Sitting on a tiny rock in the Var in the South of France and perched 35 meters above the sea, the 17C Fort of Brégançon is property of the French State. Since 1968, it has been an official presidential residence.
Some presidents love Brégaçon more than others. President Général de Gaulle was the first president to have slept on the premises in 1964. The fort was in dire shape at the time. De Gaulle swore never to set foot on it again.
French president Georges Pompidou stayed at the fort a number of times, as did Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. Mitterand wasn't as fond of the spot. He visited, but only stayed overnight once. Chirac enjoyed Brégançon although he reportedly felt imprisoned on the site.
That's not surprising. Sheer cliffs surround the fort like prison walls. It reminds me of California's Alcatraz. The would-be island rock hangs on to the continental coast by a jetty. During official visits, guards wander all around the Bregançon by boat. Only paparazzi helicopters manage to approach the fort close enough to snap juicy pictures.
Nowadays, presidential residences are under close scrutiny of another type. Money. With French presidential budget pressured to shrink, the four presidential residences (Château de Rambouillet, Domaine de Marly-le-Roi, Domaine de Souzy-la-Briche and Fort de Brégançon) are closely watched for their expenses. Together, they cost half a million (528,000€) euros in yearly maintenance. And thus, most of them have recently been handed off to municipalities and to the Minister of Culture. Not Bregançon. It may be on the French Riviera, but it's the least expensive of the four residences to maintain.
Thus the Fort de Brégançon remains the emblematic presidential residence it has been since 1968.
Will you spot current French president there? Sarkozy may love the Var, but it isn't at the Fort de Bregançon that he most often vacations. Carla and Nicolas prefer Cap Nègre, close-by in the Var and the location of the Bruni-Tedeschi family home.