In the film Je Vous Aime, in which both Catherine DeNeuve and Gérard Depardieu play leading roles, much of the action takes place in an attractive 18th Century country house in France. This bastide is, in fact, a charming five-star hotel on the outskirts of St Tropez. The main building and the two other more modern villas belonging to it offer 23 rooms (nine of which are suites) to those discerning folk who wish to be not too far from the centre of town and yet need to be surrounded by sweet gardens and enveloped in a sense of exclusive exclusion. Indeed, the area around its swimming pool is surely one of the most beautiful enclaves in this part of the French Riviera.
Driving eastwards along the motorway which skirts the Ligurian Coast, away from Genoa, you will come to an exit marked ‘Albenga’. The turning is about 80 miles from Nice airport. It seems unexceptional. But, in fact, it is the way to one of the most charming small hotels (and its wonderful restaurant) you will encounter. La Meridiana is just four miles from the motorway exit, but the change in surroundings and atmosphere suggests you might be on another planet. Within immaculate gardens, the house is full of paintings, objets d’art, enticing sofas and plump velvet cushions. A grand piano stands in the main sitting room, and a friendly dog of the terrier variety pads about the place in a proprietorial manner. This verdant hideaway, designed by Luisa Berto de Segre in the 1970s and surrounded by green hills, is very much a place for relaxation and retreat.
I have long regarded the rue St-Antoine as one of the prettiest streets in Cannes. It runs up a steep hill in the Old Town and is full of eating establishments, many of which have employees stationed outside to try to persuade passers-by to spend their euros within. But Table 22 (formerly the Restaurant Mantel) has no need to stoop to such blandishments. It is known to be one of the best restaurants in town, and therefore ‘those in the know’ book their tables in advance and turn up on time. Its entrance used to be down a couple of steps at a corner, and was so discreet that you needed your wits about you to locate it. But now that has changed. The adjacent property has been incorporated into the establishment and so, given clement weather, the dining room is open to the passing world.
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See also Dining in France & American Farm to Table