So far, so good at a com­fort­able base in Mar­seille

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

THERE are few bet­ter perches in Provence’s fa­mous port city for a view of the honey-stoned old har­bour and mod­ern marina than a gue­stroom at Sof­i­tel Mar­seille Vieux Port.

You will need to be in an odd-num­bered gue­stroom for the most en­chant­ing panora­mas or, bet­ter still, in one of the so-called lux­ury ter­race rooms on the third-floor lobby level, fea­tur­ing broad pa­tios fur­nished with lounge chairs and bor­dered with boxes of laven­der.

On the seventh floor, Les Trois Forts has floor-to­ceil­ing win­dows and serves a splen­did break­fast buf­fet (in­clud­ing Proven­cal honey freshly scraped from the comb and su­perb yo­ghurt). Its evening menus are based on the re­gional cui­sine — seafood, egg­plants, to­ma­toes that taste of sun­shine and lash­ings of olive oil.

There are 134 gue­strooms in this mul­ti­storeyed and mir­rored ho­tel, which is no thing of beauty from the out­side but a haven of calm within; ad­ja­cent is a sis­ter Novo­tel prop­erty, both man­aged by Ac­cor and with some shared fa­cil­i­ties, such as an out­door heated pool and ca­sual res­tau­rant.

I amshown to mygue­stroom by Gersende, whose busi­ness card an­nounces she is a ‘‘qual­ity man­ager’’; and yes, the cham­ber, al­though not large, is a qual­ity af­fair, with a pot­ted orchid, bit­ter orange-scented Her­mes toi­letries, fine bed­li­nen and tow­els by Yves Delorme and com­pli­men­tary bot­tled wa­ter. A room-ser­vice menu that prom­ises ‘‘a restau­ra­tion team’’ is at my dis­posal.

Pets are wel­come (howFrench) and Gersende sug­gests the So Spa by Carita for a jet­lag-re­duc­ing treat.

When you con­sider it, Sof­i­tel is a for­tu­itously named brand — the gym here is la­belled So Fit, spa treat­ment rooms are So Well and sauna, ham­mam and an in­door whirlpool are So Wet.

You en­ter So Spa through a cor­ri­dor of or­ganza cur­tains and white-painted branches, and ev­ery­thing smells like a sea­side hol­i­day, thanks to spritzes of Mi­mosa Marin by Sof­i­tel’s ‘‘per­fume part­ner’’ L’Ar­ti­san Par­fumeur. The treat­ment menu is di­vided into en­trees, main plates and desserts, but it’s food for the skin on of­fer, in­clud­ing the in­cred­i­ble-sound­ing 90-minute body mas­sage known as Ca­resse Vol­canique.

I use the ho­tel as an ide­ally lo­cated base from which to ex­plore France’s sec­ond-big­gest city (af­ter Paris, na­turelle­ment). The at­mo­spheric old port is about 15 min­utes away on foot, with am­ple shops, bars and cafes, and plenty of out­door restau­rants in which to seek a good ket­tle of bouil­l­abaisse for lunch. Look for signs that say Mem­bre de la Charte de la Bouil­l­abaisse Mar­seil­laise, as such restau­rants serve the real thing — try Le Cari­bou, Chez Caruso, Le Miramar Peron or Le Rhul.

Af­ter a cou­ple of nights at Sof­i­tel Mar­seille Vieux Port, I may not have achieved full ‘‘restau­ra­tion’’ sta­tus, but I feel nicely re­stored af­ter the long jour­ney from Aus­tralia. So far, so good.

Su­san Kuro­sawa was a guest of Emi­rates and Ac­cor.

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