You want to visit Marseille but to stay somewhere quiet well away from the bustle of the Old Port? A country house hotel right on the edge of the city, Hotel 96 is just for you.
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This 19th century bastide (provençal villa) is the family home of the brother-sister team of William and Alice Racine, who have converted it into an elegant boutique hotel.
And its rates are modest, though do watch out for extra charges for items such as swimming pool towels, which can push up the bill.
Hotel 96 is tucked up a narrow side-street in an upscale residential district south of Marseille. It's a 25 minute drive from the centre and ten minutes from the beaches.
It's also near Les Baumettes, the city prison! Not to worry, though: the whole gated complex is extremely secure, with ample off-street parking.
This blissful seclusion makes it perfect for business seminars, romantic getaways and private groups and it's very well placed for car touring and hiking: Marseille's southern calanques are a stone's throw away.
Hotel 96 is not so great if you're planning to spend a lot of time in the centre of Marseille and not at all suitable if you don't have a car, though the hotel does offer bicycles for hire.
A few buses serve the area too, but these stop running mid-evening. So wheels are essential for that big night out on the Old Port.
And make sure you bring your sat nav or get clear instructions if you're arriving for the first time after dark, since the place is rather hard to find.
Its 12 rooms and one suite are set in two modern buildings in pretty, very peaceful landscaped gardens.
Nearby, the old bastide now houses a breakfast room and meeting room with an overhead projector and other business facilities.
The rooms are on two floors. The ground floor ones have small private terraces overlooking the garden. Try to get a room in the block that's further from the swimming pool, which could get a bit noisy in summer. One room is adapted for wheelchair access.
The first floor ones have an airy, loft-like feel, with high ceilings, a skylight and a large window, though no balcony. But they're all spacious.
The rooms are done out in different styles ranging from industrial chic, with an iron and wood theme, to nouveau Mediterranean. Some have quirky touches such as Racine family snapshots or beautiful antique wash basins made of white stone quarried in nearby Cassis. A brightly coloured family room (with extra bed) is decorated with jolly lollipops.
We stayed in one with a Marseille theme, pictured, with vintage photographs of the city and an unusual red wall inspired by local tomettes (terracotta tiles).
In line with the curious current trend, the bathrooms are open plan. Some of them have baths, others walk-in showers.
In each bedroom, a neat concertina file bulges with useful maps, lots of tourist information and even the hotel's own little newsletter in French and English. The reception staff offer a limited concierge service and can, for example, book advance tickets for the MuCEM.
Dotted with works by local artists, the grounds are really attractive. There's a swimming pool, sauna and wellness area, where you can get a massage.
Served in the bastide or, in summer, on an outdoor terrace, the breakfast, as usual in France, costs extra. But it's a star feature and a superb spread for a hotel of this size.
You can squeeze your own orange juice and boil an egg (miniature individual timers provided) to your precise liking. Other goodies include pain perdu (French toast), jams, yoghurts and lemonade. Most of it is home-made. The selection of cooked meat and cheese is small but of very high quality. It's served till 10.30am.
Hotel 96 does have one other huge minus: its lack of evening catering. It serves light lunches but not dinners.
At night you can buy pâtés and tapenades or rather pricey pre-cooked meals in glass jars (pasta and classic French, including beef bourguignon and sauerkraut) which you have to heat up yourself on a special hotplate.
Alternatively the hotel can arrange a takeaway. But any of this must be ordered before the reception closes in the early evening. Self-catering is not permitted and there are no bars or restaurants nearby: the nearest ones are a good 15 minute walk down dark side streets. So it's quiet at night.
This limitation and Hotel 96's out-of-centre location are the only real downsides of what otherwise represents excellent value. If you're not worried by them, don't hesitate to book it.
Visited September 2016
Where: Hotel 96, 96 avenue de la Soude, 13009 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 71 90 22. Book a room at Hotel 96 in Marseille
Photo credits: all images © Hotel 96