Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc : A Sanctuary for the Stars
The prestigious Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc on the Cap d’Antibes, between Cannes and Nice, is one of the finest 5-star hotels in France and epitomises the style and elegance of the French Riviera, featuring regularly on Tatler and Conde Nast Traveler lists as one of the best hotels in the world.
Part of the Oetker Collection of elite luxury hotels, it is set amidst 22 acres of gardens with palms, Aleppo pines, citrus, cypress and olive trees, wisteria, roses and magnolia. The hotel grounds embrace the coastline and offer marvellous views of the Mediterranean and the Íles de Lérins.
A Legend in Time
The hotel started life as the Villa Soleil in 1870, built by the founder of Le Figaro newspaper, Auguste de Villemessant, who intended it to host artists and writers seeking inspiration. A few years after it opened it became obscure and vacant until the railway lines linking Paris and Menton and St Petersburg with Nice opened up the region as a destination. The hotel was abandoned until 1887 when a young hotelier from Piedmont in Italy, Antoine Sella, fell under its spell and dedicated two years to restoring the hotel. In January 1889, the ‘Grand Hotel du Cap’ opened its doors.
At the turn of the century, Antoine Sella, who was now in a position as Hotel Manager, had grand visions of luxury which required significant bank rolling, and finances were provided by British VIP’s such as Lord Onslow to renovate further.
At that time, it was popular to visit the gardens of nearby Villa Eilenroc by horse-drawn carriage and he had an epiphany one day to build a tea house as an annexe to the main hotel which would entice coachmen to stop enroute and pause with their clients. So, in 1914 his tea house vision came to life as the Eden-Roc Pavilion.
Over the years, the hotel was acquired by the French Red Cross as a hospital to treat casualties of the war. Sella noticed that even though the French Riviera was deemed to be a winter destination, the nurses would make use of the year round sunshine and mild climate and go swimming in the sea. This inspired him to build a sea water pool for the guests – he dynamited the pool out of the basalt rock and the pool as it exists today is iconic!
The 1920’s and 1930’s saw the rise of the French Riviera as a destination and it became a place to have fun in the sun and revel at parties. Gerald and Sara Murphy spent an entire summer at the hotel after convincing Sella to open, Ernest Hemingway lingered for long vacations, Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw enjoyed the tranquillity, F. Scott Fitzgerald mirrored his experience in his writing capturing the essence of the hotel as ‘L’hotel des etrangers’ in Tender in the Night and Marc Chagall sketched in the cabanas. The Duke of Windsor visited with Wallis Simpson to escape the media around his abdication.
The 1940’s again saw the hotel requisitioned as a military hospital during the Second World War – the US Navy destroyed the Eden-Roc Pavilion with 3 bombs. Allied troops were there for 3 years and by the time they left the hotel was back to its former glory; the Americans repaired the damaged buildings at their own expense.
The 1950’s and 1960’s saw the arrival of high-end clientele in a continuous stream, everyone from Picasso to the Kennedy family to aeroplane maker Marcel Dassault and actress Marlene Dietrich.
In 1969, the hotel was bought by Rudolph August Oetker and since then there have been extensive renovations to bring the hotel up to modern standards. The Eden-Roc Pavilion was extended in 1987 with the creation of 31 Junior Suites as well as the Eden-Roc Suite; in the same year the hotel was renamed the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc and has continued to welcome celebrities, film producers, royalty and high-profile guests including Madonna, Sharon Stone, Steven Spielberg and Nicole Kidman.
A 7-year stint of refurbishments was completed in 2013 including room upgrades, new plumbing and electrics for the original Villa Soleil building, and the creation of the Eden-Roc Grill and Champagne Lounge (renovations are estimated to have cost more than €60 million).
The Silver Screen & Glittering Soirees
The hotel has featured in numerous films, commercials, product launches and photo shoots ranging from 1971 James Bond flick ‘Diamonds are Forever’ to 2008’s ‘What Just Happened’ starring Robert de Niro, Dior fragrance commercials with Jude Law and Natalie Portman, Chanel Cruise Collection runway shows and luxury car promotions.
