The Hotel des Augustins is a haven of calm close to the tourist melée. A 12th century monastery stood on this site, where Martin Luther lodged en route back from Rome after being excommunicated.
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Entering the gracious lobby, with its ancient arches and stained glass windows, you can well believe it.
However the historic interest pretty much stops there, and with the grand stone fireplace in the dining room. The building was converted into a hotel in 1892, and few of the original features remain upstairs in the warren of corridors.
Each of the 29 rooms is different. But all have a bath-cum shower (with no shower curtain) and are very clean and pleasant, if unremarkably furnished in a bland contemporary style to three-star standards.
A couple are exceptional, however. The best rooms to ask for, if you can get them (they're also more expensive), are no. 208, which has a huge terrace overlooking the lovely cloister and bell tower at the back of the hotel, or no. 307, which is cheaper and has a smaller terrace with a similar view.
If you are travelling in winter, a good bet might be no. 112, which has no terrace but is the only room to feature remnants of gorgeous old stone carvings.
The hotel is about ten minutes' walk from both the bus and (central) train stations. It's on a side street just a couple of metres from the Cours Mirabeau and the Old Town, with its shops, bars and restaurants.
This area can, of course, be very noisy. The rooms are well sound-proofed, but you may need to keep the windows closed at night (there is air-conditioning).
The reception staff have a deserved reputation for being welcoming and helpful. Prices are reasonable for the location, though breakfast costs extra and travellers with cars will need to add the expense of public parking (there's no hotel car park). The wi-fi is free and the newspapers in the lobby are a nice touch.
Visited December 2010
Where: 3 rue de la Masse, 13100 Aix en Provence. Tel: (+33) 4 42 27 28 59. Book a room at the Hotel des Augustins