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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Riviera: September 2016

We’ve been coming to South of France for over twenty years. In fact, this was our twentieth consecutive September staying at La Réserve de Beaulieu, in Beaulieu-sur-Mer. Judging by our photographs over the years, we have aged more poorly than the property – still “we fight the good fight.”

Since our first visit along the Côte d’Azur and more particularly the Alpes-Maritimes, we have seen the tragedy of 9/11 unfold and increasingly are witness to retirements of staff that had become good friends. Such is life. Roget, maître’d  hôtel at La Réserve has retired to Mougins and his antique cars; Jean-Louis, the wonderful sommelier, to his cigars; and Gerard, pool manager extraordinaire, to dote on his granddaughters. Come to think of it, I have also become “retraité.”
Promanade Rouvier - walking to La Civette
This last trip, from September 1 – 10, was both familiar and new. Our morning walks to St. Jean Cap Ferrat and breakfast at Café La Civette, my cappuccino at poolside, swims before lunch, afternoon meals at our table on the hotel’s jetty, reading, snoozing, a bit more swimming; perhaps a Bellini with the sun’s last rays; these replay year on year. So too our aperitifs in the garden served by the always superb Alexandre; the Michelin-starred meal on the glorious terrace sometimes with the moon bubbling out of the sea; and a final Muscat in the garden before dropping off to sleep in our room, #43.
But there is renewal. The very young Michael now ably controls the pool even if Judith mothers him a bit. Guillaume has seamlessly taken charge of the restaurants and added his more modern and relaxed touches. Daniel watches over the wine cellar. The deck of the pool area has been resurfaced, new sun beds; everything painted, polished, buffed for the upcoming season.
Adjectives are continuity, elegance, luxury, refinement, uniqueness, charm, comfort – all orchestrated by La Réserve’s long-term proprietors, the Delion family.
We wandered out a bit this year with dinners at La Mère Germaine in Villefranche (wonderful Sole Meniere) and the casual port restaurant African Queen for pizza (Elton John was a no-show this year). Marylène stopped for lunch with us at the hotel. We also visited with the Alan’s at their villa overlooking Villefranche and Cap Ferrat; and dined with them in Monaco at Quai des Artistes.

The weather was perfect; in all a delightful ten days.

We’ve spent much less time in the Var, but were in St.Tropez with friends this June. We enjoyed ourselves; the place has “calmed down” since it’s heady days of the 1970s. On that trip we had a dinner at “la Voile” at Hôtel la Rèserve Ramatuelle. The meal was excellent and we looked at rooms afterward and were impressed. Thus we booked for five days following our stay in Beaulieu-sur-Mer.
La Réserve Ramatuelle

The property is sleek and minimalist, beige washed render, glass expanses, yellowed stone walkways, flowers all around, many burbling water features. It is outside of St. Tropez in Ramatuelle, near the Pampelonne Beaches. The hotel tranquilly fits into its surroundings of stone pine, overlooking the sea. Stretching over many acres, it is still intimate - only 9 rooms, 19 suites and 14 detached villas dotting the hillsides. The staff are all young, smartly dressed, thin and beautiful; annoying actually.

After the two hour something drive from Beaulieu,
View from Suite 23
we settled into suite 23. It was a very chic space; three equally sized modules: bedroom, sitting area and bath; with a large terrace facing the sea. The lighting, the large closets and the desk space were all quirky and maddening counterintuitive.
Dinner was at “la Voile” and as good as we had remembered. The head waiter, Csaba, was Hungarian, so Judith was immediately “in.”

Over our five days here many hours were spent by the pool; long and narrow, set on a hillside overlooking the sea. The chairs were pleasantly spaced and comfortable; the guests all well behaved. It was more peaceful than Beaulieu. Lunches were also good; served by the pool under an umbrella of stone pine.

We also had a few excursions. The longest was north to Grand Canyon du Verdon, a
Gorge du Verdon
magnificent gorge extending 26 kilometers from the meeting point of the Verdon and Jabron Rivers, eventually joining the Artuby River, then flowing west into Ste-Croix Lake. The forever twisting D71, La Corniche Sublime, runs above the sheer drops to the riverbed, through the Tunnel du Fayat and finally reaching Les Salles-sur-Verdon and the Ste-Croix. We experienced miles of beauty; with several lookout areas to stop and take in the panorama.
In addition, there was also a small shopping trip into St. Tropez, and short visits to the hill villages of Ramatuelle and Gassin.

There were also some food adventures. We had aperitifs and a wonderful meal at Le Hôtel Byblos’ Alain Ducasse’s “Rivea.” And a people watching feast at the portside fixture of “Le Grieler” on Quai Jean Jaurès.
Best of all was our impromptu lunch at the iconic Club 55 on Pampelonne Beach. A jet set
Club 55
hangout for over 50 years, original proprietors
Geneviève and Bernard de Colmont welcomed avant-garde artists, film stars and of course Brigit Bardot to their sundrenched hedonistic playground. Their children, Véronique and Patrice, have taken over, but it is now closer to “Planet Hollywood,” a counterfeit of what once was. Still it was a gas to see some old, now prune shriveled ghosts of themselves chomping on some crustacean and trying not to get something caught under their dentures.  I’m sure we were being looked at through a similar lens.

In all, it was a wonderful 15 days; happy now to be back in London.