In autumn 2014 the Villa Eilenroc became the most famous property on the French Riviera. This art deco gem – worth tens of millions but now open to the public – starred alongside Colin Firth in the Woody Allen movie Magic in the Moonlight. The film pairs European bon vivants with American millionaires in the roaring 1920s. And that was exactly the villa’s role a century ago.
This Cap d’Antibes villa was christened by its first owner, Hugh Loudon, in honour of his wife Cornelia. You guessed it, ‘Eilenroc’ is an anagram of his partner’s name. Romantic? Think again. Their relationship ended in bitter divorce. The villa was flogged soon after.
Enter a megarich American, Louis Dudley Beaumont, and his wife Helene. (This relationship has a happy ending, I promise.) From 1927 they turned Eilenroc into a modernist masterpiece. We’re talking glass sculptures from Lalique. Interior designers from Versailles. Coal-fired central heating. An alfresco bar by the sea.
The wild parties held by the Beaumont family mirror those in the new Woody Allen movie. Princes, maharajahs and South American dons feasted, flirted and smoked cigars in the Mediterranean moonlight. Conversation was carried by the era’s sexy intelligentsia: Greta Garbot, Rudolph Valentino and F Scott Fitzgerald. The latter author turned these ritzy experiences into a hit novel, Tender is the Night. The book’s success sealed the fate of the Cap d’Antibes as an A-list go-to.
The blend of sea air and South of France sunshine also did wonders for Mrs Beaumont. She owned the villa until 1988 – another 60 years. Her final wish donated Eilenroc to the City of Antibes in perpetuity. That’s a serious gift. The property sits in an 11-hectare estate, where land prices hover around €35,000 per square metre. The neighbouring villa, Roman Abramovich’s Chateau de la Croë, has only eight hectares. Eilenroc is essentially priceless.
Which is why the villa and grounds make such a fine stroll today. Visitors should take the no.2 bus from Antibes then alight at the Avenue Mrs Beaumont, which was named in the family’s honour. Guests who loathe homes of the rich and famous can content themselves with the newly inaugurated coastal footpath, which loops from the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, past Eilenroc, to the Abramovich mansion. Another footpath links Eilenroc with Plage de la Garoupe near Antibes.
Villa Eilenroc is open all-day Sunday and Wednesday, entrance €2 (afternoons only in winter, when entrance is free).