Discover some of the secrets and delve into the history of one of the most renowned hotels on the Riviera, the Belles Rives on Cap d’Antibes.
We recently met with Marianne Estène-Chauvin (pictured above), the current owner of Hôtel Belles Rives, and chatted with her about the legendary establishment and what it means to her.
Describe to us your family’s involvement in the establishment.
In 1925, Juan les Pins became home to the notorious Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald who rented a private sea side villa called the “Villa Saint-Louis”. Right about the same time, thousands of miles away from the Mediterranean, Boma Estène parts from his native Russia and heads for Paris, then Antibes, with childhood dreams of freedom and independence. In 1929, Boma and Simone Estène open the Hôtel Belles Rives for business. After Boma’s death in 1970, his son, Casimir helps his mother run the hotel, before taking over its full responsability and increasing its reputation. A family story, in 2001, I acquire the hotel. I fulfilled my grandfather’s wish by claiming an ownership, which had been retrieved with the turmoil of war, some 70 years before.
What was your first role in the hotel?
When I was young I spent every summer by the sea, under the warm sun of Juan les Pins, working hard at the Belles Rives. No doubt, the ideal way to wake up to reality: ever since I was 17, I would stay backstage at the hotel, giving a hand at reception, in the laundry room, waking up early to go to the market.
Can you reflect on your decision to acquire the hotel?
While I lived in Morocco for almost 10 years, an exhibition of pictures on the colonial architecture of the 30’s in Morocco made me become aware of the importance of the current Art deco on this country, and especially on the Belles Rives, an heritage to be protected. Faithful to my family, I came back in France to help my uncle Casimir who held the luxury establishment.
The history of the actual building is fascinating, being the former home of writer Scott Fitzgerald, how did this history influence you and your family in setting the style and décor of the hotel?
More than an anecdote, the history between Scott Fitzgerald and the Hôtel Belles Rives (Villa Saint Louis) constitute the identity of the Hotel. That is why we have to keep the style and décor as at the Fitzgerald’s time. Today, every inch of the hotel sings a hymn to 1930’s style. Its soothing atmosphere shines through a long study of archives, a vow to preserve its authentic elegance, a choice of only the finest architects and designers who work only with the most precious fabrics, stones, paintings.
What is your favourite area of the hotel?
The terrace of our gourmet restaurant La Passagère is the most exquisite part of the Hotel. I visit this spot every morning, and I am always surprised to discover the different moods of the panorama: sometimes the view seems like a romantic italian lake but it can be also an enchanted bay in the Bahamas! And the white and blue decor plus the radiant flowers of bougainvillea are inspired by the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech…
What is the signature drink of the Fitzgerald bar, or a drink that is often requested?
The two famous cocktails of the Fitzgerald bar are unquestionably the Gatsby (Gin, lychee liquor, violet syrup and Perrier) and the Hemingway cocktail (Rum, grapefruit juice, lime, Marasquin).
What do you recommended to your customers on your summer menus?
Right by the blue sea of the Mediterranean at the restaurant La Passagère, the Chef particularly suggests Large herb’s printed pasta, Val de Cagnes tender vegetables with ground basil and arugula salad; Saffroned rock fish broth “red mullet, sea bass, squid and crab meat“; Roasted milk-fed lamb brushed with Espelette chili peppers / sautéed vegetables, giblets cooked with savory sauce, which are his specialities. The Pastry Chef’s speciality is poached pineapple and sorbet / passion fruit – banana “crémeux” crispy coconut.
What do you love about Juan les Pins?
To take a drink at the end of the day, after the beaches departure, at the Crystal Bar in the center of Juan les Pins: Pimm’s Champagne and a club sandwich are my favorites!
What’s in store for the Hotel Belles Rives 2013 season?
On June 7th, the Fitzgerald Prize will take place at the Hôtel Belles Rives. The Fitzgerald Prize is awarded annually at the beginning of the summer and reward a literary novel reflecting “the elegance, wit, style and taste of the art of living” of the American writer, author of The Great Gatsby.
The Villa Belles Rives White Beach Party will take place on June 13th 2013, and every Thursday after that the Belles Rives Beach will welcome DJs there with a dance floor for unique moments directly on the waterfront: Fire on the Beach, CoppaKabana, Juan is Beautiful. A unique event you will not want to miss!
Later in the summer the Hôtel Belles Rives will organise two special nights with a special menu to enjoy the fireworks on July 14th and August 15th from the great waterfront terrace of the Hôtel Belles Rives.
Your favourite place (and why) on the Cote d’Azur to:
Party: Villa Belles Rives. Attracting an exciting crowd, and with the sea lapping at the shoreline, just a stone’s throw from the open air dance floor is the Hôtel Belles Rives. Whether you’re dancing or simply taking in the panoramic nighttime views of the bay, it is impossible not to enjoy the sweet sophistication of one of the Riviera’s most distinguished beach side bars.
Eat: L’Affable in Cannes: the place is like nowhere else. Once inside the door, the atmosphere compares to any major city’s “hot spot”.
Relax: Spa Radisson, Cannes
Shop: Every third Sunday of the month there is an important antiques market where I love to go searching for that rare pearl!
Many thanks to Marianne for taking time out of her very busy schedule to answer our questions.
Hôtel Belles Rives
33, bd Édouard Baudoin
06160 Juan-les-Pins (Cap d’Antibes)
Tel: 04 93 61 02 79
All photographs © Naneen Rossi