It is a buzzing conglomerate of entertainment insiders come May when the Cannes International Film Festival ensures rooms and suites are filled and haute couture gowns and tuxedos are kept immaculate. One of the most coveted tickets of the festival, is the annual amfAR gala dinner hosted at the hotel where every celebrity in town attends this renowned fundraiser for AIDS research.
What to Expect
The 118 rooms and suites and two private three-bedroom villas (Villa Eleana and Villa Les Cèdres) are exemplary in their décor, beauty and outlook. Accommodation is spread across the main Hotel du Cap, the original Villa Soleil which is a pinnacle of the hotel’s historic glamour, the Eden-Roc Pavilion above the sea and Les Deux Fontaines Residence.
Luxurious soft furnishings by Colefax and Fowler, and Canovas and Pierre Frey upholstery personally chosen by Maja Oetker blend seamlessly with light boiserie walls or striped wallpaper hung with gilded mirrors and paintings, ornate lamps, silk or floral curtains, antique furniture, marble bathrooms and chandeliers.
Much to Madame Oetker’s uncertainty about permanently installing large televisions in the rooms (previously, guests could rent one for €100), the Directeur Général Philippe Perd reinforced the idea that while the hotel was a stunning masterpiece to a bygone era it must also move with the times – hence, you’ll now find minibars, Wifi and Loewe televisions as standard. He knows what he’s talking about having previous experience at luxury hotels the Savoy, Hotel de Crillon in Paris and Château Saint-Martin & Spa in Vence.
Some old habits die hard though, you can summons room service staff by bells and entrance to rooms is via old-fashioned key, not plastic cards or security fobs. Bedside consoles have call buttons for valet, femme d’étage and service aux chambres because having access to round-the-clock room service is expected by today’s guests. Front desk and housekeeping record guest preferences in detail – want that feather pillow next time you stay or your bed made a certain way? Consider it done.
Top Tips: All of the Superior Rooms are located in the original building of the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, the Villa Soleil, so if you really want to experience the most historic rooms, book a stay there. The Deluxe Rooms and Deluxe One-Bedroom Suites have lovely sea views and their central position makes the most of the emblematic view of the sweep of the La Grande Allée towards the glistening blue water of the Mediterranean Sea. For a real splurge, the Eden Roc Suite is divine with a large teak terrace with Jacuzzi – ideal for sharing a private meal or a bottle of the best champagne cru.
The Infinity Pool
Refreshed with natural sea water, the heated infinity pool is one of the cornerstones of the hotel with a prime seafront location offering panoramic views reaching from Juan les Pins to the Íles de Lérins and beyond to L’Estérels.
Certainly one of the most photographed swimming pools in the world, it’s understandable why cocktail drinking is de rigeur here, though you can also partake in swimming lessons too if you wish. A teak jetty gives direct access to the sea (Jetty GPS coordinates: Latitude: 43°32,8N Longitude: 007°07,1E) so berthing your superyacht nearby and arriving by tender is all too easy.
La Grande Allée
Created in 1863, this majestic pathway leading down to the sea conjures up fairytale images perfect for wedding entrances and has seen plenty of haute couture fashions strut the length during gala events.
Restaurants & Bars
Hôtel du Cap’s dining options offer unrivalled flavours, textures and refinement across 2 restaurants and 3 bars, all with distinctive style and individual elegance:
Eden-Roc Restaurant: One of Elite Traveller’s top 100 restaurants, the Eden-Roc Restaurant is in the talented hands of executive chef Arnaud Poëtte, head chef Olivier Gaiatto and chef patissier Lilian Bonnefoi.
Overlooking the Îles de Lérins with the sound of waves below, the restaurant is a bucket list experience where diners can savour cuisine such as wild sea bass with basil and fennel mousse or a sumptuous buffet selection that never fails to astonish the palate. The desserts are all works of art.
