Hotel Cloitre Saint Louis, AvignonA baroque monastery built by the Jesuits in 1611, Saint Louis was originally a school for novitiates, then a hospital. It has been a hotel since 1990.

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The Cloître Saint Louis is centrally located in the walled city, just a couple of minutes' walk from Avignon Centre train and bus stations (its own entrance is down a rather scruffy side street).

The hotel's trump cards are the lovely public areas in the old wing. The restaurant has a vaulted ceiling and its large windows look out - as do some of the rooms - on to a magnificent courtyard with a moss fountain shaded by ancient plane trees.

Throughout July the Cloître Saint Louis becomes the headquarters of the Festival d'Avignon, the city's important theatre festival, so avoid this time of year if you are in search of peace and quiet.

Hotel Cloitre Saint Louis, Avignon: the modern wingThe Cloître Saint Louis has its own church (closed for restoration when we visited) which is still used for Sunday services. Its swimming pool is discreetly tucked away on the roof, and there is private parking, at a supplement.

Designed by the leading French architect Jean Nouvel, a modern wing, pictured, was added in 1991.

It comes as something of a culture shock, with its labyrinthine fretwork of metal gantries and staircases looking very much like a prison and seeming utterly out of character with the older wing.

The 80 rooms and suites are decently sized but their quality varies enormously. By far the most attractive ones are those in the old wing (an example is pictured) which overlook or private garden - but you have to pay a hefty supplement for them.

Bedroom, Hotel Cloitre Saint Louis, AvignonOn the other hand the rooms in the modern wing - some of which are very long and thin - are so stark and soulless that booking them seems like a false economy.

All of the bedrooms are minimally furnished with modern 1960s style fittings, and the black leatherette furniture and burnt orange fabrics lend the Cloître Saint Louis the overall air of a functional tour group or conference hotel, not a place for pampering, even though it has four stars. At similar prices, the cheaper of the rooms over at the five-star Hotel d'Europe represent far better value.

Visited November 2011

Where: Cloître Saint Louis, 20 rue du Portail Boquier, 84000 Avignon. Tel (+33) 4 90 27 55 55 Book a room at the Cloître Saint Louis

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