Destination: France: French Riviera
Chateau St. Martin
Vibe: Romantic, fancy, fairy-tale
At a Glance: Tucked into the Provencal hills is a grand chateau that is a sister property with day privileges to the legendary Hotel du Cap Eden Roc in Antibes.
Review: The South of France’s magic comes from its seaside as well as the charming towns and stunning views in its hills. Only a twenty-minute drive from Nice airport, Chateau St. Martin is a forty-six-room hotel right out of a fairytale. The 30-acre property was once a 12th century knights’ stronghold and the grand main structure that stands on its ruins now houses most of the guestrooms as well as a two-Michelin-starred restaurant and wood-paneled salons complete with chandeliers, antiques and Gobelins tapestries. The hilltop structure, which is surrounded by lush Provencal gardens that mix roses, palms and pines, offers spectacular views over the valley to the Mediterranean. Paths through the gardens lead to a lovely pool area shaded by ancient olive trees with umbrellas, chaises and a poolside bar. The outdoor L’Oliveraie restaurant serves light meals in the garden during the day, while the gourmet restaurant, Le St. Martin and La Rosticceria, which specializes in Mediterranean cuisine, are open for dinner. Also tucked away in the garden are two clay tennis courts and an indulgent La Prairie spa. During the months of July and August, the Kids’ Club offers an afternoon program of activities such as treasure hunts, painting, nature workshops and theater productions.
While all of the guest rooms are different, each has been designed with pretty Pierre Frey fabrics and furniture more reminiscent of the home of a stylish villa owner than a hotel. The Deluxe Junior Suites and One Bedroom Suites come with private terraces. For those who want to enjoy more privacy with friends or family, there are six two- and three-bedrooms villas with state-of-the-art kitchens on the hillside above. A forty-five-minute drive away is the sister property, Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, which welcomes guests of Chateau St. Martin for the day to lounge by the famous seaside pool. Even closer is the charming town of St. Paul de Vence and the fabulous Fondation Maeght art center.
Provencal elegance and beauty is laid on so thick it is hard not to feel like Riviera royalty here.
Best time to visit: The hotel stays open from the beginning of April until end of October but shoulder seasons of May/June and September are when weather is warm and crowds are thin.INDAGARE LOVES:
- The proximity to St. Paul de Vence, one of France’s most picturesque villages
- The ability to dip into the glamorous beach scene at Hotel du Cap
- The two-bedroom villas of your own on the hillside above the property
Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat
The Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, one of the South of France’s most iconic properties, looks better than ever after a $100-million renovation and expansion. Sitting on the idyllic peninsula between Nice and Monaco, the hotel was showing years of wear, so the owners shut the property for 14 months and invested more than $1 million per room to refashion the villa for the 21st century. French star designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, the creative mastermind behind Joël Robuchon’s restaurants worldwide, was entrusted with the redesign and he said of the Grand-Hôtel: “I try to respect the architecture when I undertake a renovation. I am like a surgeon, I have to repair it. What I have from the beginning is a picture of what was before.”
What was there before, most noticeably the hotel’s creamy-and-white colored marble throughout and the lobby’s rotunda (designed in 1909 by Gustave Eiffel), has been painstakingly restored, and the property’s seventeen acres of gardens were given an overhaul by landscape designer Jean Mus. The interiors remain light and airy, with an understated white-on-white design that occasionally breaks into splashes of color: an emerald Murano chandelier here, a colorful tapestry there. What is generating the most buzz, however, is the addition of the Residence wing, which houses sixteen rooms and eight exclusive suites. The pale wood floors, predominantly white decor, including sprawling marble bathrooms, and understated furnishings are a perfect extension of the main hotel’s elegant interiors. Best of all, the suites make the most of the outdoor panoramas: large sliding-panel window walls lead to private terraces and infinity-edged pools (amazingly, the hotel is the first and only along the French Riviera to offer suites with private pools). The deep-blue Cote d’Azur vistas are visible in the distance.
