We join the jet set at the exclusive Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc on the French Riviera as it prepares for its 150th year. Words by Jonathan Whiley.
They don’t make hotels like this any more.
The myths of yesteryear linger amid the pine-scented paths and salt air of the sun-dappled Cap d’Antibes.
Secrets and stories abound in this hotel with a guestbook full of A-list stars.
The crème de la crème have all been here from Cary Grant to Picasso and the Kennedys. Elizabeth Taylor honeymooned here with Richard Burton.
Affairs and Royalty
It was here that Marlene Dietrich (pictured) began her affair with Joseph P Kennedy.
Also, it was here that Prince Aly Khan was introduced to Rita Hayworth, and where the Duke and Duchess of Windsor sought refuge after his infamous abdication of the throne.
Paradise for celebrities
Head doorman Michel Babin de Lignac has been here for the past 44 years.
He remembers helping actress Jill Ireland – staying with her husband Charles Bronson and nursing a broken leg – into a waiting Cadillac bound for the Cannes Film Festival.
He saw playwright Tennessee Williams’ pets leave their mark (“he came with two small dogs and they had an accident”).
And he has special praise for Robert De Niro (“a very good man”) and Roger Moore (“a real gentleman. He lived 12km from the hotel in a big villa and every day came to play tennis with his children”).
While the service – 500 staff in sharp white blazers or smart Breton t-shirts – is impeccable, there is never any fawning.
Anything is possible.
Red roses and film stars
Michel helped a guest arrange for 1,000 red roses to adorn the terrace one day.
Once he wrapped a giant ribbon around a Mercedes, a husband’s birthday present to his wife.
“This guy said: ‘Michel, can you bring the car keys [on a silver plate] with a glass of champagne?’ She cried!”
Seclusion, safety and discretion remain crucial.
Each year the hotel hosts the Vanity Fair Cannes Film Festival party and the amfAR charity Gala – both catnip for the A-list.
So encounters with Brad Pitt in the gardens or Leonardo Di Caprio emerging from the lift, are not uncommon.
In the early 20th century, writers and artists called it their home.
Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald checked in. The latter immortalised the hotel in Tender Is The Night.
Its 150th year will see a revamp of the classic Eden Roc Restaurant. But there are no plans for extravagant parties.
Stephen Fry writes of “luxury on a scale unparalleled” in the hotel’s fabled guestbook which means, monsieur, you can afford to do things that little bit differently.