IT’S mid-morning, and having got a crack-of-dawn BA flight from London City Airport, I am now in a helicopter flying from Nice to Monte Carlo. Out of the window, the warm sunshine and blue sea provide a stunning backdrop to the hotels and villas carved out of the white rocks. As a helicopter virgin I marvel at the civility of it all – until the pilot does some funky loops. I emit a shriek and my fellow passengers laugh with good humour. I get the feeling that they probably take a helicopter as often as I flash my Oyster card. <br /><br />The South of France might not star in the popular imagination as the centre of super-luxury these days, having been supplanted by various resorts in the Middle East, but it should do. Such are my thoughts as we are driven a few minutes from the Heli-Air Monaco, to the famous Hotel Metropole. It has recently undergone a refurbishment, and is now part of the Leading Hotels of the World group – and what a refurbishment it is. Even the first glance is spectacular, the entrance appears to have been redesigned as a Mediterranean villa and scents of jasmine and bluebells waft by. In this sophisticated environment the mass of green and purple plastic hares lined up all over the place come as something of a shock. They. Are. <br />Everywhere. In the lobby, in the bedrooms… They are the brainchild of interior designer Jacques Garcia, who was given a brief to create a concept for a traditional uber-luxury hotel but with some funk; the hares are part of “Arty Spring”, a cultural celebration of pop art and they are to be sold off for charity soon after we leave. <br /><strong><br />COCKTAILS WITH MACAROONS</strong><br />As well as the hares, the other abiding memory of the Metropole are the macaroons; delicate, everywhere and delicious. Whenever I come back to my room there are macaroons, when I leave restaurants I am given macaroons, in my cocktail there is a macaroon – I eat twenty-four macaroons in as many hours. I have started to live in fear of insulting the master-chef Joel Robuchon, who runs the restaurant here, by not eating a <br />macaroon. <br /><br />But anyway, after a hectic day by the pool interrupted by a massage, I have the first of many cocktails in the hotel bar (with macaroons) which rather attracts a more fashionable crowd than the other hotels. Then we walk the whole ten meters to Monte Carlo’s first top scale Japanese restaurant, Yoshi, also within the Metropole. It is also the first Japanese restaurant created by M Robuchon and I haven’t had such impressive sushi outside of Japan; the black cod is better than Nobu’s. Our charming Japanese female sake sommelier takes us through the most delicate drinks, and after dinner we take a stroll; the weather is balmy and the sea smells crisp. With over three hundred days a year of sunshine – plus of course the tax breaks – this must be an incredible place to live. A drink in the bar outside the Casino, opposite the Hotel de Paris, is a good vantage point for watching the world and his mistresses pass us by. <br /><br />The next day we become tourists. It’s easy to be shocked by the grandeur and scale of things in Monte Carlo but I turn around to find that a double-sized Titanic liner has docked in the port overnight and I let out a gasp. I’m similarly impressed by the changing of the guard outside the Grimaldi palace, the soldiers all in white with medals: it’s an impressive performance. <br /><br /><strong>FLOATING<br /></strong>In the evening I put on my best frock and go to the Hotel de Paris for a nose around. After spotting Sir Philip Green in the lobby, I join a private tour of the Hotel de Paris’ wine cellars which are huge – bigger than a square kilometre. There is even a secret vault where the best wines were hidden from the Germans during the Second World War. So much wine, but no bottles are being opened for us so it’s time for a coupe de champagne and dinner at Le Grill of the Hotel de Paris, a spectacular two star Michelin meal under a retractable roof. <br /><br />Then it’s off to the Casino where there is some low key but serious business going on. Not daring to gamble, we stroll back to the hotel for an early night. <br /><br />The next day it is – deep breath – time to leave the principality of Monaco by car for France and the Grand-Hotel de Cap-Ferrat, which has also undergone a major overhaul. Once there, the first thing I notice is that we are floating on the top of a field; this wonderful optical illusion is created because the tops of the Cyprus trees are trimmed to the level of the reception windows.<br /><br />A wedding is taking place in the evening and one of the guests has hired a private jet to bring in some baby food from Moscow. Luxury is the name of the game here. Indeed, so as we don’t have to walk down a small hill to the pool and the beach, there is a funicular. Thank goodness; it would never do to break into sweat. <br /><br />Once down the 50ft slope, we have entered another world by the pool, and below that, the sea that crashes against the rocks. It’s not safe today, unless you are to swim with the hotel’s swimming coach Pierre Gruneberg. He’s the man who taught Picasso, Chagall, Sir Paul McCartney and Dolce (as in Gabanna) to swim, using a technique which involves a salad bowl, golf ball and a length of hosepipe. Obviously. <br /><strong><br />WORTH EVERY BITE<br /></strong><br />Soon it is time for more Michelin-starred food, at the hotel’s Le Cap restaurant – by the end of the weekend I realise that I have dined out on seven Michelin stars and probably gained as many pounds, each worth every bite.<br /><br />After another day of sunbathing and reading Fortune magazine by the pool, it’s back to Nice and then London City airport. And reality. As luck would have it, the Docklands Light Railway is not working, nor is the Jubilee Line. But this doesn’t throw me. Because living like a billionaire for just a few days makes me realize that although a bit of luxury can’t buy happiness, what it can do is make you feel pretty damn good. <br /><br />British Airways operates a daily service from London City to Nice during the summer season, which increases to twice daily in August. <br /><br />There are four services a week during the winter season. One-way fares are available from £65 on www.ba.com. Passengers with hand luggage can enjoy a minimum 15-minute check-in and walk straight onto their British Airways flight. <br /><br />Stay at the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat, France, from €560 per room per night based on two people sharing a superior room and the Hotel Metropole, Monte Carlo, from €420 per room per night based on two people sharing a superior room.<br /> <br />Call Leading Hotels of the World, Tel: 00-800 2888-8882. See:www.lhw.com.