Travel

Jaw-Dropping Transformation: Legendary Literary Bar Shines with Modernity

In the year 1925, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, known as the epitome of the Lost Generation, bid adieu to Paris and set off for the picturesque southeastern coast of France. Their destination was the Villa Saint-Louis, a dilapidated mansion perched on the rugged Cap d’Antibes. Scott toiled away on drafts of his masterpiece “Tender is the Night” during the day, while evenings were filled with Champagne-soaked revelries. The couple attracted a stream of friends and glitterati.

However, by 1929, the Fitzgeralds had departed, leaving behind the worn-out mansion, which would later be transformed into the esteemed Belles Rives Hotel. Today, in its fourth generation, the family continues to uphold the legacy of this five-star retreat.

Recently, after an investment of $800,000 and two years of meticulous work, the Estène-Chauvin family reopened the heart of the hotel: the Piano Bar Fitzgerald. This intimate space holds immense literary and historical significance, as Zelda and Scott would often find solace here, listening to their gramophone. Countless celebrities have since flocked to this bar, which is now an integral part of the Cafés Historiques et Patrimoniaux d’Europe.

The refurbishment of this iconic bar was a decision that required some persuasion, as Antoine Estène-Chauvin explains. The family took charge of the design process, led by Marianne Estène-Chauvin. Their approach focused on modernizing the space by reconfiguring its layout. The bar, once tucked away in a corner, now takes center stage, adorned with brass Art Deco motifs at its base. Plush carpets have been replaced with gleaming hardwood floors, while leather chairs boast reupholstered textiles from Osborne & Little.

Behind the marble-topped counter, illuminated by elegant gold lights, skilled bartenders craft exquisite cocktails and serve delectable dishes from Chef Aurélien Véquaud’s new bar menu. The menu offers a wide range of options, from grilled bream to mouthwatering burgers. For those with a sweet tooth, the pastry chef’s “meter of treats” is a must-try.

While the renovation has breathed new life into the bar, certain cherished elements have been left untouched. The iconic red chandeliers, the hand-painted mural of Cap d’Antibes, and the cylindrical Art Deco coffee tables with glass tops remain as captivating as ever. Additionally, the timeless allure extends to the cocktails, with offerings such as the “Sparkling Scott,” a delightful blend of Champagne Bauchet, rose, lime, and raspberry. The Safran Smash, a favorite among the chefs, tantalizes the palate with Gin Bombay, honey, thyme, saffron, lime, and pineapple.

This rejuvenation aligns the bar with the rest of the 43-room hotel, renowned for its Michelin-starred chef and world-class spa treatments. Built in the quintessential Art Deco style, featuring wrought iron motifs and mosaics, the beachfront hotel masterfully balances luxury and coziness. Inside the rooms, balcony windows framed by Hermes wallpaper offer breathtaking views of pine trees, the azure Mediterranean Sea, and awe-inspiring sunsets. Guests can indulge in the marble bathrooms adorned with Blenheim Bouquet Penhaligon amenities.

For an unforgettable experience, guests are encouraged to venture beyond their rooms. Belles Rives is the birthplace of water skiing, and its dock serves as the starting point for boat excursions. When one has had their fill of aquatic adventures, it’s time to embrace.

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