Jazz festivals, glitzy yacht parties, and celebrity-mobbed nightclubs…The French Riviera lives up to its reputation for decadence and revelry, but it is also a divine spot to kick back and relax. Between Nice and Monaco, a stretch of the coastline presents a different side of the Cote d’Azur: a quiet, peaceful, but no less glamorous beach destination. A frequent train links the string of pearl-like villages from Villefranche-sur-mer, the historic fishing village abutting Nice, to Cap d’Ail, a well-kept secret next to Monaco where Philippe Starck just opened his new seafood restaurant A’trego.
Clinging to the clifftops 1,408 feet above the Mediterranean, the fortified village of Eze has been compared to Mt. Olympus. A small footpath named after Nietzsche (it is said that the philosopher wrote the chapter of a book while hiking up into the clouds) winds up from the beach. Surrounded by the endless blue of sky and sea, Eze has cast its spell on inhabitants and visitors for thousands of years.
Needless to say, this could be one of the most dramatic hotel settings on Earth. The Chateau de la Chèvre d’Or has a bird’s-eye view from its dizzying perch. The hotel is, in fact, built on multilevel terraces connected by stairways carved into the cliffs. On one of these panoramic terraces, a giant chessboard overlooks the sea. On another, a heated pool and an outdoor Jacuzzi offer sky-high views, as does the gym. Eze has its own microclimate, favoring a biodiversity that’s on full display in the 30 hectares of hotel gardens, filled with flowers and hundreds of types of cacti. And the mythical chèvre d’or (“golden goat”) is found in marble mosaics, statues and paintings.
Managed by Phoenix Hotel Management, the chateau encompasses ancient villas and private houses on cobbled lanes. Intoxicated by Eze, the acclaimed Croatian violinist Zlatko Balokovic restored one of the houses in 1923, which was converted into a star-attracting restaurant in 1953 by Robert Wolf. Walt Disney then convinced Wolf to buy up village houses and transform them into hotel rooms, and three years later, the Chèvre d’Or became one of the original properties in the Relais & Chateaux collection.
The hotel has only 37 rooms, each with unique architectural details (think balconies, timbered beams, a soaking tub beneath cave-like vaults and a stone fireplace). The seven suites are named after the famous personalities and artists (like Jean Cocteau) who left their mark on the Riviera. Our Favorite: The Presidential Suite with its private infinity pool. Note: There are no room numbers, and some of the rooms are situated along a public passageway in the village itself.
Your clients may not want to leave their luxurious lair, nor do they need to. They’ve got some of the best food on the entire French Riviera at their doorstep: The hotel’s gourmet restaurant has two Michelin stars. Passionate about fresh local produce, Chef Fabrice Vulin sources the best of the region’s crops for his seasonal Mediterranean tasting menus. In the 15,000-bottle wine cellar, there are fine local wines from Provence, along with rare vintages like Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1918 and Cheval Blanc 1947. For lunch, Les Remparts and the poolside Café du Jardin are two casual options. Open in high season (May to September), both restaurants have panoramic terraces that offer prime views of the sea. The hotel’s fourth restaurant, Eden, can be booked for dreamy destination weddings and events (Nice Touch: The pool can be sprinkled with rose petals and candle-lit). The concierge may also recommend a meal at the Chateau Eza, a boutique hotel and Michelin-starred restaurant within walking distance.
|Grand-Hotel Du Cap-Ferrat is one of only nine “palace” hotels in France.|
Far below, the peninsula of Cap-Ferrat juts out into the sea between the villages of Beaulieu and Villefranche-sur-mer. Footpaths encircle the presqu’île, providing million-euro views of the Mediterranean. Behind high walls, some of the priciest real estate on the Cote d’Azur lures the world’s wealthiest to plunk down fortunes on a sliver of paradise. If not in the market for a mansion, your clients can get a taste of this exclusive French Riviera with a stay at the opulent Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, one of only nine “palace” hotels in France. The grandeur begins at the get-go: A baroque chandelier by Tisserant hangs above a marble mosaic in the lobby, and the adjacent Rotunda was built by Gustave Eiffel himself in 1909.
|Chateau De La Chèvre D’or’s Suite Cocteau living room combines minimalism with refined elegance.|
Framed by palms and Aleppo pines on a lush 17-acre compound, the gleaming Belle Époque palace is a discreet retreat for monarchs, presidents, and A-list celebs. This is where Picasso’s kids learned to swim, and instructor Pierre Gruneberg is still working his magic 60 years after he started teaching at this gorgeous pool above the sea. Talk about arriving in style: The Olympic-size pool is accessed by a glass funicular that transports bathers in air-conditioned comfort. Of course, guests can also walk down the stairs to reach the Club Dauphin. (This club is not exclusive for hotel guests; day access can be purchased for $102 on weekdays and for $123 on weekends for adults.)
|Grand-Hotel Du Cap-Ferrat’s Club Dauphin offers top views in an exclusive setting.|
The hotel underwent a multimillion-euro renovation under designer Pierre Yves Rochon in 2009, and the results are extraordinary. Its soaring spaces are a study in elegant neutrals—all marble, silks, and linens in white and beige. Housed in a new sea-facing wing called The Residence, the spa is accessed by an underground passageway and white spiral ramp inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim in New York. The six treatment rooms—including a massive VIP suite—are decorated with driftwood, shells, coral and bamboo, creating a natural vibe. But we recommend going for an outdoor massage in the gardens beautifully landscaped by a team of 20.
The Residence also has 16 deluxe sea-view rooms and eight new suites with private infinity pools which we highly recommend. Opening onto terraces, these sleek suites showcase the finest craftsmanship—from the custom-designed marble furniture and Matisse reproductions down to the faucets and doorknobs. For bookings, contact Bertrand Louail ([email protected]; 011-33-4-93-765-378).
|The Grand -Hot el Du Cap-Ferrat’s lobby is a study in elegant neutrals.|
A staff of 300 attends to just 73 rooms, and Concierge Martin Egger ([email protected]; 011-33-4-93-765-029) has an enviable rolodex of contacts on the French Riviera. He can arrange cooking classes at the hotel’s Michelin-starred Le Cap restaurant, and pull strings at other hot spots along the coast. Oenophiles can taste the rare vintages locked behind gilded gates in the hotel’s Salon des Collections under the tutelage of an expert sommelier. There’s no boat access at the hotel, but Egger can charter yachts out of the nearby port of Saint-Jean, and set up water sports on Saint-Jean’s beach. For those keen on sampling St. Tropez’s famous nightlife, Egger can arrange luxury car service or a helicopter. Even the smallest guests get VIP treatment at the family-friendly Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, a playground in paradise for adults and kids alike.