Sea spa: Privacy in Provence at Chateau Saint-Martin & Spa
by Charlotte Hogarth-Jones
Where is it?
Nestled amidst the picturesque hills of Vence in southeastern France, the world perfume capital of Grasse is on the hotel’s doorstep, as is the pretty town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, which was once an artist’s haven. At one time, the likes of Chagall, Picasso and Miro could be found sipping pastis at iconic restaurant La Colombe D’Or here, settling up their bar tabs with paintings, rather than cash. Today, you can get your cultural fix at peaceful modern art museum the Maeght Foundation nearby.
What’s the hype?
The chateau represents old-school, French Riviera glamour at its finest – guests stroll through gardens filled with olive and lemon trees, and take in views of higgledy terracotta rooftops and cedar trees, while decor is tasteful and classic, and service is incredibly slick. The hotel has been hosting guests since 1954, and there are still remains – a wall and original drawbridge – dating back to the time when the site was the stronghold of the Knights Templar back in 1150. This is the sister hotel to the iconic Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, and you can expect the same attentive staff, elegant furnishings, and first-rate cuisine as you’d find there. The atmosphere, however, is less “see and be seen” – this is where the Hollywood A-list frequently retreat after the Cannes Film Festival, for some much-needed R&R.
It’s an altogether more laid-back affair, and attracts equal numbers of both French and American guests. The restaurant holds a Michelin star, and chef Jean-Luc Lefrançois serves up everything from delicate fish dishes, to vegan canapés, with impressive finesse. Light, seasonal dishes are on the menu, but be warned – this isn’t the spa to head to if you’re hoping to shed a few pounds. Buttery croissants, warm French bread and local butter, and a pretty-as-a-picture patisserie could be your downfall…
What to have
The chateau’s spa is a pared-back affair, offering straightforward treatments using Bamford and La Prarie products. It’s the expertise of the practitioners, here, that makes all the difference – a full body massage by therapist Natacha was everything you’d want it to be, loosening knots and soothing tired muscles without being overly vigorous. When the sun is out, you can relocate to the spa’s open-air rotunda, and there’s also the option of a treatment featuring the rare Tango rose, which grows in the hotel’s grounds.
Where to chill
At the heart of the chateau, the hotel’s bar, Le Rossini, is the perfect spot for an after-dinner tipple. There are plenty of cosy corners where couples chat in hushed voices, overlooked by beautiful arrangements of fresh flowers, and original tapestries that are over 200 years old.
Best by boat
This historic chateau makes an idyllic hideaway for yacht owners mooring in nearby Antibes or Cannes. Both are just a 45-minute drive away, while you can be in Monaco in under an hour.