Eden-Roc Grill: Set overlooking the infinity pool, the Eden-Roc Grill menu created by chef Christophe Marc features light meals such as artichoke ravioli, marinated crab salad and a Sushi Bar and ‘Banc de l’écailler’ (crustacean bar) available. You can also order things such as sandwiches or a cheeseburger if you so desire – with a spectacular price tag of €44.
Eden-Roc Champagne Lounge: Opened in 2013, the Eden-Roc Champagne Lounge is a contemporary space where you’ll find rare champagnes from 14 champagne houses under the guidance of Christophe Lencioni and his team. The drinks list includes jeroboams of exclusive limited editions such as Louis Roederer ‘Cristal Or’ 2002, of which there are only a few hundred bottles available worldwide, and the Dom Pérignon ‘Vintage Rosé’.
Bellini Bar: Naturally a Bellini is the house speciality, but the bar staff can whizz up any cocktail known to man as you soak up the views down the Grande Allée from the terrace.
La Rotonde: Previously the Eden-Roc Pavilion tea room, this elegant piano bar is a pleasurable place for a sunset drink with a stellar wine list and cocktail menu.
Rich in history – Marc Chagall used to sketch here and soiree attendees used to escape here for secret trysts – there are 33 cabanas including 2 that function as a Spa Suite and ‘Bio and Zen’ cabana ideal for a piece of solitude.
Gérard, Christophe and Giovanni attend to cabana guests, keeping a steady supply of drinks flowing and service of mouth-watering lunches featuring all the regional flavours of Southern France. The cabanas upgraded from ice buckets and have retro coolers to keep your champagne suitably chilled in the Riviera heat. Don’t expect cabana staff to spill any secrets, their lips are sealed though Giovanni once stopped football star Ronaldinho who hadn’t rented a cabana.
Health & Wellness
For those seeking relaxation or rejuvenation, The Spa Eden-Roc Sisley has a sauna, a steam room and an experience shower to soothe muscles before indulging in deluxe treatments using products by Sisley and the organic brand Bamford. There is also a beauty and hair salon with an extensive menu for nail care and make up.
In-house personal trainers can develop a yoga or fitness programme for you using high tech equipment at the fitness centre or you can practise your serve on 5 clay tennis courts with a pro coach to fine tune your skills.
The Rose Garden
Listed as a historic garden, the large Rose Garden covers around 100 square metres and has existed for over 100 years with beautiful blooms of Queen Elizabeth II white and pink roses.
The hotel is currently designing a larger suite to cater for families and during peak season months of June, July and August they operate an Afternoon Kids Club with games, theme days and sporting activities.
Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc Chocolaterie
Launched in 2009, the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc Chocolaterie is one-of-a-kind. Lilian Bonnefoi oversees a talented team of 9 confectioners who create exquisite chocolates for post-dinner treats for guests (flavours include lemon almond cream and Menton lemon ganache or Gianguja shortbread with cappuccino ganache). The chocolates can also be ordered in boxes, to be gifted to any serious chocolate lover.
One of the quirkiest and unique areas at the hotel is the pet cemetery. The concept for the cemetery arose when Lady Onslow’s small dog died during their stay at the hotel in 1900 and the owner of the hotel at that time had a little coffin made and suggested that the animal be buried beside the rose garden, a favourite spot where Lady Onslow and her guests often had tea and passed the time doing their reading and sewing. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s dogs were buried there.
Sentier du Littoral & Natura 2000
The Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc is situated in the protected Cap d’Antibes area that is part of a Natura 2000 unspoilt zone with exceptional biodiversity of flora and fauna.
You can follow the Sentier du Littoral coastal walkway on the Cap d’Antibes and admire the views of the Anse du Faux-Argent cove.
The hotel is dedicated to conservation of natural heritage with nesting boxes for birds on the hotel grounds and sponsorship of bee hives that make biological honey. They support a local environmental organisation, ‘Les Aquanautes’ to which they donate €1 from each stay in the hotel.
The Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc reopens for the season on 15 April 2016!
This article was written by Rebecca Whitlocke, who with over 10 years travel industry experience loves to share ‘must-do’ destination tips and hidden spots to discover in France and beyond.
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