Follow in the footsteps of your favorite stars on the French Riviera

With its breathtaking landscape, the French Riviera inspires the most famous spy stories. As we set out to discover James Bond's villas, reality quickly overtakes fiction. Tales of stars, billionaires, yachts and state visits intersect on a stretch of coastline accessible only by stealthy solar boats.

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Few destinations in the world have had the privilege of hosting several generations of James Bond. Three of the most famous spies of the silver screen have stayed in a very small area of the French Riviera. There are less than 10 km between Nice and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. However, Sean Connery, David Niven and Roger Moore have all visited this region, either personally or for filming. SeaZen established its first nautical base between Monaco and Nice and then settled in Antibes Juan les Pins. Very quickly his solar boats, running with an electric motor, proved to be ideal to approach discreetly and with courtesy the 300 meters coastal strip. A strip forbidden to fast boats or sailboats with little maneuverability. We reveal you some stories about the villas of 007, then we take you on a road of the cinema which will lead us to the powerful of this world.

Note to Daniel Craig fans: none of his James Bond films, whether Casino Royal, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, Spectre or Mourir Peut Attendre, were shot on the French Riviera.

And now, boarding immediately for a cruise under high protection!

1. What are the villas in the James Bond films on the French Riviera?

1.1 Sean Connery plays 007 in Never Again while staying at the Roc Fleuri

In the 1970s, Sean Connery bought the villa Le Roc Fleuri in the very chic Mont Boron district of Nice. Put up for sale in 2020 for the equivalent of 30 million euros, this magnificent villa could have been used as a film set. Imagine a 5000 m² terraced garden with a six-story house on the side of the mountain. It was with his French wife, Micheline Roquebrune, that Sean Connery liked to stay there peacefully while shooting at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.

Sean Connery's Villa Le Roc Fleuri in Nice

When Sean shot "James Bond 007, Never Say Never Again" in 1982, he could almost walk from his house to the filming location. The plot takes place at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, one of the most famous residences in the region to which we have dedicated an article on our blog. It overlooks the bays of Villefranche and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and can only be admired from the sea or by visiting it.

Villa Ephrussi RothchildJames Bond goes to the rescue Kim Bassinger at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

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1.2 David Niven, the unsung James Bond of Casino Royal, has taken refuge in the Fleur du Cap

David Niven is probably the least known James Bond. He played in Casino Royal in 1967. Due to a conflict of rights, the producers of the official franchise sought to make this film forgotten. That's how Casino Royal with Daniel Craig was produced. Posterity will perhaps remember more the role of David Niven in the Pink Panther, Pink as his villa. Because in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, everyone knows him for his villa the Fleur du Cap that he lived until his death. This house on the waterfront has a charm with its small private port. Many boaters choose to anchor in front of this splendid house open to the sea.

Villa La Fleur du CapDavid Niven played in his own villa La Fleur du Cap a scene from the Pink Panther

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1.3 Roger Moore was shooting The Persuaders at The Golden Sail before becoming Bond

Roger Moore often came to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. It is here that he began in 1972 the series "Amicalement vôtre". At that time, he stayed at the hotel La Voile d'Or with Tony Curtis. This role propelled him in 1973 in the character of 007 with "Live and Let Die".

As a tribute to Roger Moore, who passed away on May 23, 2017, seaZen sails in the wake of The Persuaders. This 24-episode series was filmed between 1971 and 1972 partly in Nice, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Monte-Carlo. Remember the two heroes of the series. On one side, there was the very distinguished British Lord Brett Sinclair played by Roger Moore, and on the other, the American self made man Danny Wilde played by Tony Curtis. This road of the cinema returns on the tracks of the series.

Do you remember the credits of the series?

The composer John Barry created the famous music of the credits that we suggest you to review or listen again to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the series.


Video credit: Credits of the series Amicalement Vôtre, with Roger Moore & Tony Curtis

Breathtaking view from the terrace of La Voile d'Or

The scene in the credits, where Brett Sinclair and Tonny Curtis turn around after a young woman passes, takes place in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. We are at the Hotel La Voile d'Or, a five-star hotel that has been sold in 2019 to be transformed into a palace. All the scenes shot in this hotel are found in full in the opening episode of the series and in the credits of the series.

Hotel La Voile d'OrThe pool terrace of Hotel 5* La Voile d'Or was used for the shooting of the Persuaders

Car racing and water-skiing has been done ... to be done again in Tesla and hydrogen boats

Our heroes, with opposite upbringings, share a taste for elegance, performance and avant-garde trends. At the time, they practiced water skiing, which was very trendy in the 70s. Thus, we see them in the credits, towed by powerful motorboats of the time, greeting each other "friendly" and polluting a lot. This scene was shot in Antibes Juan les Pin. The story goes that this is where water skiing was invented.

Change of era, let's imagine how the sequence would be shot in 2021. We would probably be on hydrogen powered electric boats such as the  Hynova, the first hydrogen-powered electric yacht, also invented in the South Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur region and so much more trendy.

