At the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, just outside Nice, the south of France, there is a strong yet unspoken sentiment about life. Clay tennis courts, white walls, beige and white linens, large windows dressed with drapes, mosaic tile floors, a lap pool overlooking the Mediterranean and gardens manicured to create the visage of a wild bounty of flora now restrained all say you can live in other ways, but not as finely as you will at the Cap-Ferrat.
Things here are just right. The king bed was the proper height — not too low as to be difficult to rise from, not too high as to dominate the room; the marble bathroom received a balanced amount of light — bright enough, but never blinding; the patio offered a protected view — enough to see the Med, but not so open as to feel exposed.
In the newer wing of the building, where I stayed earlier this May, the rooms were small suites that used hallways to give the sense of cavernous space. The sleeping area had a small divide between the bed and the living area, and the bathroom was divided by frosted glass — shower, toilet and open space between sink and tub. A patio area, where room service set up breakfast in the morning, was as wide as the living area — enough space to casually pace while waking with cappuccino in hand.
With the lack of people, the hotel feels more your own — the absence of others creates an intimacy for one.
The hotel, perhaps because it was in the shoulder season, felt quietly vacant — a trip to the pool (accessed by a hike down the hill or a short tram ride) revealed two visitors swimming laps, another couple enjoying a meal. The reception area, with expansive white foyer, basked in the coastal light and remained relatively undisturbed by guests. With the lack of people, the hotel felt more my own — the absence of others created an intimacy for one. It was easy to wander, undisturbed, with my greatest challenge being the choice of which couch, chair or chaise to lounge in. And, in the French style, the staff never interrupted this solitude; they appeared when needed, disappeared when the request was complete.
Dining at the Cap is also classically French, and a meal enjoyed on the patio, views looking down to the sea, fulfilled expectations — it was restrained, embraced its proximity to the coast and came with memorable wine. Service was paced, multiple bottles of wine a boon, not a burden. The French wines quietly and easily disappeared, like the sun falling below the horizon.
Romance, it seems, is intrinsic at the Cap. There is a fragrance from the salt breeze, the trees, the flowers, the cotton linens, that fosters this sense of romance — these are things we associate with happiness, beauty, pleasure. If you do not come here in love, you will fall into it. To leave the Grand-Hôtel’s grounds is to part ways with a lover, to accept that life apart from each other will hold a little less wonderment, a little less mystique, a little less grandeur.