The chartered Dassault-Falcon 30 took of from RAF Northolt, jetting through a clear blue sky toward our destination, Aeroport de Nice. On board one of my best mates from the Jaguar PR team at Browns Lane plus six Pommy motoring scribes, and my media contingent from the USA, made up of six of my best friends.
Just short of two hours we pull up at the Nice executive jetport, and the only downside of this, so far, private jet journey is the coach ride to the hotel. But, what a hotel – one of the most famous of the original 5-stars in the exclusive enclave of Juan-Les-Pins. Designed in 1931 for businessman Alexandre Barache by renowned French architect Georges Diganski, the Hotel Juana has hosted the Aga Khan, Winston Churchill and artist Marc Chagall among a cadre of famous personalities.
The Juana won another distinguished honour after its restaurant became a reference for gastronomy when it was the first of the Cote d’Azur hotels to be awarded two stars in the 1984 Guide Michelin, thanks to a young Alain Ducasse who was then just 28.
The following morning we are greeted by the Jaguar team after a delightful petit dejeuner on the terrace, plus a selection of Jaguar XJ-S convertibles arrayed on Avenue Georges Gallice.
Ahead is a 300km round trip taking in the regional city of Draguignan, and the fabulous, fortified hilltop town of Fayence – which is the coffee stop.
The test route is typically a David Boole-designed driving event, taking in autoroute, gentle climbs, twisty, mountainous sections heading up to Fayence, then some long and testing curves back from the hills toward Juan-le-Pins.
David and I first met in 1979, and enjoyed a close friendship until his untimely death at 48 in 1996.
He was the visionary Director of Public Relations who skilfully guided Jaguar through two tumultuous eras, both as part of British Leyland and then as in independent company.
David had a great vision for Jaguar media events and managed to always choose not just great driving routes, but great (and famous) hotels, inspired presentations whilst always ensuring a low-key presence of Jaguar’s senior executives led by the Chairman John Egan.
The events always delivered essential technical details, but were underscored by outstanding journalism validating Jaguar’s rightful place in the luxury car spectrum.
The hills above the Mediterranean coastline are known as Les Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, and the contours seem ideally sculpted for Jaguar driving, especially the impressive torque from the XJ-S’s V12 engine. Returning to the Juana we enjoyed a typical five-star lunch, followed in the evening before dinner by a cute little tourist train ride through the environs surrounding the enclave.
Juan-les-Pins is wall-to-wall money with luxury villas often occupying two building lots allowing for large homes set in bountiful, semi-tropical gardens.
What an ideal setting to welcome Jaguar’s latest iteration of the XJ-S, despite early criticism that its styling was not redolent of its predecessor, the E-type.
However, the XJ-S went on to be a huge commercial success for Jaguar, after the V12 coupe and convertible was followed by a new inline six version, known as the AJ6.
As our time at the Juana came to an end, it was back to earth momentarily as we motored off to Nice Airport for the return flight to London.
Some of us in XJ-S convertibles, others on a bloody coach, devoid of character, but including the French driver who serenaded us with pitifully-sad Edith Piaf hits.
The Luxe Life may only last a few days, but it’s been a great element of my career associated with legendary brands like Jaguar and Bentley.