The Three Best Restaurants In The French Riviera Backcountry

There are few things I find more enjoyable than roaming around the south of France in search of delicious, thoughtfully prepared cuisine. It is a chronic hobby of mine. For the past seventeen years I have traveled the coastline from Theole sur Mer to sunny Menton, from the narrow, pedestrian-only streets of the old town of Nice to the chic, Disney-esque Principality of Monaco, from the glitz of Cannes to the grit of Cagnes, and almost everywhere in-between, in a never-ending quest for good food and wine. Along the way I have devoured bouillabaisse in Antibes, snails in Villefranche, and pizza in just about every place imaginable.

Lately, though, I will admit to being pulled north, away from the coast, more times than not for my culinary explorations.

Drive twenty minutes north from Nice or Cannes and you will find yourself in another world, one far removed from the bustling coast. Perched medieval villages dot the lush, mountainous countryside. Tiny vineyards produce beautifully complex wines, and around almost every bend in the road appears another idyllic spot waiting to be discovered. It is a spectacularly varied and beautiful landscape.

It is also chock full of good food.

My picks for the three best restaurants in the Riviera backcountry are, by most standards, modest establishments. There are no Michelin stars or celebrity chefs on my list. What you will find, though, are warm welcomes, fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and skilled chefs who care deeply about every dish they create.

To enjoy these restaurants you will need a car, a mild sense of adventure, and a little time, but don’t worry, like a fine wine left to breathe, you will be amply rewarded for your patience. Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 15

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’s Classic Film

Series Post #17

La Croisette and the cemetery in Cagnes-sur-mer

La Croisette

When we last saw John Robie (Cary Grant) he was struggling for his life in the middle of the night on the grounds of a beautiful villa located next to the Plage Passable in St Jean Cap Ferrat.

In the following scene Frances (Grace Kelly) and her mother (Jessie Royce Landis) walk down a busy street. A crowd has gathered around a newsstand and there is a palpable excitement concerning the latest headline.

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“LE CHAT EST MORT!” (THE CAT IS DEAD!)

The cat, it seems, is indeed dead, but it’s not John Robie, it’s Monsieur Foussard.

This quick scene takes place in Cannes on the wide walkway that runs along the shore between La Croisette and the beach. Continue reading

In Search of David Dodge

In Search of David Dodge

In August of 2010 I received an email from Jean Buchanan, a writer from England who had been commissioned to dramatize the novel “To Catch A Thief” for BBC Radio and to make an accompanying BBC Radio Arts feature about the writing of the book. American author David Dodge penned the thriller in 1950 while living in a rented villa (Villa Noel Fleuri) in the south of France with his wife and young daughter, Kendal. The idea for the story came to him after the luxurious villa next door was robbed by a daring “cat burglar” during a cocktail party. As guests dined on the terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, the thief climbed in at the back of the house and snatched items from the guest bedrooms. Dodge would later remark that after hearing about the brazen robbery, “To Catch A Thief practically wrote itself!”

Jean had stumbled upon my blog during her research for the BBC projects and asked if I could help locate Villa Noel Fleuri. I agreed to assist in any way possible and the search began, aided in no small part by another of Jean’s recruits, Randal S. Brandt in Berkeley, California. Randal is the creator of A David Dodge Companion, an outstanding website devoted to the works of David Dodge .

Several months prior to hearing from Jean I had actually been in touch with Dodge’s daughter (at that time she was still alive and living in Mexico) in an attempt to find the villa used as John Robie’s house in Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation of the book. I asked her about the villa she lived in with her father and her only memory was of a long, winding driveway with lots of trees leading up to the house. She thought it had been somewhere near Juan les Pins.  Continue reading

The Sunbeam Alpine Roadster, Sex, and Celluloid

To Catch A Thief is a sexy film, though not in the way we view sexuality today.

It is oblique, subtle, suggestive.

There is an allusion to sex that leaves the viewer wanting more.

Grace Kelly, icy cool and devastatingly beautiful, gliding across the room in a perfectly fitted evening gown. Cary Grant, confident, swaggering, and always ready with a clever line.

Even the car driven by Kelly exudes an elegant sexuality.

The powder blue Sunbeam Alpine Roadster is seductive, sophisticated, unattainable…until now.

