In the French Riviera with the Rolls-Royce of Rolls-Royces – the new Phantom Series II
CNA Luxury had a rendezvous with Rolls-Royce in the new Phantom Series II along the spectacular coast of the Cote d’Azur.
The pinnacle of automotive luxury calls for a setting just as epic and there is, perhaps, a landscape no more appropriate than the French Riviera to introduce the new Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II.
And so we find ourselves in the lap of luxury in the South of France, dramatically perched on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Built on a rocky peninsula high above the picturesque French town of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, The Maybourne Riviera is the new hospitality jewel of the Cote d’Azur, proffering breathtaking views so spectacular that sea and sky meld transcendently, with Italy to the west and Monaco to the east.
It’s magnificent to say the least, in nouveau luxe contrast to a region more famed for the Belle Epoque when actors, artists, musicians and well-heeled luminaries of the era were magnetised by its allure.
Unbeknownst to most, however, the Cote d’Azur has its place in Rolls-Royce history, too. It was not too far from here when, in 1912, co-founder Sir Henry Royce built his villa, La Mimosa, in the village of Le Canadel, where he subsequently spent every winter until he passed on in 1933.
And so here we are at The Maybourne Riviera, ready to rendezvous with Rolls-Royce and indulge in the extravagance ahead.
MICHELIN STARS TO MATCH
Already, this exceedingly stylish new sibling to Claridge’s, The Connaught and The Berkeley in London, and The Maybourne Beverly Hills in Los Angeles boasts a bevy of culinary stars, too.
There’s La Piscine by two-Michelin-starred Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, while the hotel’s crowning glory situated on the top floor offering more epic views, Ceto by three-Michelin-starred chef Mauro Colagreco, has already earned itself a Michelin-star in the few months since the hotel opened its doors.
Incidentally, we also spotted two-Michelin-starred French chef Daniel Boulud casually waiting for his ride in the hotel lobby for good measure.
Because that’s the kind of thing you do in a place like this; sip champagne, spot stars and soak in awe-inspiring sea views as the ocean breeze carries with it an air of glamour wafting from nearby Cannes and St Tropez further south.
We are, after all, on the French Riviera, and from the private terrace of my room, I’m enjoying the most delicious bird’s eye view of Monte Carlo below.
The hotel is but a 15-minute drive from the legendary principality known for extravagance and excess, and I quite rightly imagine that the neighbouring microstate known to have the densest concentration of ultra high net worth individuals – five UHNWIs with US$30 million (S$42.1 million) in liquid assets per 1,000 residents – would be the ideal market for the new Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II.
EXCLUSIVE, IMMERSIVE CURATED EXCURSIONS
To understand the psyche of a Rolls-Royce customer, it helps to immerse oneself in the lifestyle of said UHNWI. Thus Rolls-Royce had put together a fine series of curated excursions from which to choose. All out-of-this-world, once-in-a-lifetime experiences – unless you really are a Rolls-Royce customer, of course.
You could visit the most extensive wine cellar in the world, home to a selection of the finest Grand Crus among 350,000 bottles hidden beneath the Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo in Monaco, create your own signature scent together with the world’s most lauded perfumier Isabelle Burdel, and acquaint yourself with two of France’s most celebrated masters, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall, through guided tours of their respective art museums in Nice, amongst others.
The Matisse and Chagall experience came in a close third, but I ultimately opted for freediving off the coast of Monaco with four-time world record holder Pierre Frolla. It was amazing to say the least, and certainly a privilege of the once-in-a-lifetime variety.
From one body of water to another, I also visited the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, established by Prince Albert I to study marine sciences and conserve aquatic life in 1910.
We arrived in style in the Rolls-Royce Cullinan for our private tour with a marine biologist that took us behind-the-scenes discovering all the fascinating creatures of the sea up close, housed in aquariums intelligently designed to recreate complex ecosystems, while learning about all the conservation work undertaken by the museum to preserve some of the rarest species of fish and living coral.
