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Hotel Cézanne, a Personable, Boutique Hotel in Southwest Aix-en-Provence, France


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The plan was originally to have a Bouillabaisse in Marseille (*), then drive up to Aix-en-Provence, home to numerous important Universities, and more importantly, the Calisson.

However, at this particular point in our travels, we needed (or, I needed) a vacation from our vacation - a down day - so, we drove straight to Aix-en-Provence (or simply, Aix) from St. Paul de Vence, and checked into what I thought would be a charming, relaxing hotel: Hotel Cézanne - which is pictured in "red" in the Michelin Red Guide, which means that the hotel is one of "our most delightful places" - in all of Aix, only four hotels are pictured in red.

I'm sorry to say that, as nice as this hotel was, Michelin got this one wrong. While conveniently located in the Southwestern section of Aix, this was not a hotel that I would call "delightful." 

A nice hotel? Yes. Well-staffed and run by polite, caring employees? Yes! Worth a stay if you're in the area? Yes, although I suspect you could do better.

Our room was designed in what I would call "Orange Ikea Modern" - made to look playful, but in reality coming across as somewhat plasticized. I have no doubt that the room was expensive to design - little details showed that - but it just came across as cold, almost like a larger version of a modern Japanese Capsule Hotel in terms of decor. Nah, I don't really mean that, but it did feel like plaster-board, even though it was the type of plaster-board you might see at a museum of modern art.

This decor was not cheap - I guarantee someone spent a lot of money on a designer to make this room look like it did, and that aspect shows up in the pictures more than in reality. The pictures look like modern-chic; the feel was modern-cheap - understand also that we just came from Hostellerie des Messugues, which was 1/3 less expensive, and 1/3 more charming (how could it not be, given its setting?)

*That* said, I cannot over-emphasize how *nice* the staff was. An example: Upon arrival, we were fumbling trying to get to the elevator with our suitcases, and knocked a glass off a display and broke it. We were extremely apologetic, and insisted on paying for the glass, but the staff would have none of it - accidents happen, and they made us feel perfectly comfortable about it - I will always remember this, and will always appreciate it: They handled this like true hospitality professionals, and that's a huge check in the plus column.

More importantly, Hotel Cézanne is literally right across the street from Léonard Parli, a confiserie that has been there since the beginning of time (more accurately, they've been making artisan calissons since 1874), and specializes in luxurious, upscale confections - nougat, macerated fruit, chocolates, and let's be honest: unless you're a college student here, calissons are the main reason to come to Aix-en-Provence - this is a spectacular, elegant, luxurious candy-maker who fabricates the confections right in back of their beautiful shop. It is a "must" for anyone staying at Hotel Cézanne.

One other thing I didn't realize until writing this note - and this is *hugely important* - the hotel states that every single room has a unique decor, so our room may have been the only one in the hotel having this orange-plasticized feel. That greatly elevates my opinion of Hotel Cézanne, and pretty much affirms my impression that the decor - though appearing a little chintzy - was most likely quite expensive. Given that every single room has a different design, that forces me to reassess my claim that the hotel shouldn't be rated in "red."

And it leaves me torn about whether I should rate it 3 stars or 4 stars ... hmm, I'm going to reluctantly go with 3, mainly because it's somewhat expensive ($150+ a night plus about $20 for parking). But, I hope this is balanced out by any other guests rating it 4 stars, giving it an average rating of 3.5. It was clearly our least-favorite hotel of the entire trip (which is really not saying much, because we splurged, and traveled quite well). No, you know what? I'm going with 4 stars - 20% of all hotels get 4 stars according to our scale (5% get 5 stars), and this is absolutely, without question, in the top 25% of all hotels - to rate it otherwise would be unfair and wrong ...


... especially with the calissons being so close by.Aix7.jpg

I can see brian having scanned these pictures, saying, "Yeah, I can see how you might have thought it looked cheap, but that also shows you don't know much about design."

(*) To emphasize just how important it is that you cancel your reservations on a timely basis, I tried, and tried, and tried to cancel our reservation, and was unable to reach the owner of the restaurant until the last minute - and I could tell he wasn't happy. It was weighing on me the entire trip, and when I got home, I was finally able to reach him via a long, very apologetic email, indirectly sent by a mutual acquaintance, and offered to pay something for our missed reservation; he wouldn't accept my offer, but his response validates just how important it is to restaurateurs that customers cancel on a timely basis, and show the owners and staff the respect they deserve:

Mon cher Monsieur

Je vous remercie pour vos compliments.
Vous avez en effet annuler une
Cela peut arriver
Vous avez eu la gentillesse de me proposer de l argent
Mais je ne peux pas l accepter
J apprécié néanmoins votre courtoisie et notre éducation
C est rare

Je vous remercie pour votre mail
Qui me touche

Mr Visciano

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This hotel was very nice and our room was quirky and cool, but I would not describe it as "delightful."

The light fixtures were my favorite things in our modern, orange space. Both hanging and on the nightstands, the plastic orbs looked like globes cut out of origami paper. When turned on, the light coming through the cutouts made intricate patterns on the walls.

The beds were quite comfortable, and I appreciated the honor bar in the lobby and the 24-hour, complimentary coffee service on each floor. While fetching coffee one morning, I tried to peer into a room that was being cleaned to see another decor scheme. This one was also orange, but striped. From the hallway, it looked less inspired than our decor.

Speaking of decor, the lobby, while quite small, was bright and colorful (pictured below).


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