I have always loved the idea of a Babymoon, one last holiday with your partner where you can enjoy a few days of glorious sun and relaxation before the sleepless nights and life as you know it becomes a thing of the past, and what better place to basque in this pre-baby bliss than the romantic French Riviera.
Just a 20 minute drive from Nice airport and an even shorter drive from the glitz and glamour of Cannes and Monte Carlo is the medieval town of Mougins, nestled high up on a hillside. This enchanting town on The French Riviera was the final resting place of artist Pablo Picasso and is lined with cobbled streets full of art galleries, boutiques and authentic French eateries. Within this captivating town lies the 5-star Le Mas Candille, a beautiful 18th century farmhouse building set amongst 14 acres of lush gardens with spectacular views of the Alps.
As we approached along the sweeping driveway, the incredible view unfolded before our eyes and we instantly knew we had arrived somewhere special. Wandering through the beautiful, secluded grounds surrounded by old olive tress we couldn’t help but feel all our stress begin to melt away. With 3 swimming pools, an outdoor gym, an award-winning Shiseido spa and a relaxation garden, the property really is a haven of tranquility.
The property offers 45 rooms located across 3 buildings. ‘Le Mas’, originally an old farmhouse, is the main part of the hotel and has a traditional Provence feel with 19 bedrooms. ‘Le Bastide’, a converted barn, offers 19 uniquely decorated rooms and 1 suite, each with their own private terrace. Finally, there is ‘Le Villa Candille’, which offers 6 large contemporary suites with their own outdoor seating areas. All the rooms are slightly different but equally lovely so it all depends on what you are looking for. We spent our 3 nights in ‘Le Bastide’. Our room was tastefully decorated with a huge double bed, lovely marble bathroom featuring a large shower and bath tub and a terrace where we enjoyed drinking our morning tea while gazing out over the peaceful gardens. Located next to ‘Le Bastide’ is the infinity pool and pergola restaurant where you can spend lazy days swimming in the pool and working on your tan, all the while enjoying that spectacular view. In the Summer months the pool-side restaurant offers Mediterranean cuisine and light snacks all day long, so you don’t need to venture far to get some excellent food.
We enjoyed most of our evening meals at the Michelin star restaurant run by head chef David Chauvac. The restaurant and terrace are located in the main building and take the meaning of ‘dining with a view’ to a whole new level. As you step outside onto the terrace you are greeted by an astonishing panorama of the Alps and neighboring Grasse which never failed to impress us and really made us feel privileged to be sitting there enjoying it. As the sun sets and the light fades in the sky, it is replaced with stars and the twinkling of the distant city lights which are equally mesmerising. Al Fresco dining with a breath taking view is only the start of this gastronomic experience. Each course of exquisitely presented food was a taste-sensation, with dishes such as pan fried sea bass that melts in your mouth, flash seared langoustine and a mackerel to die for, we were in complete food heaven. All this was followed by such an impressive selection of the most delicious cheeses and indulgent deserts it was a miracle we ever made it off our sun loungers, but every delicious mouthful is worth it.
Luckily for us, the hotel has the most fantastic trainer so we took advantage of this by joining some early morning Pilates classes which were brilliant. They take place in the relaxation garden, which looks out over that blissful view, and were gentle enough that we didn’t feel like we were working out but challenging enough that they eased the guilt of all the indulgent food we were eating. There is also a fabulous outdoor gym if you want to do some light weight training or cardio but a daily swim in one of the three pools was more than enough exercise for me! If all this talk of exercise is tiring you out then let me tell you about the award-winning Sheisedo spa. The spa offers a holistic experience of relaxation with five treatment rooms, one relaxation room, an outdoor hydrotherapy pool, jacuzzi and sauna as well as the outdoor fitness centre. They offer a wide selection of treatments such as the full body massage that I enjoyed. I can definitely say that this was one of the most relaxing experiences of my life, my therapist had to wake me up at the end as I had nodded off.
With all the relaxing and pampering you can experience at the hotel you would be forgiven for thinking that you have no reason to leave the grounds, but the area is too spectacular not to go off and explore. Just a few minutes walk further up the hill from Le Mas Candille and you will find yourself in the heart of Mougins, one of the pretties little towns I have ever seen. On each of its cobbled lanes you will discover something new; an art display, a museum or even a quaint brasserie. There is a fantastic museum, Musee d’Art Classique, which showcases works by artists who spent time in Mougins such as Francis Picabia, Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso as well as an impressive collection of Roman, Greek and Egyptian artefacts. It is also home to the largest private collections of Greek and Roman armoury. The museum really is an art-lovers paradise, but even if you aren’t that into your art it is still a fascinating museum and definitely worth a visit. Another gallery which I highly recommend is the one belonging to artist Marion Burkle. Marion’s beautiful sculptures are dotted around the property as Le Mas Candille so we were delighted when we stumbled upon her gallery in Mougins. In addition to galleries and museums there is also an abundance of authentic French restaurants in case you fancy eating away from the hotel one night. We had a fantastic meal at Le Mediterranee Brasserie. We ate here on our last night and it was wonderful, the filet steak was cooked to perfection and the garlic and scallop risotto was incredible, not to mention the exquisite Langoustine ravioli we had to start and the mouth watering pear tiramisu we shared for desert.
If you want to venture a little further afield, Mougins is just a 10 minute drive away from the excitement of nearby Cannes or a 20 minute drive to Monte Carlo, so you can easily spend a day or evening exploring the glamorous boutiques and bars. If shopping and bars isn’t your thing then why not take a boat over to Saint Honorat Island where you can visit the monks and their vineyard? It takes just 15 minutes by boat from Cannes and is the perfect opportunity to admire all the luxury yachts sailing around on the crystal blue water. The island is really fascinating, you could spend hours wandering around learning about the history of the monks and the Abbey whist taking in the beautiful scenery of the vineyards and ruins. They even have a lovely restaurant overlooking the sea and back to Cannes or you could pick up some delectable treats from one of the many boulangeries in Cannes and bring your own picnic to enjoy in a shady spot under one of the old palm trees.
Another highlight for us was visiting Fragonard in nearby Grasse, one of the oldest perfume distilleries in France. Here you get to take a free guided tour around the factory where you will see workers blending and bottling the perfume and you will learn all about the history of perfume making. We also chose to do their perfume making workshop which lasts around 2 hours and was so much fun. In the workshop, we got to mix up our own unique fragrance, which I just love, and now every time I smell it I am reminded of our magical trip to The French Riviera.
However you decide to fill your days, it will be difficult for Le Mas Candille not to steal your heart, it is one of those special places that you will want to come back to again and again.
Prices at Le Mas Candille start from €185 per night, you can view all the rates and packages on their website www.lemascandille.co.uk