Legendary hotels in The South of France for Art Lovers
1) Le Negresco
Hotel Le Negresco on the Promenade des Anglais is one of the more iconic buildings in Nice, with its pink domed roofs. The monumental neoclassical building was designed by the Dutch-French architect Édouard-Jean Niermans and was completed on 4 January 1913. Seven ‘crowned heads’ attended the hotel’s festive opening party. Its owner, the Romanian Henri Negresco, had grand designs, as you can tell. The hotel, which has 100 rooms and 25 suites, never fails to astonish visitors with its fabulous elliptical lobby and staggering glass and steel dome with a gorgeous cascading chandelier with 16.800 crystals. Since then, the hotel is run by the Augier family, which has amassed quite an art collection over the years. The most striking acquisition is the statue of Miles Davis by Niki de Saint Phalle on the champagne terrace next to the Promenade. Other works include a Nana by de Saint Phalle, a portrait of Louis Armstrong by Raymond Moretti and works by Vasarely as well as old masters, including a portrait of Louis XIV by the artist Hyacinthe Rigaud. The hotel even has its own art workshop, hiring restorers every year. Like a real museum, but with more glamour.
L’Orangeraie is one of several legendary hotels to be built in Menton at the end of the 19th century. Originally named Grand Hôtel de Venise, the hotel has largely managed to retain its old-world charm, including the fan-shaped glass and iron canopy over its entrance. You can also take a guided tour of L’Orangeraie’s elegant gardens. Reservation is compulsory. After the tour, you can take a fascinating walk through Menton, where dozens of monumental hotels were built between 1860 and 1914 for Europe’s nobility and upper class, who liked to spend the winter months here. They often spent six months at a time here to recover from all sorts of pulmonary diseases. Today, you can still see 21 of these spectacular buildings, four of which still are hotels, including the imposing Royal Westminster. While the others have largely been preserved, they have since been renovated and turned into residences with spacious flats. An association called ‘Le Cercle des Palaces Retrouvés’ is working hard to promote these sumptuous former hotels: with the publication of the beautifully illustrated book Menton, une ville de palaces (2019) and a tour that takes you past the Grand Hôtel Orient, the Winter Palace and the Hôtel Imperial. Prepare to have your mind blown: Menton has the highest concentration of palatial mansions in the world.
3) Carlton Hotel
Nice has its Negresco and Cannes its Carlton Hotel. A landmark, albeit that the Carlton is enormous: the hotel has 343 rooms, including 39 suites. The Carlton, which was built between 1909 and 1913 for the Swiss hotelier Henri Ruhl, derives its mythical status from the fact that it is the place to be seen during the annual Cannes Film Festival: film stars, directors and producers all like to stay here and it is also a convenient place for interviews. Alfred Hitchcock featured the hotel and its private beach in a number of scenes in To Catch a Thief (1955) starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. The scene near the floating platform in the water was also shot here. The Hotel Carlton also served as a location for There’s a Girl in My Soup starring Peter Sellers and Goldie Hawn. In 1983, Elton John’s video clip for I’m Still Standing was filmed in and around the hotel. The Carlton is currently closed for renovation and expansion. It is scheduled to reopen in 2023.
4) Palais de la Méditerranée
Palatial in every sense of the word. This magnificent hotel was bankrolled by the American financier Frank Jay Gould and built in 1928 after a design by Dalmas Architects. Art deco splendour in an ocean liner that run aground on the Promenade of Nice. The enormous Palais, with its 187 rooms, a casino and a theatre, was supposed to attract and retain the loyalty of summer tourists as they found their way to the French Riviera after World War I. Unfortunately, the original art deco interior was stripped during the 1990 renovation. The reinforced concrete façades and the ornamental sea horses and female figures by Antoine Sartorio were saved from demolition thankfully and have been preserved intact.
5) Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc
Luxurious and mysterious. Fabulously located in splendid isolation at the southern tip of the Cap d’Antibes. The Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc is a timeless legend on the French Riviera. The rooms are situated in one of the three locations of the hotel: the Villa Soleil dates from 1869 and was originally built for writers who were looking for inspiration. In 1887, a young Italian named Antoine Sella acquired the property, which reopened two years later as the Grand Hôtel du Cap. Celebrity guests include Marlene Dietrich, Orson Welles, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, and Elizabeth Taylor who was accompanied by Richard Burton. Hotel du Cap-Eden- Roc was also immortalised as Hôtel des Étrangers in Tender is the Night, a novel by the American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. He discovered the hotel through two young American expats, called Gerald and Sara Murphy, who had rented the hotel for the summer in 1923. This was fairly unusual because most people spent winter on the French Riviera. Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein followed in their wake, with the Fitzgeralds, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos and Dorothy Parker arriving the year after. Fitzgerald took his inspiration from Gerald and Sara Murphy for the main characters of Dick and Nicole Diver in Tender is the Night, which was only published in 1934.
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The South of France for Art Lovers is one of the spin-off titles of The 500 Hidden Secrets series of essential city guides. This guide focusses on one particular aspect of the region of the South of France.
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