Conor Power checks out the Hôtel Belles Rives in Juan-les-Pins
Hôtel Belles Rives
33, Boulevard Edouard Baudoin, 06100 Juan-les-Pins, Cap d’Antibes, France.
First Impressions :
There’s a strong air of glitz about the place from when you first lay eyes on it. There are invariably a few high-end cars parked outside and the creamy colourful wedding-cake exterior festooned with flags lend it an air of importance and stature.
Inside the main lobby, the cool art deco style interior is instantly appealing – and relaxing. Your eyes are torn from the exploring the areas right and left of the lobby or heading straight out towards the veranda, where the blue sea beckons like waves of sparkling sirens.
The check-in desk and surrounding area also contains powerful echoes of Scott Fitzgerald and the Roaring 20s, with a portrait of the great man next to the desk, as well as a quotation carved into a marble plaque on the wall of the main lobby. The lift is also of the era, complete with pull-across grill.
It’s 90 years since American writer F Scott Fitzgerald made a certain Villa Saint-Louis his home-away-from-home in Juan-les-Pins on the French Riviera.
It was a very significant move in terms of the history of summer tourism, jazz and all that goes with it. Up to that point, the French Riviera was a winter destination. The idea of people coming to this part of the world in the hot summer for a holiday was deemed as crazy as trying to sell ice to Eskimos.
Between 1930 and 1931, the former villa was extended and converted into a hotel. The current owner bought the hotel in 2011 that her grandfather originally created and they now own a sister hotel down the street – the Hôtel Juana.
Who do We Know has Stayed There?
Apart from Fitzgerald and his impressive entourage (including Ernest Hemingway, whose manuscripts Fitzgerald used to read over before they fell out), there have been numerous notables who have sampled the delights of this thoroughly relaxing quality family hotel. Rudolf Valentino (aka The Lover and huge star of the silent film era) was also a guest. Woody Allen was a big fan when he was here to film a number of pivotal scenes of his mildly amusing (if a bit frivolous) film “Magic in the Moonlight” in 2014 and Sky TV’s beautiful-looking but dull-as-dishwater series “Rivieria” has used the hotel for shots in both the first and second series.
Do They Look After You?
This is a family hotel with a lineage going back to the time just after it was simply a villa and when young Russian immigré Boma Estène saw the potential for summer holiday-makers with a pieds dans l’eau hotel like this one. As such, the level of service is extraordinarily relaxed yet unfailingly five-star.
What are the Rooms Like?
This is a boutique hotel with just 43 rooms and suites in total. All the rooms are turned out to a very high standard and have been individually renovated – each with its own unique character. All rooms have a balcony that opens either onto the Mediterranean or the Cap d’Antibes.
The décor is consistently cosy in feeling, with a strong 1930s vibe complemented by the straight graphics of the Ruhlmann style and Pierre Frey fabrics. Bathrooms use Carrara marble and the most sought-after suite is the ‘Suite Zelda’, where F Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda stayed and where he wrote “Tender is the Night”.
The signature Michelin-star restaurant is “La Passagère”, with a superb finish echoing the art deco style, Picasso (who lived nearby for much of his life and was a resident artist in Antibes) and the cubist movement. The terrace outside overlooks the little niche of a harbour with its enclosed beach, jetty and gorgeous views across the Golfe Juan towards the Lérins Islands and Cannes.
The Bottom Line
The lead-in price is approximately €150 in the off-season in a ‘cosy’ room: the kind of offer to be grabbed with both hands.