BRAD Pitt, Leeds United, Granny Smith, pétanque and Picasso. My stay at Le Mas Candille in the South of France certainly delivered a curious cocktail (all will be revealed).
After a smooth flight from Edinburgh to Nice, we arrived in the picturesque village of Mougins – home to Le Mas Candille – a 20-minute drive along the French Riviera.
One of the treasures of the Côte d’Azur, Mougins has earned world renown for its art galleries, exhibitions and workshops, and for former resident Pablo Picasso, who spent the last 15 years of his life admiring and capturing the wonderful landscape in his own inimitable way before his death in 1973.
If there was such a thing as an “A-list” in those days, then the Spanish artistic genius would surely have topped it, and in 2014 the area remains a regular haunt for modern-day celebrities, drawn by the discreet, soothing surroundings, especially when the Cannes Film Festival rolls into town.
When the film stars and their entourages search for suitably grand accommodation for the gathering of the beautiful people, Le Mas Candille – a stunning five-star hotel just 7km from Cannes and an ideal base for exploring the French Riviera – is always in demand.
The hotel’s English-born owner, Mark Silver, drops casually into conversation over a coffee that Brad Pitt has been among his guests. Famous people come and go all year round at Le Mas Candille, and during their stay attention with discretion is guaranteed. Every guest gets the same five-star treatment, as I am pleased to testify.
In its rich history, Le Mas Candille has been a vineyard, a Napoleonic bivouac and an olive farm, before it was transformed into a hotel in the 1960s. But since 1999, when Silver bought and renovated the hotel, it has gone from strength to strength in terms of prestige and reputation, now boasting 46 gracefully designed rooms, including seven suites.
Our comfortable, spacious room opened on to a balcony with stunning mountain views offering a long and lingering vista towards the foothills of the Alps.
After chilling out in the room, I enjoyed a treatment at the hotel’s award-winning Shiseido Spa. With five treatment cabins, each with its own external Japanese relaxation garden, the spa also has a Jacuzzi, hydrotherapy pool, sauna and fitness area.
As a pasty Scotsman with feet gnarled by years of football and running, it’s safe to say I am not naturally comfortable being pampered in such a beautiful environment, but I was made to feel immediately at ease and loved every minute of the massage before I returned fully relaxed to my room.
Before arguably the highlight of our stay – dinner in Le Mas Candille’s Michelin-starred (nine consecutive years and counting) restaurant – we managed to make like the French and squeeze in a game of pétanque in a gravel pit nestled within the nine-acre grounds, and then it was time for the tastebuds to be treated by head chef Serge Gouloumès.
The first two courses in the intimate restaurant had already staked a claim for the best dining experience of my life, but the dessert was the clincher. What at first sight looked like a shiny Granny Smith apple was gloriously revealed to be a masterpiece packed full of caramelised apple encased in the thinnest of chocolate shells. Amazing to both the eye and the palate.
We also had the chance to explore the elegant hilltop village of Mougins, a short stroll from Le Mas Candille. Packed with vibrant galleries and restaurants, you are struck by how peaceful a place it is.
The same serenity extends to Le Mas Candille, and while we were packed and away before the Cannes Film Festival began, we had enjoyed an insight into the glamour and luxury of the area. Le Mas Candille is clearly one of the Riviera’s flagship hotels, and I can only lavish praise on the wonderfully attentive but unobtrusive staff who made our stay as sweet as that unforgettable Granny Smith.
• Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) flies from Edinburgh to Nice up to five times a week, starting from £27.74 per person one-way.
• Le Mas Candille, Boulevard Clément Rebuffel, 06250 Mougins (tel: + 33 (0)4 92 28 43 43, www.lemascandille.co.uk). A classic room for two adults costs from £211 a night, but do check the website for special offers