I know we’ve all become rather blasé about the glories of air travel but there are times when you’re reminded just how amazing it is. It’s really rather fantastic to be able to hop on a plane and pitch up somewhere new and exciting and this happened to me just the other day when I left a chilly London and arrived in the South of France.
Just two hours from England but a world away from the every day is the unbelievably stunning Le Mas Candille, a five star hotel complete with a Michelin starred restaurant, multi-award winning spa and views that make your heart soar.
This picture perfect hideaway sits on the fringes of Mougins, one of the most wonderful villages on the Cote d’Azur so, as a destination for a super luxurious honeymoon or a fabulously decadent minimoon, it really doesn’t get any better than this.
And yet it does. In fact, it doesn’t just get better, it becomes utterly sublime. The hotel has 45 bedrooms, some in Le Mas, the original eighteenth century farmhouse, some La Bastide, sitting the gardens between the infinity pool and spa and some truly fantastic suites in La Villa Candille.
My room, in La Bastide was huge, deliciously comfortable and also had the most amazing views towards the foothills of the Alps. It would have been so easy to not move from my balcony for the whole trip.
But move I did because the three days I spent in total heaven at Le Mas Candille really showed me just how exceptional this area of France is. From the uber glam coastal resorts of St Tropez, Cannes, Nice and Monaco to the beautiful historic villages and the tranquil islands that are surrounded by clear blue waters, you can experience all that the Cote d’Azur has to offer when you stay at Le Mas Candille.
My first stop was the delightful town of Grasse, considered to be the world’s capital of perfume. I spent some time wandering the narrow streets and just soaking up the atmosphere of this lovely place. There are pretty squares with picturesque café terraces, vaulted passageways, tall shuttered houses, ancient buildings and wherever you go, there’s scent. Scented plants and flowers, scented shops and even during some times of the year, scent oozing into the streets from specially installed pumps. It’s a place where you could easily while away a happy day.
Whilst you’re in Grasse, you must visit one of the perfume houses or museums and I can thoroughly recommend Fragonard. This perfume house was born in Grasse in 1926 and today the original founder’s daughters are in charge. They welcome visitors to their museum and you can see behind the scenes and tour the perfumery. If you’re really lucky (and I was!), you can step into the private blending room and become a Perfumer’s Apprentice. This was a fantastic experience – I learned all about the ingredients, top notes and base notes and tested my own sense of smell before I made my very own eau de cologne. I left clutching my signature scent plus ‘Apprentice Parfumeur’ diploma with my nose alive to everything around me.
The next day dawned with blue skies and sunshine and after a brilliant breakfast at Le Mas Candille, I was on the road to Cannes to jump aboard a boat for the fifteen-minute trip to St Honorat. This little island (it’s just 1.5km long and 400m wide) is unique. Home to a small community of Benedictine monks, it’s also a renowned winery and the centre of the island is packed with vineyards producing, amongst others, Voignier, Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.
There have been monks on St Honorat for the last sixteen centuries and now, as the last community of monks producing wine in France, they make 40,000 bottles of high quality wine every year. The island welcomes visitors and you can wander around the vineyards that are full of pheasants, stroll along the paths alongside the sea, join the monks in church and visit the ancient fort and one of the seven chapels around the fringes of the island. There’s the scent of lavender and jasmine in the air and olive trees to shelter under if the sun gets too hot. It’s so incredibly peaceful that it’s hard to imagine that glitzy Cannes is so close.
I was treated to a wine tasting in one of the vineyards and can tell you for certain that all those centuries of practice have certainly paid off because the wines themselves are wonderful. From crisp Chardonnays to deep dark Shiraz and the range of liqueurs also made here, the quality is outstanding and it’s no surprise that bottles from St Honorat reside in the cellar at Le Mas Candille. If you’d like to treat yourself further, then book a table at the island’s restaurant La Tonnelle. Here, if you take a table outside, you can sit with your feet in the sand, your eyes on the sea and the sun on your face as you indulge in super fresh seafood and the creamiest Mozzarella I’ve ever tasted.
If you don’t fancy venturing too far from Le Mas Candille then make your way up the hill into the old town of Mougins. Picasso spent the last fifteen years of his life here and Christian Dior, Winston Churchill, Edith Piaf, Man Ray and Catherine Deneuve amongst others have fallen for its charm over the years. The main street is lined with lovely restaurants and cafes where you can stop for a café crème or something more substantial and, when you’re ready, make your way to Mougin’s Musee d’Art and prepare yourself for something brilliant.
