As the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival begins this week, a lovely stretch of the Cote d’Azur will transform from just an attractive home to well-heeled inhabitants and elegant vacationers in breezy dresses and K.Jacques flats to the center of the celebrity universe. Well-heeled Frenchwomen visiting the Prada shop in the coming days may find themselves sharing the Boulevard de la Croisette with festival regulars like Robert De Niro, Spike Lee, or Penelope Cruz.
When the A-list descends on the beach town for the festival, much of the inevitable mingling takes place on the superyachts that dock in Port de Cannes each May through restaurants like the Michelin-starred La Palme d’Or (named after the festival’s most prestigious award) and flashy rooftop spot Baoli play host to the likes of Jay-Z and Leonardo DiCaprio. But when it comes to a location for a celebrity to rest their head after a day of red carpets and an evening of yachting, only Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc has ever been an option.
Originally built as a private estate, the great dame of the Riviera hotel scene opened to guests in 1870 after a brief spell as an authors retreat. It has been immortalized by F Scott Fitzgerald in Tender is the Night (it inspired his Hotel des Etrangers, that “summer resort of notable and fashionable people”); served as a home away from home for the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson in the 1930s, and everyone from Jackie Kennedy to Kate Moss has taken advantage of the century-old saltwater infinity pool perhaps the most instantly recognizable patch of water on the planet.
The French Riviera is now dotted with five-star hotels, but none have achieved the legendary status of the Hotel du-Cap, which proudly maintains retro touches like the holiday scene painted on the wall of the Eden-Roc restaurant in the 1970s and the 33 charmingly rustic private cabanas that have dotted a rocky outcrop overlooking the Mediterranean since the 1930s (when they played host to a young JFK on Kennedy family holidays). These are the kinds of familiar pleasures that keep generations of the same families returning to Hotel Du-Cap summer after summer, ready to linger over salad Nicoise on Eden-Roc Grill’s gleaming white terrace before leaping from the vintage diving board into the sea, perhaps aided by a chilled rose.
With five unique, characterful bedrooms, a fully supplied kitchen, and a gym, jacuzzi, and sauna, the ambiance inside the villa is modern and colorful (a contrast to the more classic hotel interiors, such as the valued Eden-Roc Suite, with its 200 sq m ocean-view patio worthy of a Palme D or winner). Saint-Anne, which joins the hotel’s existing Villas Eleana and Les Cedres, can accommodate up to 12 guests and is fully staffed, which means the same Hotel Du-Cap service (suitcases unpacked as if by magic, breakfast laid out on the Agnes Sandahl-designed table in the garden), but with an added layer of privacy.
Meanwhile, the “catwalk” that is La Grande Allee – the 179-meter avenue that runs from the hotel to the sea is just a short, sun-drenched walk away. No self-respecting hotelier would create a five-star facility these days without including some purposefully social media-friendly backgrounds. The nicest part about Hotel Du-(many) Cap’s Instagram-worthy photo chances is that they existed long before Instagram was even a glimmer in a tech bro’s eye. Expect to see the hotel’s wedding cake facade pop up on your Instagram feed in the coming days: it’s not only a magnet for movie stars visiting France for the festival, but it’s also the site of the annual amfAR Gala, the hottest invite at Cannes (past guests include Beyonce, Kendall Jenner, and Sharon Stone), which returns this year with Robert de Niro as a guest of honor.
Chateau Saint-Martin & Spa, also part of the Oetker family of luxury hotels, offers a more rural, but no less elegant experience, about an hour away. It’s the ideal setting for a starlet to unwind after a frenzy of parties and premieres, as it’s bordered by the lush green hills of Vence. The treatments, some of which are inspired by the property’s fragrant rose garden, are best followed by a trip around the tranquil gardens, where you can see Manolo Valdes’ colossal sculptures, which have been placed to stunning effect against the rolling slopes. (Valdés’ work is also on exhibit at Hotel du-Cap, which takes art seriously as well, as one would expect from a venue that has hosted Picasso and Chagall.)
A journey to St-Paul-de-Vence, a tranquil, achingly picturesque hamlet soundtracked by the soft thwack of petanque boules on the Place De Gaulle, is also high on the itinerary for visiting celebrities with an artistic bent. Yves Montand, the dashing French crooner, married in the legendary family-run au Berge La Colom be d’Or in St-Paul-de-Vence, where everyone from Sophia Loren to Alain Delon and Romy Schneider has lingered over the bouquet de crevettes and soufflé flambé, and where an Alexander Calder mobile overlooks the pool.
If you happen to be on the French Riviera this summer and want to be surrounded by equally “notable and trendy people,” you know where to look.