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Review: Grand Hotel Des Sablettes – A Curio by Hilton Hotel

Review: Grand Hotel Des Sablettes – A Curio by Hilton Hotel

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Introduction

I had an urgent, pressing need to come down to the South of France. You know, daughter went to stay with grandparents for a few months and then decided she wanted to go skiing, but didn’t have any stuff with her. As I say, urgent! Still, with a pile of Avios to spend, it seemed like a good excuse for myself and Danielle to head south for some winter sun. With only a few days to spare, we decided to fly down on Sunday morning and back on Tuesday evening. That would allow us to drop the ski stuff off and give us some time to spend all together. The big question now was where to stay…




Booking

I had no idea what to do here. Hilton, my go-to brand has had no properties in the South of France since 2007, when it lost the franchise for the Noga Hilton in Cannes to Accor, so I was at a loss. I had a look on the general hotel booking sites for inspiration, but nothing jumped out at me in the area around Toulon. On the off chance, I decided to try the Hilton website, just in case something new had come along and, lo and behold, there it was, the Grand Hotel des Sablettes, a new Curio by Hilton hotel, just 15 minutes by car from where we needed to be.

I checked availability online, made a quick call to Propeller Travel and within the hour I had a standard King room booked for just 105 Euros per night. To be honest, this was still quite expensive for the area at this time of year, but, with breakfast included for two as a Diamond Hilton Honor’s member, it seemed like a pretty good deal. I was also secretly hoping for an upgrade to something nicer.

Incidentally, I could have booked the hotel using points. It is one of the more expensive points hotels, at 60,000 per night, but it was offered at just 36,000 for each of the nights I was there. However, based on the price of the room, that valued my points at 0.25p each. I can get much better value elsewhere so decided to go with cash.


Location

The hotel is located in La Seyne sur Mer, metres from the beach in Les Sablettes. At just 75 minutes from Marseille’s Marignane airport, it’s very easy to get to in a rental car.

The location makes the hotel ideal for visiting many towns and villages along the coast, including Sanary, Bandol and La Ciotat. It’s also just a couple of hours from more well known towns, such as Saint Tropez, Cannes and Nice so it’s a good base for exploring the Riviera.


Arrival and check in

We arrived into Marignane airport shortly after 2pm on Sunday afternoon and picked up a car from Avis. By 3.40pm we had found our way to the hotel, although we’d have been screwed without Google Maps! It’s not the easiest place to find.

Once you reach the hotel, it’s quite easy to see from the outside, with large writing on the side of the building.


Grand Hotel des Sablettes

The entrance to the car park was tricky to spot but we eventually stumbled across it.


Grand Hotel des Sablettes

The car park is actually split into two sections. The first barrier takes you into a restaurant car park as two of the main restaurants for the hotel are actually in a different building. To get to the hotel you have to go through a separate barrier.


Grand Hotel des Sablettes

Once through the barrier, we quickly reached the entrance to the hotel. The building is, as the name suggests, rather grand. It was first opened in 1888 by Michel Pacha, the mayor of nearby Sanary-sur-Mer, alongside a casino, as he planned to turn Les Sablettes into an upscale, seaside resort. The hotel closed in 1967 and remained so for 50 years until it was renovated and reopened under the Hilton Curio Collection brand in 2017.

The renovation was carried out with a view to retaining the neoclassical charm of the building and it appears, on first glance, to have been very successful. It really is quite beautiful from outside.


Grand Hotel des Sablettes

Grand Hotel des Sablettes

Once inside the front door, you are greeted by a grand staircase that takes you up to the bedrooms. Reception is through the door on the left.


Grand Hotel des Sablettes

The reception area is beautifully furnished in a nautical theme, which continues throughout the rest of the hotel. It’s all about travelling the oceans, with suitcases, globes and sea shells on display in cabinets and tables made of reclaimed wood. Although the hotel has been opened for over a year now, everything still feels very fresh.


Grand Hotel des Sablettes – Reception

Grand Hotel des Sablettes – Reception

Grand Hotel des Sablettes – Reception

Grand Hotel des Sablettes – Reception

There is a laptop in the corner of the reception that can be used by guests, if required.

Check in was quick and easy and I was advised that I had been upgraded to a Deluxe Seaview room, which was very much appreciated.


Grand Hotel des Sablettes – Reception

Later in the stay I spoke to Rémy, the reception manager who checked us in, and he confirmed that they will always looks to upgrade Hilton Honors Gold and Diamond members at the time of booking, rather than waiting for check in, to ensure there are upgrades available. This policy definitely gets the Flightguys approval!

