Luxury Saint Tropez

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How Saint Tropez got its glamour back (The Times, 6 July 2019).

It’s the salty sea air that hits me first. I close my eyes in the bright sunshine to breathe it in and, bam, I’m under the spell of the shimmering Mediterranean. Even in the surrounds of a five-star hotel, with its chic design, manicured beach and alluring infinity pool, it’s the sea, in its dazzling, turquoise glory, that reminds you what makes St Tropez and its beaches so irresistible.

Although artists had been inspired by the French Riviera long before a bikini-clad Brigitte Bardot tossed her lustrous locks on Pampelonne beach, it was Roger Vadim’s 1956 film Et Dieu Créa la Femme (And God Created Woman) that put St Tropez on the map. And now, more than 60 years later, the area is back in vogue, with a raft of new luxury hotels and beach clubs offering outstanding service and exquisite design. Read the rest of the feature here

More on Le Cheval Blanc here:

The smartest of the new bunch of hotels is Le Cheval Blanc – luxury brand Louis Vuitton Moet-Hennessy’s (LVMH) collection of hotels. Set just outside St Tropez’s buzzing heart on the site that was previously the Residence de la Pinède, it sets the bar high when it comes to service; here your Guerlain sun cream is applied with a facial massage by beachside attendants, the pillow menu offers 11 choices including ‘silk’, ‘bamboo’ and ‘spelt’, and you can indulge in a six-hands spa treatment that sees three beauticians simultaneously pouffe your hair, paint your nails and buff your toes so you’re party-ready in just an hour and a half.

Yet for all the lavish flourishes, there is no mistaking the hotel’s unique setting. Its 30 spacious rooms are set around the central terrace, where towering cypress pines shade the restaurant tables and a sublime infinity pool looks out over the sea towards Saint Tropez’s terracotta-hued houses. When I arrive and walk through the doors from the hotel onto that terrace, the salty sea breeze hits me instantly and the twinkling water and unique quality of light casts its spell to which so many before me have succumbed. The gentle hubbub and chink of diners’ glasses lends a relaxed buzz to the atmosphere. Little wonder, three-star Michelin chef Arnaud Donckele was drawn here after stints in Paris’s most starry restaurants; here his dishes draw on the sunshine-infused vegetables, the silky olive oil and a bounty of fish, which he serves in the revered restaurant La Vague d’Or.

Like each of Le Cheval Blanc’s hotels around the world, the décor tunes into its setting and here it celebrates the heritage and the heart and soul of the French Riviera. Inside, architect Jean-Michel Wilmots has put the work of renowned ceramicist Roger Capron (a contemporary of Jean Cocteau and Picasso) at the heart of the hotel’s design after two of Capron’s frescoes were discovered hidden behind wall panels. A staircase adorned with Capron’s original balustrade – on which sunshine talismans smile out from each pillar – links the two impressive pieces, which look more like carved wood than ceramic. Capron’s signature tiled coffee tables adorn the communal areas and the bedrooms, while artwork by his widow Jacotte (now in her 80s), and books about his work further the celebration of his work. Cocteau-inspired line-drawn figures adorn the rugs, and the accent colour that brings it all together is a breezy royal blue.

The design is exquisite, but what makes Le Cheval Blanc special is its team, staffed by people who are every bit as warm as the climate. In their immaculate cream and beige or accent blue uniforms – designed by art director Vanessa Brisson – every single person I encounter has a friendly spirit about them, they’re discreet yet friendly, and everything runs like clockwork.