Jet-Set Bohemian: Cliffside Cocktails

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Jet-Set Bohemian: Cliffside Cocktails

A jetset lifestyle doesn’t have to be all private planes and decadent digs. In Paste Travel’s Jet-Set Bohemian series, we blend the best of high and low for just the right balance … enticing everyone from backpackers to luxury boutique hotel lovers to come along for the ride.

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Nights are slowly getting shorter with summer sun lingering until late in the evening. In the South of France, this makes a moveable feast all the more feasible. The typical pre-dinner drinks, or apéro, that start around 6 p.m. in the spring are being pushed back in favor of more time basking on the beaches soaking up as much sun and rosé as possible before heading to “happy hour.” In Nice, the key is to saunter from terrace to terrace following the sun as it slowly sets, nibbling on cheese plates and charcuterie along the way. While any light-soaked terrace will do, sunset cocktails are even better when you’re catching the view from above. Take your libations up a level this summer with views from a seaside perch on cliffs from Croatia to the Côte d’Azur, posting up with your seasonal drink of choice where the scene is just as stunning as what you’re sipping.

Last summer in Nice, La Réserve, shaped like a schooner jutting out over the Mediterranean Sea, reopened its doors after a lengthy revamp that returned the restaurant to its 1930s roots. The spot was first built at the foot of Mont Boron near the Nice Port in 1862 before it was expanded out on to the rock of Aubray offering sweeping views over the water and the Bay of Angels. During the Belle Époque era, this restaurant was one of the city’s landmarks with a walkway connecting the fishing boat-shaped bar and restaurant to a gazebo on the rocks 20 feet above the waves. The place for ladies who lunched and indulged in afternoon tea was transformed in the 30s and 40s to a beach restaurant complete with diving boards that were abandoned in more recent times, becoming a training ground for trespassing divers and parkour traceurs, or practitioners.

The gazebo portion is long gone but the houseboat now serves as a fine dining dinner spot helmed by 31-year-old chef Sébastien Mahuet, who cut his teeth working at some of the best restaurants lining the Côte d’Azur, from gastronomique Château de la Chèvre d’Or in Eze Village to the glamorous Hôtel Métropole in Monaco. The result is a mix of Mediterranean classics with gourmet spins that pay homage to the seasonal flavors and ingredients found in the region, with dishes like herb-roasted lamb from the Hautes-Alpes, roasted wild mullet, and lemon from the nearby town of Menton served up three ways: as a crème brûlée tart, Italian meringue and sorbet-style. Dinner fills up fast, but lunch is still a local secret, with 30€ set menus dubbed Canon de Midi after the noon cannon that still goes off every day in Nice. Follow a late lunch with a cocktail at the mahogany-soaked lower level bar, cozying up on one of the deck’s couches sitting right on top of the sea.

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Kantra Beach Club.jpg Photo courtesy of Rene Rossignaud

Many of the islands dotting the Mediterranean are known for their rugged interiors and rocky cliffs skirting the sea, and Malta’s sister island of Gozo has cliffs so picture-perfect they’ve been known to make an appearance or two in Game of Thrones scenes. Guests staying at the tucked away boutique hotel Ta’ Cenc sitting on 400 acres of preserved natural beauty can catch some of the best views over the southern side of Gozo and entire Maltese archipelago from this seaside bluff. Head down the winding path to the rocky Kantra Beach Club and you can lie on a cliffside perched beach bed under a parasol sampling Sicilian and local specialties overlooking the water on the Mgarr ix-Xini fjord inlet. Stick with something local ordering from a menu of freshly grilled fish and meat like swordfish and sirloin, which pair beautifully with a cool glass of Maltese wine like the Victoria Heights Chardonnay of Gozo or the Medina Rosé Grenache, which arrives in a dark pink hue that looks deceivingly sweet but is one of the smoothest rosés you’ll find in the region.

Croatia is also no stranger to deserted stretches of cliffside that play host to local’s-only bars, but where tourists mix with the regulars in pure harmony is Dubrovnik’s Buža bar, also lovingly dubbed the “hole in the wall.” To find this seasonal spot, you may need the help of someone in-the-know, since you have to crouch through an entry in the Old Town’s medieval walls to reach the rocky setting that doubles as both a “beach” and bar. Bring your bathing suit and take a dip with views looking out to the nearby Lokrum island and hills of southern Dalmatia. Then, stake out your spot at one of the tables cascading down the cliffs to the Adriatic Sea for sunset, as the water changes color from teal to a glittering silvery blue and the sun’s rays reflect off the limestone walls glowing in shades of gold.

In the Caribbean, Jamaica is home to one of the hottest cave hotels in Negril, aptly called The Caves, with 12 cliffside cottages built along the limestone ridges of the West End. While one way to experience these cliffs is with the help of the hotel’s cliff diving expert, who can then guide you on a snorkel trip through the surrounding natural caves, another way is to drink inside them. The hotel’s not-so-secret hidden cave bar, the signature Blackwell Rum Bar, is accessed by coral staircase that leads down to the water, where you cross a wooden footbridge and arrive in the secluded, candlelit watering hole built into the volcanic cliffs for a very Pirates of the Caribbean way to spend the evening.

Lane Nieset Paste’s Jet-Set Bohemian columnist and a freelance writer covering all things travel from her home base in Nice, France.

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