Weekend Drives: Flying High Along the French Riviera in a Mercedes Gullwing

By Author: Vicki Arkoff, Date: Sep 07, 2021

There’s nothing like the thrill of driving a supercar or collectible classic on the breathtaking roads of the French Riviera. Concierge at Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel on Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat, France, has partnered with the luxury car rental agency Joey Rent to offer guests customized driving experiences. Dream machines include a Maserati Gran Turismo, Lamborghini Huracan, Aston Martin, Ferrari 488 GTB, Mercedes-Benz 190 SL, Rolls Royce Corniche, and Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider. My dream-car pick? A Mercedes-Benz 300 SL with its upward-swinging doors, one of the most beautiful cars ever made. In recent years pristine examples of this Gullwing legend have set sales records at $1,152,000 and $1,234,567, making them exceedingly precious and a covetable choice to steer along the scenic roads of French Riviera.

The Grand-Hotel’s customized driving itineraries guide guests along the most emblematic roads of the Côte d’Azur in style. Concierges can customize each itinerary according to guest’s interests and provide recommendations on where to stop, where to eat, and where to park. All experiences include roadside service to ensure road-trips are worry-free while cruising the enchanting French Riviera. Their three most-highly recommended itineraries are:

The Grand-Hotel du Cap Ferrat has been welcoming travelers to the French Riviera since 1908

The Corniche roads from Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat to Monaco 

This 37-mile tour explores the famous Corniche roads joining Nice to Monaco along the Mediterranean coast. First drive through the magnificent Eze, a medieval perched village. Follow your way to La Turbie village and its Trophy of Augustus, which was built in 6 BC in honor of Octavius, Caesar’s nephew and future Emperor Augustus. End your journey in Monaco only 20 minutes from the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat.

Your route takes you through villages and past villas perched high above the Mediterranean Sea

When scenic roads meet French Riviera’s art and culture

Enjoy the main cultural highlights along the beautiful scenic roads between Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat and Vence. The 49-mile journey starts at Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, former home of the Rothschild Baroness, an architectural Belle Epoque jewel with the most beautiful garden of the Côte d’Azur. Continue to Cagnes-sur-Mer and stop at the Grimaldi castle, former residence of the Princely Family of Monaco, then pursue your way to Saint Paul de Vence. Stop by the famous Maeght Foundation to admire its unique modern art collection before arriving at Saint-Paul de Vence, a famous village frequented in the ‘60s by actors such as Yves Montand and Simone Signoret. A 10-minute drive further is the charming provençal village of Vence and its Rosary Chapel entirely conceived and decorated by Henri Matisse.

Port St. Jean-Cap-Ferrat is located between Nice and Monaco, with spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea

The French Riviera viewed from coastal roads 

Discover the Côte d’Azur driving along the Mediterranean Sea with stops at the main coastal highlights and villages to experience the true French Riviera way of living. The 62-mile journey starts in the fisherman’s village of Villefranche-sur-Mer with a beautiful bay and Vauban fortress.

Continue through the iconic Promenade des Anglais in Nice, passing by the cities of Cagnes-sur-Mer and Villeneuve Loubet offering their unique panoramas of the sea. The Fort Carré — another renowned work of Vauban dated from the second half of the 16th century — welcomes drivers to the old city of Antibes, a great stop for lunch and a walk through its rambling pedestrian streets, home to the Picasso Museum, and a beautiful local market. Complete the journey with a drive through the Cap d’Antibes with beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea.

The 300 SL is an automotive icon of design, performance, and desirability

The Sweet Ride: Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 

Every car lover in the history of the world has lusted over this stunner. There are few cars as eye-catching and iconic as the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL thanks to its avant-garde “gull wings,” a new type of upward-hinged door opening that was, in truth, a design side-effect forced by the vertical height of the sides. Previous owners include such lucky ducks as Pierre Trudeau, Pablo Picasso, Sophia Loren, Paul Newman, Juan Peron (OK, maybe not so lucky overall), Adrian Conan Doyle, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Getting behind the wheel of Joey Rent’s manual, two-seat, left-hand drive silver bullet on the celebrated roads of the French Riviera is like driving in a dream-car time machine. 

The gullwing doors are what people notice first about the 300 SL, but the innovation goes much deeper to its lightweight frame and slanted V6 engine

The 300 SL is the road-going version of the Mercedes W194, a racing car produced in 1952. It signaled the revival of the German automaker, thanks to wins at Le Mans and other prestigious sports car races. The design for this car was born in a very difficult period for the Mercedes Benz. The war had destroyed most of the production plants and left few economic resources. The German Manufacturer had set two goals: return to the prestige reputation of its past and regain its past glory in international motorsports competitions. The first goal was achieved almost immediately with the production of the Type 300, a luxurious line of coupes, sedans, and roadsters introduced in 1951. The second was more difficult with so little to work with. But thanks to innovative solutions such as the trellis frame tube, the German company’s racing program quickly reclaimed its place at the top of the podium.

Photos courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Joey Rents.

Vicki Arkoff

Based in Los Angeles, Vicki Arkoff is the Editor-At-Large for Rides & Drives, reporting on travel, entertainment, and lifestyle. She also reports for Just Luxe, Atlas Obscura, The Daily Meal, Day Spa Magazine, Prevue, Where Guestbook, and Where Magazine, and is Editor for Holiday Goddess, the online destination for chic women travelers from the editors of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, Conde Nast Traveler, Lonely Planet, and BBC. She's co-author of the bestselling Holiday Goddess books (HarperCollins and iTunes) including 'The Holiday Goddess Guide to Paris, London, New York, Rome' which spent nearly 10 months in the travel Top 10. As editor, Vicki's other books include 'Sinatra' (DK), 'Inside Mad' (Time-Life) and 'Virgin Los Angeles' (Virgin Books). She is one of the Usual Gang of Idiots for MAD Magazine, and authorized biographer for several icons including Beastie Boys, Duran Duran, Paul McCartney, Megadeth, Yoko Ono, Radiohead, Frank Sinatra and Tina Turner.

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