As part of my ‘Active Escapes’ series, I recently stayed at a destination so heavenly that it completely inspired and enthused me to author this full review. The historic and beautiful Chateau de la Chèvre D’Or, nestled amidst the medieval village of Eze, on France’s exquisite Cote D’Azur, enjoys what must be the most magical, celestial view of the French Riviera, and hosts an armory of active ventures for the healthiest of holiday-goers to enjoy. The hotel itself, Relais & Chateaux affiliated, is relaxed, quirky, charming, classic and respectfully staffed by masterful hoteliers. It was perfect for my 3-day European escape, from which I returned energised, focused and relaxed. Click MORE to see my extensive review of the epic grounds, broad facilities, the sumptuous food and impeccable service 🙂
As ever with these active escapes, I’ll break it down into four sections; i) fitness activities, ii) the facilities, iii) the food and iv) the service/round-up.
SECTION 1) THE FITNESS ACTIVITIES
– Hill walks: The medieval village is a meandering labyrinth of little cul-de-sacs and steps, and with the Hotel being located at the lowest point of the seaward side, there’s exercise to be done battling gravity! Just a daily route covering off the mileage around the village, up to the top of the mountain and back, is a 500+ calorie workout in itself. The climb is steep up to the Jardins Exotiques (exotic gardens) but the view over the spit of St. Jean Cap Ferrat is so invigorating, almost moving, that you’ll be more than satisfied with the workout. Just remember to take plenty of water!
– Gymming: There’s a mid-sized gym filled with most of the machine-based necessities I could find use for – treadmills, cross trainers, bikes, freeweights and a very odd Tri-Exercise machine, which I only ever run into at continental hotel gyms. Crucially, there’s great air-con, and some views over the bay below to help take the mind off failure!
– Yoga: There are dozens of terraces and garden levels adjoining the Chateau, all enjoying that gorgeous coastal view. Whilst there aren’t scheduled classes, the hotel often brings in teachers for morning sessions; it’s a beautiful way to start the day!
– Swimming Pool: Whilst it’s also stunningly perched on the side of the cliff, it’s by no means Olympic sized, and is intended more for lazily floating whilst enjoying views, or perhaps sipping Bellini’s; aerobically-motivated swimming is better executed in the ocean, but this is a pretty good alternative too 🙂
SECTION 2) THE HOTEL FACILITIES & HIGHLIGHTS
– The Rooms: given that the accommodation is dotted around the flanks the mountain, all the rooms have a pretty spectacular view; mine contained as much sea as it did garden, and was wonderfully appointed, with a monstrous bed facilitating some proper, recuperative sleep.
The epic view from my room!
Marblicious bathroom! 🙂
– Gardens & Terraces: There’s bougainvillea, honeysuckle, rose and jasmine aplenty; countless tiers of garden overflow with foliage, sculptures and pure character. They’re perfect for relaxing strolls, or even to enjoy a spot of meditation!
Wearing: Melissa Odabash maxi dress, from www.beachcafe.com
Wearing: Pily Q bikini, from www.beachcafe.com
– Breakfast: This is a danger zone if you’re not careful as the hotel puts on a wide spread of all the delicious french pastries for which the country is so well known – the freshly baked chocolate & almond croissant proving a particular favourite for me 🙂 However if you have the will and discipline you can also order a full spread of healthy and nutritious foods, including the ‘active escape staples’ of egg white omelet with fresh vegetables, nuts-and-seeds self-made muesli, scrambled eggs & tomato, steamed veggies, fresh fruit platters etc.
Cappucino in the cutest Chèvre D’Or (golden goat) cups
– The Restaurants – There are 5 venues to choose from (the most gastronomic of which is covered in the section below), but for that ultimate sensation of blissful Mediterranean relaxation, my favourite has to be Le Café Du Jardin, pictured below. The serenity of the view fills you with a sensation akin to heaven, draining the limbs of all their fatigue, and inflating the lungs with clear, naturally-perfumed Riviera air. Fresh, grilled fish and vegetables are the staple diet here; it’s an uncomplicated, unfussy and clean type of cuisine, certainly for the healthier traveler, and it served as my little slice of heaven each lunchtime 🙂
– The Spa – There are some unique facilities here. A sauna perched on the cliff-edge; a Jacuzzi with a view; treatment areas in their own secluded garden tiers. Like the rest of the hotel, it’s full of inimitable charm and is very much a must-visit!