If you can pull yourself from the refined privacy of the new Residence wing, the hotel kept its celebrated beach Club Dauphin, located on the rocky shoreline and accessible by a glass-encased funicular (very James Bond) that leads from the lofty property to the Club and its Olympic-sized heated infinity pool. Most famous here is swimming instructor Pierre Gruneberg, who uses water-filled bowls to get aquaphobes (like Woody Allen) over their fears. Says fashion designer Anya Hindmarch: “One of my favorite parts of the Grand Hotel is its fabulous salt-water swimming pool, which is made even more special by the presence of legendary swimming instructor, Pierre Gruneberg. He has been there forever and has taught the most incredible people how to swim. Taking a lesson from him, you truly feel the history of the place.”
The other place where you feel the—decidedly French—history is the Grand Hotel’s cellar, featuring one of the world’s best wine collections. In 2007, the hotel acquired a unique collection of 135 rare bottles of Château d’Yquem (with vintages from 1860 to 2003), as well as 38 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild (from 1799 to 2003). For those who associate pampering less with culinary delights and more with facials and mud treatments, there’s the new 8,000 square-foot spa, located in the Residence and accessible via a subterranean passage. Serene, contemporary and featuring a long list of treatments using Carita and Comfort Zone products, the Grand Hotel’s spa is another indication that this venerable property has successfully moved into the 21st century.
Getting There: From the Nice airport, it’s about a 30-minute drive to the hotel; from Cannes, its’ about an hour drive.
Read a who should/shouldn’t stay
Read our destination report on Cannes
Hotel du Cap-Eden Roc
The Hotel du Cap-Eden Roc (www.hotel-du-cap-eden-roc.com) is one of the main competitors of the coast’s other grande dame property: the Grand Hôtel du Cap Ferrat. Here’s how this iconic, Napoleon III-style property, opened by hotelier Antoine Sella in 1885, compares.
Size & Layout: The Hotel du Cap is nestled in among twenty-two acres of private gardens on the southernmost tip of the Cap-de-Antibes. There are 121 rooms and suites in the main hotel and the Pavilion right beside the ocean (the Pavilion only offers a junior suite accommodation). The Pavilion area is a five-minute walk from the main hotel towards the water. This is where you’ll find the pool, lounge area and two restaurants, all with direct sea views. The spa and tennis courts are hidden among the gardens of the hotel between the main building and the Pavilion.
The Look: The sophisticated eye of Maja Oetker, the wife of the owner, is evident in the details. Expect 19th-century Louis XV and XVI décor throughout and paintings that are part of the Oetker’s personal collection.
Amenities We Love: At the Pavilion, the famous seawater swimming pool is nestled into the rock and offers a 180-degree view of the ocean. Beside it, a stairway leads to a diving board which jets out from the edge of the rockface (some twenty feet above the ocean). Don’t miss the ultra-private cabanas overlooking the ocean. Whether you are staying in the main hotel area or the Pavilion, there is a concierge team at each location, which is extremely helpful.
Rooms to Get: Accommodations in both the main hotel and the Pavilion boast the same decor, but a stay in the main hotel may feel more grandiose to some thanks to higher ceilings, hallways with original details and an impressive lobby and bar. However, others may prefer the direct sea view afforded from the suites at the Pavilion (rooms in the main hotel offer a more complete picture of the surroundings with gorgeous gardens and countryside).
Cool Factoid: Before opening as a hotel, the property was a writers residence.
Ideal Length of Stay: Between the excellent tennis club, the beautiful Pavillion area, the spa and the many scenic villages nearby, you could easily spend two weeks here. For those with less time to spare, a four-night stay is perfect.
Who Should Stay: Travelers looking for relaxation within a refined setting. There are guests of all ages here: families with young children, couples looking for romance and longtime devotees who visit the hotel every summer. You will not find a hip bar scene, but you’ll certainly be spending time amongst a lovely crowd.
Getting There: The Nice airport is a 35-minute drive away. You can also arrive by boat and moor at one of the hotel buoys, some three-hundred meters in the sea.
Read a member postcard about her stay at the Hotel du Cap-Eden Roc.
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