Stepping into the Hotel Belles Rives feels a bit like stepping directly into the Jazz Age. That’s no coincidence, of course: it was here that F. Scott Fitzgerald fell in love with the French Riviera, wrote Tender is the Night, and found inspiration for his most popular work, The Great Gatsby.
Located on the Cap d’Antibes, a small peninsula between Cannes and Nice, lies Juan-les-Pins, named after the pine forests that meet sandy beaches. In the 20th century, the former fishing village quickly transformed into one of Europe’s top seaside resorts, frequented by artists and the jetset. And this spirit lives on, mainly thanks to places like the iconic Belles Rives, a family-owned hotel perched on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean.
The history of the Belles Rives begins in the 1920s when F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda pack their bags for the French Riviera. Falling for the charm of what was then called “Villa Saint-Louis,” they made it their base from which Fitzgerald worked and that he’d later return to in his mind for inspiration.
Preserving this heritage without getting stuck in the past is not an easy task but one that the family Chauvin has mastered splendidly. At the helm of it all are the mother and son duo Marianne Estène-Chauvin and Antoine Chauvin-Estène. As the President of the Francis Scott Fitzgerald Academy which awards the annual literature award Prix Fitzgerald (this year’s laureate is no one less than Quentin Tarantino), Marianne plays an active role in championing the hotel’s cultural significance. Meanwhile, Antoine has taken over the role of CEO of Belles Rives.
Today, the Belles Rives boasts original Art Deco details and furniture which have been restored carefully. “We don’t want people to feel like they’re stepping into a museum,” explains Antoine. Belles Rives is sophisticated yet relaxed. Here you can fully relax, enjoying all the contradictions of the location: “in one moment you might sit on the terrace with salty hair and sandy feet, a few hours later you’re all dressed up to enjoy a romantic dinner.”
For many, dining is a top priority when in the south of France.
There are of course several dinner options close-by or in the adjacent town of Antibes but there’s actually a pretty good reason to dine on the premises: the Belles Rives is home to the Michelin-starred restaurant La Passagère.
“In case it’s one of those days on which you’ve had just a little too much rosé at the beach, you can always grab a quick bite at the bar instead,” adds Andria Mitsakos, CEO of the PR agency AMPR who’s handling the Belles Rives as well as the sister hotel Juana.
Hotel Juana is located just a stone’s throw down the road and you could call it the Belles Rives’s younger sibling: also steeped in history but with a modern, laid-back atmosphere that speaks to a younger clientele. Guests of the hotels share both premises, from Belles Rives’ terrace and beach club to the Juana’s pool and bar.
What to do with 12 hours in Juan-les-Pins
Picture yourself at breakfast on the terrace of the Belles Rives. Your gaze wanders across the Mediterranean while you hear the gentle sound of the waves in the background. The attentive waiter brings your morning coffee while you help yourself from the generous buffet. After you’ve devoured your body weight in croissants, pain au chocolat, and more, you head into Antibes.
On le Marché Provençal, you admire local produce, from fresh vegetables and fruit to oysters, cheese, and flowers. Eventually, you can’t resist and buy some dried herbs that carry the scent of the Provence to bring back home. After, a dose of culture: housed in a historical fort at the waterfront, the Musée Picasso exhibits some of the artist’s later works in charmingly rustic surroundings. You round up your little trip with a long lunch on one of the terraces, most likely indulging in local seafood, before heading back to Juan-les-Pins.
The afternoon is spent at the beach club of the Belles Rives, perhaps topped with an aperitif at Hotel Juana’s lively Restaurant Paseo. Fueled by salty water, sunshine (and one or two glasses of rosé), you get ready for dinner: Michelin-starred fine dining at La Passagère while the sun sets over the water. It doesn’t get much more romantic than that. Enjoy a night cap in the newly-renovated Bar Fitzgerald and then you’re off to a good night’s sleep.
Sounds like perfectly well rounded 12 hours, right? But let’s be honest: the chances are high you’re not ready to leave, so you better make it a long weekend (or full week) instead.
“We have many guests that come quite frequently, perhaps a week in June and then back for a long weekend in autumn. The weather down here is very mild which is especially attractive for our guests from Scandinavia.”
“They might check the weather forecast and spontaneously decide that a little escape to Juan-les-Pins is just what they need,” smiles Antoine.
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