Marseille: La Résidence du Vieux Port
From the quai of the old port of Marseille, you can hardly miss the shimmering, geometric gold-and-silver concrete facade of La Résidence du Vieux Port, so startlingly different from the traditional Provençal architecture surrounding it. The landmark hotel, built in 1954 by young architect André-Jacques Dunoyer de Segonzac, is a mix of Le Corbusier-inspired clean-line minimalism and a touch of snazzy Art Deco. Once a popular celebrity haunt—frequented by Orson Welles, François Truffaut, Yves Montand, Françoise Sagan and Provençal author Marcel Pagnol, among others—the hotel still offers guests a mesmerizing view that hasn’t changed since its heyday. From the bay window and sun-drenched private terrace of every room, there is the same sweeping vista: wooden fishing boats, the sparkling sea and the spires of the city’s emblematic Notre Dame de la Garde basilica on the distant hilltop.
With an extensive, year-long makeover, current owner Marc Boré has revamped the hotel’s interior into a bold, vintage 1950s-style gem,
and also added an excellent ground-floor terrace restaurant. Beyond the lobby, with its monumental Jean Lurçat tapestry, there’s a playfully psychedelic salon ablaze with color, including bright stained-glass windows and a hot pink, purple and saffron-yellow sofa by Kwok Hoï Chan. Upstairs, a slightly more restful mood kicks in. All the luminous, nearly identical 50 rooms, apartments and suites have been designed by Franz Potisek in soft cream and beige neutrals with judicious splashes of primary colors. Stylish simplicity and a large comfort factor go hand in hand: furnishings are 20th-century modern à la Charlotte Perriand or Jean Prouvé, walls are hung with faux paintings in the style of Alexander Calder and Joan Miró, beds are draped with fluffy white duvets, bathrooms are done in checkerboard tiles with shiny black basins.
The unbeatable location, reasonable prices and friendly atmosphere are already a winning combo, but there’s more. The hotel’s new café-brasserie Le Relais 50 excels in ultra-fresh market fare and local fish. Check out, among other offerings, the seafood risotto, the milk-fed veal with “forgotten” vegetables, the sumptuous red-berry-and-whipped-cream signature dessert and the great choice of wine from nearby Bandol and Cassis.
18 quai du Port, Marseille, 04.91.91.91.22. Doubles from €160. website
Originally published in the April 2011 issue of France Today
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