PHOTOGRAPHY BY BENOIT LINERO
The French Riviera is known for glitzyu2014if somewhat anonymousu2014grand hotels, where sunbathers pay upward of $100 for a spot on a prime lounge chair. That began to change last May, when Vu00e1lery Gru00e9go opened the Hu00f4tel les Roches Rouges in the petit village of Saint-Raphau00ebl, 35 minutes southwest of Cannes. In the shadow of the Massif de lu2019Estu00e9relu2019s red rocks, which give the hotel its name, Gru00e9go created a retreat that forgoes the areau2019s usual extravagance in favor of a more authentic vibe.
u201cMy body tells me if itu2019s right,u201d says the 41-year-old hotelier, whose Perseus brand also includes four boutique properties in the French Alps, one in Nice, and one in Parisu2019s Pigalle neighborhood. u201cI need to really feel the place and see something right away. For all my hotels, I had a vision of what I wanted them to become within the first 15 minutes I spent there.u201d
The Hu00f4tel les Roches Rouges uses the Rivierau2019s best trait to full advantage: The Mediterranean is visible from many of the 50 rooms. u201cBoom! The water is everywhere,u201d says Gru00e9go. The hotel also features many local products. Toiletries from Le Labo, based in nearby Grasse, perfume the space with bergamot. Riviera Beer, brewed in Saint-Raphau00ebl, is served at the bar. And many activities are guided by area experts. For example, Olivier Bardoux, a fisherman who docks at the hotel each morning to deliver the daily catch, leads fishing tours.
Gru00e9gou2019s other properties also adhere to this community-first model. At Le Pigalle in Paris, in-room reading materials are curated by neighborhood bookshop Les Arpenteurs, and the Alpine chalet Alpaga sources cheese from Les Caves du2019Affinage de Savoie, whose tunnels were used for storage during World War II.
u201cWe try to be rooted to the neighborhood,u201d Gru00e9go says. u201cIf you go fishing, youu2019ll go with a proper fisherman. If you want to play pu00e9tanque, youu2019ll play with someone who knows the game. I donu2019t want to try and be what I think Pigalle is, or the Estu00e9rel. Iu2019m going to find someone I trust, whose affinity is stronger than mine.u201d