I recently received an email from Tom Holland, a California man who is parting ways with the ultimate To Catch A Thief souvenir. His Sunbeam Alpine Roadster, an exact replica of the car driven in the movie, is for sale.

It is completely restored and in mint condition. The exterior and interior colors perfectly match the car featured in the film (as do the front and back license plates). The Roadster even has its own agent in Los Angeles and was recently showcased in an InStyle Magazine article featuring Drew Barrymore. Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 12

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’s Classic Film

Series Post #14

Room 623: The Carlton in Cannes

There’s a wonderful scene in To Catch A Thief in which Francie Stevens (Grace Kelly’s character) is escorted to her hotel room by John Robie (played by Cary Grant).  She opens the door, turns, gives him a long, cool kiss, and then without saying a word, steps inside and closes the door.  Robie is left grinning and bemused.

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The room, of course, is at The Carlton in Cannes, number 623.  The interior is featured later when Francie invites Robie in for a drink, more kissing, a fireworks display in the Golfe de la Napoule, and several clever innuendoes that somehow managed to slip past the censors.

For several years I was certain that Brigitte Auber had told me Continue reading

Bertani’s Staircase: Mystery Solved

robie on restaurant verandaThe only To Catch A Thief location that has given me fits is the staircase leading down to Bertani’s restaurant.  I had reached the frustrating conclusion that it was destroyed forever when the port was renovated in the 1970’s.

Well, not so fast.

Grant and Hitchcok below “Bertani’s Steps” in Monaco.

Enter Luca, a devoted Le Stuff reader from Turin, Italy.

Luca and I had exchanged a few Emails regarding TCAT’s picnic site (which he correctly located) when he told me that he had also found Bertani’s steps.

I was skeptical.

I soon learned, though, never to underestimate a man on a mission.

Luca had indeed located the steps and the process by which he discovered them is a veritable lesson in tenacity.

How did he do it?

First, he Continue reading

The Long Escape by David Dodge

I recently received the following Email from David Dodge expert Randal Brandt:

“I am very pleased to announce the publication of David Dodge’s The Long Escape by Bruin Books. First published in 1948 and out of print for many years, the new edition — once again featuring a biographical introduction by yours truly — is available now.”

This is a must-read for any fan of David Dodge.

Thanks Randal and keep up the excellent work at A David Dodge Companion.

To Catch A Thief: Take 10

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’s Classic Film

Series Post #12

John Robie and Francie Stevens depart beneath the old stone gate of the Sanford Villa.  They are followed, quite conspicuously, by the police.

The uber-stylish powder blue Sunbeam Alpine convertible cruises across a scenic bridge.

In the distance the Mediterranean and promontory of St Jean cap Ferrat are in full view.

Pan left and viewers are treated to an expansive view of the ancient, cliffside village of Eze.

Grace Kelly is stunning.

The ensuing driving scenes (in which Grant and Kelly discuss the location of the picnic site) were obviously shot in Hollywood using rear screen projection and feature (most likely) the upper corniche in the background.  This is not the same road, as has been widely reported, on which Grace was killed in a tragic car accident in 1982.

Princess Grace’s vehicle ran off the D37 just below the village of La Turbie.

Hitchcock was a master at Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 9

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’s Classic Film

Series Post #11

After the wonderful raft scene just off the beach in front of The Hotel Carlton, Francie Stevens (Kelly’s character) convinces John Robie to let her accompany him on a “villa shopping” excursion.

What follows is one of the great driving sequences in cinematic history.

Hitchcock certainly must have known that the French Riviera would electrify the screen almost as much as Grant and Kelly, and to his credit, he let it.

A tour of “To Catch A Thief” locations is, quite simply, a tour of some of the most beautiful scenery the French Riviera has to offer.

Stevens and Robie depart for the hills from the hotel parking lot in her sublime Sunbeam Alpine convertible.  For anyone who has been to Cannes it’s interesting to note how things have changed in front of The Carlton.  In 1954 one simply had to pull off The Croisette (back then a pleasant two lane road) and park in front of the hotel.  Today the former parking area has been turned into a garden and The Croisette expanded into a four lane boulevard separated by a tree-lined median. 

In the next clip the Sunbeam Alpine is seen traveling along a winding road (most likely the moyenne corniche) with the Mediterranean in the background.  The promontory of land jutting out into the azure water is St Jean cap Ferrat.

