed with Thierry’s eye-popping art collection

In the medieval heart of Vence, on a small square facing a splendid little castle (now a contemporary art gallery), stands a century-old ash tree. The tree, immortalized in a painting by Chaim Soutine, prompted Vencois-born Thierrry Marchisio, a former celebrity hairdresser, to buy the three-storey townhose on the other side of the square and turn it into a guest house. La Maison du Frêne (House of the Ash Tree). The sitting room is packed with Thierry’s eye-popping art collection; a colourful ‘Nana’ sculpture bby Niki de Saint Phalle, a Jeff Koons lobster, and a David Hockney drawing. Upstairs, the four themed suited inclue Pop Art (Warhol’s Marilyn prints above a fur-draped a bed) and the Chapel suite, a Marisse-inspired blue-and-white mix of antiques. Breakfast is served on Limoges porcelain.

Where to eat Le Bistrot d’ Antoine, Nice

Description: Le Bistrot has been around since 1904, but new owners Armand Crespo and his wirfe Sophie have turned what was a cosy

Le Bistrot has been around since 1904, but new owners Armand Crespo and his wirfe Sophie have turned what was a cosy

Le Bistrot has been around since 1904, but new owners Armand Crespo and his wirfe Sophie have turned what was a cosy. Two-storey restaurant into wildly popular bistro serving market-fresh, prettily presented ProvenÇal comfort food. The décor is stylishly retro and folksy, and a mix of lawyers, judges and young professionals join a local boho crowd around the zinc bar and small wooden tables. The tiny, open-plan kitchen produces a mouth-watering variety of dishes, from a starter of mackerel and potatoes with a mustard sauce to truffle risotto and sardines in a garlicky marinade served in a pastille crust.

Le Bistrot des Fleurs, Tourrettes-sur-Loup

Description: And desserts such as violet crème brulée and a creamy scoop of hibiscus ice cream.

And desserts such as violet crème brulée and a creamy scoop of hibiscus ice cream.

Follow the leafy D6 through the Gorges du Loup to this small roadside café, just a few yards from Florian, a sweet factory specializing in fruit and flower flavours. This is no coincidence: Parisian chef Yves Terrillon opened a cookery school here in 2007, featuring edible-flower recipes using ingredients and products made next door. His 40-sesat bistro opened in 2010 with a seasonal menu including foie gras ‘bonbons’ (pan-fried duck foie gras drizzled with violet preserves, wrapped in a crunchy filo) and rose-flavoured tagliatelle with prawns. There are also salads topped with velvety pansies. And desserts such as violet crème brulée and a creamy scoop of hibiscus ice cream.

Café dela Fontaine, La Turbie

Description: The menu always includes a platter of French and Italian cheeses, and dessets such as apple pie, and feather-light pumpkin meringue

The menu always includes a platter of French and Italian cheeses, and dessets such as apple pie, and feather-light pumpkin meringue

Follow the winding Grande Corniche (where To Catch a Thief was filmed) to La Turbie,  a hilltop village often shrouded in mountain mist. Café de la Fontaine is a cheery bistro headed by Bruno Cirino,  whose gastronomic haunt Hostellerie Jérôme is just across the road. The café serves simple Provencal food using the freshest ingredients from Liguria, and a wine list from little-known (and terrific) local vineyards. Starters include steamed artichokes topped with ricotta, and sardines stuffed with vegetables,  followed by regional classics such as broccoli ravioli and roast duck with olives. The menu always includes a platter of French and Italian cheeses, and dessets such as apple pie, and feather-light pumpkin meringue

Le Mirazur, Menton

Description: Mains include conquilles Saint-Jacques with fennel ice cream, and mackerel with an orange and carrot purée

Mains include conquilles Saint-Jacques with fennel ice cream, and mackerel with an orange and carrot purée

Hidden on a hilltop high above the sea. Mirazur is a terrace restaurant with its own citrus grove, a vegetable garden and even a patch for wild herbs. The 35-year-old Argentinian chef, Mauro Colagreco (he landed the restaurant a Michelin star in 2008), prepares three tasting menus of exquisite dishes. First come the tapas-a tiny lacy crisp of squid-ink rice and finely diced vegetables:  a shot of gazpacho-followed by starters such as risotto made with red quinoa and wild cèpes. A basket of fresh bread arrives accompanied by a heavenly pool of Colagreco’s own lemon-ginger olive oil. Mains include conquilles Saint-Jacques with fennel ice cream, and mackerel with an orange and carrot purée. The surprises continue with an array of light desserts such as the show-stopping coriander-cream cannelloni encased in spin sugar and served with yogurt ice cream.

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