Destination: France: St.-Tropez
Set back on a quiet, leafy road, Hotel Benkiraï is the first of its kind in St.-Tropez—an ultracontemporary property designed by cool Parisian Patrick Jouin (who also did Alain Ducasse’s Mix, in Las Vegas and New York, and his three-Michelin-starred restaurant at the Plaza Athénée in Paris). The rooms are small and rather spare but also deeply cosseting. Each is divided into a monochromatic Zen-white bedroom and periwinkle-blue bathrooms with cabinets that slide away and transform into sinks. Predictably, high-style rules: everything from the multilevel bar and restaurant decks to terraces that overlook the mosaic-tiled pool and gardens is built with red-hued Benkiraï teak from Indonesia. Jouin’s design is infused with fun: the white-lacquered consoles cleverly integrate a plasma flat-screen TV and DVD player in the rooms, while the crisscross patterns of metal wall lamps create their own unique mood lighting.
Even if you’re not staying here—the small rooms are not for everyone—come for dinner and mingle with the artsy crowd that seems to include all ages and nationalities. The Benkiraï’s restaurant is headed by acclaimed Thai chef Oth Sombath, formerly of Paris’s Blue Elephant, who whips up such dishes as five-flavor steamed salmon wrapped in a banana leaf, duck fillet with red curry and chocolate spring rolls for dessert. Rooms from $605.
Pan Deï Palais
This refurbished 19th-century mansion hotel, located just off the Place des Lices, is my favorite. Once the home of Napoleonic hero General Jean-François Allard and his Indian-born wife, Princess Bannou Pan Deï, the Palais feels like a colonial-style home. The lobby is decorated with Indian antiques and Asian furnishings, statues and colorful carpets, and the unusually spacious guest rooms have ceiling fans and beds are draped with shimmering fabrics. Best of all, they can convert into modular super suites, ideal for traveling families. Between boutique-hopping (the top shopping is just outside the hotel), guests can lounge on Indonesian daybeds by the heated pool, sip Champagne cocktails at their private bar or book a shiatsu massage in the mini-spa. In-house chef Satoshi Kubota serves up innovative Mediterranean and Asian dishes, including spicy shrimp, truffle ravioli and grilled sole with wild mushrooms. Directors Patricia Presse and Stéphane Le Grall, who came from the Byblos, make sure the ambiance stays convivial; though if you want to party, the top clubs are just down the road. In May 2009, the hotel unveiled a new spa, which features treatments using the Valmont skin care line. The Swiss brand even customized the “Princess Pan Deï” treatments, designed to fight the effects of the sun and to treat the premature signs of aging. Rooms from $620.
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