Key in hand, we headed upstairs to check out our room.


Room

There is a lift just beside reception, which we took to the first floor and stepped out into the corridor. Like everywhere else in the hotel, the corridor to the room felt very fresh and airy, with nautical themed decorations along the walls.


First floor corridor

First floor corridor

We were assigned room 124, a Deluxe Seaview room. Looking at the room categories online, this appeared to be a three category upgrade.


Our room

The room plan on the door shows that most of the deluxe sea view rooms are of a similar size, while the city / mountain view rooms are a little smaller.


Floor plan

On entering the room, my first impression was WOW! This was backed up by a squeal of delight from Danielle. The room looks directly onto the sea with full height windows and unobstructed views. It certainly feels special.


Deluxe seaview room

It’s not a big room by modern hotel standards, but it feels spacious thanks to the tasteful decoration and the amount of natural light coming in through the large windows, especially with the doors open.


Deluxe seaview room

The room mirrors the nautical traveller theme seen throughout the rest of the hotel with nice little touches, such as the seagulls flying over the bed, the telescope in the corner and the port hole mirror.


Deluxe seaview room

Deluxe seaview room

Deluxe seaview room

While the room is not huge, what’s not clear from this picture is just how big the bed is. It is the equivalent of a British super king size bed, which is 2m wide, so there is plenty of room to starfish. It’s also very comfortable. Softer than the usual Hilton bed, with a deep, pillow topper on the mattress, but still firm enough underneath. We slept very well.


Deluxe seaview room

The floating bedside tables on either sides of the bed are built into the wall and are fairly small and minimalist. Each side has useful sockets mounted on the wall above them, with a couple of USB connections and space for two plugs. It drives me mad when I have to plug my phone in as far away as possible in the room from my bed, so this is a very welcome feature and I really like the brushed copper mountings. These are used on all sockets and switches in the room, adding the upmarket feel of the place.


Deluxe seaview room

The furniture within the room has a period feel to it, in keeping with the age of the hotel.


Deluxe seaview room

There is a large, flat screen tv mounted on the wall, but I didn’t use it during my time in the hotel.


Deluxe seaview room

The large trunk in the corner of the room, further reflecting the traveller theme, is actually the mini bar. More on that later.


Deluxe seaview room

On the wall to the right as you enter the room, there is a set of cupboards with hanging space and shelves.


Deluxe seaview room

They also contain robes, ironing equipment and a safe.


Deluxe seaview room

The cupboard containing the shelves is not quite as deep as the hanging cupboard, but there is enough space to store smaller items of clothing. Bearing in mind the size of the room, it’s actually a reasonable amount of cupboard space.


Deluxe seaview room

The first door on the left as you walk into the room contains a toilet, separate from the main bathroom.


Deluxe seaview room – toilet

The bathroom itself is a reasonable size and is beautifully fitted out.


Deluxe seaview room – bathroom

The stylish sink sits in one corner on top of a wooden vanity, with a backlit mirror on the wall.


Deluxe seaview room – bathroom

Deluxe seaview room – bathroom

The treasure chest at the back of the sink contains toiletries from French, luxury, skincare brand, Nuxe. I really like these products and they are a welcome change from the Crabtree Tree and Evelyn products found as standard in most Hilton hotels. One of the benefits of the Curio brand is that the hotel can use locally sourced products, rather than having to stick to the corporate standard.


Deluxe seaview room – bathroom

The shelve underneath the vanity unit contains a bathmat, hairdryer and some tissues.


Deluxe seaview room – bathroom

While I didn’t use the bath, it was nice to see a full size tub in the room.


Deluxe seaview room – bathroom

The shower was, for me, one of the low points of the room. It was well made and of the same high quality as the rest of the fixtures and fittings, but the cubicle was just too small. It felt quite cramped with the doors closed and it was impossible to avoid the stream of water when you were in, which made life quite uncomfortable, given the highly sensitive nature of the thermostat. A tiny turn of the handle seemed to change the temperature of the water by 20 degrees so I initially burned then froze myself. Eventually I found a happy medium, but the water pressure was just too low with any sort of heat added. While the bath in the room is lovely, I would have much preferred a larger shower. However, being a boutique hotel, I can see the desire for both.


Deluxe seaview room – bathroom

One great feature, though, is the glass wall that allows you to enjoy the view from the bath or shower. There is a screen that can be pulled down if you want to bathe in private, but it’s on the wrong side of the window, which makes absolutely no sense to me! You pull it down, go into the bathroom for a shower, assuming your modesty is protected, and the person on the other side can just pull it up again. Definitely a design flaw…


Deluxe seaview room – bathroom

There is a combined shampoo / shower gel dispenser in the shower and beside the bath, but no conditioner. This can be found in the basket by the sink.


