So far, so good at a comfortable base in Marseille
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.