“Vous cherchez quelque chose, madame?” “Are you looking for something?” a server asked as I scanned the lunch buffet, where a whole station was dedicated solely to Caprese salads, with mounds of creamy Italian burrata cheese and fresh heirloom tomatoes in shades of cherry red and mustard yellow. The problem wasn’t finding something to eat; it was deciding what to try first. Modeled after a traditional Provençal market, the recently renovated La Provence restaurant is part of a $12 million property-wide renovation at 120-acre Club Med Opio en Provence, the brand’s flagship on the French Riviera, located just a 30-minute drive from the Nice Cote d’Azur Airport.
Earlier this year, Opio broke down the walls of its signature restaurant to give diners double the view over Provence. “It’s a pity to have the best views of Provence and not appreciate them,” said Club Med president Henri Giscard d’Estaing over lunch at La Provence. Now guests can take their Provençal fare out on the open-air terrace, admiring 360-degree views of the towns dotting the hills in the distance.
In addition to the restaurant, the resort revamped all 435 of its bungalow-inspired rooms and built a new family-focused playground, CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil. The first in Europe—and second in the world following Club Med Punta Cana—the 21,500-sq.-ft. CREACTIVE is a circus camp of sorts, where both children and adults can learn the basics of 30 different activities, from aerial silk to flying trapeze, with the guidance of the expert Cirque du Soleil-trained Gentils Circassiens.
CREACTIVE is just one of the many ways Club Med stands apart from other resorts in Europe and the rest of the world. The brand is currently investing over $1.5 billion in the renovation of 68 existing resorts, in addition to opening new locales this winter like Club Med Grand Massif Samoëns Morillon, a 420-room all-inclusive ski resort in the French Alps.
“Ninety percent of the locations where we started to build didn’t have anything there before,” explains Xavier Mufraggi, CEO of Club Med North America. “This is why we are different in the hotel industry. We are always looking for new trends and taking the risk to go first.”
For example, as the brand sees the demand in experiential travel continuing to increase, they’re looking to give guests at Club Med Opio the “full experience of what Provence can be,” Giscard d’Estaing explains. One of the main ways to truly capture a sense of place is to taste the food of the region. At La Provence, ingredients are sourced from local vendors and nearby farms, and Opio even produces its own olive oil right on site (your clients will love this so much, they’ll want to buy bottles to bring back as souvenirs). Mixed between stations serving Asian and Italian cuisine, your clients can also sample some of Provence’s specialties like beef daube stew and farces (stuffed bell peppers).
And for those questioning Club Med Opio’s countryside location, there’s a reason this resort is tucked in the hills instead of sitting along the shore in the South of France. Surrounded by olive groves and pine forests, the village is located just a 30-minute drive away from some of the region’s most charming medieval towns, such as the perfume capital of Grasse and artist haven of Saint-Paul de Vence. Opio is also in the process of opening up its own private beach in Cannes, so guests can bask at the bustling beach club during the day and retreat back to the calm village come nightfall.
“We have the ability to benefit from our surroundings, where guests can go into a new environment and discover a region—no matter what generation they are,” Giscard d’Estaing says. “Grandparents may want to see where painters painted masterpieces in Saint-Paul de Vence, while parents are active playing tennis and the kids are at CREACTIVE. Here, the whole family has something to do in one place.”
Rates for a 7-night stay in the summer start at $1,421 pp, with children ages 4-11 receiving a 50 percent discount. For more information, visit clubmed.us.