THE NEGRESCO: SUPERB STAY IN NICE, FRANCE
DAVID: There is something calming, reassuring (albeit exciting) about seeing the bright pink dome of the Hotel Negresco rising above the other buildings bordering one side of the famed Promenade des Anglais in Nice. The other side of the wide road borders the appropriately named Bay of Angels, that turquoise body of water along the playground of the rich and famous. Very rich and very, very famous. The Negresco calls up the serenity and elegance of times gone by when all the threats and stress of today simply did not exist. As I hand over my Peugeot to the uniformed attendant (a little bit of operetta costuming), I can almost see myself dressed in the finery of the early 1900s, arriving in a handsome coach drawn by proud horses. (Well, at least I’m not wearing jeans and scruffy trainers!) I may not be in the company of former guests like Marc Chagall and Picasso, Edith Piaf and The Beatles or Queen Elisabeth 11 and Winston Churchill – but I am about to take up residence in this empress of the Cote d’Azur for the very first time. The mistress of The Negresco since 1957 is Madame Jeanne Augier who is responsible for every aspect of its current look and style. She has been honored by the French government with the Legion of Honor, the Croix d’Or and more, is also a staunch animal rights activist. Madame Augier especially loves dogs (hear that, Skye? It really is a dog’s life!) As I entered the Negresco’s grand reception area I was awed by the luxurious surroundings and drawn immediately to the huge collection of fabulous art. My favorites were the colorful and edgy contemporary pieces. But even those were topped by my accommodations. An art deco room with large windows and tiny balcony overlooking the vast expanse of the Mediterranean. The wind was making the palms dance like crazy things and was whipping the waves into a furious chorus line. My super king bed was backed by an art deco mirror and light sconces and a carved golden dancer of the same period. At any moment I expected Hercule Poirot to appear. The bathroom was a hoot; a tub and matching basin of silver flakes covered with a smooth gloss. Something out of a James Bond movie! How ‘bout “Man With the Silver Bath”! The room’s carpet was black with great peacock feather designs in blue and gold. The walls were covered with royal purple velvet. The chandelier was polished chrome circles shielding teardrop bulbs. The entire effect was show biz glitz, yet somehow soothing because it was all so true to the art deco style.
I’d love to see the owner’s rooms; Madame Augier lives on the sixth floor of the Negresco. Why not; if you’ve got it, enjoy it. Knowing that I was dining at Le Chantecler my final night in the charming company of Helene Seropian, Negresco’s Press and Sales Manager, I chose the hotel’s informal restaurant La Rotonde for the night of my arrival. A little like eating on a merry-go-round among the gaily painted horses that actually moved up and down to the music of a calliope played by a period mannikin. I sat in a pink and green framed banquet with a view of the sea. My “simple” dinner was the best Salade Nicoise I have ever had. The size of a small rowboat with all the proper ingredients, crunchy strips of multi-colored bell peppers, tiny pitted black olives, anchovies, boiled egg halves, spring onions, baby radish, peeled tomatoes, red and green lettuce leaves all topped with a parade of thick slices of seared tuna and dressed with Balsamic Vinegar and fragrant vergine olive oil produced by Fernando Pensato to celebrate this, the 100th anniversary of The Negresco. The 2011 Cotes du Rhone was perfect accompaniment to my meal. As I walked back to my room I was attracted by a lively gathering in the Salon Royale. Must have been over seventy well dressed people enjoying the catered affair. I took a picture and was promptly invited in to have a flute of champagne. What’s a fella to do! It all made for a heavenly sleep to the sounds of the sea coming through my wide open sliding glass doors. Ah, yes, what a life; Negresco and Nice – very nice indeed!