The Pigonnet started life in the 18th century as a typical provençal bastide, or mansion and. Today it's a peaceful, pretty country house hotel just outside the centre of Aix.
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Each of the hotel's 45 bedrooms and suites is individually decorated. Some have vintage furniture and provençal indienes fabrics; some are ultra-modern. Others feature signed photographs of celebrities, such as Maria Callas or Fanny Ardant, who have stayed there.
In 2014, the Pigonnet became linked to another famous name, the Franco-American film actor Christophe (Christopher) Lambert, star of Greystoke and Highlander.
He is now one of the co-owners, and has launched an extensive renovation programme. You might well spot him here from time to time too.
The five-star hotel is much demand during the Festival d'Aix in July, when room rates almost double, so be sure to reserve well ahead for this period.
The Pigonnet (occasionally misspelled as Le Piggonet or Le Pigeonet) derives its name from its typically provençal circular pigeon loft (on the left as you approach the entrance). It was converted into a hotel in 1924, when it had just four rooms, and has gradually expanded ever since.
As a result, today each room has its own peculiarities and you'll need to choose carefully when booking to get one which meets your individual requirements.
Their sizes vary considerably: the suites are enormous, while the single rooms are quite small.
Some face north over the long, imposing, tree-lined drive up to the front entrance. This view is by no means unattractive.
But the rooms, which face south over the large and gorgeous gardens, are infinitely more desirable. Some of the suites and apartments have their own private terraces.
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 too, as well as a pétanque court and a summer bar-bistro.
The hotel restaurant has big bay windows overlooking the grounds and a vast terrace for outdoor dining. The setting is glorious and (judging by several meals we have enjoyed here) the food is excellent too. Eating à la carte here can be a little pricey, but there's a very affordable prix fixe (set menu) too.
The 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 along a dull, busy main road, but there is a free hotel shuttle bus if you're feeling lazy.
The Pigonnet has a small spa with a hamman and massage and treatment facilities and a fitness centre. And it offers free private car parking in the driveway, a real bonus in a city where this is in short supply.
Visited March 2012, May 2014, April 2017
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