– Massage Facility – Possibly the most beautifully set-up massage I’ve ever had. The venue is a modest linen tent, hundreds of meters over the sea overlooking the most fantastic view. Coastal winds sweep through the tent allowing for a beautifully comfortable breeze. Combined with the sports-massage expert treatment of my body, the view and the breeze make this an unforgettable experience.
SECTION 3) THE FOOD:
– ‘Chèvre D’Or’ Restaurant: This restaurant is the key to why this entire institution is so internationally renowned, in my view. The titular restaurant, so called for the full-size golden goat residing majestically outside the large glass viewing panes, is two Michelin-starred, and professes a meticulous, even fastidious attention to detail – which is what makes the place so special. Nothing is left to chance; everything is measured, purposeful, significant. The whole experience is art; the dishes are art, the presentation is art, the table layout is art, the menu is art, the art is art. Ronan Kervarrec, the executive chef, oversees the use of freshly sourced local ingredients, and includes them carefully and thoughtfully in the dishes, in a stunning display of edible beauty. This exceptional venue has been serving up culinary innovation since 1954, and one of the dishes I was fortunate to enjoy was the ‘Local Baby Vegetables’ entrée, composed of raw and steamed veggies, with a red wine Barolo vinegar on a bed of Sicilian Caponata. Needless to say the flavours and textures amazed, proving more than the sum of their baby-vegetable parts. For me, it really brought to light how delicious and exciting healthy eating and the greenery of nature can be! Beyond that, the presentation was utterly spectacular – a delightful piece of fine artistry, almost too fabulous to eat… almost! Of particular note as well is The Creation dessert, which is somewhat of a masterpiece – their vision of a lemon tart, deconstructed and then repurposed to look precisely like an actual lemon on your plate, but entirely edible, fascinating in cross-section, and wholly rewarding for both mind and mouth!
SECTION 4) THE SERVICE & ROUND-UP:
It’s something of a hallmark of hotels bearing the Relais & Chateaux nameplate; you’re guaranteed the certainty of discreet professionalism that’s always helpful, and never imposing. Upon arrival I was greeted by all members of the front-of-house staff including the manager and assistant manager; they knew who I was, not from the blog, but because they’re seamlessly coordinated (informed by the staff who took my luggage at the front gate). They led me to the terrace for a drink whilst my room was prepared (I was very early to check in), and they generally looked after my every request in as polite, and courteously attentive way. There was no special treatment for me – this is just how they are. Everything is done to promote your tranquility and ease…
Long floaty blush-pink kaftan from www.CharoRuiz.com
The Chateau de la Chèvre D’Or is welcoming, friendly, warm, playful, oozes a charming character, is steeped in history, and renders you curious to discover more. There are mysterious allusions to the medieval past mixed with quirky modern flourishes like a massive chess board; there are grand golden lion statues, and enough animal sculptures for it to be a de-facto tribute to Noah’s Ark! Everywhere you turn, you feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland. It totally invites you to explore, where you might fear that a ‘medieval village hotel’ would otherwise put you off! Topping that all off is the view, which is simply outrageous; there’s greenery everywhere, lush fertility erupting about the mountain-side, with the sweet smell of floral freshness in the air. There’s a similar heaven-like feeling to that you might experience in Anacapri; you’ve the sensation that you’re about to slip off the edge of the world, but not too much – just the right amount of compelling vertigo! Then there’s the exquisite azure blue of the ocean, guarding a perfect vantage point, overlooking all of Cap Ferrat. Nowhere else along this coastline can offer such a visual spectacle, and to complement that, the human side of the hotel does full justice to that natural beauty. A trip would be well worth it!