Four fabulous French destinations for summer
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The Croisette in Cannes has historically been all about big, iconic names – the Carlton, the Majestic – from a travel era of yore, with the grand façades and frothy interiors that are associated with it. The Hôtel Belle Plage, which sits the other side of the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès from the Croisette, at the foot of Le Suquet, Cannes’ dense old town, is a different proposition. “Sea, sun and palms,” reads the strip line on its website’s homepage; and it delivers on all three, like the rest of Cannes does.
From there, though, it’s all a departure: the hotel was completely renovated before it opened last year, and has emerged with an ambience and décor that’s got as much Ibiza or Tulum to it as it does Côte d’Azur. The 45 rooms and one suite are all light woods, light linens and cottons, marché-style ticking fabrics and sleek, clever lighting. On the roof, Bella is the drinking and dining venue overseen by Israeli super-chef Eyal Shani.
And there’s an eye-candy spa that delivers on hardcore facials from Augustinus Bader to advanced LED and radiofrequency treatments. Cannes has been trying for a while to reclaim some of that old glamour outside the film-festival cycle; this is one good place to give it a whirl yourself. hotelbelleplage.fr, from €170
In the Charente, a haven of art, food and nature
The first moment I set foot on the estate at Domaine des Ėtangs, in the not-celebrated-enough département of Charente – north-east of Bordeaux, north-west of the Dordogne – back in early 2020, it was love.
The property belongs to Garance Primat – whose family made their money in the oilfield technology company they founded in the early 20th century, and are respected for the Schlumberger wines they produce and recognised as serious collectors of international art. The estate contains some 2,500 acres of unadulterated loveliness, with hills, mills, lakes, livestock and several barns made into vaguely Axel Vervoordt-inspired accommodations, and an absolute stunner of a main château.
The food is sublime: honest, simple, fresh as it gets. I picnicked in February, covered in cashmere blankets, on the wide lawn that leads down to the large lake: charcuterie and cheeses from nearby Montbron and Rochechouart, and delicate salad leaves from the estate’s own organic garden. The fact that Primat has just turned over management of the Domaine to Auberge Resorts Collection – a California-based company with long form in country luxury – can only, to my mind, be a good thing. aubergeresorts.com, from €555
Paris sizzles at the Hôtel Beauregard
Touriste, the small Parisian hotel company, does more or less what it says on the tin: offers nice places, with character, for visitors to the City of Light to lay their heads.
They made some buzz in 2021 with their Hôtel Les Deux Gares, whose interiors were designed by FT Weekend columnist Luke Edward Hall. Now they’ve opened their fifth property in the very elegant 15th arrondissement – the first Touriste address on the Left Bank.
Almost all of the Hôtel Beauregard’s 38 rooms have Eiffel Tower views; the interiors, by Chloé Nègre, are clever and colourful, full of original art and vintage prints, glossy reds and powder blues, ’70s references and Haussmann details. Small and original, it’s a fresh window onto a still old-world corner of Paris. touriste.com, from €130
Experimental Group’s new spin on Biarritz
Biarritz has a great deal going for it: Basque food and big waves, grand late-19th-century planning and pretty squares. It’s not the first place we’d have expected the Experimental Group – of the ECC cocktail bars fame – to alight, but alight here they have, with two interesting new projects opening just in time for early summer. First, they’ve commandeered the 1907 Le Régina Hotel & Spa, a Belle-Époque icon of the city, whose 72 rooms, restaurant, bar and spa have been redesigned by Dorothée Meilichzon (who also happens to have designed one of Touriste’s Paris Hotels). Next door is the 27-room Le Garage, converted in 2020 from its former role as a classic-car repair facility and made into a 27-room, all-suite boutique hotel, with private terraces and beach access.
A design collaboration between Agnes Guiot and Pauline Minsé, its palette of country reds and Atlantic blues nods to the surrounding Basque architecture and style vernacular. Le Garage’s Neo-Bistrot promises to become the hangout of choice for the globetrotting surfer contingent that favours this coast’s warm days and long breaks. experimentalgroup.com; Le Régina from £268, Le Garage from £210