Just moments from Cannes, but far removed from city life on the Cote d’Azur, Rosalind Sack discovers the blissful five-star Le Mas Candille…
Known for the glitz and glamour, the film stars and the red carpets, Cannes’ long and illustrious history as the Hollywood of the French Riviera has meant that its popularity as a sought-after holiday destination has rarely wavered.
But if, like me, you love the buzz of the city but equally value retreating to an oasis of calm at the end of hectic day of cocktail-sipping and superyacht-spotting, then I may just have found paradise.
Perched in the hilltop village of Mougins, the five-star Le Mas Candille hotel is a haven of serenity, while only being a 15-minute drive from Cannes’ famed Promenade de la Croisette.
Set in a beautifully manicured nine-acre park peppered with modern sculptures by artist Marion Bürkle, dramatic vistas across the valley to the town of Grasse and beyond to the foothills of the Alps present themselves at every turn. From the pool, the restaurant, the various garden terraces, even from a cute little window above the bath in my room, the views of the surrounding area are quite simply breathtaking. The only reminder of nearby Cannes is the occasional Airstream jet sweeping across the sky ferrying celebrities and millionaires into the city below.
Through the years Le Mas Candille has been a vineyard, a Napoleonic bivouac and an olive-growing farm, before being transformed into a hotel in the 1960s. Now a member of the Relais et Chateaux Association of hotels, it has 45 rooms across three separate buildings – the 18th-century converted farmhouse Le Mas; La Bastide where I stayed; and la Villa Candille, which houses seven suites. Each has its own distinctive feel and I loved the mix of modernity and tradition, particularly the attractive hand-painted French cabinet and writing bureau in my capacious room. If only I was staying longer, it would have been the perfect hideaway to pen a bestselling romance novel.
The temptation here, of course, is to stay holed up at the hotel for the duration of your stay. Take a dip in one of two Jacuzzis, three swimming pools, or book a treatment at the award-winning Shiseido spa, nestled in a Japanese garden complete with bamboo, Judas trees and a wooden bridge arching over a water feature.
This really is the place to rid your mind and body of all the stresses of city living and, after enjoying a wonderful massage and facial, I kicked back – utterly blissed out, clutching a delicate cup of detox tea – in the relaxation room to enjoy those incredible views once again.
Even as the sun sinks below the mountains, there is plenty to enjoy here, particularly if you’re partial to a glass or two of champagne on the terrace followed by exceptionally good food. Who isn’t?
Dinner at the Michelin-starred Le Candille restaurant is very special indeed, and not just because of the setting. At the helm is Executive chef David Chauvac who, having been born and bred in Cannes, is a master of sourcing the very finest, freshest local ingredients – and is a thoroughly nice guy to boot.
Having learnt his trade at Cannes’ film festival favourite, the grand art-deco Martinez Hotel, his food is elegant, creative and bursting with flavour.
For starter I enjoyed the fresh clean flavours of the roast asparagus with whipped cod puree and watercress coulis. Main course was fillet of pike perch and stuffed baby cabbage with Nicoise perugina sausage, topped with the most delightful foamy smoked salt emulsion. After a luscious cheese course, I tucked into crunchy melting chocolate cake with creamy roasted peanuts – to say this was a sophisticated take on a Reese’s peanut butter cup really wouldn’t do it justice, but you get the idea. Naturally, I virtually wiped every plate clean.
For a truly unforgettable experience, book a culinary course with David where you will visit Marché Forville in Cannes to buy fresh ingredients before cooking and plating up the dishes alongside him in Le Candille’s kitchen. For an altogether different gastronomic experience, enjoy David’s pop-up sushi bar by the main pool throughout July and August.
The restaurant is in fine company as Mougins really is a foodie’s dream, having been awarded the Ville et Métiers d’Art for gastronomy and playing host to an annual International Festival of Gastronomy.
This pretty medieval village, just a short stroll from Le Mas Candille, is also a vibrant cultural destination – home to over 25 galleries and art workshops. Pablo Picasso spent the last 15 years of his life living in Mougins and some of his work can be found in the fabulous Mougins Museum of Classical Art – an eclectic private collection of paintings, drawings and sculpture by the likes of Warhol, Matisse, Dali and Cezanne.
Keeping a watchful eye on the treasures, a giant Anthony Gormley statue of two men stand guard atop the wall outside the museum. Even they can’t take their eyes off that staggering view.
Lemascandille.com / + 33 (0)492 28 43 43