Pay two-star prices for three-star panache.
Well, now, here’s a nice surprise. You sweep in from the Latin bustle of one of Nice’s liveliest pedestrian streets. You couldn’t be more central if you’d booked the mayor’s office. Outside you leave behind the buzzing bistro terraces, fashion boutiques and African street sellers flogging dancing zebras. Waltz through the automatic doors and your eyes widen. You’re in a lobby and lounge that really wouldn’t disgrace a four-star. Certainly, I’ve rarely seen such panache in a two-star budget hotel.
For a start, the public spaces are as big as a ballroom. And they have a sort of classical Mediterranean art deco style. This is expressed in white columns, balustrades and swathes of pink-red ochre on the walls. Decorated glass swirls with frescoes straight out of the 1930s. It’s bright, light and clean – as if decoration had finished just a couple of hours before you arrived.
You could bring anyone here, from your diplomat auntie to design student daughter. As it was, I was surrounded by a party of mature Swedish ladies – all asking in perfect English for directions to the Matisse museum. Then I sat in the lounge, flipped through a discarded Swedish magazine and was quietly flabbergasted by it all.
Upstairs (by lift, incidentally – which not all two-stars have), the corridors are equally classy and the doors equipped with great golden handles. The 61 rooms themselves are not as ornate as matters down on the ground floor. But their simplicity is modern enough in a Provençal sort of way, the bathrooms neat and contemporary (if a bit of a squash). And you are, after all, paying two-star prices bang in the middle of France’s fifth city. What you need is a base and these rooms provide it quite satisfactorily.
Donkeys and giraffes
Light sleepers might like to book rooms at the back of the hotel. Rue Massena is a busy commercial street and the chaos of morning deliveries could disturb more fragile folk in the front rooms. It didn’t bother me but I would sleep through Armageddon. Breakfast is a sufficient six euros’ worth and the people behind reception first-rate. One of the young guys smiled so widely and constantly that I feared he might split his face in two.
Most things you might want to see or do – old town, beach, shopping streets – are no more than five minutes away. This has, in short, to be a contender for the best budget hotel in Nice. And the dancing zebras (also donkeys and giraffes) are right outside. I should perhaps have mentioned that they’re toys.