Hotels Provence & Cote d'AzurMary Kay SealesStay: Accommodation & Rentals in Provence

Dom Pérignon at the Grand Hôtel du Cap, anyone?

Whether you’re a guest at the hotel or just on the Côte d’Azur for vacation, you are welcome to dine, drink, and swim at this Four Seasons hotel on Cap Ferrat

Unless you are a regular visitor to the world’s top hotels, you may be a bit intimidated walking into the bar at the Grand Hotel du Cap on St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and ordering a drink at Le Bar.

Steeped in luxury with attention to every detail, the Grand Hotel du Cap, a Four Seasons resort on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, is a world-class establishment. It has been host to stars, diplomats and the filthy rich for a very long time, from Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill to Queen Victoria, Oprah and Paul McCartney, just to name a few.

The original curved lobby, designed by Gustav Eiffel, still looks out on the Mediterranean, but the hotel has been exquisitely updated by the world-renown interior design firm, Pierre-Yves Rochon, with stairs leading off both sides of the curved glass windows down to the 100-year-old pine-covered veranda, and the lush gardens of this magnificent hotel. New rooms and suites have been added, as well as the luxurious spa with a lap pool, steam rooms, sauna, and an ice fountain (cool).

Grand Hôtel du Cap Massage Spa

Massage for two before the Dom Pérignon

The most expensive rooms at this hotel are a bit outside my personal budget (at the moment), but the prices do go up and down according to seasons, from a low of €320 a night in March or November to a high of €1050 for the same room in high season The fancy-schmancy high roller rooms, i.e. the rooftop suite, the private on-site villa, and pool suites going up from there. If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.

Grand Hôtel du Cap Balcony View

The Palace Seaview Suite

But don’t despair. Even if this is a bit more than you planned on spending on your Provence vacation, you can still enjoy this grand hotel for a day or an evening. A drink in the bar followed by a stroll through their gardens can be a honeymoon treat even if you’re staying at a more modest apartment or hotel nearby. You can also spend a day at the infinity pool, with your own sun bed, and towels provided, for 85 Euros (for a half-day in high season).

Sometimes, you just have to treat yourself!

Of course, if these prices are well within your budget, then this is a perfect location for a perfect vacation (or a perfect wedding). There is so much to do on and around Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat. It is centrally located between Cannes, Nice and Monaco, and the charming cities of Villefranche-sur-Mer and Beaulieu-sur-Mer are right next door within walking distance. If you’re looking for a honeymoon destination, then look no further than the Grand Hôtel du Cap. The newer suites open onto their private pools with a view of the sea beyond.

An extremely romantic setting.

Grand Hôtel du Cap Garden

One of eight Four Seasons Pool Suites

Club Dauphin and the Infinity Pool

Cross the expansive lawn in front of the hotel, leading to the sea, where you take a funicular down to the outdoor seawater infinity pool and Club Dauphin, one of the three restaurants at the resort. This pool is something I had long wanted to see in person, as I’ve often caught sight of it from below on the trail around the Cap that I have walked on many occasions. The pool sits above the trail on the end of the Cap, just enough out of sight to be private, but tantalizing to avid swimmers like me, always seeking the perfect swimming spot on the French Riviera.

While you’re at the pool, you may have a chance to see or meet Monsieur Pierre Gruneberg, the quite famous swim instructor at the Grand Hotel who has been teaching swimming lessons there since the 1950’s, to multiple generations of guests, from grandmothers to their grandsons. I was quite fortunate to sit down with him last summer when I was given a tour of the hotel.

Grand Hôtel du Cap Pool

The infinity pool at the Grand Hôtel du Cap

Here is a short excerpt from our conversation as he was showing me his well-worn journal, filled with autographs, photos, and sketches (Jean Cocteau, and Picasso) by the people he had taught to swim or come to know in his role at the hotel:

And this is Charlie Chaplin, and I taught all the children of Charlie Chaplin.

This is a Japanese actress. She came here and learned how to swim, and they filmed it … and this lady is from the BBC, she couldn’t swim, she came here two weeks ago, and she learned in three days, voila!

This is Oprah. I didn’t teach Oprah, but I taught Tina Turner.  And here is my first wife, she was a French actress, Silvia Monfort, … I taught her to swim here; I taught her how to water-ski in the pool.

This is an actor; he was in the James Bond movies? (Pierce Brosnan?  I ask),  “yes, Pierce Brosnan, I swam a lot with him in the sea.”

The list of amazing people and the amazing stories went on and on. How he came to be the swim instructor, the method he developed to teach swimming.

Suffice it to say, this hotel is, and has been, on the A-list of French Riviera resorts.

Grand Hôtel du Cap Garden

The garden locale for the Dom Pérignon Pop-up Bar

From June to August, on warm summer evenings, the hotel offers a Pop-up Bar in their lush garden area featuring Dom Pérignon, something you might consider if you’re in the area this summer.  Another event at the hotel that you would probably have to start planning for now is Bastille Day at La Véranda, the hotel’s chic French bistro, under those 100-year-old pines. The restaurant chef is Michelin-star Chef Yoric Tièche, who won the Best Chef of Tomorrow prize at the Gault & Millau 2016 awards.

There are also events for children in this child-friendly luxe resort. “The Hotel has customized fun activities to entertain children, from a mini convertible car experience within the property to dedicated Spa treatments and a cultural scavenger hunt.” Chef Yoric and Pastry Chef Gaetan Fiard have also customized a kid’s menu, sure to please picky palates.

In all, there are three restaurants at the hotel:

  • Le Veranda
  • Le Bar (reopening on May 9, 2018)
  • Club Dauphin, the poolside grill (reopening on April 27)

Since my book The Beginner’s Guide to the French Riviera: Stop Dreaming & Start Packing is about how to vacation on the French Riviera without being a movie star or millionaire, this particular destination, the Grand Hôtel du Cap Ferrat, is not included.

However, despite my not being either a millionaire or movie star (yet), I plan on having a martini, shaken, not stirred, at Le Bar at the Grand Hôtel du Cap on my next stay on the Côte d’Azur.

As Katherine Hepburn said, “If you obey all the rules, you’ll miss all the fun.” So break a few rules, spend a few dollars, and find out how the other 1% spends their vacation days.

Grand Hôtel du Cap Views

Looking out to the Mediterranean from the hotel

For more information, visit their website: Four Seasons Cap Ferrat.

Photo Credits: *All photos courtesy of the Grand Hôtel du Cap Ferrat, a Four Seasons Hotel.

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Mary Kay Seales

Mary Kay Seales

Mary Kay Seales was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest in Washington State, where she also teaches writing to international students at the University of Washington. As a lifelong traveler, photographer and writing teacher, her recent move into travel writing was a natural progression.

She has lived and worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Costa Rica, India, Azerbaijan and France, and her travels include Bora Bora, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Peru among other destinations.

She is the author of two guide books - The Beginner’s Guide to the French Riviera: Stop Dreaming & Start Packing, and The Beginner’s Guide to the Olympic Peninsula: Exploring the Wild Beauty of the Pacific Northwest - as well as a frequent contributor to other publications in France.

Her most recent blog is The Conscious Traveler.

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