“I remember when I was driving with my parents down this road as a teenager,” Gilles Bertolino tells me from a powder blue sofa in the marble lobby. “And we turned the corner and stopped outside the gates. I knew that I was at the Hotel du Cap then,” he says. “And I knew that I was in love.”
He’s been here for 32 seasons (ever since he was four, presumably, looking at his agelessly tanned skin) and I have just asked him if he can ever imagine working anywhere else. “I couldn’t do it. My grandfather worked here,” he says. “Hotel du Cap is in my blood.”
Once it’s in, it’s hard to get it out. In three days at the Hotel du Cap, the world’s most famous hotel, I asked almost 30 members of staff what the place meant to them. Every one of them, whether returning for their second season or their 42nd, spoke of the institution with the same misty-eyed gaze, as if describing an old friend or a teenage love.
Guests, meanwhile, describe the retreat as they might their childhood: a place where it is always summer, where the mornings smell of freshly-cut grass and sea breeze, where every whim is taken care of before it’s been given voice, and where the onslaughts of the modern day are trifles for someone else — adults, presumably — to deal with.
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