Women on the Rise
A Q&A with Sophie Volant of Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc
It’s no surprise that Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in all its grandeur would inspire one of Fitzgerald's novels. The writer was a regular at the French Riviera hotel, perched on the furthest tip of the idyllic Cap d'Antibes peninsula. A dreamy setting, storied past, and famous guest list make this hideaway one of the Riviera’s most mythical spots—one that has drawn royals, celebrities, artists and the like from one generation to the next.
We recently caught up with Sophie Volant, recently appointed resident manager for Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc and the very first woman to hold such a position at the famed hotel. Bravo, Sophie! Here we talk about the romance, restfulness, and retro vibes of this iconic palais.
POE TRAVEL: What does it feel like to take the helm of one of the world's most iconic properties?
SOPHIE VOLANT: It is incredibly humbling, as I know the hotel will survive all of us, we are just passing by. Our mission with such an iconic Palace is to protect the soul of the property, with one foot firmly in the past and the other launching into the future. And I am not alone, we have an incredible passionate team of almost 500 hoteliers in the peak of the summer—some of them have been as loyal as our guests and have been with the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc for more than 40 years.
PT: What's something people may not know about this storied hotel?
SV: There are so many beautiful stories, and I love that. This is what makes an iconic hotel—the legacy, the history. It always brings emotions. Hotel du Cap has been part of so many people’s lives: crowned heads, politicians, artists, renowned intellectuals, movie stars . . . In a century-and-a-half, the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc became a legendary refuge whose history intermingles with that of many celebrities. One of my favorite stories, because I am a romantic, is the one of Lord and Lady Onslow who made a donation to the hotel in 1903. It allowed us at the time to renovate the property. In return as a thank you, a beautiful rose garden was created for Lady Onslow, who loved walking around it and gardening. To this day, our beautiful romantic rose garden is still there for the great pleasure of our guests.
PT: Of course, innumerable luminaries have visited the hotel. Is there a story in its history that particularly interests you?
SV: I love the impact that some people had over time, not only on Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, but on the development of tourism on the French Riviera; it is all linked. For example Queen Victoria, as early as in 1882, retreated to the French Riviera to avoid the English weather. The presence of a monarch ensured a steady stream of English aristocrats and a new wave of villas, built by wealthy Europeans in the fashionable Belle Époque style. Hotel du Cap was built in 1870, so we were part of it. I find it fascinating. Later on in the roaring twenties, it is the Americans who had a great influence on our legendary Palace. Sara and Gerald Murphy, part of the East Coast high society, once rented Hotel du Cap for an entire summer, which was at the time only a winter retreat. The Murphys invited among others Picasso, Hemingway, and Zelda and F Scott Fitzgerald. Another fascinating piece of history!
PT: What's one of your favorite things about the property?
SV: Once again I am a romantic, so I would say the magical sunsets every night ! We chose the colors of the décor in the Eden-Roc restaurant based on the palettes of blue, mauve, pink, and orange found in the sunsets every night !
PT: When you go on vacation, where do you like to go?
SV: My brother, whom I am very close to, and I have a ritual. Family is very important to us (a strong value within Oetker Collection too). Our parents taught us the love of travel, to keep on being interested in others, to keep an open mind and be curious about everything and everybody. Therefore in tribute to our parents, my brother, his family and mine go on a discovery trip somewhere as a family every two years. We went to Burma, Tanzania, etc. . . . and this year we are going to Vietnam.