“The echoes of great artists and writers linger in this simple yet spectacular hotel”
Local bells chime at night, lulling you to sleep. There are Standard Rooms, Superior Rooms, Deluxe Rooms and an apartment. A couple of the Deluxe Rooms on the top floor are newly designed, the only real changes the hotel has seen in 40 years. They are delightful and super-comfortable, one with a private terrace overlooking the glorious rooftops of Arles, but somehow you want the old rooms even if they’re a little less luxurious.
Some rooms are resplendent with chandeliers and rugs, perhaps hand-embroidered chairs, stencilled red curtains, golden shutters and bowls of fruit. The Standard Rooms are utterly acceptable: small, but not too small, with cast-iron ornamental bedheads, black-and-white photographs and LCD TVs.
As for the huge Bullfighter’s Room (a Deluxe), with its rich armchairs and crystal chandelier, it's like sleeping in a piece of history, a worm hole back in time. Of all its grand fixtures and fittings - and the gilded mirror is ecstatically over the top - what caught our eye were the old black-and-white photos on the walls of Picasso and the great matadors, Dominguin and Ordoñez. In one, Dominguin, naked above the waist, lights a cigarette, an explosion of light that illuminates his face - an incredible photo of pent-up power, which makes you think of Robert de Niro in Taxi Driver. The room sums itself up perfectly in its cavernous and defiantly old-fashioned bathroom. Around the bath a tile had cracked and nothing had yet been done to repair it, but who could possibly care when you have French windows in the same room that open onto a private balcony overlooking Place du Forum? The temptation to step out after a bath and yawn and gaze and dry one's hair is hard to resist. If you have ever wanted to splash out on a room, this is one for the wish list, even if it is twin-bedded.
The dining room always has an exhibition of photographs on the walls. The hotel hosts the International Photographic Festival in the summer, and Arles is now home to the National School of Photography. You can have breakfast (not included in rates) here, but it’s much more fun to have it in the salon, sinking into one of the leather armchairs, stooping forward to ineptly butter your croissant, or on the terrace in the sun. You can either go continental with freshly squeezed orange juice, a piece of fruit and a basket of croissants and baguettes with jams, or fill up American-style with cornflakes, eggs any way you want them, and hams and cheese.
In 2014, the hotel opened a restaurant and bar, which we're yet to visit. The menu features very French dishes, such as omelette and foie-gras.
Mas de la Chassagnette just outside town is the only Michelin-starred organic restaurant in Europe. It has received rave reviews (you must book ahead) for the 'poetic' fare harvested from its 320-acre farm. Cilantro on the far side of the amphitheatre was excellent - very interesting flavours with a contemporary slant. Le Charcuterie is very close and offers great French food in a simple room; Monsieur handles his guests with an easy smile and always has time for a chat. L’Austruche is very imaginative and has no fixed menu; whatever is good at market in the morning is bought and cooked for your plate in the evening. If you want simple bistro food you'll find it all over town.
Children are welcome, and cots and extra beds are available.
The Deluxe Suite and Apartment are perfect for families. Each has 2 bedrooms and a shared bathroom; the latter also has a large living area.
Baby cots are available on request
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking