Fancy pretending you're Fifties film stars? Villa Marie Saint Tropez is the perfect place, in a peaceful pine forest on a pretty hillside in Ramatuelle (obliging staff will go along with the fantasy). Bohemian style, a relaxed-to-horizontal feel, gorgeous grounds and a clever chef are just a snapshot of the hotel’s heavyweight charms. Of course, Saint Tropez’s beaches, bars and boutiques aren't bad either. This is the Riviera at its most ravishing.
Noon; earliest check-in, 4pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £389.12 (€430), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €3.30 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually exclude the buffet breakfast (€32 a day for adults; €14 a day for children). Guests get free access to the wellness centre.
Should walking to the spa seem a tad onerous, request treatments in your room.
The hotel is closed from 8 October 2017 until May 2018.
At the hotel
Gorgeous gardens; free WiFi. In rooms: TV, minibar, Pure Altitude bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Survey the peaceful pine forest from one of the Villa Rooms, whose boons include four-poster beds and saucy open-plan bathrooms.
There’s a heated pool by the terrace (bring Riviera-worthy swimwear).
Unwind at the blissful Pure Altitude Spa, which is decorated with seashells and pops of turquoise. Soothe sun-kissed skin with the jasmine-packed after-sun treatment, or the Himalayan-rose regenerating ritual.
Bring threads befitting an A-lister’s yacht; some Acqua di Parma, perhaps.
Little Smiths are welcome, but beyond the basics, there aren’t many distractions for them. A ‘baby welcome kit’ can be added to rooms (€25 a day); an extra bed for under-11s can be added to Junior Suites and Suites (€80 a day).
Sit beside your fave plant pot or sea-surveying spot.
Understated Gallic glamour: silk, cashmere and lace.
Traditional Provençal cuisine is served in the elegant restaurant, Dolce Vita, which sprawls across a leafy, plant-graced veranda. Chef Cédric Luisin rustles up a brilliant bouillabaisse.
We love a bar in an utterly lovely garden: Villa Marie Bar is exactly that. Sit on one of the comfy sofas or the wrought-iron chairs, scattered with colour-pop cushions, and order something befitting Saint Tropez (champagne, one imagines). That said, the gin cocktails are pretty splendid too...
Drinks are served until 10pm in low season (May–June; September); midnight in high season (July and August). Dinner is available until 9.30pm during low season; 10.30pm, in high.
No hunger pangs here: you’ll be fed around the clock. Order hot options to your room during the restaurant’s opening hours; snacks are on offer in the afternoon; cold meals can be requested throughout the night.
The hotel enjoys a prime location: it’s perched on a scenic hill facing iconic Pampelonne Bay, home to Saint Tropez’s longest, most popular and famous beach.
Toulon-Hyeres National Airport is the closest to the hotel, an hour’s drive (www.toulon-hyeres.aeroport.fr/en). Nice International Airport serves more destinations, but it’s 90 minutes away by car (http://en.nice.aeroport.fr). Smith24 can arrange transfers; just give them a call.
Frejus-St Raphaël station is 38 kilometres from the hotel (a 50-minute drive), with SNCF services connecting to Paris, Avignon, Geneva and other destinations.
At the first set of traffic lights as you enter Saint Tropez, take the right turn toward Route des Plages–Ramatuelle. Continue for two kilometres, then take the first right after the sign for Chemin Val de Rian. Continue for one kilometre and you’ll reach Villa Marie.
The hotel’s pine-forest location can make it a bit tricky to find. If you’re relying on Google Maps, type in ‘Hotel Villa Marie, Chemin de Val de Rian, Ramatuelle’. On a mobile phone or mobile GPS, use: ‘Route des Marres, Ramatuelle’. If you’re using your car’s GPS, use the following coordinates: latitude : 43.245763; longitude : 6.638722. Confused? Call the hotel when you’re close and they’ll guide you.
Worth getting out of bed for
Relax by the pool, soaking up those views (and that sunshine); treat yourselves to a spa treatment or two. Get lost – on purpose – in the gardens, and only come out of hiding for the bar. Hire a bike or scooter and gad about Pampelonne Beach and Saint Tropez, with help from Blue Bikes, at Route des Plages 43 ZA, Saint Claude. Treat your taste buds to a wine tasting in the grand surrounds of Chateau Minuty, on Route de la Berle, in Gassin. Live the high life on a yacht – for a day at least – by chartering your own vessel. Head into Saint Tropez, surely the world’s trendiest fishing village, and fish for big-name garms. Reward your thirst with sunset cocktails at the famous Sénéquier. Throw some moves at the Plage des Palmiers beach club before soaking up Saint Tropez’s legendary nightlife.
