We checked out this elegant Philippe Starck-designed hotel at the French Riviera
Set the scene
Wend your way from ridiculously sceney St Tropez through blush-rosé vineyards up to Lily of the Valley, where wellbeing meets Côte d’Azur indulgence. Philippe Starck has designed the hotel (unusually named for a place perched at the top of a sunbathed hilltop) to blend into its surroundings like some kind of utopian version of Babylon’s Hanging Gardens – think villas in earth tones with tumbling greenery and bright blue pools. The idea is you come for the wellness – the poolside gym, the treatments, the earnest health menu. But many will take cocktails by the pool, then jump in a yacht to Club 55, just a private boat trip away.
What’s the story?
Until 2016, this spot was home to a small traditional hotel with a spectacular position. But the Weill family (one of France’s Fortune 500) discovered it on one of their family trips to the area and knew this increasingly ritzy corner of the coast merited something a lot more prestigious. Media big hitter Alain Weill bought the hotel, the land and half of the nearby beach and enlisted Starck (‘he was the only architect I considered’) to fashion something glorious in its place.
The French designer claims the distinctive, neoclassical-meets-rustic-modernist vision came to him in a dream, of nature in harmony with endeavour. But for all the prestige associated with the Starck name, and the power that comes with Weill’s, it remains a completely independent family hotel. Little kids potter about poolside, and the atmosphere is relaxed. When the hotel opened, rather than host a party for celebrities, the Weills invited all the local shop owners and tradespeople. Starck’s vision was equally sympathetic to the area – the architecture is designed to blend seamlessly into the geography and culture of the locale.
What can we expect in the room?
Rustic luxury – wicker lampshades, marble bathrooms, rattan rugs and plump bedding topped with Ara Starck cushions – all choreographed with precision. Starck oversaw everything, from the bespoke light switches to the handsome (and entirely superfluous, given the climate) umbrellas outside each room. There’s a coffee machine (no milk, though – take it noir, French style), pouches of hand-blended herbal tea, a demi-bouteille of local rosé and a small selection of home-made biscuits. Mainly it’s all about what’s outside the room – a bed as big as the one in the bedroom on your own terrace, meaning you can follow a personal-training session with lying about in the sun. Wi-fi works indoors and out, and you get your own iPad to book your next treatment.
How about the food and drink?
Vista serves polished Provençal food with an emphasis on local ingredients, served on the spectacular terrace or poolside. Over in the wellbeing area, a second poolside restaurant offers a decidedly un-French healthy menu of smoothies, salads… and frozen cocktails, if you’re throwing wellbeing to the wind.
Anything to say about the service?
None of the froideur you might perhaps expect from a design hotel. The staff are good-looking, warm and relaxed, and don’t mind if you walk into the hotel and leave your shoes by the pool.
What sort of person stays here?
The kind of people who can afford up to £3,000 a night on a sea view. Starck and his wife have their own permanent suite on site.
What’s the neighbourhood scene like?
It’s just 15 minutes to St Tropez, where anyone who is anyone, and knows everyone, holidays (or rather, just off it, in a yacht the size of several townhouses). First made famous by Brigitte Bardot, the area is now the playground of the world’s privileged holidaymakers. But the hotel’s nearest town, La Croix Valmer, is a gentler affair with fruit and vegetable shops instead of Chanel boutiques, and a long golden beach with families set up on the sand. You can take a free shuttle down to Gigaro beach, where LOTV is currently doing up its own mega-star level beach club, or you can mingle with the French on the more humble stretches of coast.
Unusually for the heavily seasonal area, which shuts down almost entirely in winter, Lily of the Valley will be open year round. Open fires and wood-burners are intended to deliver cosiness off-season, and the wellbeing bias is set to draw in guests looking to detox and reset even when the Med gets a little frosty.
Is it worth it? Why?
Yes. It’s a slightly unusual offering – it certainly doesn’t look like any other hotel you’ll see here or anywhere else, but there’s charm shining through the considered design and extravagant setting. And did we mention the view?