Contributor/ Alexander Larman
Best Known For
The Renaissance group of hotels might not seem synonymous with design wizardry, and yet their newest French property, in the Provencal town of Aix-en-Provence, has a pizzazz and flair that rivals any Mondrian or Morgans property. From the flamboyant design to the hundreds of pieces of curated artwork that festoon the walls, this is a feast for the peepers. And thankfully, all the things you’d want from a luxury hotel are here in abundance as well.
The Good Stuff
It’s somewhat nondescript on the outside – despite the design by Marseille architects Claude Sabin Nadjari and Rémy Saada – but the inside is really something impressive. The modern art collection, put together by local gallerist and creative agency supremo Isabelle Viatte, is really hugely impressive; imagine being in the Saatchi Gallery and then being told you can stay the night, and it comes close to the thrillingly deranged feel inside. Virtually every public space has something interesting or unusual to contemplate. As for the bedrooms, they’re more sedate, although as comfortable and stylish as you’d hope for. The top floor ones have mini-terraces that allow panoramic views of Aix in all its glory.
If your impressions of Provence were gleaned from Peter Mayle, then this is going to surprise. Sleek, contemporary and challenging, this is very much a modernist vision of what a hotel ought to be like. Guests seem to be a mixture of clued-up hipsters and rather surprised businessmen, checking their iPhones to see if they’ve come to the right address.
Inside The Hotel – 9/10
The spa is slightly more conventional than you’d expect, as is the bistro Le Comptoir du Clos; there was briefly a Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Clos, but it has now closed, due to rumoured ‘creative differences’. But to be honest, most of the appeal that you’re going to find here is wandering from floor to floor and looking at the artwork on display. Helpfully, there are guided tours available of the highlights of the collection.
Outside The Hotel – 8/10
The place to enjoy an evening drink or light meal is the L’Avant-Scène bar, which looks over the landscaped garden at the back of the hotel. Further afield, the centre of town – not least the iconic street Cours Mirabeau – is a short stroll away, but the interestingly modernist architecture roundabout the hotel (including the town’s major concert hall and the Kengo Kuma-designed Conservatoire of Music) is well worth a peruse. The overall impression is like being in a scaled-down version of La Défense, and considerably easier to get to grips with.