The day before we were scheduled to fly home after a stay at the wonderful new Le Grand Contrôle hotel in Versailles (see the November Hideaway Report), the fall weather was so beautiful that we decided to postpone our departure. Instead, we headed to the south of France for a long weekend.
It was a particular pleasure to arrive in Nice following a long absence; after all the months of lockdown, I find that I see everywhere with fresh eyes. After picking up our rental car, we headed to Le Negresco to sample the cooking of chef Virginie Basselot, the first female chef at the hotel’s legendary Le Chantecler restaurant. In a sign of the times, the stratospheric pre-COVID prices had come back down to earth, and we enjoyed a prix fixe menu that began with roasted pumpkin with white truffles and pecorino mousse — a brilliant autumnal composition of varying tones of earthiness — followed by cod fillet with baby artichokes and beef with tiny black Niçoise olives and anchovies. A poached pear with tonka bean ice cream concluded a memorable meal.
The Maybourne Riviera
Leaving the main highway to reach the 69-room Maybourne Riviera hotel near Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, we drove through the village of La Turbie, which is dominated by a spectacular Roman monument known as the Trophée d’Auguste. It was built 2,000 years ago to proclaim the greatness of Emperor Augustus, who had conquered the Ligurian tribes. The monument, and La Turbie itself, has one of the most spectacular views of the Mediterranean to be found anywhere in Europe. Which is why, in 1870, a wooden chalet housing a tearoom was built just outside the village, on an outcrop 1,100 feet above the sea. The peerlessly dramatic site meant that the tearoom eventually evolved into a small hotel, which was completely rebuilt in 1963. German industrialist Max Grundig gave the property a new name when he bought it in 1978: the Vista Palace Hotel.