arles jules cesar bedroomTalk about culture clash! At the Hôtel Jules César, a serene 17th century Carmelite convent has been riotously transfigured by designer Christian Lacroix into a five-star hotel.

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The convent has been a hotel, a sedate Arles institution, since 1927. More recently it was sold and given a complete makeover by the Arles-born Lacroix in 2014.

The result is somewhere between bling and brilliant. Lacroix was a favourite of the compulsive fashion victims in the blockbuster British television comedy Absolutely Fabulous.

He endows the Hôtel Jules César with a witty borderline kitsch mix of Roman gravitas, regional accents and flamboyant pizazz.

The low two-storey building, pictured, looks from the outside a bit like a Las Vegas replica of a Roman villa.

Inside, it's probably best described as colourful. Faux Roman colonnades and reproduction statuary vie for attention with old-school Camargue motifs. You'll see matadors, bulls and a frieze of Arlésiennes in traditional costume. Quotes from the 19th century provençal writer Frédéric Mistral decorate the walls.

arles jules cesar facadeSober original wood panelling sits alongside anarchic neon colours and sly trompe l'oeil. It's all eye-popping and a bit bonkers: not for lovers of beige.

The Hôtel Jules César is on Arles' main street, the boulevard des Lices. But it's set well back from the busy road and all the bedrooms face either the peaceful gardens or the cloisters.

The city's free shuttle bus to the train and bus stations and the most important sights passes right in front of the hotel. In any case Arles is compact and most attractions are well within walking distance. So the Hôtel Jules César is ideally positioned.

The windows are small in the upper floor rooms, but they all have decent views. An orchid and a pile of glossy style magazines are elegant touches and a Nespresso machine and hot drinks tray are present and correct.

Each of the three floors has a different theme. Described as "monastic", our own room was decked out with fuchsia pink and white striped curtains, bottle green paintwork, a gold and blue carpet, taupe walls and two different patterns of tiles in the vestibule and bathroom.

An enormous antique provençal wardrobe sat opposite a shiny black modern desk and rustic bedside tables carved out of tree-trunks. The black and white bathroom was pure Art Deco.

arles jules cesar restaurantOne suite, pictured top left, has a corrida theme, a blood-red sleeping area and a carpet inspired by Lacroix's gaudy scarves. Bull-fighters like to stay here when they're in Arles. The "Mother Superior's room" was a little more restful, with a marble bathroom.

The facilities are everything you expect from a top-flight hotel, including a fitness centre, outdoor swimming pool, valet parking and three impressive meeting / function rooms.

The seductive spa has a screen made from repurposed wooden shutters, and opens out on to the cloisters' aromatic herb garden: the perfect place to relax after pampering.

The breakfast buffet is served in a cool modern extension drenched in light which floods in through a glass roof. It favours local produce: excellent Camargue bull meat sausages and charcuterie, artisan cheeses and home-made jams and cakes, including a tasty provençal pine nut tart.

More of those iconic black bulls can be found on the walls - and on the menu - in the gastronomic restaurant. Pictured, this big, wood-panelled dining room feels a little formal and stuffy, despite the jewel-coloured, deliberately mismatched chairs.

But the lobby bar is funkier and in summer you can head to the outdoor terrace or the bar-grill, shaded by elm trees, by the swimming pool.

Visited November 2016

Where: Hôtel Jules César, 9 boulevard des Lices, 13200 Arles. Tel (+33) 4 90 52 52 52. Book a room at the Hôtel Jules César

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