Eating and drinking
Who stays there
- High-Speed Internet
- Culture vultures
- Mature travellers
- Seasoned travellers
- Escaping the crowds
Birdsong and old-world charm in a leafy location.
In happier, more stylish times – when ladies wore crinoline and gentlemen blazers – everyone stayed in spots like Les Cygnes. They would get up motoring excursions, take tea on the garden terrace and write letters home about the light, the effusive horticulture and (a constant theme of such correspondence) the unscrupulousness of French tradesmen.
The good news is that the modestly well-off among us can still do this. From the little stone gateposts to the garden via a snug lobby of marble and stained glass, Les Cygnes absolutely retains the charm and dignity of a 1920s villa. As I bounded up the front steps, I half-expected the chap coming down to be Bertie Wooster. Except that owner Gildas Clouet is nothing like Wooster. More Jeeves, if anything.
After a career in shipping and commodity broking, Mr Clouet – with wife Lydiane – fell for this place four years ago. You could see why they might. It’s perched on the Baumettes hill just out of reach of the city centre hurly-burly. The landmark is Nice’s magnificent Fine Arts Museum. Turn right there and you’re in a private residential street a touch too grand to bother with mundane things like road-works. Proceed slowly or you’ll lose your back axle.
Right and left are similar villas, overcome with mature palms, bushes and other Mediterranean flora. Stop the car and the only sound is birdsong. You are amid generations of well-bred calm.
Within Les Cygnes, though, you will be relieved to discover that the 1920s have had an up-date in the crucial matters of comfort, plumbing and décor. Over three floors there are but five rooms, each one a cracker. Almost all have terraces or a veranda overlooking either the garden or other villas. Vintage features – the odd fireplace or chandelier – have been retained but the clutter has gone, victim of a lady with an eye for space, light, and dashes of both colour and contemporary art. It works splendidly. There are fewer nicer places in Nice in which to wake up.
Bathrooms have all you require for 21st-century ablutions, then it’s down to a particularly copious, €10 breakfast in the garden. Bewitched by the surroundings, you might do more damage to the croissant basket than you anticipated. Now it’s up to you. The Clouets are excellent hosts, with Côte-d’Azur information at their fingertips. But the decision must be yours. A five-minute walk to the beach? Ten minutes to the centre, 25 to the old town? A motoring excursion? Or stay right where you are with a book, another cup of coffee and, Lord help us, a few more croissants?