A warm welcome is assured at L'Epicerie, an imaginatively decorated B&B in the heart of Aix's Old Town.
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A former puppeteer, Luc Laudignon also once ran an art cinema. In 2007 he decided to change careers after inheriting this house and has transformed himself into a congenial host.
L'Epicerie offers two rooms and two suites, all furnished in different retro provençal styles with traditional tiled or wood floors. On the first floor, the suites, Calisson and Cannelle, have large double beds plus sofa beds in their sitting areas.
Cannelle ("cinnamon") is more modern with a jacuzzi, while the feminine Calisson suite (named after Aix's celebrated almond-shaped delicacy) has a four-poster bed, pictured below, and a Victorian-style bath with iron legs.
On the second floor the two bedrooms are also quite spacious. Vanille has a prettily old-fashioned feel with its vintage Robert Doineau photographs and traditional Jouy fabric bedspread. Pain d'Epices ("gingerbread") has warm, earthy colours, twin beds and a giant vintage clock.
The remarkably modest room rates also - unusually for France - include breakfast, either in the garden at the back or around a long wooden kitchen table in the country-style open-plan dining area (pictured top left).
Its big dresser stocked with vintage grocery packets matches the establishment's name: "l'épicerie" means "the grocery").
The copious breakfast includes homemade jams, pastries and savoury snacks such as goat's cheese or puy lentil salad. L'Epicerie is also open to the public for set lunches and cakes and teas in the afternoon, all made with products from Luc's vegetable garden or the local markets.
L'Epicerie is in the Old Town of Aix, near all these street markets, just off the Forum des Cardeurs, with its vast array of restaurants and very close to the Archbishop's Palace, making it a great spot to stay for the Festival d'Aix, during which Luc (pictured below, with friend) does not charge a supplement.
A couple of caveats, however. As in almost all such houses in the Old Town, the stairs are rather steep and there is no lift/elevator.
Down a narrow side-street, L'Epicerie is also shuttered up at night and might be difficult to find if you arrive after dark.
It's very conveniently located, but this street can experience traffic and pedestrian noise at night. The rooms are double-glazed and well sound-proofed, but, if you are a light sleeper, ask for the Vanille room, the only one which overlooks the back garden.
Parking, as ever in Aix, is tricky - the nearest one, which admittedly is very near indeed, is the underground car-park on the Forum des Cardeurs, but do bear in mind that it will bump up the cost of your stay.
Visited January 2012
Where: L'Epicerie, 12 rue du Cancel, 13100 Aix en Provence. Tel: (+33) 6 08 85 38 68. Book a room at L'Epicerie