Luxury. It’s a subjective concept. One person’s fairy-tale palace is another’s summer home. Bollinger 64? Have it with cornflakes. Xanadu? More like Xana-don’t ever send me to that dump again. Yet I feel pretty confident in stating that Le Beauvallon, the private hotel and estate on the French Riviera, would cause even Jay Gatsby to blow out his lips and mutter, “well, this is a bit of alright.”
In a way he did: The Great Gatsby author F Scott Fitzgerald is one of many feted names to enjoy the splendours of Le Beauvallon. It might resemble a modernist dream but this is a building seeped in history. When you gaze across Saint-Tropez bay from your bedroom window, you share the view of Winston Churchill, Collette and Edward Kennedy, all former visitors.
On arriving at Le Beauvallon you are required to bang a gong, then click a cash machine in order to enter the house with good Feng Shui. It’s a nice touch, a sign of the elegance that awaits you. During redevelopment, the owners enlisted Singaporean geomancer Grand Master Tan to ensure the whole property was designed in accordance with Feng Shui. It’s fair to say the Grand Master lived up to his title.
The joys of Le Beauvallon are too numerous to mention in a single article. We could start with the beach club, which includes a swimming pool and bar, a stretch of private beach, and an adjacent pavilion designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito – you might recognise it as the 2002 Serpentine pavilion in Hyde Park.
Built in 1914, Le Beauvallon’s history is nearly as impressive as its interiors
An underground passage from the beach club leads to the house itself. I say ‘house’: there’s more to entertain you here than you will find in many small towns. The basement level alone boasts a games room (with karaoke), a gym, a dance studio and a cinema furnished with leather seats.
On the ground floor you will encounter a private dining room, a boardroom – for parties mixing pleasure with business – a library, and the exquisite winter garden, its black and white tiles, curved wicker chairs and blossom trees seemingly straight out of a Hayao Miyazaki film. Every room in Le Beauvallon is visually stunning and crammed with imagination. Wherever you look there’s another piece of art, another striking design or sculpture, another burst of colour. It’s almost intoxicating.View on Instagram
And then there are the little touches. Such as the Hungry Rooms, small cubby holes dotted around the house, filled with snacks and drinks. Or the unfailing politeness of the staff, happy to fetch you anything at a moment’s notice. Or the villa’s own private Fjord 40 Cruiser, available to charter for an afternoon down the Riviera or across the water to Saint-Tropez.
Le Beauvallon’s history is nearly as impressive as its interiors. It was built in 1914 by Belgian industrialist Emile Bernheim, and intended as a magnificent private hotel to service the great and good of France. However, the first world war delayed its grand opening, and after Bernheim offered the hotel to the French government, La Beauvallon took on the unlikely mantle of becoming the first Red Cross Hospital on the Côte d’Azur.
Post-hospital existence proved no less eventful. Although Le Beauvallon remained a hotel for the second world war, the conflict still arrived at its doors. Jean Moulin, a notable hero of the French Resistance, stayed at Le Beauvallon frequently before his ultimate betrayal and death at the hands of the Gestapo. On D-Day, the American soldiers of Operation Dragoon landed on the nearby beaches.
Fittingly, the 44 suites and bedrooms of Le Beauvallon are capable of housing a small army. Unless you’re feeling particularly extravagant, this is not a place to book for a couples’ retreat: for starters, you’d probably lose each other. However, for weddings, birthday parties or large group holidays, well, good luck pitching up somewhere more idyllic. Scott Fitzgerald’s debut novel was This Side of Paradise: the man certainly knew where to find it.