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Usually I’m not one for making a fuss for my birthday. To be honest, I often find birthdays a bit disappointing, especially if you decide to throw a party and you find most of your friends can’t make it. So usually I keep it low key – a quiet dinner with a couple of close friends or something along those lines.
But since 30 is a landmark birthday and kind of a big deal, I decided I wanted to celebrate in style, preferably in the sunshine on a beach. Some people feel bit down about turning 30, but not me – I feel quite glad to say goodbye to my 20s and welcome the maturity and wisdom I’m gaining as I get older. With that in mind, I wanted to celebrate this new chapter by feeling awesome and embrace my travelling spirit.
I weighed up the options – perhaps a trip to Tulum in Mexico? A Caribbean Cruise? In the end I opted to spend a week in the South of France – a place that I have really fond childhood memories of. My parents used to take me holidaying on the French Riviera as a child, visiting places like Cannes, Nice and Menton. I ventured back to the Cote d’Azur in 2012 and fell in love all over again, so this seemed like the obvious choice.
I chose to stay at the Hotel Belles Rives, a property in Juan-les-Pins that is part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. This property is rather famous for its connections with American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald – inventor of the jazz age and author of the Great Gatsby. Not only does the hotel boast a gorgeous location on the beach in Juan-les-Pins, it also has a Michelin-starred restaurant called La Passagère. Perfect for turning 30 in style on the French Riviera!
Inside the Hotel Belles Rives there’s a plaque that reads “With our being back in a nice villa on my beloved Riviera (between Nice and Cannes) I’m happier than I’ve been for years. It’s one of those strange, precious and all too transitory moments when everything in one’s life seems to be going well.” This quote was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and gives an insight into the interesting history of this hotel.
In 1925 Fitzgerald and his wife packed their bags for the French Riviera and fell in love with a villa called Villa Saint-Louis on the Cap d’Antibes. Here he wrote his masterpiece Tender is the Night and transformed the villa into a resort for wealthy Americans who would enjoy lavish parties – parties that eventually became the inspiration for The Great Gatsby. In 1929 a gentleman named Boma Estène took over from the Fitzgeralds and turned the villa into the Hotel Belle Rives, the first hotel along the water in the Cote D’Azur.
The rich history of this hotel can be seen in the Art Deco design, which gives a nod to the glamorous jazz era of the roaring twenties. There’s even an original elevator with sliding shutters – and although it takes a while, it’s all part of the experience. For two days I had a glimpse of what life was like in that glorious era, soaking up the sun on the Cote d ‘Azur and sipping cocktails in the opulent Fitzgerald Piano Bar.
My sea view room had a balcony with views over the terrace and the turquoise blue ocean. I loved waking up in the morning, opening the curtains and looking out at the view! Rooms are chic and well appointed, with flat screen TV, air conditioning (essential in summer!), wardrobes, mini bar, phone and safety deposit box. The bathroom had a bath with shower over the top, along with a hair dryer and amenities from Penhaligon’s of London.
One of my favourite things about staying at Hotel Belles Rives was the breakfast out on the terrace – “Le Bistrot Terrasse”. It’s incredibly peaceful out here and the views are to die-for, so I was happy to have a very leisurely breakfast in the morning. Breakfast is buffet-style, so you can help yourself to cheese, cured meats, French pastries, fruit, yoghurt, cereal and hot items like bacon and eggs.
On my 30th birthday we dined at La Passagère – a Michelin-starred seafood restaurant inside the hotel. The indoor part of the restaurants, but since it was so warm we ate on the terrace. The menu is prepared by Chef Aurélien Véquaud, while the desserts are from Pastry Chef Steve Moracchini, who was awarded the 2016 Pastry Chef of the Year from Gault & Millau. There’s an a la carte menu along with tasting menus – we decided to opt of the “Adventure Menu” where you have no idea what you’ll be getting.
We enjoyed seven innovative courses based on chef inspiration, including marinated sea bass with red cabbage, blood orange and ginger and oysters with jelly, mascarpone, lemon and caviar. I tried to write it all down, but I was too busy eating. Plus, looking back at my notes I can barely read my own handwriting (I blame constantly typing on a computer!). The setting of this restaurant is truly fabulous, perfect for a special occasion.
A 30th to Remember
I may be 30 now but I certainly don’t feel any different, just another day older. I may not have done everything on my 30 things to do before 30 list, but I feel positive about life and where I am heading.
I definitely won’t forget my 30th birthday in a hurry and I’m glad I chose to spend it in a place that means so much to me. The Hotel Belle-Rives is definitely a chic and glamorous hotel with a prime spot on one of the best beaches on the French Riviera. I know I’ll be back to this part of the world someday!