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Travel
July 22, 2008

Mediterranean Idyll

Text by Devanshi Mody

It’s that time of year again when the French Riviera beckons from its blue environs to rock the season of splurge and splash. Verve visits the top hot spots where the seriously weary jet in to nourish their bodies and their souls

Delicious Serenity
The Grand Hotel Du Cap Ferrat, arguably the most romantic hotel on the Riviera, teeters temptingly on the tip of the eponymous peninsula, the most expensive land on the French coast. For exactly a century this monumental legend, once the Riviera residence of the King of Belgium, has played host to royals (Sarah Ferguson, the Romanovs, the Emir of Bahrain), tycoons, celebs and artists: Aristotle Onassis, Jean Cocteau, Somerset Maugham, the Clintons, George W Bush, Elton John and Prince, to name a few. It’s also where the likes of Top Shop big boss Philip Green hosts outrageously lavish parties. Wrapped in acres of landscaped gardens that descend gently into brilliant blue waters, this oasis of delicious serenity is the ideal, idyllic retreat. Check into ultra sexy, recently refurbished contemporary suites whose sprawling terraces offer heartbreakingly beautiful views over an azure infinity. The hotel’s enchanting gastronomic restaurant Le Cap awaits its second Michelin star.

Très haute: A cliff-edge swimming pool and the much-awaited opening of the spectacular Chanel spa.

Royal Service
For 130 years, La Reserve De Beaulieu, which started off as a glamorous seafood restaurant, then the adresse incontournable, has been the privilege of the international elite. This lieu de magie is spellbinding with its unique brand of luxury, an integral part of which is the service. The staff delightfully combine the attentions lavished on royalty with the familiarity of an old friend. Honouring Mistinguette, the most chi chi French starlet of the 50s who ‘lived’ in the glorious Villa Mistinguette with a terrace including jacuzzi et al overlooking the brutally blue Mediterranean. The hotel’s celebrated two-Michelin-starred restaurant boasting a tableau dating from the time the establishment first opened, takes pride of place in the splendid principal dining room embellished with Venetian glass chandeliers and the most opulent of upholstery which recapture the magnificence of a bygone era. Chef Olivier’s preparations are presented with panache that complements the magnificent setting. When coffee arrives with a trolley full of mignardies at some unearthly hour, you won’t realise that you’ve spent four hours here.

Très haute: Audrey’s personalised massages and fabulous facials with chic Maria Galland products at one of the Riviera’s best spas.

Aquamarine Splendour
The French Riviera’s best-kept secret is the hush-hush water’s-edge Cap Estel at Eze. If you aren’t looking for it, you won’t find it. And you need to ring to be allowed to enter… Go down verdant sloping paths to arrive at this ultra elegant hotel, a fantasy of cutting-edge cool and sumptuous splendour, abounding with outrageously elegant paraphernalia – everything from the art on the walls to coffee tables, lamps, leather-bound books, stylish artwork and rugs to swish glass lifts. The new spa with unique treatments is  practically bathed in the water and offers impossibly fantastic views from everywhere. But then, the hotel itself brings the Mediterranean into the interiors in the sublimely serene, aquamarine-dominated décor. If you don’t own a villa, this is the next best thing.

Très haute: Checking into an uber smart jazzy suite next door to Bono and Beyonce.

Gourmet Weekends
Château De La Chevre D’Or with astounding location, swaying atop a craggy cliff is set amid cascading gardens dotted with waterfalls, ponds, pools and wildlife embodied in sculpted metal, including a glorious golden goat. Some hotel rooms are interestingly scattered around the historic and exquisite perched village of Eze. This is also the place for a gastronomic weekend. Terrace restaurants Le Rampart and Eden have mind-blowing views but it’s the gastronomic heights at their elevated restaurant La Chevere d’Or, the lush and lavish enclave cocooned in clouds that makes for the headiest, most hedonistic experience. The best sommelier serves the finest pink champagne and matches exceptional wines with exceptional adroitness. The two-Michelin-starred chef whips up ultra rarefied crea-tions and a must is the caramel and balsamic vinegar desert. Sounds disgusting but is divine and certainly divinely inspired. Ask Vidhu Vinod Chopra, a regular here.

Très haute: Creative, ethereal deserts, the kind where you can have three and walk out feeling you’ve eaten nothing.

Glamour Stop
There was a time when St Tropez was simply a sleepy fishing village. Then Le Byblos happened. Making St Tropez the holiday haunt of celebs, stars, aristocrats, artists, the jet set and party people galore. 41 years since, the hotel that ‘made’ St Tropez is looking younger and sexier than the VIPs who’ve been addicted to it since Brigitte Bardot inaugurated it in 1967 and Mick Jagger hosted a wedding there. Synonymous with St Tropez itself, the Byblos is one of the most glamorous addresses on earth. It isn’t an architectural or interior design marvel. But its confluence of intimacy and luxury, the rustic and the racy somehow works. It can be an oasis of tranquillity, though during the ‘St Tropez Season’ rumbustious revellers turn it into the most hip and happening place in town. The legend lives on!

Très haute: Home to the world’s most famous nightclub, Les Caves du Roy, where Bruce Willis enjoys the sensational décor and the Beckhams come to party year after year.

Ornate Flash
Villa Marie is quite the discreetly fashionable place to be seen at these days. Liz Hurley’s favourite little retreat is ensconced in gardens and overlooks the Bay of St Tropez. The wonderful rooms are a mishmash of countrified and contemporary chic jazzed up with ornate flashes. The sole suite at present is an imaginatively converted attic. The ceiling comes down dramatically, so if you’re very tall, this might be inconvenient, unless you intend to be predominantly supine. Then again, if you’re taking along a copy of the Kama Sutra, the more acrobatic poses might suffer… Until the new suites are available, go for one of the lovely terraced one-piece rooms with bathrooms including stand-alone bathtubs.

Tres haute: Sleeping to the sounds of distant waves and waking to the swish of a cool sea breeze.

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