The Belle Aurore hotel in Sainte Maxime is a perfect place to relax and unwind with stunning views of the Cote d’Azur, the sound of sea on the rocks and beautiful food!
The Hotel Belle Aurore (http://www.belleaurore.com/en.php) is located on the main coastal road leading into Sainte Maxime. It is this road that links Nice all the way round to St. Tropez so in the hight of summer it is busy to say the least. However, with the hotel located a little way back from the road, and high bushes blocking views from the road its unlikely it will bother you. Having stayed in a room at the front of the hotel, so facing the road ( not that we could see it thanks to those bushes) at night with the shutters closed you didn’t even know it was there. Around the back of the hotel you have unobstructed views of the sea and the Gulf of St. Tropez ( a boat watchers paradise!). The hotel is a 10 minute walk to the centre of Sainte Maxime and its harbour. The town itself has an array of restaurants, shops and cafes. Like most holiday destinations there are the good and the bad restaurants which we have learnt to distinguish only through trying and a little help from hotel staff.
The hotel itself is simple, elegant and the staff helpful. A small hotel with only 16 rooms and 1 suite, it has a restaurant, a good size infinity pool, plenty of sun beds and a pool side restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch. The hotel is a stones throw from both public and private beaches so if you don’t fancy lying by the pool one day then there are plenty of other options. The staff throughout my stay were warm and welcoming and most spoke varying amounts of English. There were three permanent staff on at all times and it looked like they had a couple of new trainees getting ready for the peak season. Whatever you wanted they were more than happy to help.
As I mentioned before, the town of Sainte Maxime has plenty of restaurants, but on our first night we decided to try the hotel restaurant. The hotel offers two set menus, and an a la carte. Both set menus offered more than enough choice. The restaurant set in a large bay window that offered beautiful views of the gulf was set with crisp white table cloths that added an elegant dining touch. The food was delicious, I started with smoked salmon on a belini with sea urchin cream, followed by roast duckling and braised vegetables. The desert was a biscuit filled with banana mouse accompanied by white chocolate sorbet. The only downfall of the food was the portion sizes, the starter was far too large, it was a main meal in itself. This did lead me to struggle with my duckling which was perfectly cooked but I could not finish due to the large amount of smoked salmon I had just consumed. The deserts were art works, beautiful presented and mouth wateringly tasty. Nothing of the deserts were left by anyone at the table.
Feeling full it was time to return to my room. I was in a triple room at the front of the hotel, which was spacious, the double bed had been split into twins for us and the third bed located behind a corner made you feel like it was almost two rooms. The bathroom again was large, but had not shower. There was a bath with a shower head but not quite so quick and convenient as jumping into a shower. The rooms at the back of the hotel with their sea views all had balconies with chairs and tables. The rooms themselves were relatively small with a double bed, dressing table, cabinet and tv. They were however, light and airy and when you are spending most of the day out on a sun bed or in the sea the size was not a concern. These rooms had showers and washroom type bathrooms.
The hotels location was idea for a week in the sun, it has stunning views, a great pool and access down into the sea, but being a short walk from the town of Sainte Maxime means access to the harbour and boat trips to other towns. The place that most people tend to visit is St. Tropez, a 15 minute boat ride away, the path taking you through the moored super yachts and into its own harbour which houses the yachts of the rich and glamorous. The green boat taxi service operates services between Sainte Maxime and St. Tropez every 15 mins so you can stay for as long or as short a time as you like. St. Tropez is a lovely little town to visit, although a word of advice is to avoid market day as the place is heaving with tourists that ship in for the day. Try and go any other day and just meander the streets taking in the pretty views and beautiful buildings.
A restaurant I recommend is a little way back from the harbour, called Bistro Canaille (14, rue des Remparts). The simple yet delicious food is well worth a visit, its off the main streets so avoids the over priced lack luster food you find on the water front.
You can also venture further afield from Sainte Maxime to Nice or Cannes or to Île Sainte-Marguerite which is famous for holding the Man in the Iron Mask in its fort. The tiny town of Port Grimaud is picturesque, built in a venetian style with canals while the houses resememble those in St. Tropez. You cannot get a boat direct from Sainte Maxime, you have to go to St. Tropez first and from there take another taxi boat. Alternatively you can drive the coastal road, on a good day it shouldnt take more than 20 mins by car, but with the traffic it could take longer.
With so much to see and do in the Gulf of St. Tropez you have the choice of getting out and about or sitting on a sun bed and taking in the views. The hotel Belle Aurore is well placed to offer both. With such a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere it was hard to want to leave. This is a hotel that I will definitely return to.
Note about visit – I went the first week of July which was quieter and just outside of peak season. We flew in and out of Marseille and took a hire car. You can also fly into Nice which is a little closer. Getting to the hotel by public transport can be difficult, you would need to take a bus to somewhere like Frejus or St. Raphael and then change onto a smaller local bus. The best way to get around is by car.