The Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc is a landmark. Well, it should be a landmark. Maybe even a UNESCO world heritage site. It was built in 1869 by the founder of Le Figaro newspaper as a sanctuary for writers seeking inspiration.
In 1889, it was sold to an Italian hotelier and became the Grand Hotel du Cap.
Up until the 1920’s the hotel was a winter escape for the wealthy and was closed for the summer. Until Cole Porter introduced Gerald and Sara Murphy, two wealthy American ex-pats to the Cap d’Antibes and they fell in love with it. The Murphys begged the hotel management to keep the hotel open for summer to accommodate them and their friends. The management was more agreeable back then — in 2011, they refused to open for President Barack Obama during his visit to the Cote d’Azur for the G20 conference in Cannes (maybe the current owners are Republicans?).
The Murphys brought F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and ultimately ushered in a resurgence to the area.
Fitzgerald immortalized the Hotel in Tender is the Night as the Hôtel des Etrangers. Marc Chagall sketched from one of the shady beachside cabanas (now over 500 Euro a day) . Kennedys had trysts here. World leaders negotiated here. Everybody who is anybody in Hollywood has stayed here, from Gene Kelly to Cary Grant to Robert Redford to Johnny Depp.
The hotel is now owned by an elite German hotel chain. It may be the only place left on the Cap not owned by a Russian or Saudi. These days, a room goes for 830E -6150/night. Cabana not included. And don’t even ask about the Villas. No prices are listed and I assume, they’re going by the philosophy that if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.
Up until now, I’ve walked by the gates of the hotel, but was afraid to go within 10 meters of it for fear of setting off some poverty alarm and being tackled by the security guards flanking the gates. But today, dammit, I’m going in. Even if I have to shell out for a 90Euro lunch! Rumor has it, the food is impeccable and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a room (hell, I’ve stayed in hotel rooms that are cheaper than lunch at the Hotel du Cap).
I take the number 2 bus from the Antibes Gare Routiere to the tip of the Cap (probably not the most elegant vehicle from which to make one’s entrance to the hotel, but what the hell). It’s about a 10 minute bus ride.
I get off the bus and walk confidently towards the hotel, getting closer to the gates than I’ve ever been before. My heart is racing.Then I read the sign: Fermature Annuelle. Sigh. A couple of gardeners open the gate a bit to roll out a dumpster of leaves. I consider making a break for it and running through the gates, but figure I’d be shot. Damn, I’m going to have to wait til April to see this place. And I’m as hungry as hell all of a sudden. And there aren’t a lot of (any) restaurants here on the tip of the Cap d’Antibes.
My plans are ruined. I intended to eat a lovely, civilized lunch, walk the grounds, look for famous people and walk back to Antibes. But here I am, locked out, starving and weak. How will I make it back without sustenance? Maybe I’ll collapse in the middle of Boulevard Kennedy and get run over by a rich handsome man with an exotic accent in a Ferrarri. Maybe he will stop, pick me up and gently deposit me into his Ferrarri, drive me to a hospital and never leave my bedside until I fully recover and by then of course, we’ll be madly in love even though I’ll never walk again. That sounds great! Clearly I’m getting light-headed.
Then I remember that I wisely put a banana in my purse before I left. I find a nice spot across the street from the hotel, which just happens to be the garden of Les Chenes Verts, the villa where Jules Verne lived and worked. I sit down and elegantly devour the banana (pinky finger out) and savor the sweeping vistas over the Golfe Juan.
I still can’t speak to the splendor of the Hotel du Cap or the skills of its chefs. But I can honestly say, this is the best damn lunch I’ve ever had.
Filed under: Antibes, Cote d'azur, expat in france, fine dining, food, dining, fine dining, french cuisine, france on a budget, history, life in france, Places, tourism, travel, travel humor Tagged: | Cap d'Antibes, Eden Roc, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gerald and Sara Murphy, Hotel du Cap, Jules Verne