We pulled into the Althoff Hôtel Villa Belrose thinking we were flash, to be completely shown up by someone arriving in a helicopter mere moments later – that sets the precedent of the kind of people who stay here. The hotel, member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is a country mansion in an exclusive private estate on the hill above St Tropez, with stunning views across the bay from the terraces and pool.
Right away, I feel at home here, although many of those who frequent the Riviera turn their nose up at St Tropez, often deemed the spiritual home for models who like to get sprayed with Champagne, and those rich blokes who like to lick it off. Hidden in the hills, the hotel is a refreshing retreat from such behaviour.
Nothing succeeds like excess, St Tropez is ever the success, and everything you’d expect. The traffic that hits the main road is the stuff of legend, but what would you expect in a town so saturated with supercars, it makes a Porsche 911 GT3 Turbo look like a Nissan Sunny.
A turn away from the route départementale leads you through a heavenly maze of flower gardens, pine forest and expensive real estate up towards Gassin. Lose yourself for a second and you could be in Beverly Hills peering through windows trying to get a glimpse of Barbara Streisand pegging out the washing.
Whilst you climb the hill with your back to the sea, you are blissfully unaware of the postcard perfect view that’s unfolding behind you. The front of the hotel faces the hill, savouring those magnificent bay views until you’re safely over the threshold. For a relaxed check-in, elegant reception staff usher guests out onto the top level of the cascading terrace, with grand white staircases leading down to the pool, where you’d half expect Joan Collins to be lounging, wearing a floppy hat and eyeing up the lifeguard.
It’s all well and good when a view makes you speechless, but trying to put into words afterwards is as equally tricky. Most of the hotel’s activity is focussed around the panorama; each of the 40 rooms has its own private terrace and the 200sqm heated swimming pool (the largest on the peninsula), with its turquoise blue water, and the indigo sunshades are in perfect harmony with the colours of the bay. Around the pool there is also Le Petit Belrose – the light version of the hotel’s main restaurant – and the fitness centre.
Each bedroom is decorated in a luxurious Florentine style with calming fresh cream walls and crisp white linen, and bathrooms are ordained with gleaming Italian green marble. In fact, everything in the hotel seems to gleam, from the marble floor in the salon to the glassware out on the terrace, but it’s anything but bling; it’s off the scale elegance. In fact, it’s so elegant that they can be chill about it and nothing would be overlooked.
The hotel’s Michelin-star restaurant Le Belrose presided over by Chef Pietro Volontè also complements the sea views from its terrace by serving modern Mediterranean cuisine shaped by Italian influence – his signature dish is Risotto Pietro Volontè which is served in a wheel of parmesan. The restaurant is proud to offer the largest wine list in the region, featuring over 500 exclusively French wines.
The legendary clubs and famous celebrity studded beaches of St Tropez are literally a matter of minutes away by cab, but you’d never know. Atop the peaceful hill, the Althoff Hôtel Villa Belrose is everything that a typical Riviera hotel is not, and that’s the beauty of it.
Althoff Hôtel Villa Belrose. Boulevard des Crêtes, La Grande Bastide, F-83580, Gassin, Cote d’Azur, France. 0800 0482 314. slh.com/belrose
Althoff Hôtel Villa Belrose was featured as part of a road trip through the South of France, from St Tropez to Monte Carlo. Click here to order a copy of Volume 7.