Cheap, charming and bang central.
“OK,” you will say when, having read this review and booked in, you are nearing the hotel, “Where has this clown brought us to now?” I’ll not be offended. The approach is not very promising. I had doubts myself. Granted, you’re bang central. If you drove a stake into the ground here, you could spin Nice round it. Rue Massena is one of the city’s key pedestrian shopping, eating and drinking areas. The majestic Place Massena main square is but a couple of paces away.
But, frankly, the hotel’s little door off the street doesn’t suggest comfort or even respectability. Nor does it lead directly to the hotel. First you must walk along an age-worn corridor, up some stairs, out the back of the building, across a metal walk-way, into another apartment building and up more steps.
Only the magnificent purple-flowering climbing plant overlooking the walkway will still the fear that you’re getting deeper into authentic city life than is strictly necessary.
Then, though, you’re at the real door of the Rex – it colonises one floor of the apartment building – and you will, I hope, forgive me. This is an utterly disarming little place, and all the more so because of the unflattering access. Smells of cabbage, flock well-paper, snarling staff and medieval plumbing, once the mainstays of such establishments, are absolutely absent.
In their stead is what appears to me to be a pleasant country cottage deconstructed, brought to town and re-arranged in compact apartment form. And, given the constrictions – we’re talking essentially one corridor with 10 rooms and a little reception area off it – it’s been done with some taste. Light greys and beige are enlivened with splashes of colour. Two venerable cherubs hover over the welcome desk.
Rooms are compact and bathrooms more so (this is a one-star). But they’re not devoid of style. Walls are paint-washed in Provençal colours, practical furniture has a fresh patina of age and the bedding is inviting. Such views as there are are mainly over what the hotel calls a “courtyard”. It is really the backs of other apartment blocks. Breakfast may be taken in one’s room or on a “terrace” – in truth, a gap between surrounding buildings.
But who cares? The place is clean, run with clear affection and therefore almost lovable. You warm to it as to a well-kept, handsome mongrel puppy. And, for €40 each (if you take a double in high season), you’re as close to the heart of Nice as it’s possible to be.