By the Sea in France, a Stylish but Low-Key Escape

Hotel Les Roches Rouges in France.

Rooms start at 395 euros, or about 462 U.S. dollars, during high season (July, August and September) and 280 euros other months.

A dreamed-of experience of the French Riviera is to find one of those secret and stunningly beautiful coves and beaches that miraculously survive just as nature made them. Good luck with that, you may be thinking. But the French hotelier Valéry Grégo decided to make ​it​ easy by renovating a ‘50s vintage hotel in the Var department with one of the most spectacular seaside settings in the south of France. To get any closer to the sea, you’d have to sleep in a boat.

The Paris-based design team Festen (Hugo Sauzay and Charlotte de Tonnac) created the new bohemian beach-shack look of the redone Hotel Les Roches Rouges, which opened last May. It features two seaside pools — a long heated one for laps, and a big stone-lined saltwater basin for lolling — terraced gardens with hammocks, a spacious stone-paved sun deck, a swimming pontoon, two restaurants and three bars.

Les Roches Rouges is just outside the beach resort of Saint-Raphael, midway between Saint Tropez and Cannes and an hour by car from the airport in Nice. This makes it a great base from which to explore the Côte d’Azur.

A quote by Jean Cocteau found in a book on the night table explained the appealing minimalism of our classic sea-view room: “What is style? Saying complicated things in a simple way.” Here this means white-painted walls, polished cement floors with a rough woolen throw rug​s​, terra-cotta bedside lamps by Céramiques du Beaujolais and​ a built-in oak desk with rush-bottomed chair draped with a fleecy throw​. Linen curtains fram​ed​ the sliding doors that lead out to a private balcony with sweeping views of the Mediterranean. The four other room categories come with more space; suites have bathtubs or private gardens.

Small but perfect. Fitted into a white marble counter with matching backsplash, the sink had a retro-style chrome-plated tap, two white-enameled steel drinking glasses and Le Labo toiletries. No tub but a spacious forest-green tiled shower with rain forest showerhead​. ​

To keep the mood mellow, rooms are TV-free and feature a very laid-back, preloaded soundtrack on the Bluetooth Haier docking system. There’s also complementary Wi-Fi and an iPad that’s the hotel’s information guide and also used to order room service or check email. Framed etchings and prints on the walls and a selection of Riviera-themed art books and novels created a sense of place, and a drinks tray offered a complimentary ​carafe of filtered water.

The minibar featured nibbles like saucisson, olives and nougat. Free activities include pétanque, yoga, water sports and cooking lessons. Two nights a week, musicians perform Cuban beat music and acoustic folk-rock by the pool, and a free open-air cinema screens classic films, also twice weekly. For a fee, the hotel’s own fisherman, Olivier Bardoux, will take you out on his boat.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily at the hotel’s La Plage restaurant, and dinner is available at La Terrasse on Friday and Saturday. The hotel’s chef, José Bailly, does delicious modern riffs on traditional Provençal dishes, inspired by “La Cuisine Provençale de la Tradition Populaire,” a 1963 cookbook of traditional recipes by René Jouveau, a poet and native of Arles. Mr. Bailly’s menus change with the season, but run to such sunny southern classics as stuffed artichokes, lamb roasted with rosemary and wild garlic, and an epic aioli (steamed cod with organic vegetables, including fennel, potatoes, and carrots, with garlic mayonnaise). The British ​mixologist Dean Shury created cocktails inspired by the Côte d’Azur and local spirits like pastis and rinquinquin, a peach liqueur, that ​keep the hotel’s three bars humming.

With its low-key vibe, good simple food and minimalist style, Hotel Les Roches Rouges is ​ friendly seaside place on the French Riviera that everyone dreams about.


Hotel Les Roches Rouges, 90 Boulevard de la 36e Division du Texas, Saint-Raphael; hotellesrochesrouges.com/en

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