The moyenne corniche is still one of the world’s great drives and I heartily recommend it to anyone visiting the area.


The ensuing scene, featuring plenty of clever dialogue by both Grant and Kelly, was played out at Hollywood’s Paramount studios using rear-screen projection, but it’s interesting to note that Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 8

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #10

Brigitte Auber told me recently that she first met Cary Grant in Cannes, just before filming began on “To Catch A Thief”.

Alfred Hitchcock introduced them on the balcony of Grant’s suite at The Carlton, overlooking the Bay of Cannes.

She liked him immediately.

Brigitte and Cary Grant

The setting for such an auspicious introduction seems fitting doesn’t it?

Where else but The Carlton would a young, beautiful French actress, destined for a long, successful career, meet the most famous movie star on the planet?

Today, more than fifty years later, Continue reading

The Location of Bertani’s Restaurant

To_Catch_a_Thief-1955-MSS-x12-1An early scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief takes place at Bertani’s restaurant.

Bertani, played by French actor Charles Vanel, is a former member of the French Resistance who, alongside John Robie (Cary Grant’s character), fought against the Germans in World War 2.

Several Le Stuff readers have asked about the location of the restaurant and if there actually was, or is, a real restaurant there.

I’ll try to clear up the mystery.


Bertani (left) with John Robie (Cary Grant) and Foussard

The terrace scene was filmed on the western edge of Continue reading

Le Stuff on The BBC!

Before Alfred Hitchcock could cast Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in his blockbuster film “To Catch A Thief”, American author David Dodge had to write the novel.  His book was inspired by an actual burglary that took place next door to the Villa Noel Fleuri, a house Dodge had rented for his family in the south of France in the early 1950’s.

In September of 2010, bravely fighting my way through the warm sun and delicious food of the Cote D’Azur, I joined writer (and expert detective) Jean Buchanan in her search for the mysterious villa.  Randal Brandt, a Dodge expert with no equal, provided invaluable assistance from his home-base at the Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley.

Listen to the program here.

Learn more here.

Like what you see?  Subscribe to Le Stuff here.

The following text is from the BBC Radio 4 website.

The American thriller and travel-writer, David Dodge (1910-1974), is best known for his 1952 novel To Catch A Thief, which Hitchcock turned into an iconic film three years later. Unusually for Hitchcock, half the film was shot on location, and the Riviera is as much a star as Grace Kelly (in her final film – she met Prince Rainier during a publicity shoot and became Princess of Monaco) and Cary Grant (whom Hitchcock tempted out of retirement with this script).

Dodge’s book was inspired by a real incident when he briefly became the number 1 suspect for a daring cat-burglary at Continue reading

The French Riviera: Driving Heaven?

Click here for information on the French Riviera Mini Cooper Driving Adventure!

From the celebrated corniche roads to the beautiful back country, the south of France offers intrepid drivers endless opportunities for motorized fun.

The crew at BBC’s Top Gear already knows this.
They began their search for the “World’s Best Driving Road” near Monaco on the renowned col de Turini.

In Alfred Hitchcock’s glamorous 1953 film, To Catch A Thief, driving plays a pivotal role during chase scenes through the beautiful villages of the back country and on the dramatic moyenne corniche (with Grace Kelly behind the wheel no less).

“Ronin”, starring Robert DeNiro and “GoldenEye”, starring Pierce Brosnan also feature Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Locations, locations, locations….

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’s Classic Film

Check out Le Stuff’s new “To Catch A Thief” page.

I was contacted recently by a film producer who’s developing a series of travel shows for Germany’s N-TV.  He asked for my help in identifying specific locations used in To Catch A Thief.

No problem, right?

Well, I thought it would be a breeze but I have to admit there were a couple of challenges.


The film crew setting up a shot outside La Colombe D’Or in St Paul de Vence

1) The Balcony Scene:
A woman screams as she discovers her jewelry has been stolen.
In a panic she runs onto her hotel room balcony where we, the viewers, are treated to an expansive shot of Nice’s world famous seafront boulevard, the Promenade des Anglais.

And so begins Alfred Hitchcock’s light hearted thriller “To Catch A Thief”.
(From Le Stuff’s “To Catch A Thief: Take 1)


The producer wanted to shoot on the “actual” balcony used in the scene.

