The Hotel d'Europe, AvignonThe five-star Hotel d'Europe has a gracious, cosmopolitan air befitting its name and is certainly one of the loveliest and most historic hotels in Avignon.

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The house was built in 1580 by the Marquis of Graveson and became a hotel after the French Revolution at the urging of no less than Napoléon Bonaparte.

It enjoys a pleasant location on the place Crillon. Lined with trees and lively bars and restaurants, this square is on the edge of the walled city and a short walk from all the main sights.

Just on the other side of the city wall is the Rhône river and the Pont Edouard Daladier.

In times gone by, many of the hotel's guests would have arrived by boat, among them Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, the English economist John Stuart Mill (who died in Avignon), Salvador Dali, Picasso and Jacqueline Kennedy. Romantically, the poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning stayed here after eloping together, en route to their new life in Italy.

Terrace, Hotel d'Europe, AvignonYou enter the hotel through a large, very pretty provençal courtyard (pictured) with a sundial, fountain, shrubs in terracotta pots, vines and wisteria and a three hundred year old plane tree.

Once inside, a glassed atrium leads, on the left, to a bar decorated with tapestries, engravings and old maps, and, on the right, to the hotel restaurant.

This, named La Vieille Fontaine, is run by the award-winning young chef Mathieu Desmarest, a young chef who started his career in this very kitchen in 2008 before going on to gain further experience at top restaurants in Paris.

La Vieille Fontaine has had a Michelin star, although Desmarest, who took over the reins from Bruno d'Angélis in October 2015, will now have to earn it again in his own right.

He has already been named one of France's six Greats of Tomorrow in the 2017 Gault & Millau guide, which is a rather good start. Light meals and snacks are also served in the bar.

The 41 air-conditioned rooms are each decorated in a different style, with period and period-style furniture. In the past, some visitors have complained that the furnishings are worn and shabby, but the two rooms we saw were stylish and immaculate.

Bedroom, Hotel d'Europe, AvignonThe more expensive "superior" and "prestige" categories have larger sitting areas than the basic, "classic" ones. The most desirable is probably room 102, where Napoleon has stayed and which is the only one still to have its original wooden ceiling.

You'll have to splurge on one of the hotel's three suites on the top floor if you want a terrace with a view of the river and/or the Palais des Papes.

The hotel has free wi-fi. Private parking comes at a hefty surcharge, as does breakfast.

Visited November 2011

Where: Hotel d'Europe, 12 place Crillon, 84000 Avignon. Tel: (+33) 4 90 14 76 76. Fax: (+33) 4 90 14 76 71. Book a room at the Hotel d'Europe

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