discreet retreats | france edition

In the digital age, literally everyone wants to log off and hide away for a while. Put down the phone, relax and get off-grid. But somewhere fantastic, of course. Discreet and chic.

Saint-Tropez might not be the first place in mind when it comes to thinking of a destination to totally log off, with the allures of the raucous beach clubs and infamous St. Tropez harbour where people stare at yachts and sailboats and sit in cafes to people watch. But a little drive away from the hubbub and urban frenzy of Saint Tropez is a very chic, Slim Aarons-esque hideaway. With only 34 rooms, Hotel Lou Pinet has a very intimate vibe. It feels more like a private residence than a hotel with a handful of terracotta-roofed villas that surround a gorgeous pool that is the heart of the hotel—the largest hotel pool in Saint-Tropez, fyi.

Owned by the family that founded the Maisons Pariente hotel group (which includes Crillon Le Brave, in Mont Ventoux, Le Coucou, on the slopes of Méribel and most recently, Le Grand Mazarin, in Paris), the family has a long love-affair and history with Saint-Tropez and aim to give guests a taste of the true vintage 60’s Saint-Tropez spirit.

Rooms celebrate the rustic roots and simpler times of a vintage Saint-Tropez with interior and furniture that reflects the region. Think colourful ceramics, linen, thick rope, pure cotton sheets and terracotta. Bright and airy, all rooms boast massive windows where you can view the gardens and swimming pool whilst sipping coffee in bed. Beachy bohemians at heart would feel right at home here. 

The pool, of course, is the star of the show and where you can switch off and while away the hours, lazing on the sunbeds beneath the red and white parasols, soaking up the sun, sounds and smells of the riviera. Whilst the hotel attracts families and couples, there’s a permanent tranquil vibe and serenity to the place, which is incredibly hard to find in hotels within the region. 

A step away from the swimming pool is a magical secret garden, where you can wander aimlessly down winding footpaths, soaking in the fragrances of lemon trees, fig trees, lavender and orange trees and discover wonderful sculptures by Tony Cragg and Ugo Rondinone that are set throughout the outdoor spaces.

We’re never too far away from the glamour (we are in Saint Tropez, of course) as the infamous and celebrity favourite BeefBar restaurant is located right on the hotel premises and is perfect when you need a dash of evening frivolity to balance the zen-like days. The menu is simple and refined, offering the fantastic meat cuts and classic summery Mediterranean-style dishes (think carpaccio, ceviche, pizza).

The strong Pariente family connection to the town explains why the place has such a homely feel. Even the reception feels like a lounge with its plush sofas and tons of vintage chess and backgammon boards. Lou Pinet invites guests to slow down, unwind and feel at home. You feel like you’re staying in a generous and eccentric friend’s house, rather than a traditional hotel. If you ever wanted to live out your best Alain Delon-Romy Schneider-Jane Birkin in La Piscine/The Swimming Pool life (if you know, you know), Hotel Lou Pinet fits the bill.

Schön! loves: the hammam and Tata Harper spa that can be found in a charming shaded little grotto situated at the edge of the Hotel.

When the weather gets too hot or if you desire a change of scenery, the French Provence is less than a three hour drive from Saint-Tropez. And if you fancy a taste of Provençal life (with wifi, of course) there’s another chic refuge from Maisons Pariente: Hôtel Crillon le Brave.

From the heady 60’s Saint Tropez vibes, we are kicking it way, way, WAY back into the 17th century. Occupying virtually all of a 17th-century village, Hôtel Crillon le Brave is perched on the foothills of Mont Ventoux. As you make your way up the mountain through the winding roads, it feels like you’re driving up to Dracula’s castle or a secret Poirot-esque mansion. Minus the vampirism and murder, of course.

Rather than loudly differentiate itself from the village, the hotel merges seamlessly within the ancient landscape. Because everything has remained in the original layout of the 17th century village, the hotel is spread between a maze of eight 17th and 18th century stone dwellings. Make sure to pack some sensible shoes as it’s a labyrinth to navigate. Everything—from the reception to the outdoor pool to the spa (which used to be the old stables) to the La Table du Ventoux where breakfast is served—is linked by leafy cobblestoned alleyways, winding stone steps, secret passageways and stunning courtyards.

Like Lou Pinet, rooms pay homage to its environment. It’s all very Provençal with terracotta flooring, exposed wooden beams, sprigs of dried herbs, natural materials and of course the charming antique knick knacks and paintings sourced by the Pariente family themselves. Even though the rooms are filled with romance and elegance, swing open the wooden shutters and it’s the insane views that really steal the show. There’s centuries of history soaked up within the walls of Hôtel Crillon le Brave. Time feels suspended here and it can be quite jarring (to us city rats, at least) to see a landscape that has zero buildings on the horizon. 

For the foodies, there are two restaurants, both headed by chef Adrien Brunet. The more relaxed La Table du Ventoux is located at the highest point of the hotel on the panoramic terrace facing the mountains (where breakfast is also served. The food is locally sourced, vibrant and absolutely delicious (Schön! recommends the onion tart, fried gnocchi and tempura prawns). 

The gastronomic La Madeleine (with an intense waiting list) is an absolute must. Set on a vast cobblestone square overlooking the Ventoux mountains, the incredible views reflect the incredible creativity showcased in the dishes on offer from chef Brunet’s tasting menu. Each course (made up of ingredients sourced from the region) has a surprising element and manages to be unique in both textures and flavours throughout.

Schön! loves: the most picturesque outdoor pool you have ever seen and the insane views that makes you wish you had a dozen eyes just to soak it all up. Simply stunning.

Aside from the hotel, the village consists of a church and a little bakery. So if you truly want to hide away and disconnect from the outside world, this ones for you.

words + photography. J. Bibi Cooper

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