During the decade he has served as The Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat‘s affable valet and parking attendant, Philippe Lunetta has driven almost every luxury vehicle and supercar imaginable. He says that during the Grand Prix in Monaco, he regularly parks million-dollar cars next to million-dollar cars.
“I am a voituriste,” says Lunetta, using the French term for car lover. “I know everything about them and people come here to show off.”
Known as the millionaire’s peninsula, Saint Jean–Cap Ferrat – Saint Jean is the village, and Cap Ferrat the Peninsula – may be Europe’s best car watching locale. The roughly five-square-mile cape jutting out into the Mediterranean six miles east of Nice is part of France’s “Golden Triangle,” so-called for the wealth on display. The best part of that display is the four-wheeled part: The peninsula’s quaint roads are littered with Maseratis and Maybachs. Shiny Porsche Cabriolets, Mercedes-Benz Roadsters, and antique Fiats are run of the mill by local standards.
Because many of the more exotic models are hidden in pea-stone driveways behind high walls, it pays to have a strategy. The best tactic is as old as hunting: Find a blind and wait for the quarry to come to you. Head to Bar du Port, a casual seafood cafe on the corner of the town’s restaurant-dotted Avenue Jean Mermoz. The cafe’s outside tables offer front row seating as a parade of overachieving autos ferry their owners towards plates of fresh fish and fried zucchini blooms. From Bar du Port, it’s a short walk past Alfa Romeo Giuliettas, brightly hued Jaguar F-Types, and Rolls-Royce Phantoms to Paloma Beach, a protected cove that has served as a getaway to celebrities from Matisse to Connery to Jagger.
Still, the best spot in town is the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat. When Russian oligarchs pull up in front of Philippe Lunetta’s stand, they are introducing themselves to Europe’s nouveau riche and nobility, so their wheels have to make a good first impression.
Travelers looking to make a statement themselves can rent some street cred from one of the several Platinium Luxury Car Rental branches along the Riviera, which offer Bugatti Veyrons for €10,000 a day and Ferrari F12 Berlinettes for a decidedly more reasonable €2,600. In Cap Ferrat, credibility doesn’t come cheap.
More information: Standard Rooms at the Grand Hotel Du Cap Ferrat start at $363 in low season. The charming Hotel Clair Logis is the affordable rustic pick at $70 per night.