THE ROLLS-ROYCE OF ROLLS-ROYCES
Now the Phantom is the Rolls-Royce of all Rolls-Royces. It represents the pinnacle in the quintessentially British institution’s range of ultra-luxurious automobiles, and an icon so sanctified ought never to be tampered with, some believe. And thus any modifications to its latest incarnation – the eighth generation since it was first introduced in 2017 – are kept largely within the realm of the aesthetic. Refinements, if you will.
A subtle change to the geometry of the Pantheon Grille, for instance, enhances the prominence of the “RR” Badge of Honour and Spirit of Ecstasy figurine when viewed from the front. The grille itself is also now illuminated, complemented by headlights that replicate the Starlight Headliner effect from the interior roof with a total of 580 intricate laser-cut bezel starlights dazzling with its resplendence, particularly as Monte Carlo twinkles in the distance at dusk.
THE BEAUTY OF BESPOKE
For the Phantom exists in an echelon its own, customers are accustomed to a level of luxury that is just as legendary.
“When there’s no barrier to creativity, that’s luxury,” mused Jon Simms, general manager of the Bespoke division, as we chatted over lunch at the hotel.
Almost every Rolls-Royce that rolls off the factory floor is considered a bespoke work of art, as the Bespoke team works closely with clients to personalise the car of their dreams.
There are interiors swathed in hand-painted silk featuring floral motifs inspired by a Japanese garden, fascias illustrated by bold, geometric artwork by renowned South African artist Esther Mahlangu for a fellow countryman, a beautiful interior featuring hand-painted orchid motifs for a Singaporean client, and an extraordinary one-of-a-kind Phantom produced in collaboration with French luxury house Hermes for Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, to name a few.
To anthropomorphise the archetypal Rolls-Royce customer, the brand has crafted a fleet of specially designed cars, each with a distinct personality that speaks to Rolls-Royce’s evolving customer profile and demonstrates the versatility of the brand.
There’s The Patriot (for those brimming with national pride, finished in Magma Red with a Union Jack-inspired theme), The Maverick (for whom a little stubbornness and a lot of personal conviction gives birth to unconventional ideas), The Founder (for dynamic, self-made entrepreneurs whose business is frequently conducted on the move), The Prodigy (for astonishingly young world shakers who have achieved meteoric success at a young age), The Sentimentalist (in immaculate white, purchased by romantics, perhaps, as a token of love or to mark a key personal milestone), and The Extrovert (always invoking attention in a flamboyant purple hue).
Available on the Phantom Extended wheelbase are three more exemplars: The Aristocrat (for traditionalists with exceptional taste and pedigree and who prefer to be chauffeured), The Mondaine (for trend-setting fashionistas intimately familiar with haute couture), and The Connoisseur (in a gorgeous shade of sumptuous dark green lavished with shimmer for those with an extraordinary eye for aesthetic beauty and a penchant for curating excellence).
Though I had my heart set on The Connoisseur, I was handed the keys to The Iconoclast (for rebel-types, apparently), and this turned out to be quite the perfect pairing, in hindsight.
Venture beyond its staid black exterior (this is the closest you’ll get to a Rolls-Royce Black Badge with darkened trim and a bolder, more daring sense of expression), and it is immediately apparent The Iconoclast is for non-conformists who defy convention, renounce the status quo, and live life on their own terms. For rockstars, perhaps.
It was the plum leather interior and trim for me. And one could easily envision the late Prince himself establishing a purple reign in the backseat, replete with a champagne chiller for his Dom Perignon.
We glided along the scenic coastline of the French Riviera, through the narrow cobbled streets of charming little villages en route to lunch at Le Plongeoir in Nice, perched on another magnificent location atop a pillar of rock seeming to almost hover over the azure Mediterranean waters.
It was all very nice indeed driving, and being driven, in this peerlessly exquisite Phantom, enjoying the fabled and fabulous Rolls-Royce “magic carpet ride” feel that Aladdin would probably also write home about.
CNA Luxury was in France at the invitation of Rolls-Royce.