The bar at the Grand Hotel Roi Rene, Aix en ProvenceThe Roi René is a four star grand hotel with a stylish history and some pretensions. Since it opened in 1929 it has welcomed the Aga Khan, King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Winston Churchill.

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Churchill stayed here in Aix in 1948, while he was writing the second volume of his memoirs and doing some painting.

Truth be told, however, the Grand Hotel Roi René - a sister hotel to the Grand Hotel Beauvau in Marseille - doesn't quite live up to its own image.

For a start, it claims to be located "in the heart of old Aix" but in fact sits on the other side of the busy ring road encircling the city, a ten minute walk to the major sights.

Also according to the publicity brochure, it's "designed to resemble a romantic boudoir". However this is not an intimate boutique hotel but a large establishment (131 rooms and three suites).

It has the impersonal, faintly nondescript feel of a facility which gets a significant part of its business from conferences and commercial travellers.

The lobby at the Grand Hotel Roi Rene, Aix en ProvenceThe Grand Hotel Roi René was refurbished by the French interior designer Didier Rey in 2009 and, while quality materials have clearly been used, some of the public areas were already looking a little tired on our visit in spring of 2012.

Muzak plays as you enter the hotel through a very large open-plan lobby decorated in shades of beige and brown with the odd, rather startling splash of purple.

On the right is a bar and ahead the restaurant, La Table du Roi, with a small outdoor terrace. It offers a Mediterranean-inflected menu, though the restaurant is not especially noted among Aix's top tables.

All the rooms are very similar. The standard, or "classic" ones overlook the ring road; they're double-glazed but some sound leaks in nonetheless. The more expensive "deluxe" rooms ones have views on to the garden and swimming pool.

Bedroom, Grand Hotel Roi Rene, Aix en ProvenceSurprisingly, there is no significant difference in size; classic and deluxe rooms alike are on the small side, as are the bathrooms, which are equipped with a shower/bath rather than a separate walk-in shower.

The Grand Hotel Roi René offers free wi-fi in the public areas, 24-hour room service, valet parking and the other amenities you'd expect from a hotel of this category. Even by French standards, the surcharge for breakfast is hefty.

Visited July 2012

Where: 24 boulevard du Roi René, 13100 Aix en Provence. Tel: (33) 4 42 37 61 00. Fax: (+33) 4 42 37 61 11. Book a room at the Grand Hotel Roi René

 

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