I’ll add a vote of confidence to horseradish’s suggestions. London is brimming with independant designers. The Truman Brewery is one of several hotbeds, best time to go is Sunday when Spitalfields market is on. The brewery and neighbouring buildings also host events such as 100% East and Free Range amongst others.
Naturally however you shouldn’t overlook visting the Notting Hill and Portobello areas out west. The Southbank may also be of interest.
The film festival is the busiest and most exciting time to go (if that’s what you’re after), although unless you’ve got invites and VIP status you’re pretty much limited to rubber-knecking (and that may involve climbing trees!). Another good time is during the fireworks festival (which spans three weeks). You don’t have to stay in town as it’s a quick train journey along the coast, although they don’t run quite late enough to get you out of town much after midnight. Check cannes.fr for an events calendar.
During the high season (July-Aug-Sept) the prices are very high, and directly on the coast you’ll almost certainly find it easier to rent an appartment rather than a house.
Due to the rocky outcrops only part of the coast has sandy beaches—those between Saint Raphael and Juan-Les-Pins (west of Nice), and also around Menton (east of Nice). For the most part there’s a main road between the housing and the beach, however it’s not unduly dangerous (in fact in the high season traffic is likely to be crawling).
Restaurants are mainly concentrated around the actual towns and villages, so for example although La Bocca has easy access to the beaches you might find walking into Cannes for the good eats a bit of a drag. If on the other hand you mean easy access by car you’re spoiled for choice (with exception to the above note on traffic—there’s always the train).
Best option is to find some rentals you like and then look up their locations on Google Earth/satellite maps. There’s little along the coast not to like (except perhaps the flat bit between Antibes and Nice).
There’s pretty much nowhere that hasn’t been written up in some guide—Provence is one of the most popular destinations around, and in August/September there’s no avoiding tourists. Have you ascertained where you’ll be staying, and will you have a car (trains only run along the coast, except the steam train, and buses are infrequent to some places)? More to the point what kind of things are you looking to do?
Judging from your profile you’ll want to seek out wine—well no worries there! If you want to do some climbing I can suggest that you check out the lovely little valley of the Sourn which has some fairly popular cliffs to scale (and a stream to bathe in afterwards). Correns is a cute little village down the road and is not on the usual tourist trail (whereas its larger neighbour Cotignac is).
Further on, and despite the tourists you have to vist the Grand Canyon and Moustiers (climb up to the chapel), making sure you pass through Aups on a saturday morning for the market, then if you can find a free spot spend the afternoon by the lake, take a picnic of goats cheese, local bread, and wine (of course) then swim in its turquoise waters.
No visit would be complete without a beach, and my favourite place is the Rochers du Bocca (Cannes – La Bocca) but you’ll have to get there early or take the train (roads are packed). However the beaches below Eze aren’t bad at all either and it won’t be quite as packed as August is. You will however unfortunately miss the Cannes fireworks festival. Check the Cannes site for extensive events. Likewise Nice, where you might be able to catch some live performances in the old Chateau gardens over the city (umm, actually last one is on the 1st of September).
If you make it over to St. Remy (below Avignon) the Cathedrale des Images is well worth the high entry price and there’s a great walk along the Alpilles above it.
Nightlife on the Riviera is costly and not terribly exciting (IMHO), but there’s gaggles of expats in certain places. For info on the expat community check out riviera.angloinfo.com.
This’ll have to do for now, gotta dash…
Probably too late for you, but for the benefit of others… check out other sites similar to 43Places, such as VirtualTourist and CouchSurfing. Find people with local blogs. Befriend a local or expat, then be presumptious and ask them to show you around. Alternatively just hang out at Wayne’s bar in Nice. (And I agree with butterfly, stay in Nice.)
This has happened to be me before and I’ve given ‘tours’ along the coast on my scooter, but I don’t live there any more :(