A Star is borne on high energy and low prices.
This may be the buzziest two-star hotel on the coast. Certainly, no other hotel owner can possibly have more energy than Philippe Horowitz. If so, he or she would implode. Mr Horowitz has the wiry, muscular frame of a former top-class canoeist.
The Star belonged to his father, Georges, for almost 20 years. Then father died. Son gave up canoeing to take over. He started renovations. He mans reception. He talks into the telephone while writing upside down across the desk on guests’ maps, indicating directions. He carries bags and sorts out internet.
And if my sentences are getting short and staccato, it is in an effort to keep up. This is tricky to do with a chap who smiles, advises, enthuses, runs up stairs, outlines projects, checks bathrooms and welcomes guests pretty much simultaneously and without drawing breath. The result is that the humble little spot fairly fizzes with charm.
It’s on an unexpectedly lively street – bars, bistros, Indian and Japanese restaurants – behind the Nice Etoile shopping centre, just off the main Avenue Jacques Médecin. You can’t miss it. Shiny silver discs dangle in the downstairs windows.
Inside, the lobby and breakfast room have no truck with the epidemic of beige and light grey which has struck hotel designers across the world. Here, the colours are primary – slabs of yellow, blue and red – and sufficiently bright to jolt you awake of a morning.
The 24 rooms are on three floors above, to which there is no lift. Don’t despair. Mr Horowitz or one of his colleagues will hike the cases up there for you. I don’t doubt for a second that they’d carry you as well, if asked. Once arrived, though, things calm down to the restful, as befits bedrooms.
As befits two-stars, they are neither huge nor ultra-luxurious. They are, however and at the very least, clean, practical and equipped with more comfortable beds than is normal in such establishments. Certain have been refurbished, so bathrooms – though dinky – are stylish enough. Paint-work is fresh. Cupboards are new. There’s free WiFi throughout and, on the third-floor, old-fashioned balconies from which to survey the Niçois down below. If your expectations are two-star, I think you’ll be nicely surprised.
The hotel is some 20 minutes from the sea, 10 from the old town and the posh shopping areas. But it’s only two minutes from Avenue Jacques Médecin, along which Nice’s shiny new trams run. They’ll whisk you towards the visitor spots in no time.
In the evening, though, you might elect to stay in the quartier (district) around the hotel. It has the bustle of non-tourist Nice, and no menace at all. In the unlikely event that you do meet trouble, just mention it to Mr Horowitz. He’ll have it sorted before you’ve finished your sentence.