Deluxe seaview room – bathroom

My favourite feature of the room is, of course, the view out to the sea and the little balcony.

The balcony has a table and chairs for two, allowing you to sit out and enjoy the view, along with the sound of the waves as they lap against the shore. Despite the fact that the temperature was in single figures overnight, we slept with the doors open to enjoy the sound. the view from our room on the first floor was very slightly obstructed by the trees out front, but not enough to be a nuisance. I do wonder, though, if this will limit the view in the summer, once the leaves grow back. My advice would be to get a second or third floor room to ensure this is not a problem.


Deluxe seaview room – balcony

The balconies are lovely, but by no means private so don’t go wandering out in your smalls!


Deluxe seaview room – balcony

Now, back to the mini bar… It’s not the usual type of mini bar that you find in most hotels. It contains a couple of packets of crisps, some nougat and some soft drinks, so no wild party sessions.


Deluxe seaview room – mininbar

Deluxe seaview room – mininbar

It is, however, absolutely free, which is a very unusual, but welcome touch. The mini bar is not re-stocked during your stay as standard and individual items are not supplied but you can request that everything be replaced and it will all be supplied again for just €10.


Deluxe seaview room – mininbar

The chest also contains tea and coffee making facilities. This, along with still water, is replenished daily.


Deluxe seaview room – mininbar

Danielle took full advantage of the coffee machine and enjoyed her coffe, relaxing in the sunshine on the balcony.


Coffee on the balcony

I really liked this room, which is unusual for me as I normally have a brat attack in small rooms. However, I’ve come to accept that Curio hotels have a boutique feel to them and the rooms are often quite small. This room rose above it’s size thanks to the beautiful decor and the wonderful view out to sea. Would things have been different if I had ended up in the room I originally booked? Yes, almost certainly, but there’s no denying that the renovation has been tastefully done and that this is a lovely place to stay.


Food and Beverage

There are three restaurants within the hotel, although only one of them, La Galerie, is actually in the hotel.


La Galerie

The other two, La Navigateur and Horizon, are actually in a separate building, less than a one minute walk away.


Horizon and Le Navigateur

In this section –

Breakfast
La Galerie
Horizon
Le Navigateur


Breakfast

La Galerie is the main restaurant within the hotel and is accessed from the reception area. It sits on the sea front with lovely views out to the ocean. Open from 7am every day, this is where breakfast is served at a cost of €22 per person. Luckily it’s free for Hilton Honors Gold and Diamond members.


La Galerie breakfast

Breakfast is a continental affair, with no freshly cooked options, but there is a reasonable selection of food.


La Galerie breakfast

There is a hot section containing potatoes, sausage, bacon, pancakes, tomatoes, omelette and scrambled eggs. Unfortunately none of it was particularly hot, although the scrambled eggs were very tasty.


La Galerie breakfast

La Galerie breakfast

La Galerie breakfast

The salad selection was okay, along with some cooked meats and cheeses, but not things I would normally have in the morning.


La Galerie breakfast

La Galerie breakfast

The boiled egg machine was a bit of a disaster! It’s basically a steam machine with boiling water on the bottom and the eggs sitting on top. The sign on the front says to put eggs in for four minutes if you want them soft boiled. I popped four in for us, left them for four minutes and cracked a couple open, but they were like water so I popped two of them back in for another three minutes. They came out the same. Eventually I noticed the restaurant manager adding additional water and tinkering with the machine so I thought I’d try a couple more. I left them in for five minutes this time, to be on the safe side, and they came out hard! I decided to stick with scrambled eggs.


La Galerie breakfast

Coffee, tea and cereal was available for self service on the bar, although coffee could also be ordered from one of the staff. However, service was scarce, with only one or two staff members on duty, so self-service was the more pragmatic option.


La Galerie breakfast

La Galerie breakfast

La Galerie breakfast

La Galerie breakfast

La Galerie breakfast

La Galerie breakfast

One thing I really liked was the fruit juice. I really hate places that serve orange juice from concentrate but both the orange juice and the grapefruit juice served here were freshly squeezed and delicious. In fact, my mouth is salivating right now as I think about them!


La Galerie breakfast

There was a small section with bread, preserves and spreads. To make up for the disappointment with our eggs, Danielle made us both pancakes with Nutella, although she had to ask the waitress to warm them up as they were also cold.


