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Hôtel Martinez, Cannes

by Irvina Lew

Nov 4, 2019

Ronald Bouman | Dreamstime.com

Luxury

Cannes, the glamorous city on the Cote d’Azur, may be best known for its famed film festival, held each May; actually, long before the Riviera became a summer destination, well-to-do northern Europeans wintered on the temperate coast. The joie de vivre spirit of the city was enhanced with the début of Hotel Martinez on the tree-lined, seafront Boulevard de la Croisette in 1929. Since then, the city has welcomed celebrities, the glitterati and the international elite, called Le Beau Monde.

 

Hotel Martinez, a plush 5-star, is open year-round. In winter, the skies are blue and — whether the weather is warm enough for a tee-shirt or cool enough to don a jacket and scarf — the nearby beaches, markets and museums (dedicated to Bonnard, Chagall, Matisse and Picasso) welcome visitors.

 

Eminent hotelier Emmanuel Martinez — an Italian noble of Spanish descent — was recruited to build the sprawling Art Deco palace with its high columns, grand reception rooms and centerpiece staircase that spirals up through the building. The swank venue suffered financially from the stock market crash and throughout the Depression. During World War II and the occupation — when locals in nearby hill communities actually died of starvation — the founder-creator was wrongfully accused of collaboration and the hotel became “off limits.” Martinez, who lost everything, died in 1973, one year before he was finally vindicated. Prestigious owners and operators managed the exclusive hotel until 2013, when it became affiliated with Hyatt Hotels; when Hyatt added an “upper-upscale” category for hotels in special and historic venues with award-winning restaurants in 2016, the Martinez became one of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt.

 

In 2018, the newly designed 409-room space created by famed designer Pierre-Yves Rochon reopened after major renovations. The décor retained many architectural details of the original Art Deco style and added contemporary furnishings, lots of white lacquer and a luxe yacht-inspired ambiance, which incorporates sunny yellows and blues from the sea and sky, for which the Cote d’Azur is named. Some of the 409 rooms, which include 99 suites, feature wrought-iron, seafront balconies, and the 18,000-square-foot penthouse suite on the seventh floor remains one of the largest in Europe.

 

Among the series of restaurants, the most notable is the gastronomic La Palme d’Or (the only Michelin two star in the city), where chef Christian Sinicropi showcases his culinary artistry on the ceramic plates he personally designs. The main restaurant, Le Jardin du Martinez with its landscaped, garden party-style terrace, fronts La Croisette and features regional Mediterranean cuisine.

 

I lunched in grand style at La Plage du Martinez, the spiffy and newly renovated and redecorated beach club across the street from the hotel. The seaside, fine-dining space had just opened for the 2019 season and attracted guests in executive dress, as well as beach wear. My spa-style lunch started with gazpacho. The waiter brought the bowl — half-filled with thinly-sliced raw vegetables, including red onion, tomato, cucumber, peppers and greens — and poured the chilled tomato broth over it from a carafe. The whole grilled fish was simply and perfectly prepared, with a bit of olive oil and lemon. For dessert, I chose my favorite berries; fruits rouges include strawberries, raspberries and red currants. My friend ordered an oh-so-haute steak frites — filet mignon and fries — which was pretty terrific too!

 

Hotel Martinez Pier, Mediterranean Sea. Photo: Benjamin Sibuet | Dreamstime.com

 

En route from the seventh floor elevator to the L. Raphael Spa — a 3,000-square-foot space dedicated to the holistic, Geneva-based beauty and wellness brand — I passed glamorous photographs of Natalie Wood with Warren Beatty and other film giants. Within the luxe, Art Deco-style reception room, French doors, adjacent to two sofas and a round love seat, open to a long, landscaped outdoor terrace, which feels like a deck on a cruise ship, with its chaise lounges, tables and chairs. Another door leads to the cabines — which includes a duo-suite and 10 treatment rooms — and a third to a fitness center and a changing room.

 

Services at the L.Raphael Beauty Spa in Cannes — and at a series of bespoke outposts from Almaty to Beverly Hills, New York and Tel Aviv — specialize in oxygen-based treatments and incorporate natural ingredients and scientifically advanced technology. Among the six signature treatments here, the Anti-Jet Lag service induces energy and rejuvenation. Mine, the Oxy Star Anti-Pigmentation Treatment started with a cleansing cream, an anti-wrinkle lotion and a serum and continued with a spray of carefully aimed oxygen. And, a series of services — including a back massage, facial, nail and hair “brushing” (a blow dry in France) — are geared to 10–16 year olds.

 

Even younger kids ride bikes and scooters along the wide promenade between the beachfront and La Croisette. And, depending upon the season, youngsters participate in a variety of beach and water sports, off the pier at La Plage or spend a few hours skiing in the Alps. From the hotel, you can walk, take a bus or taxi along the Croisette or on rue d’Antibes to the architecturally significant Town Hall, c. 1877, which overlooks the old port next to the Carousel. It’s adjacent to the narrow cobblestone streets of Le Suquet, which climbs the hillside, beyond the cafés to the Musée de la Castre, located within a medieval castle. Some families, who choose to sightsee along the coast without the bother of driving, board the train or the slow bus (No. 100) to Nice, Beaulieu or Monte Carlo.

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