Visiting The French Riviera

Provence And The Côte D’Azur Are More Than Just Lavender Fields And Sandy Beaches. The Chief Concierge At The Château Saint-Martin & Spa Reveals All.
Sébastien Clémente, chief concierge at Château Saint-Martin & Spa, Oetker Collection, in Vence, France.
Sébastien Clémente
Chief Concierge, Château Saint-Martin & Spa, Oetker Collection

Whether they are regular visitors to the Côte d’Azur or first-timers, guests of Château Saint-Martin & Spa will come away from their stay feeling like sophisticated insiders, with fresh new experiences to share with friends and family at home. For that, they can thank Sébastien Clémente, the chief concierge at the hotel.

A proud son of Antibes, Sébastien completed concierge training in Paris before working as a concierge in luxury hotels on the Côte d’Azur, in the French Alps, and in Germany. He has been chief concierge of the Château Saint-Martin & Spa since 2014, and in 2018 he received the Best Young Concierge award from the prestigious Gold Keys Association.

All rooms at Château Saint-Martin are decorated in Provençal style and enjoy beautiful views.
Château Saint-Martin & Spa, Oetker Collection

Built as a castle for the Templar Commandery this stunning property is perched high atop the hills of the medieval walled city of Saint Paul de Vence. Built like a chateau with thick stone walls, cool interior passageways, and an unassailable position on top of its own hill, Château Saint-Martin nonetheless feels more like a mas, a Provençal country home, than a fortified castle. The decoration of the guest rooms, suites, and private villas is simple and elegant, the better to show off spectacular views of the mountains and the sea from every balcony and window.

Local Recommendations

Insider Tips For Discovering The Real French Riviera With The Chateau Saint-Martin’s Chief Concierge

Sébastien and his staff at Château Saint-Martin & Spa are enthusiastic ambassadors for the south of France, unashamedly proud of their region. Whether they were born there or have adopted it as their beloved home, they never tire of talking about the French Riviera and its treasures–and sharing it with guests of the hotel which sits in an ideal location for exploring both the Mediterranean coast and the Provençal back country.

Sébastien Clémente and his staff have happily done the research to give guests the perfect excuse to leave their beautiful chateau behind, if only for a while. Here are his favorite Côte d’Azur spots.

A Market Crawl In Cannes

Start With Coffee And People-Watching At The Forville Covered Market And End Up On A Historic Shopping Street

Shopping at a street market for fresh food, flowers, and local products is not just for tourists in France; it is a part of every household’s weekly routine. The most beautiful market on the French Riviera, in Sébastien’s view, is the Forville covered market (Open 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day except Monday; Place Marché Forville, Cannes.) in Cannes. “Your typical Cannes resident will take the following route,” he advises: “Upon arrival, go right to the end of the market and pop into the café on the left. This is the ideal place to start the day, people watching and seeing the world go by. Next, stroll between the stalls under the covered hall. There are beautiful stands of fish freshly caught from the bay of Cannes. Then continue your walk down rue Meynadier, a historic street where you will find some fantastic products.”

A visit to the Forville covered market is not complete without a stop at a neighboring café. Photo courtesy of Hervé Fabre.

Wine Tasting On Saint Honorat Island

A Visit, With Tasting, To A Celebrated Small Winery On An Island Off The Coast Of Cannes

The Abbaye de Lérins (Île Saint-Honorat, Cannes; +33-4-92-99-54-32), on the island of Saint Honorat in the bay of Cannes, is “a location unparalleled anywhere in the world, home to seven hectares of vineyards owned by monks, a tradition that goes back to the 5th century,” Sébastien says. This set-up was originally designed simply to produce wine for use during Mass, but it was transformed in recent years by Friar Marie Pâques, the abbey’s commercial director, who decided to replant everything and bring the production upscale. “The wine is exceptional and has won many awards,” Sébastien adds. “The grapes are harvested by volunteers and it is possible to organize visits and tastings onsite. A simply divine experience!”

The island of Saint Honorat, in the Bay of Cannes, is home to the wine-producing Abbaye de Lérins. Photo by Kelagopian, courtesy of Palais des Festivals et des Congrès de Cannes.

Monaco Day Trips

Monaco, Just A Bicycle Ride Away, Offers Something For Everyone, From World-Class Art To A Trendy Beach

You won’t need a passport to explore the principality of Monaco during a stay at Château Saint-Martin. The hotel works with Vélo Monaco, a bespoke tour company, to create personalized road trips by bicycle. Sébastien recommends that culture vultures check out what’s on at the Grimaldi Forum (10 Av. Princesse Grace; Monaco; +377-99-99-30-00), which organizes a new modern art exhibition every year: “This is an ideal place for vagabond spirits like mine.” On the way home, stop by La Mala beach (Allée Mala, Cap d’Ail) in the neighboring town of Cap d’Ail. “A pebbly beach with crystalline waters, not far from Monaco,” Sébastien says. “The atmosphere is young and trendy, and the days play out to the rhythm of music.”

The Château Saint-Martin is a brisk bicycle ride away from spectacular country. Photo courtesy of Vélo Monaco

Scenic Walks In Antibes

Itineraries For A Stroll Through Antibes And A Trek In The Countryside Above Vence

To savor the region around the Château Saint-Martin, Sébastien recommends that guests lace up their walking shoes and explore on foot. His favorite city walk is in Vieil Antibes, the old quarter of his home town, starting with the Rues du Haut et Bas Castellet: “A picture-postcard scene. Small paved pedestrian streets, villas with colored shutters, stone fronts, jasmine, and bougainvillea climbing from one side of the façade to the other. Streets with a calming effect, where you can recharge your battery.” His favorite country walk is around the Col de Vence, which rises above the Château Saint-Martin: “A lunar landscape, with not a tree to be seen. In the evening, the Col de Vence offers a sublime panorama with a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea, and the chance to spot shooting stars.” He adds, “This unusual setting has become a meeting place for UFO enthusiasts convinced that aliens might land here.”

Vieil Antibes, the old quarter of the city, is made for strolling. Photo courtesy of the City of Antibes.

Côte d'Azur Shopping

An Address In Nice For Artisanal Leather Goods And A Hilltop Village For Olive-Wood Tableware

Finding the perfect souvenir of a memorable stay can be a challenge if you don’t know where to go. Sébastien and his team can help. At L’Atelier du Croco (1 Place Charles Felix, Nice; +33-4-93-80-00-90) in Nice, “you will find a couple of passionate artisans and their daughter working leather,” Sébastien says. Everything, from briefcases to keychains, are handmade to measure: “Once you have entered the shop, your imagination is the only limit.” In the neighboring town of Tourrettes sur Loup, Dubosq (8 Grand’Rue, Tourrettes sur Loup; +33-4-24-34-29-35 ) is the place for olive wood, harvested locally and hand molded into custom-made tableware and furniture. The shop has earned the prestigious designation of Living Heritage enterprise by the French government. “Dubosq is one of the most impressive artisanal shops in the south of France,” Sébastien says.

Handmade olive-wood wares at Dubosq, in the neighboring village of Tourrettes sur Loup. Photo courtesy of Dubosq.