The car race of the opening episode takes place between Nice airport and the Hotel de Paris in Monaco. The passage on the middle corniche between Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Èze village is perfectly recognizable from the sea. Since then, the cars have evolved somewhat. No doubt that today it would be a race of electric cars. For example, Tesla versus Taycan.

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1.4 Maryland rests Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie aka Mr & Mrs Smith

There is no doubt that the French Riviera inspires actors and actresses of the seventh art. But 007 is not the only famous spy to have visited the French Riviera. We can indeed mention a very particular spy couple, alias Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie stayed with their friend Paul Allen near the David Niven and Ephrussi de Rothschild villas. An unusual host since he is also the proud owner of the Octopus, a super yacht of more than 100 meters with submarine and helicopter on board. A surreal machine that takes its name from the 13th installment of the James Bond saga: Octopussy. When Paul Allen was not in his villa or on his yacht, he was working on a project to explore space from a stratospheric aircraft.

Villa MarylandSpy atmosphere at Villa Maryland for the resting of Mr & Mrs Smith near the Octopus Yacht

We understand better now why Angelina Jolie wanted to stay there discreetly just before the birth of her twins near the Lenval hospital in Nice. Brad Pitt was more mixed. Rumor has it that he found the place "a little too quiet for his taste".

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2. Route du cinéma: billionaire, villa and yacht

2.1 Who is the billionaire Paul Allen?

He is not an actor and yet Paul Allen has all his place in this article. He is also close to the great ones of this world, and to stars like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But that's not all. Let's start at the beginning.

The origin of Paul Allen's fame

Paul Allen founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975. Following an illness diagnosed in 1982, Paul Allen had to leave Bill Gates to develop Microsoft alone. Despite differences between the two friends over the fair distribution of shares, Paul was able to keep his shares, which allowed him to build a fortune estimated at $21.7 billion.

He was not able to run Microsoft like Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer. In fact, Paul Allen owes his fame to his fortune. He has reinvested his Microsoft shares in his Vulcan Capital Foundation, the arm of his charitable, sports, high-tech and exploration commitments.

Paul Allen's global philanthropy

American visitors who see his villa from our solar boat spontaneously tell us about his involvement with one of the biggest Super Bowl teams: the Seattle Seahawks. He is obviously very popular in the USA. Moreover, his biography reveals a committed philanthropist. In scientific research, he has created institutes on the brain and on artificial intelligence. His investments amount to several hundred million dollars. Passionate about aeronautics and space, he is also known for pioneering suborbital flight with Stratolaunch Systems.

Paul Allen at Flying Heritage Collection, located at Paine Field, Everett, Washington, United State
Paul Allen (photo Miles Harris)

His villa Maryland and the Yacht Octopus are the real stars of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

The reason we are highlighting Paul Allen so much in this article is because he has made his mark on the French Riviera coastline. A few years ago, he bought the villa Maryland. In ruins, it was then worth only "a few million euros"! This villa is located between the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and the Vigie. It was built by Arthur Wilson, a personal friend of King Edward VII of England. His grandson Edward VIII also resided nearby, at the Château de la Cröe in Antibes, which is said to have shocked the morals of the time. Today, this 2,500 square meter villa is valued at more than 300 million euros. Its only disadvantage, according to Paul Allen, is that it is not located in an air corridor so that he can commute by helicopter from his yacht.

As a precursor, Paul Allen has renewed the interest in yachts for Billionaire. He had the mega-yacht Octopussybuilt, which he named in reference to the world of cinema.

This unusual boat has two helicopter runways, two submarines, seventeen motorboats with a tank of oil of .... 1 million liters for deep-sea navigation. Not very ecological. Especially since he regretted not being able to land in his villa with his helicopter.

An ambivalent producer concerned about the environment and owner of a not-so-green yacht

The presence of film stars in Paul Allen's entourage also illustrates his work as a producer. A regular at the Cannes Film Festival, he has produced some surprisingly committed films and documentaries. There is one that we have noted because it interests us particularly. Indeed, it is a documentary on nuclear energy which presents it as a possible alternative to global warming to allow the greatest number of people to have access to cheap energy.

Controversial debate -in English- on the interest of nuclear energy and on the film

The subject is all the more important to us because we are proving with seaZen that it is possible to take solar-powered boat trips without fossil fuels. Since 2016, our yacht has not once had to rely on the electricity grid to recharge its batteries. In France, more than 70% of the electricity is nuclear. As Paul Allen's documentary highlights, this system allows France to have less carbon-based energy than most industrialized countries. Anyway, as far as sea navigation is concerned, it is even better to use exclusively the energy of the sun!

Paul Allen is a man of paradoxes, and we prefer to remember his works for sport and innovation rather than his mega yacht. One thing is for sure: James Bond had better watch out, with Paul Allen, reality exceeds fiction!

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2.2 Yacht, commando and stealth boat: the 007 atmosphere continues

The setting is set by the largest of the yachts, the Dilbar

How can we not imagine a spy scenario when a mysterious helicopter lands on one of the world's largest yachts under the cover of a dark night? It is not absurd to imagine that the nice heroes would pilot a solar boat. This type of electric boat can glide along in absolute silence, and without exhaust odors which makes it less undetectable, it offers a range of over 7000 km which surpasses most yachts.

