Expect the unexpected at Edelweiss, a pension in the heart of Marseille that's named after a mountain flower. Its shabby façade conceals five stylish guest rooms decorated with hand-picked vintage furniture.
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The owner, David Karoubi, has worked as a set decorator for films, advertising and television and his wife, Bernadette Rochat, runs an antiques business.
Their shared passion shows in the care with which the pension, which opened in June 2010, has been restored and assembled.
David was also one of the founders of Vertigo, a hostel a few blocks away which displays a similarly eclectic approach, at a lower-budget level.
Edelweiss is a duplex apartment in a tall Haussman-era building on a narrow side-street a couple of minutes' walk downhill from Marseille Saint Charles, the main train and bus station (and uphill back, of course), and about ten minutes from the Old Port.
Steep stairs (with no lift / elevator) lead to the terracotta-tiled reception area and kitchen/breakfast room on the first floor, where the owners' living quarters are also situated.
From there a lovely original wooden staircase (pictured top left) sweeps up to the guest rooms on the second floor. Once registered, you get a key that lets you in through the adjoining house without needing to go through the reception.
There are four bedrooms and a family suite with oddball numbering is dictated by the signs, gleaned from everywhere from France to China. The best one is the suite, which is at the back of the house and has its own terrace.
The other rooms have balconies: the two at the front are French-style mini-balconies. All of them are spacious and have original fireplaces, plus mod cons such as dlat-screen TV and wi-fi. Pictured: room 271.
You wouldn't want to bring children here. But these aren't the sort of rooms where you can't relax for fear of damaging anything; the overall atmosphere is one of homely comfort. The mod-cons include air-conditioning, double-glazing, wi-fi and flat-screen TVs.
On the landing, there's an espresso coffee machine and - a quirky survivor from the building's previous life - an extra WC (all the rooms have their own bathroom-toilets, of course).
Breakfast is included and served in the pension at a beautiful, long rustic wooden table. Half and full board are also available on request.
Visited March 2011