Hôtel Ritz (Paris; tel. 800/223-6800 in the U.S. and Canada, or 01-43-16-30-30; www.ritzparis.com): This hotel occupies a palace overlooking the octagonal borders of one of the most perfect plazas in France: place Vendôme. The decor is pure opulence. Marcel Proust wrote parts of Remembrance of Things Past here, and Georges-Auguste Escoffier perfected many of his recipes in its kitchens.
Hôtel Meurice (Paris; tel. 01-44-58-10-10; www.meuricehotel.com) faces the Jardin des Tuileries close to the Place de la Concorde. Over the course of its career, it has catered to everybody from royalty to Salvador Dalí. Massively restored and still celebrated for its glass-roofed Winter Garden, it's a pocket of posh.
Château d'Artigny (Montbazon, Loire Valley; tel. 02-47-34-30-30; www.artigny.com): The perfume king François Coty once lived and entertained lavishly at this mansion outside Tours -- and you can do the same today in one of the poshest hotels in the Loire Valley. Experience the grandeur once enjoyed by Elizabeth Taylor and other celebs, taking in the weekend soirees and musical evenings.
Oustau de Baumanière (Les Baux, Provence; tel. 04-90-54-33-07; www.oustaudebaumaniere.com): This Relais & Châteaux property is in the valley at the foot of Les Baux de Provence. Both the cuisine and the accommodations, some of which are in buildings dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, are superb.
Grand Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat (St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Côte d'Azur; tel. 04-93-76-50-50; www.grand-hotel-cap-ferrat.com): The Grand Hôtel occupies 5.6 prime hectares (14 acres) on one of the world's most exclusive peninsulas. In a Belle Epoque palace, it has hosted royals, aristocrats, and wealthy wannabes since the turn of the 20th century.
Hôtel du Cap-Eden Roc (Cap d'Antibes, Côte d'Azur; tel. 04-93-61-39-01; www.edenroc-hotel.fr): Built during the grand Second Empire and set on 8.9 hectares (22 acres) of splendidly landscaped gardens, this hotel is legendary, evoking the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic Tender Is the Night. Swimmers revel in a pool blasted from the dark rock of the glamorous coastline.
Hôtel Negresco (Nice, Côte d'Azur; tel. 04-93-16-64-00; www.hotel-negresco-nice.com): Built in 1913 as a layered wedding cake in the château style, the Negresco was a lavish escape for the Edwardian era's most respected and most notorious figures, including Lillie Langtry, the longtime mistress of Britain's Edward VII. After her fall from grace, she sat in the lobby, swathed in veils, refusing to utter a word. Following renovations, the hotel is better now than during its Jazz Age heyday.
Hôtel du Palais (Biarritz, Basque Country; tel. 800/223-6800 in the U.S. and Canada, or 05-59-41-64-00; www.hotel-du-palais.com): Delectably beautiful, this place was built in 1845 as a pink-walled summer palace for Napoleon III and his empress, Eugénie. The Belle Epoque fantasy has entertained such guests as Edward VII of England, Alfonso XIII of Spain, and the duke of Windsor.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.