One of the biggest yachts on the French Riviera approached discreetly by a solar boat.
Listen to the video with sound until the end! © seaZen 2018

Let's imagine that this yacht houses a base of super villains. At night, the good guys approach the mega yacht by stealth. The Wi-fi connection on board the solar boat could allow some computer geniuses to neutralize the yacht's cyber security, while a helicopter commando takes control of it to save the world

In reality, it's readers like you who change the world

Let's get back to the real world. Solar sailing is revolutionizing the world of boating. More than 4,000 visitors have contributed. And how? Just look at the testimonials from visitors on TripAdvisor about the amazingly quiet, zero-emission, fully autonomous solar boat. In only 5 years, TripAdvisor ranks seaZen 1st out of 122 outdoor destinations in Nice. Thanks to the testimonials, solar navigation is emulating and growing.

How to really transform the world? Simply by sharing one of the articles on this site on social networks, or by booking a solar boat tour and by testifying on TripAdvisor. And if you want to immerse yourself even more in the James Bond atmosphere, choose to embark on the solar boat of Juan les Pins, it is called Octopus ... like Paul Allen's yacht!

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3. Reality exceeds fiction: a summit meeting in the Alpes-Maritimes

Our movie road continues, after James Bond and Paul Allen, the most influential leaders of this world have marked the French Riviera. Stay Zen on board the solar boat, you haven't seen anything yet.

3.1 Èze, Barack Obama in secret visit with Bono

AIf you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of singer Bono and musician The Edge from the band U2 if you pass by Èze-sur-Mer. Indeed, they have adjacent houses with private access to the sea. When renting a boat on the French Riviera, the seaZen solar boat often sails in front of their sumptuous homes. Plus, if, like us, nostalgia has you, short of seeing John Lennon himself, his son, Julian, is also Bono's neighbor.

In 2019, seaZen visitors observe mysterious armored vans in the gardens of Bono's villa surrounded by heavy-set bodyguards. In fact, and it is only the next day that we learned the end of the story, Barack Obama and his little family had come to visit their friend Bono to carry out the walk of Nietzsche For security reasons, the secret had been well kept until his departure.

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3.2 Meeting under high protection of Presidents Xi Jinping and Macron

On Sunday, March 24, 2019, French President Macron as well as his counterpart Chinese President Xi Jinping had dinner for two at Villa Kerylos.

A summit meeting prepared for a very long time

This visit was part of a journey of the Chinese President. First in Italy to sign a memorandum of understanding on the Silk Road project, the first agreement in history between a G7 country and China on this subject. The next part of the program took place in Monaco. Again, this was a first. It was indeed the first visit of a Chinese head of state to the Principality. Let us recall on this occasion that during the summer of 2018, a remarkable exhibition on the splendor of the Forbidden City had been organized at the Grimaldi Forum. A few months later, another exhibition on the glamorous myth of the Princesses of Monaco was organized in the heart of the Forbidden City in China. There is no doubt that these exhibitions contributed to the creation of links between these two nations.

From then on, it was impossible to keep this visit secret, so a security system worthy of spy films had to be put in place

The protection of President Xi Jinping is beyond fiction

  1. First security measure, the prefecture has decreed the closure of the ports of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Èze and Cap d'Ail all weekend. The dinner was scheduled in the Villa Kerylos only on Saturday evening.
  2. As a precaution, many villas near the reception venue were previously visited by the security services to assess any risk of snipers.
  3. A convoy of dozens of black armored cars was reported to be scouting the 20 km of coastal road between Monaco and Nice.
  4. Balconies were off limits to Monaco residents. Even the residents of the top floor of the Odeon Tower, a 300 million euro apartment, could not open their windows.
  5. During the presidential dinner, the Navy was mobilized. All the patrol boats of the French Riviera were on parade. Some police officers told us that a submarine was ambushed offshore. Cap Ferrat eclipsed the Toulon naval base for a weekend.

SeaZen has very officially invited Mr. President to discover solar boating. An official letter of thanks with many details about solar activity, proved the interest of the Elysée Palace in this subject.

Visit of Presidents Macron and Xi Jinping villa KerylosThe Villa Kerylos welcomes presidents Macron & Xi Jinping under high protection

Finally, President Xi Jinping slept in Nice, more precisely at the Negresco Hotel. From Nice sources, it seems that his personal bed was specially installed in one of the best suites of the hotel. The Chinese president never travels without his presidential bed, as a security protocol. The next day, the President continued his state visit to Paris while the French Riviera gradually resumed its peaceful life.

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There is still a lot to write about this French Riviera, a source of inspiration for the cinema and influence for our leaders. The most inspiring is undoubtedly the solar boat ride. An ode to contemplation and dreams when the Zen catamaran glides silently and without odor. SeaZen is only the beginning of the history of solar boating.

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