La Galerie breakfast

Overall I’d say breakfast was a bit of a disappointment. Not terrible, but far from great. The hot food was too cold, things ran out and were not replaced and I don’t really want to cook my own breakfast when I come to a hotel. I’d much rather have the option to order freshly cooked eggs from the kitchen. As an inclusive breakfast, it was just about passable, but we’d be pretty fuming if we’d paid €22 each for it.


La Galerie

La Galerie, the hotel’s main restaurant, is open until late every night and serves a variety of food and drinks throughout the day.


La Galerie restaurant

I didn’t eat there, other than breakfast, but there was a menu in the lift, which I took a picture of. It helps, of course, if you can speak French!


La Galerie menu

There was also an option advertised within the restaurant for caviar and champagne.


La Galerie menu

With glass making up almost 50% of the restaurant’s wall area, it is a very bright and comfortable space to sit and eat.


La Galerie restaurant

I really like the colours and decoration in here.


La Galerie restaurant

The bar was well stocked but I only had a Coke Zero. I wanted to come back and try the caviar and champagne but we ended up having a pretty full schedule so it’s on the cards for the next trip.


La Galerie restaurant

La Galerie restaurant

One of the nicest features of La Galerie is the outside terrace. This will be the perfect place to sit out in the summer. I can happily see myself sitting out here with a glass of champagne, listening to the waves and enjoying the sunshine.


La Galerie – terrace

La Galerie – terrace

La Galerie – terrace

I’ll be sure to review the food the next time we visit and will update this review.


Horizon

I didn’t visit Horizon while I was at the hotel so I can’t comment on the food or the layout, but, as with La Galerie, I did take a photo of the restaurant menu from the sign in the lift. This is the hotel’s formal restaurant, serving French cuisine, with the option to have a 7, 9 or 11 course tasting menu. I’ll give it a try sometime, when I’m not on my eternal diet!


Horizon menu

Inside, it looks nice with a full wall of windows overlooking the sea and there is also the option of eating outside on the terrace once the weather improves.

See Also


Horizon restaurant – Photo taken from the hotel’s website

Horizon is open from 12pm – 1.30pm for lunch on Wednesday and Thursday and from 12pm -9.30pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.


Horizon restaurant – Photo taken from the hotel’s website

As with Horizon, I didn’t visit Le Navigateur while I was at the hotel so I can’t comment on the food or the layout, but I did take a photo of the restaurant menu from the sign in the lift.


Le Navigateur – Menu

Navigateur is French for sailor so the restaurant is, as the name suggests, primarily a seafood restaurant, although there are a couple of meat options available. Food is served in a less formal, brasserie setting and, like Horizon, offers the option to eat outside.


Le Navigateur restaurant – Photo taken from the hotel’s website

Le Navigateur is open for dinner from 7.30pm – 10pm for on Tuesday and Wednesday and from 11.30am – 10pm on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.


Le Navigateur restaurant – Photo taken from the hotel’s website


Services and Amenities

The hotel has a number of other amenities, including a spa, a small fitness centre, some outdoor activities and a private beach.


The spa

The spa is located on the ground floor of the hotel and is easy to access from all floors via stairs or lift. It is branded by Nuxe, the same company that supplies the bathroom products throughout the hotel.

The spa reception is located just by the entrance to the indoor pool. During our time there it was generally empty as, I assume, the staff were in treatments.


Spa – Reception

There are three treatment rooms, all of which can be used for singles or couples, and spa treatments are reasonably priced. There was a spa menu on display inside the lift, alongside the restaurant menus. A 75 minute massage is a little over £100 at current exchange rates, which is reasonable for a hotel spa.


Spa menu

Beside the reception, there are separate changing rooms for men and women. These include lockers, towels and shower facilities.


Spa – Changing room

Spa – Changing room

Spa – Changing room

The hotel has two swimming pools – indoor, which is heated and can be used all year, and outdoor, which is open throughout the summer. The indoor pool is in a large room facing the sea, with direct access to the outdoor pool through a door at one end.


Spa – Indoor pool

Spa – Indoor pool

At the far end of the pool, is a jacuzzi, a steam room and a sauna.


Spa – Jacuzzi

The sauna was pristine and heated throughout the day.


Spa – Sauna

The steam room was lovely, but felt like it was lacking something. I think some eucalyptus pumped in to provide a soothing scent would really help here.


Spa – Steam room

The outdoor pool is a similar size to the indoor pool, but is set on the terrace in front of the sea. In the summer, this would be a wonderful place to sit and relax, with sun lounger facing the ocean. The water in the outdoor pool is not heated so best reserved for warmer months.


