Better than quaint, brighter than paint.
Trying to find the right word to describe Les Cigales, I keep bumping into “quaint”. But, with its overtones of twee and scones, it’s not quite the mot juste. Les Cigales is, after all, in Nice, not the Cotswolds.
So I’m going to have to think of another term, one which embraces a venerably vivacious exterior (all lemon-wash trimmed with haut-reliefs and wrought iron), a pin-bright and pretty interior, and a feminine attention to detail and décor, flowers and friendliness.
While we’re working on the word problem, let’s go inside the fine old town house to meet Eliane. On my visit, she seems to be running the place single-handed. She is a study in smart, attractive perpetual motion as she rushes round a lobby that's as light as a soufflé. Fittingly, the walls are gently lemon-coloured, lemon being something a theme at Les Cigales. Believe me, there are very much worse ones. Red furniture sets it all off nicely.
Downstairs is a cheerful breakfast room (though, if you don’t want to eat there, there’s an excellent pâtisserie shop nearby). Upstairs, the 19 rooms are red and lemon or blue and lemon with quality bedding and lots of light. There’s no attempt to bag contemporary design awards. The aim is comfort and tranquillity. If you had a clear-eyed aunt of taste and means, these are what her guest rooms would look like.
A handful have balconies and the top floor rooms were effectively once the attic, so have mansard windows. They are all, needless to say, spotlessly clean. Indeed, the whole place breathes well-bred cleanliness. I got the impression that Eliane would be quite as appalled to find a crumb here as she would if she were in charge of intensive care.
And then, just when you are concluding that, well, all this is lovely, you are introduced to the terrace. It’s a slightly odd one – up a metal staircase on top of a roof – but a quite delightful spot in which to sit, read or survey surrounding gardens. So Les Cigales becomes lovelier still. It is also well positioned: five minutes from the beach and main shopping, 10 from the old town.
If you are a haven-of-peace sort of person, then this is your sort of place. And, when you’ve been, perhaps you’d get back to me with an alternative to “quaint”. I remain stumped.