OK.

I knew it was several blocks east Continue reading

Top Gear In The South Of France: The World’s Best Driving Road?

Click here for information on Le Stuff’s French Riviera Mini Cooper Driving Adventure!

To tell you that I know my way around an automobile engine would be like telling you Michael Jackson had all the skills needed to become a champion prize fighter.

In other words, I’d be lying.

My scope of mechanical expertise ends with my crackerjack ability to discern, within seconds mind you, whether the vehicle I’m piloting has a gas or diesel engine.

The point I’m trying to illustrate here is that you don’t have to be a gear head, love cars and driving, or even have a driver’s license, to enjoy what may possibly be the finest television show ever made.

BBC’s Top Gear begins its 15th season this year.

Ostensibly about cars, driving and speed, TG is really about the interaction between the show’s three hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond.

A few of my favorite episodes? Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 7

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #9

Following the hectic flower market scene in Nice viewers are treated to a wide shot of John Robie’s luxurious cliff side villa.

But, you may be asking yourself, is that really the villa?

No, its not.


The village of Gourdon

For this particular scene, instead of filming the actual house in St Jeannet, Hitchcock used a wide, long distance shot of Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 6

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #8

It’s been a while since our favorite former jewel thief, John Robie, was last seen lounging on the beach in Cannes.

Not to worry though, the saga continues….

In Cannes, Robie receives a phone call from his old friend Bertani who has arranged a clandestine meeting at the Nice flower market with London insurance rep. H. H. Hughson.  Hopefully Hughson can provide information that will help lead to the capture of the real thief.

And how will Hughson recognize Robie?

He’ll be flipping a coin, of course.

It’s interesting to note that the flower market scenes were not filmed on the cours saleya, the bustling pedestrian zone in old Nice where the market is still held today.  Instead, in an attempt to avoid the massive crowds, Hitchcock Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 5

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #7

Having narrowly escaped the police in Monaco, John Robie flees to Cannes in a motor boat with Danielle Foussard.  Once in Cannes, he slips into the water and casually swims to the beach (while a police airplane circles above).

The beach is directly across the main boulevard (La Croisette) from the famous Carlton Hotel.  The Carlton plays a prominent role in To Catch A Thief, but more on that later.  It is here, on the beach, that we get our first glimpse of Grace Kelly.

If there has ever been perfect casting in a movie, it may be Grace Kelly for the part of Francie Stevens.  Icy cool and strikingly beautiful Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 4

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #6

When we last saw our intrepid former jewel thief he had deftly eluded the police by enlisting the help of his housekeeper, Germaine.  While Germaine led the unsuspecting cops on a wild goose chase through some of the most picturesque villages in the south of France, Robie walked calmly to the street in front of his house to catch the bus to Monaco.

It’s during the scene on the bus that Hitchcock makes his cameo appearance in the film (seated next to Grant).

In Monaco Robie visits Bertani, a former comrade from his days in the French Resistance who is now a restaurateur.  The location of Bertani’s restaurant is at the western edge of Port Hercules in Monaco.  I’m told there actually was a restaurant there years ago, but if so, it has long since closed.  As Robie leaves the bus and walks down the steps to the restaurant (making sure to hide his face from a policeman) we’re given a clear view across the port to Avenue d”Ostende as it leads up to the casino.

During his meeting with Bertani it becomes apparent to Robie that the only way to clear his name is to catch the thief himself.  So with the police hot on his heels he flees Monaco in a boat with the precocious Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 3

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #5

At the end of post # 4 the police were fast approaching Robie’s villa just outside the village of St Jeannet.

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The police enter the house and ask the former jewel thief to accompany them to the station for questioning.  He agrees, but asks if they will first allow him to change into something a bit more formal.  While changing in his bedroom he fools the police into thinking he has escaped by car.  And so begins the famous chase scene that  takes viewers through some of the most picturesque villages in the south of France (apparently this was was also one of the first cinematic sequences filmed from a helicopter).

The Chase:
The first town we see is Le Bar sur Loup.  Le Bar is a picturesque, working class village that looks pretty much the same today as it does in the movie, with its dramatic, fourteenth century chateau dominating the town center.  Notice the old railroad bridge at the edge of town. Continue reading