Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Château Saint-Martin

France

A welcoming château of calm overlooking the Côte d’Azur

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Château Saint-Martin
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Château Saint-Martin

Location

Set in a 34 acre estate on a hilltop above Vence, offering amazing views over the Côte d'Azur

Travel Information

A mere 30 minutes from Nice Côte d'Azur airport with transfers easily arranged

5-Star X-Factors

An accessible escape to relax and recuperate. The Saint-Martin Sisley spa is a destination in itself

A place of calm above the Côte d'Azur

If most of your life is spent racing around, multi-tasking, never stopping, you really need to plan a pitstop at Château Saint-Martin.

The Côte d’Azur is not an obvious destination for R&R. Made famous in the twenties as ‘the roaring Riviera’, this coastline remains party central during the summer months. But if, instead of limo-ing it to Cannes, Cap d’Antibes or Saint-Tropez, you head for the hills, within half an hour of landing at Nice airport you can be relaxing at Château Saint-Martin, prominently perched above the town of Vence.

The ease of getting here is part of the therapy. Our flight was on-time, our driver, Luc, met us graciously and the transfer, passing by the pretty hilltop town of Saint-Paul de Vence, was quick and comfortable. It was sunny and  31°C.

THE WARMEST OF WELCOMES

Our arrival at Château Saint-Martin could not have been more welcoming. The team here is outstanding and General Manager Duarte Bon de Sousa should be very proud of each and every member of his 5-star team.

After an efficient check-in, we were quickly shown to our spacious Superior Junior Suite. Set in the stone foundations of the château with a large private terrace, the views over Vence and the sparkling coastline beyond were truly stunning. The suite offered plenty of space for our daughter’s extra bed, which was decorated with a cornucopia of welcome gifts, including a backpack, crayons, chocolates, a teddy bear and cupcakes.

The marble bathroom was generously proportioned with separate tub and shower and filled with copious quantities of Bamford amenities. The slippers, towels and bathrobes were of the finest quality.

Deluxe Junior Suites are larger still, with outstanding views from wrought iron balconies on higher floors. There are also two Signature Suites in the Château and one, two or three bedroom villas nestled into the gardens and hillside. Of course, there are also Classic Rooms and smaller Traditional Junior Suites.

Families are particularly welcomed here. Many rooms in the Château have interconnecting rooms and the larger villas are ideal for families travelling with children. There is also a kids club offering an exciting (for them) programme of activities, ranging from painting to tennis and treasure hunts, plus nature workshops with the Château’s animal family, including a dwarf goat.

ESCAPE FROM BUSYNESS

Château Saint-Martin, part of the Oetker Collection, is set within a hilltop estate of 34 acres, including glorious parkland, winding paths, olive groves and beautifully tended gardens.

In the mood to unwind, we spent much of our time in the lovely gardens and beside the gorgeous pool. Bibi swam for hours and we reclined, cocktails in hand, books unopened. This is a very special swimming pool with enticing silky water in a lovely setting beneath a limestone escarpment and views across a valley dotted with cyprus and olive trees.

After a while Sophie’s need for busyness returned and she pursued exotic butterflies on behalf of Instagram, while I contemplated what to have for lunch. Bibi preferred to stay in the pool.

IF YOU CAN'T HELP YOURSELF BEING BUSY

Château Saint-Martin towers above Vence in an unrivaled position and the South of France scenery is captivating. It’s no surprise that this area has entranced artists over the ages, with Chagall, Picasso, Renoir and Matisse all enthralled by the light and scenery. Just above Vence, Matisse’s masterpiece - Chapelle du Rosaire and its exquisite stained glass windows - should not be missed.

If further exploration is on the cards, visit the ancient hilltop towns of Saint-Paul de Vence, where you will find Fondation Maeght and its extraordinary collection of 20th Century art, or Biot and the studio of world-renown glass artist, Antoine Pierini. Grasse, and its historic connection with perfume and fragrance, is less than an hour away.

If you yearn for the beach, the Château has an arrangement with Joseph Keller beach at Cap d’Antibes and transfers can easily be arranged. Alternatively, the concierge can organise a cabana overlooking the sea at sister hotel Hôtel du Cap Eden-Roc, where haute couture meets Côte d’Azur.

L'OLIVERAIE

Lunch in the gardens, shaded by ancient olive trees, was enticing but sadly proved to be our only disappointment; both days. The setting is glorious, but my truffle pizza, cooked in a wood-fired oven, on day one was not a patch on Jean-Georges’ version at the Connaught and the Salade Niçoise the following day was really quite bland (even though I’d specified fresh grilled tuna). On the other hand, Sophie’s grilled salmon was a hit, but sadly her prawn salad a miss.

RESTAURANT LE SAINT-MARTIN

Lifting the bar for gourmet taste-buds was dinner on the gorgeous terrace of the Michelin-starred Le Saint-Martin.

The sweeping, elevated views over the Côte d’Azur are at their most stunning here. The coastline twinkles magically at night, highlighted by a full moon and dramatic firework displays all summer long, as towns and billionaires compete to put on the best light show on the Riviera.

Admiring the view, we started with flutes of fabulous Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2006 while we perused Jean-Luc Lefrançois’ seasonally-inspired menu and sampled the delicious amuse-bouche.

We dined on the ‘Menu du Marche” with a bottle of Cuilleron Saint-Joseph Blanc 2009. A courgette ravioli (me), salmon carpaccio (Sophie) to start, followed by grey mullet with polenta and taragon (both). Excellent cheeses accompanied by half a bottle of silky Château Trevallon were next, finishing with peach and a rosemary chantilly. It was a delicious dinner accompanied by a full half hour firework display over Cannes (gratuit).

Meanwhile Bibi had fun playing cards with an excellent babysitter and ordering her supper from room service (result!).

THE BEST LUXURY SPA DESTINATION IN EUROPE

You can see why Spa Saint-Martin Sisley was voted “Best luxury Spa destination in Europe” in the World Luxury Spa Awards. You can also understand how this further equips Château Saint-Martin as a natural antidote to any busyness addiction. Four elegant treatment rooms and a couples’ suite provide perfect pampering with expert therapists and outstanding Sisley products.

FAREWELL FOR NOW

Following Bibi’s last swim, shortly before we departed on the next leg of our 2017 Côte d’Azur adventure, she annouced she wanted to shower and change in the spa. I suggested that this was not really what the spa was for. Fifteen minutes later she vanished, so, with a full appreciation of this eight year old’s determination to always get her own way, I knew where to find her.

Mildly flustered, I entered the cool and calm spa reception area and asked the receptionist whether an eight year old girl had dropped by. The receptionist smiled sweetly “Oh yes, Bibi is here. She didn’t need an appointment, she is just preparing herself for departure.”

We left - with Bibi suitably preened - suprisingly refreshed and replenished after such a short stay, realising, that this is actually Château Saint-Martin’s purpose – a place of calm to refresh and replenish you, under the Côte d’Azur sun.

Peter Matthews
Peter Matthews


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer