Whoever said 'it's not the destination but the journey that counts' never checked in to the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc
Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, on a spit of fabled land outside of Antibes, France, celebrates its 150th birthday this week, but the 1870 Belle Époque gem still fizzes with je ne sais quoi.
And oh if those old walls could talk: Pablo Picasso, Johnny Depp and Celine Dion have all graced the bedrooms (although not all at once); Monica Bellucci was — it’s rumoured — allowed to spend the night in one of the beach cabañas (the same cabañas that Marc Chagall once sat and sketched in); F. Scott Fitzgerald immortalised the building as Hôtel des Etrangers, in Tender Is the Night.
Put simply, this Oetker hotel is the stuff of legend.
When it reopens this month, guests will find that the Eden-Roc Restaurant and Eden-Roc Grill (below) have been refurbished. (The view, however, across to the twinkling lights of Cannes, remains resolutely unchanged.) In June, a new private villa for groups of up to 12 people, Villa Sainte-Anne, opens. And there’s a pleasingly hefty coffee table book charting the hotel’s beguiling history, as well as a special fragrance in collaboration with Dior, both available now.
Well, it is a big birthday after all.
Hotel du Cap might be used to catering for the rich and famous, but it hasn’t lost any of its timeless charm — you could only pay by cash up until 2005 — and the majority who stay and repeat customers, including a lot of families.
I first visited for lunch back in 2017, and then to stay in 2019. As soon as I passed through those gold front doors, I was offered a liquid concoction of cranberry, apple, mint and verbena; it’s still hard to decide which is better, that or one of the hotel’s famous Bellinis, which the waiters all insisted I try (and rightly so, because I ended up having more than one).
Century-old pine trees guard the hotel and grounds from the outside world and the bedroom interiors wouldn’t look out of place in an English country house. The gardens are a Gallic work of art, the wisteria winding its way sinuously round the extensive arbour that leads to the hidden spa.
The aforementioned cabañas (available for private hire from €570 per day, about £496) are surprisingly simple, but then, according to head of communications Valerie Muller: ‘Luxury nowadays is more about emotions and experiences.’
A jaunt along the Riviera in the hotel’s bespoke Aquariva Super and an attempt to climb the trapeze — installed in the 1930s at a precarious angle over the sea — made me feel as if I was in a Slim Aarons photograph (he famously captured the iconic saltwater swimming pool in 1976).
There’s sometimes a sense of satisfaction in heading home from a holiday, but at Hotel du Cap, I felt as if I was already there.
While you’re there
• General manager Philippe Perd is partial to a competitive round of pétanque in the hotel gardens — he ‘always wins’, however, so start practising now
• The old town of Antibes and the Picasso Museum — built upon the foundations of the ancient Greek town of Antipolis — are both worth exploring
• Ask for a room in the Eden-Roc Pavilion — they all enjoy uninterrupted views of the Riviera and sunset