Outdoor pool

Outdoor pool

Outdoor pool

This is an excellent spa and a wonderful addition to the hotel, ensuring you can relax in the water, whatever the weather. Use of the spa is free to residents and is open from 9am-8pm every day and until 10pm on Friday and Saturday.


Fitness room

The hotel has a small fitness room, open daily from 6am-10pm. Needless to say, I didn’t use it while I was there, but I understand that is mainly has cardio equipment. The photos below were taken from the hotel’s website.


Fitness room – Photos from hotel website

Fitness room – Photos from hotel website

Outdoor activities

Outside of the hotel, within the grounds, there are a number of relaxation areas for guests to enjoy. On the Sunday when we arrived there was a large group playing the classic French game, boules, in a pit beside the car park.


Hotel grounds

The lawn has tables and chairs and some hammocks to use, if you fancy just chilling in the garden.


Hotel grounds

Private beach

The hotel also has a private beach on Sablettes Bay, one minute from the hotel, which is available during the months of July and August and can be used exclusively by hotel guests. Sun loungers are supplied.


Flightguys verdict

This is a lovely hotel and a very welcome addition to the Hilton portfolio, which has sadly been lacking in the South of France for the past decade and beyond. It has a real, charming, French character and has been beautifully decorated, both in the rooms and in the hotel’s common areas. As part of the Curio Collection, it is very different from Hilton’s usual corporate style, with more of a boutique hotel feel to it. The sort of place you’d sneak off to for a romantic getaway, rather than a business meeting.

While Les Sablettes may not be the most exciting town on the Riviera, the hotel’s proximity to the sea, the surrounding beaches and the welcoming spa make it perfectly placed for anyone looking for a relaxing few days by the sea and it’s enviable location makes it ideal for those wishing to use it as a base for exploring the rest of the Cote d’Azure.

Something needs to be done to improve the breakfast offering and I’d like to see an increase in water pressure within the rooms as showering is currently far from ideal, but if these issues can be resolved, Hilton is definitely onto a winner with this hotel. We’re already planning another trip in May to see how it fares in the early tourist season so expect an update in the future.


Bonus content – Out and about in the surrounding area

This section is really just about my own sights and musings of the surrounding area. Please feel free to have a look through and (hopefully!) enjoy the pictures.

The area around the hotel is quite different from the usual suspects in the Cote d’Azure, such as Nice, Cannes, Saint Tropez, etc. Les Sablettes is a much smaller town with less to do.

The main road past the hotel has a few shops, most of which are closed out of season. There are some bars and restaurants around and ‘Funny Land’, a children’s entertainment area, but this is certainly not a party town.


Les Sablettes

Les Sablettes

This is what it is all about – The beautiful beaches!


Les Sablettes

This picture was taken from the far end of town, with the hotel in the distance, around the centre of the picture.


Les Sablettes

The South of France definitely does evenings well. The reflection on the water as the sun starts to go down is beautiful.


Les Sablettes

On our first evening at the hotel we collected my daughter and went to a town nearby called Sanary-sur-Mer, approx. 25 minutes drive away.

I spent a lot of time here in my early twenties so it was nice to go back and see it again. It really does look beautiful at night.


Sanary-sur-Mer

Sanary-sur-Mer

Sanary-sur-Mer

Sanary-sur-Mer

Sanary-sur-Mer

On Monday we went to Le Castellet, an enchanting, medieval village set on a hill in the middle of the Bandol vineyards, with roots dating back to the 11th century.

At 30 minutes drive through beautiful countryside, I’d highly recommend a visit here, particularly in low season, when it’s quiet.


View over the Bandol vineyards towards Le Castellet

The entrance to the village

Le Castellet

Le Castellet

One of the sleepy residents of Le Castellet

Views from the village

Le Castellet

Le Castellet

Le Castellet

Le Castellet

Le Castellet

Another of the village’s sleepy residents

Le Castellet town hall

Le Castellet

On Tuesday, having checked out of the hotel, we drove to Cassis, a small port town just outside of Marseille and about 45 minutes from the hotel. For years I’ve wanted to take a boat trip to see the ‘Calanques’, a series of inlets in the cliffs on the coast between Cassis and Marseille and, I’m pleased to say, we finally did!

We hope to review this hotel one day, the Chateau de Cassis, an ancient fortress dating back to the 13th century.


Chateau de Cassis

The boat trip cost €19 per person, visiting 5 of the Calanques.


Our boat for the Calanques tour

Cassis

Cassis port

Route des Crêtes

The first Calanque

The second Calanque

The third Calanque

The fifth Calanque

And that’s it. Hopefully you enjoyed this review. Please feel free to leave any feedback in the comments’ section and let me know what you think.

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