Les Caprice des Deux(+33 (0)4 94 97 76 78) at 40 rue du Portail Neuf promises to deliver: ‘all of Provence at your table’. Come hungry then. In its 20-odd years, this family-run restaurant has regularly added to its awards cabinet. Seafood-fans will fit right in atLe Girelier(+33 (0)4 94 97 03 87), which serves plumptious prawns, toothsome tuna and moreish mussels – with a generous portion of portside views from its perch at Quai Jean Jaurès. For a meal with added romance – courtesy of a candlelit patio – dine at Le Strand, below the Citadelle at 2 rue du Petit Bal (+33 (0)4 94 97 43 22). Le Strand’s not-so-secret weapons include a champagne bar and late-night menu. Not to mention the summer truffle salad, morel mushroom macaroni and unmissable Nutella mousse...
There’s much to be said about the famed Riviera glamourpuss St Tropez. Its storied history can’t help but inspire anticipation and excitement on your first visit. After all, one can’t imagine St Tropez without thinking of Brigitte Bardot – the starlet who put this beautiful French retreat on the map. As I packed for our honeymoon – specifically this stop on our trip – I made sure to pack a white bikini and dramatic sunglasses. I can say that both came in quite handy.
Boutique hotel Villa Marie Saint Tropez was the second stop on our honeymoon road trip, and as we drove through the windy wooded hills of Ramatuelle, we were almost reminded of the backroads to our vacation home in Cape Cod. After having spent time in more manicured parts of the country, it was so refreshing to be out in the wild – to a point. We cruised from coastal Italy into France’s riviera route, which led to new landscapes and a certain…je ne sais quoi. While Italy was vivaciously coloured, France was painted in more subtle – yet nonetheless captivating – hues. We saw the gates to what must be immensely grand villas as we drove through the hills to the hotel – a discretion we found incredibly charming.
Villa Marie is located at the top of a hill, with pristine views of Pampelonne Bay. Check-in was seamless, and the staff greeted us with such warmth when welcoming us into the property. We were visiting over low season, in late September, and it felt like we had the place to ourselves. After a small tour of the property, with more of those awe-inspiring aspects along the way, we were shown to our room.
We were tired from our drive, but not so much so that we couldn’t spend some time marvelling at how well-appointed and glamorous our room was. First things first, we decided to take a long soak in the beautiful freestanding bath tub. My husband opened the bottle of rosé the hotel had left for us in the room (hello, honeymoon perks…), we scooped a few bath salts in and washed the drive away. We could easily have lingered, but managed to get out of the tub in time to watch the sunset over the Mediterranean from our private patio. Having a private space was very much appreciated – after all, swanning around Villa Marie’s lush grounds, listening to birdsong as the sun goes down is all the more soothing when you do it wrapped in just a robe. And, after having spent a few nights on a stiff Italian mattress, the plush bed and pillows felt immensely comforting and were perhaps the best treat of all.
In the morning we woke with the sun and made our way to breakfast, where we found we were in fact not the only hotel guests. We dined on delicious pastries, made to order omelettes, and fresh yoghurts and fruit. Even when other guests have come out of hiding, Villa Marie radiates a sense of serenity. We eventually made our way down to Pampelonne Beach, guided by the concierge. An afternoon at legendary restaurant Le Club 55 was not to be missed; it’s been feeding the fabulous since before director Roger Vadim secured Bardot’s star status in And God Made Women (filmed closeby), and has served royalty and A-listers over the years. We enjoyed watching the club’s boat bring guests in for lunch from incredibly beautiful yachts anchored in the distance. After a day in the sun with some prime people watching, we enjoyed a stroll around old St Tropez, including a little shopping at Rondini (for the best leather sandals in the world) and a sampling of tarte tropézienne (possibly the best tart in the world…).
We made the drive back to the hotel – only a 15-minute trip – and, after a snooze in the shade by the pool and another soak in the tub, it was time for dinner at the villa’s Dolce Vita restaurant. We sat outside on the terrace under the stars and watched the sun set with glasses of wine. The food was magnificent – my husband had a salad with so much truffle that its scent wafted across the table, which was wonderful. And my sole fillet was not only cooked to perfection, but it was presented on an elegant silver platter and deboned table side. Unlike the brashness of the service you receive in Paris, here it was slick, attentive and generous. And – handily, for my husband’s sake – bi-lingual. The decadence of our meal alongside the ravishing natural surroundings and the staff’s kindness made for a perfect romantic evening.
We took off early the next morning to reach Provence, and check-out was seamless, as expected by now, even if it was hard to tear ourselves away. And the service proved pitch perfect till the very end: Loïc pulled our car around, making sure we had cold water for the drive, loaded our bags, and sent us off through the winding hills and vineyards of the South of France.