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There's something wild about you child That's so contagious Let's be outrageous Let's misbehave!!! Those frivolous lyrics from Cole Porter’s Let’s Misbehave might very well have epitomized the mood on the Côte d’Azur when the song was published in 1927. Not only was he penning the song, but quite possibly Porter was working through it while he hung out with Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald at their rented Villa Saint-Louis on the shore of a scenic cove on the west side of the iconic Cap d’Antibes. The Fitzgeralds loved partying with their Jazz Age friends. The semi-Bohemian crowd included wealthy Americans and visiting artists, writers and hangers-on. Picasso, Hemingway, Cocteau, John Dos Passos, Gertrude Stein and Dorothy Parker were just a few of the regulars. Porter was a fixture at the piano in the music room of Villa Saint-Louis, overlooking the shimmering Mediterranean. From all accounts, notably captured in Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, along with letters, journal entries and recorded memories by others in the Roaring Twenties, the French Riviera was rather a wild place to be. It was also, and continues to be, a fabled coastline of incomparable beauty and light that inspires artists to settle there and create. Since 1929 the privately-owned Villa Saint-Louis has been known as Hôtel Belles Rives. At the time it was the only hotel on the water along the Côte d’Azur. And since 2001, the gracious thirdgeneration owner, Marianne Estène- Chauvin has guided her beloved 5-star, 43-room gem with a clear desire to keep the best of the Fitzgerald years alive. Credit Hotel Belles Rives The atmosphere becomes electric the instant one steps into the elegant and welcoming lobby of this gracious Art Deco mansion with its unique ornate elevator. Black and white photos of Fitzgerald, his tormented wife Zelda, and their daughter Scottie, holidaying here, hang on the walls. A predominately placed marble plaque quotes a letter he wrote to Hemingway: “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.”
One imagines the author peering out over the sun-kissed bay, “the fairy blue sea” as he described. His gaze would continue across to the hills of the Massif de l’Estérel to the west of Cannes, perhaps searching for his muse. He penned much of Tender is the Night during his stay of almost two years and drew inspiration for his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. Credit Hotel Belles Rives It’s no surprise that room number 50, the Fitzgerald room, must be booked well in advance. However, each room in the Belles Rives offers a level of comfort and tasteful decorating that befits a member of the Small Luxury Hotels Of The World group. The blue-striped awnings are one of many details that have remained consistent through almost a century. The Fitzgerald Bar off the lobby entices the visitor. The stunning art, grand piano, and authentic Art Deco styling … leather bar, mirrored tabletops, leopard-patterned upholstery … offer an intimate and elegant invitation to linger. The panoramic view across Golfe-Juan and the Baie de Cannes creates its magic no matter what the hour. Sunsets, it must be said, are often unforgettable. Step through the French doors to the terrace and into what might justly be described as Riviera bliss. A broad patio beckons with lush potted palms, umbrella-shaded tables topped with crisp white linen and Art Deco light fixtures. The electric blue accent color mimics shades of the azure sea. Another flight of steps leads to the water and other elegant dining areas, carrying on the blue and white theme so complimentary to the Mediterranean setting.
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