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THE VACATION REPORT ESCAPE TO THE RIVIERA

From its romantic origins to its setting amongst some of Saint-Tropez’s most celebrated sites, the enigmatic Hotel Byblos is an alluring spot steeped in history.

Words by Florent Gilles.

The first luxury hotel to have opened in the village of Saint-Tropez, Hotel Byblos (byblos.com/en) is something of an enigma. On one hand, it caters to the well-heeled travellers in search of peace and quiet, while on the other it throws the most excessive parties down at the Les Caves du Roy (lescavesdyroy.com), its iconic star-studded club where the vintage Dom Perignon flows into the night.

Le Byblos, as the locals call it, was named after the Lebanese town where Aphrodite locked eyes with Adonis. As you walk into the outdoor lobby, the smell of roses intensifies and you’re greeted by a piece of art by French ceramicist Roger Capron, who studied under Picasso. Capron’s work depicts Zeus taking away Europa – one of the many affairs he had according to Greek mythology.

Main entrance, Hotel Byblos
Restaurant Cucina
A street in Saint-Tropez
The Spa at Hotel Byblos

Designed to blend with its surroundings in a colour palette of dusty pink and warm terracotta, Hotel Byblos was built in the late 1960s by the Lebanese businessman, Jean-Prosper Gay-Para, who had a romantic interest in Brigitte Bardot. At the time, the French style icon had put Saint-Tropez on the global map with the 1957 film And God Created Woman, which used the fisherman’s village as a backdrop. Plot twist: Bardot turned out to be already taken and possibly unbothered, war broke out in Lebanon and the Byblos ownership shifted, landing into the hands of a family-owned group. Then came Mick and Bianca Jagger’s wedding in 1971, which thrust the hotel and the village into the global spotlight.

LEFT: Vacationing in Saint-Tropez. RIGHT: Brigitte Bardot at club Les Caves du Roy
LEFT: Grace Jones at Hotel Byblos, 1977. RIGHT: Mick Jagger at the hotel

These days, the decor and the service alike are never loud and everything is designed to make you feel at home. ‘The family vibe is what sets us apart from your average Parisian palace,’ I’m told over breakfast by Christophe, the hotel’s charismatic general manager. As for Kate Moss, he continues, ‘she recently went for the ultra-sleek Missoni suite and its famous rainbow-coloured zigzag-printed interiors, to celebrate her daughter’s birthday.’ During my stay, Selena Gomez was rumoured to have been staying in one of the suites, fresh from her Cannes debut for the premiere of her latest film The Dead Don’t Die.

Le Byblos’ interiors are an artisanal masterclass, with tiled floors, cool white walls and woodwork. Some of the top-floor suites offer vistas of the Saint-Tropez village and each of 91 rooms has a distinct style and personality. On the ground floor, mine featured a double balcony overlooking a lush, fragrant garden. This is the kind of place you want to retire to in order to write your memoirs.

Suite Missoni, Hotel Byblos
Suite Missoni, Hotel Byblos
Duplex Room, Hotel Byblos

People say the surest way to rate any hotel food is to order the club sandwich, but I go for the responsibly sourced brown bass at The B (byblos.com/en/prestations/b-restaurant). Fruit and vegetables here are locally sourced from a producer a few kilometres away, while aromatics are picked directly from the hotel’s own herb garden. Tables face the main patio, where you can only imagine summer romances and decadent parties have unfolded. Then there’s the pool, once a location for fashion shoots by the likes of Helmut Newton.

Heroing its culinary excellence, the hotel has launched a new seasonal restaurant on a secluded beach in the neighbouring village of Ramatuelle, Byblos Beach. The real stars there are on the plate, from vibrant octopus, avocado and citrus salad to the local specialty known as the Tropézienne, an unapologetically oversized vanilla cream-filled pastry. But all good things must come to an end, and this ephemeral restaurant and beach club are destined to disappear come the end of each summer, giving the beach back to nature until the following year.

Restaurant Cucina
Byblos Beach, Hotel Byblos
Byblos Beach, Ramatuelle Hotel

Beyond the walls of Le Byblos, Saint-Tropez has countless postcard moments in store for visitors. Walk along the famous port and head to the Place des Lices (18 Boulevard Vasserot, 83990 Saint-Tropez), a short stroll from the hotel, where Saturday markets offer local crafts and delicious fresh produce while players dispute endless games of pétanque in the afternoon. Lose yourself in the cobbled streets down to La Ponche, the oldest tip of the village ornated with yellow and orange-coloured seafront buildings. Book a table at Cucina (byblos.com/prestations/cucina-byblos), an Italian concept launched by French culinary virtuoso Alain Ducasse, for a colourful meal best enjoyed on its romantic tree-lined terrace. Climb up to the high point that is the Citadelle de Saint-Tropez, a fortress built in the 17th century to protect the village from invaders. Enjoy the garden surrounding the adjacent Maritime Museum (1 Monté de la Citadelle, 83990 Saint-Tropez) and take in the stunning views of the bay, only to reward yourself with a glass of rosé or a pastis at the port on the terrace at Sénéquier (senequier.com), one of the landmark cafes on the boardwalk.

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photographs: Claude Dronsart, Edward Quinn, 4 corners, shutterstock

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