Hotel Le Pigonnet, Aix en ProvenceLe Pigonnet started life in the 18th century as a typical provençal bastide, or mansion and today is a pretty boutique country house hotel just outside the centre of Aix en Provence.

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Each of the hotel's 44 bedrooms is individually decorated with vintage furniture and provençal fabrics; some feature signed photographs of celebrities, such as Maria Callas or Fanny Ardant, who have stayed there.

In 2014, the Hotel Pigonnet became linked to another famous name, the Franco-American film actor Christophe (Christopher) Lambert, star of Greystoke and Highlander. He is one of the new co-owners, launching an extensive renovation programme, and you might well spot him here from time to time.

The five-star hotel is much demand during the Festival d'Aix in July, when the already hefty room rates almost double, so be sure to reserve well ahead for this period.

Le Pigonnet (occasionally misspelled as Le Piggonet or Le Pigeonet) was converted into a hotel in 1924 and has gradually expanded ever since. Consequently each room has its own peculiarities and you'll need to choose carefully when booking to get one which meets your individual requirements.

Garden, Hotel Le Pigonnet, Aix en ProvenceSome face north over the long, imposing, tree-lined drive up to the front entrance to the hotel. This view is by no means unattractive.

But, for a relatively small supplement the "superior" rooms, which face south over the large and gorgeous gardens, are infinitely more desirable. The ones on the first floor also enjoy a lovely terrace overlooking the grounds.

This area is shared, but very wide, and each room's segment of it is screened off from its neighbours. All rooms have a free mini-bar though it contains soft drinks and beer only.

Le Pigonnet's trump card is its spectacular, surprisingly large garden. The 1.5 hectares / 3.5 acres of landscaped grounds with shrubs, statuary, fountains, stone benches and walkways, are easily spacious enough to lose yourself in.

They offer gorgeous views over the countryside and even claim to encompass one of the very spots where the Aix-born and -based artist Paul Cézanne set up his easel to paint the Mont Sainte Victoire, the mountain that obsessed him. There's a heated swimming pool, though it is closed outside the high season.

The hotel restaurant has big bay windows overlooking the gardens and a vast terrace for outdoor dining. The setting is glorious and (judging by a buffet lunch we had here) the food is very good too, though you'll probably get better value in central Aix.

Restaurant, Hotel Le Pigonnet, Aix en ProvenceLe Pigonnet is far enough outside the town to create a sense of peace and seclusion, though it has now been swallowed up by suburbs.

It's about one km / 0.6 miles from La Rotonde, the big fountain at the bottom of the Cours Mirabeau, Aix's main boulevard. You can walk there in ten to 15 minutes and there is also a hotel shuttle bus if you're feeling lazy.

The hotel recently opened a spa centre with a hamman and massage and treatment facilities. It has private car parking in the driveway, a real bonus in a city where this is in short supply.

Visited March 2012 and May 2014

Where: Hotel Le Pigonnet, 5 avenue du Pigonnet, 13090 Aix en Provence. Tel: (+33) 4 42 59 02 90. Book a room at the Hotel Le Pigonnet

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