Inside this converted house in the old village, you’re confronted with Roman, Greek and Egyptian antiquities that sit side by side with contemporary works. You’ll find Damian Hirst skulls and Matisse sketches next to Roman busts and Antony Gormley statues. Chagall pieces have homes alongside Egyptian artifacts and are watched over by mummy masks and sarcophagi (one of which was transported from Sweden in a submarine’s torpedo tube!). The museum’s famous ‘Venus’ cabinet contains works by Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Cezanne, Yves Klein and a two thousand year old marble bust. There are also works by Cocteau, Picasso, Rubens and Rodin. It’s amazingly intimate and full of treasures to discover but what makes it even more brilliant is that it all belongs to one private collector who wanted to share the things he loved with more people. I left astounded.
However, despite the undeniable attraction of all of these wonderful experiences, it was Le Mas Candille that left the deepest impression. From the moment I arrived, I felt at home, happy and deeply relaxed, as if a tightly wound spring was uncoiling. Everyone I met couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful and the service was always attentive without being too much. The hotel and grounds are perfection – beautifully in keeping with the area and beautifully designed – and luxurious details abound.
The Shiseido Spa was the first in Europe and it’s just divine. In addition to the other swimming pools at the hotel (including the amazing infinity pool), there’s also a hydrotherapy pool in the spa Japanese style garden as well as a Jacuzzi, sauna, relaxation area and open-fronted fitness centre that gives you the most astounding view you’ll ever have from your treadmill!
I was treated to a simply fabulous Shiseido facial in the spa and my goodness it was beautiful. My therapist worked miracles and I lay, warm and happy, for an hour floating blissfully in my own daydreams. As well as facials, the spa offers massages, beauty boosts and a range of exclusive signature treatments that will leave you looking and feeling fabulous.
But the highest of all the highlights of the trip for me was, without doubt, the food and culinary delights on offer at Le Mas Candille. As you would expect, fresh local produce features highly on the menus and I dined in the Michelin starred restaurant in the company of the hotel’s owner, feasting on roast asparagus, fillet of pike perch, stuffed baby cabbage leaves and a crunchy melting chocolate cake whilst sipping perfectly paired wines as the sun disappeared behind the horizon and the stars came out to play. It was a truly memorable evening.
However, if I thought that foodie treat couldn’t be beaten, I was wrong because the next morning, head chef David Chauvac took me on a trip to Marché Forville in Cannes were he gave a guided tour of all of the stalls, encouraged me to taste samples of fruits, vegetables, cheeses and meats and then, having asked what I liked, bought bagfuls of ingredients that would become lunch. This was a unique experience – wandering a French market with such a talented chef for company, stalls groaning with amazing produce in front of you and the colours, smells and sounds almost overwhelming you. It was superb.
Back at Le Mas Candille, David welcomed me into his kitchen and, as I stood next to him, stomach rumbling, he turned our purchases into a ten-course parade of delights right there. I ate, leaning against the work surfaces in the kitchen, feeling the heat of the burners, listening to the sizzling and slicing going on around me and it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Crisp courgette flowers, scallops with blette and crème Chantilly, mackerel with lemon oil garlic and asparagus, red mullet with a basil and broad bean butter on paper thin courgette ribbons, artichokes and fennel cooked in orange juice, langoustine and yellow tomatoes, a potato mousse, beef with turnip, goats cheese with olive puree and focaccia and finally summer berries with mini meringues and rose petals. Yes, I ate it all having seen it transformed before my eyes.
So when I made it aboard my flight home, I really couldn’t have been happier. I was happy that my days at Le Mas Candille had been so utterly perfect, happy that I’d experienced such amazing things and happy, deeply, wonderfully and truly happy.
Le Mas Candille is a stunning five star hotel that offers an eclectic blend of traditional architecture, contemporary details and service that matches attention with discretion. A member of Relais & Chateau, the hotel offers beautifully designed guest rooms, including seven suites, the first Shiseido Spa in Europe and a Michelin starred restaurant. Set in an eight-acre park, Le Mas Candille is a great base from this you can explore the French Riviera and it’s just 20 minutes by car from Nice airport.
To find out more about Le Mas Candille, do take a look at their website and start planning your getaway. You can also find Le Mas Candille on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram although I warn you now, the images will have you dreaming about a visit in no time.
Love Tamryn x
DISCLOSURE: Love My Dress were invited to attend Le Mas Candille as a guest with full travel and accommodation fees covered. The opinions expressed in this feature are Tamryn’s own, based on her personal experience. Love My Dress was not financially compensated for producing this feature. We would like to thank the staff at Le Mas Candille for this opportunity.