Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (October 2013)|
Luxury hotels were invented to be the stuff of dreams. The highest ranking of all the many “palaces” that sprang up all over the French Riviera, the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat overlooks the sea from the furthermost tip of the peninsula from which it takes its name.
At the turn of the 20th Century, Cap-Ferrat was little more than a wilderness of rocks and dense scrubland, vegetation that only changed as real estate began to develop there. At the end of the 19th century, piece by piece, King Leopold II of Belgium purchased the peninsula’s only wooded area, and then proceeded to expand his estate by buying up most of the vacant land around.
Shortly before 1900, Leopold sold part of his property to a company founded by a Mr. Péretmère, the son of a coachman from the north who had some savings of his own. He reserved six and a half hectares of the land for the hotel, whose construction began in 1908 with the two wings built at an open angle to each other, then the following year a loggia dining room and the large, central Rotonde were added. By then the building had its final, distinctive silhouette, remarkably simple for the time. A little later, the Grand-Hôtel was bought by Madame Ferras, a widow and the grandmother of famous violinist Christian Ferras.
From Hotel to Hospital
The First World War broke out shortly after the new owner’s arrival and the hotel became a hospital. In 1922, two professional hoteliers, Messrs Henri Dehouve and André Voyenne (my father), acquired a majority shareholding and took over the running of the company. They were to remain in charge for over twenty years, a period marked not only by the Great Depression and the Second World War, but also by a complete revolution in holidaying habits.
When the sun was the enemy
Since it first became known in the second half of the 19th Century, and up until the 1930s, the French Riviera remained almost exclusively a luxury destination. Most visitors were either wealthy individuals of independent means or royalty from northern countries, in particular England and Russia. They came only in winter and for long visits. Queen Victoria and her court, numerous aristocratic families, Princess Louise, the Duke of Connaught, President Paul Deschanel and many other politicians of the French 3rd Republic, the pianist Marguerite Long, the violinist Jacques Thibaud, and movie stars such as Charles Boyer, Charlie Chaplin and many others were to follow.
The summer season emerges
Not until 1930 did a few unconventional visitors venture down to the Riviera in summertime, mostly avant-garde writers and artists. They all came in search of solitude, since practically nobody came then, and relished a certain snobbery surrounding their alternative style of travelling. In Cap-Ferrat itself, these new habits arrived purely by chance. During the summer of 1933, the German filmmaker G.W. Pabst persuaded Chaliapine to star in his version of Don Quixote. Since he did not have the funds to film in Spain, the director decided that Cap-Ferrat’s landscape would be perfectly suitable. One day, the film crew appeared at the hotel, which was closed at the time but nevertheless offered them improvised accommodation for a few weeks. The actors and film crew were so delighted with their stay in this heavenly location that many of them asked to return the following year for a private visit. Little by little, the summer season emerged, attracting a whole new generation of holidaymakers, younger and more athletic than their predecessors and seeking sun and sea above all else. Since the hotel’s rocky coastline made it difficult to reach the sea, a cove was blasted from the rock.
The dark years, then a revival and metamorphosis
A few weeks after the beginning of the war, the Grand-Hôtel was boarded up and plunged into darkness for six long years. On March 5, 1944, in preparation for an allied landing, the entire peninsula was evacuated and riddled with mines. Local inhabitants were given only a few hours to grab some of their belongings and flee. Thankfully, the hotel and swimming pool survived entirely unscathed by nearby shelling and by the explosion that destroyed the lighthouse. Text: extracts by André Voyenne
- Upon the reopening at the end of the war, the procession of the great, rich and famous continued ; the European royal houses, lords and barons from England; the great entrepreneurs of finance and industry, glittering literary and artistic celebrities.
Other illustrious guests were the novelist Somerset Maugham, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and Aristote Onassis. The legendary swimming instructor, Pierre Gruneberg, has given lessons to Picasso, as well to both Paul McCartney’s and Frank Sinatra’s children.
2009 will see the completion of a metamorphosis that blends tradition, innovation and respect for nature.
The extension will be built in two phases while the hotel is closed from October to April 2007- 2008 and 2008–2009, and will open in May 2009.
The project was designed by architect Luc Svetchine and comprises 16 rooms, 8 suites with private plunge pools, a 7500sq.feet spa with indoor swimming pool and the creation of two new suites on the garden level of the main building.
The grounds are the work of landscape gardener Jean Mus. With the construction of new underground car parks, the above-ground parking areas will disappear.
Rooms and suites
As of May 1, 2009, the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat will propose 74 rooms (including 24 suites and the Penthouse), a 7,500 sq ft (700 m2) spa & fitness center and a 5,500 sq ft (510 m2) presidential suite, the Villa Rose-Pierre with its sea-view and pine grove.
The Grand-Hôtel serves food from three locations: at the Le Cap Gastronomic Restaurant, on its terrace overlooking the Mediterranean and shaded by Aleppo pines, or at the Club Dauphin Restaurant next to the pool.
The Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat maintains a collection of well-known vintage wines:
- 140 vintage bottles of Château d'Yquem dating from 1854 to 2003
- 38 vintage bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild dating from 1799 to 2003
The Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat Music Festival Artistic director : Michael Desjardins
The Festival is an up-to-date version of the tradition of salon music, which dates back to centuries past, and of the jazz clubs and Parisian café-theatres where audiences would rub shoulders with the artists. The Rotonde, designed by Gustave Eiffel, is a comfortable venue with outstanding acoustics. The programme spans every genre of vocal and instrumental music from all eras: opera, classical music, baroque music, film soundtracks, international variety, jazz, traditional music, and first performances of original works of contemporary music.
Notes and sources
- Information from the press kit from the hotel, public information and expressly authorized by the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat, July 2008