The swish of 19th-century style reviewed and corrected for 21st-century comfort-seekers.
Marseille’s oldest hotel surveys the Vieux Port with stately dignity rather wasted on the pleasure craft which now pack the waterfronts. It demands sailing ships or, at least, steam vessels. It cries out for customers setting forth for the colonies with leather portmanteau trunks. It speaks of a time of supreme French confidence.
Ah well. The setting may have changed (Marseille’s main port activity moved round the corner from the Vieux Port decades ago) but the hotel’s style and substance remain. In truth, after refurbishment a few years ago, it probably looks as good as it’s ever done.
The place retains the feel and proportions of a noble Provençal town-house – genuine period furniture and textiles – but lightened up for contemporary tastes which don’t like chintz and clutter. And, frankly, rooms with proper writing desks, lovely drapes and pedestal tables come as a relief amid the epidemic of minimalist modern design breaking out in other top city hotels. (Do, though, try for those rooms with views over the port.)
The public spaces and bar have, too, a sort of spacious retro-elegance which might have appealed to Frédéric Chopin and his French lover, authoress George Sand. They were 19th-century regulars at the Beauvau. If I were French, I’d say their cultivated spirit lingers around the hotel. But I’m not, so I won’t.
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