Bandol's only five-star hotel-spa, the Île Rousse is brilliantly located right on the beach in a quiet street near the marina, shops and restaurants of the town centre.
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The first impression, as you enter the lobby, is of a very large, luminous space of glass and mirrors, pictured below, with something of a wow factor. Beyond the immediate reception area and conciergerie, on a slightly lower level, is a bar looking out to a heated seawater infinity pool and, beyond that, over the bay and Bandol's best beach, the Plage Rènecros.
Recently refurbished throughout, the hotel has two small private beach areas with a few sun-beds, and a beach-level brasserie, which closes in winter. Its gastronomic restaurant remains open throughout the year, however.
Although it isn't huge - there are 67 rooms and suites - the Île Rousse has the professional, hyper-efficient feel of a much bigger hotel rather than of a boutique one.
Decorated in neutral shades of beige and grey, with dramatic black and white photographs of the local area, some of the rooms are a little small, but those on the beach side of the hotel have balconies with superlative views. Pictured: the view from our window.
At the front of the hotel, the "port view" rooms are on the upper, fourth and fifth floors. They look over the marina and at the residence opposite the hotel, where the British novelist DH Lawrence stayed for five months in 1928-9 and wrote a collection of poems, Pansies.
Curiously, these rooms cost the same as the beach-view rooms, which, are in our opinion, much nicer.
The cheapest rooms are those at the front on the first three floors. They face the buildings opposite (though those on the third floor have a partial view of the marina). Those at the end of the corridors are slightly larger than their neighbours. Note that not all the rooms on this side of the hotel have full balconies.
Amenities in the bedroom are all the traditional ones, including a mini-bar, flat-screen television, safe deposit box and free wi-fi. An espresso / tea machine went down very well, although in our room it was crammed in a corner behind a standard lamp which made it difficult to get at.
Some of the other design elements could be improved too. Our bathroom had an enormous oval wash basin with barely space around it to put your toothbrush, and, a bit annoyingly, you had to grope around under a small shelf to find the concealed taps.
The bath-shower was also unusually high-sided and might present difficulties for children or visitors with mobility issues. Once you were in the bath, another sharp-cornered shelf was there lying in wait at exactly the right level to attack your thighs!
But high-quality bathrobes and slippers were provided and there was a handy little sectioned-off corner in the bathroom to hang them, and your clothes.
It seems that whoever chose the plumbing fixtures has a general weakness for gimmicks. Be sure to check out the taps in the restaurant and spa toilets where the water cascades out in an illuminated, multi-coloured "waterfall".
Spas can sometimes be claustrophobic, but the one at the Île Rousse has a light, airy, open feel, despite being on the lower two floors. The indoor, sea-water pool has huge windows and even the treatment rooms have portholes looking out to sea.
An enormous variety of treatments are offered, most of them charged for individually, though a number of all-in package deals are also available. The spa can get crowded at weekends, so book sessions ahead.
The breakfast buffet is as varied and generous as you would expect, with freshly squeezed orange juice, a good choice of fruit and fresh fruit salads, cheese, cold meats, cooked breakfasts and all the other trimmings. Salt-free bread is set out, but not low-fat milk, though you can doubtless get it on request. A range of newspapers (French language only) is provided too.
Check, though, that breakfast is included in your room rate before tucking in. If not, it can add up to twenty per cent extra to your bill: in 2015, it cost 28 €uros, per person.
In fact, while it's possible to get some very good promotional deals, you do need to watch out for hidden extras - for instance, the private valet parking, for which there's a daily charge. Still, given the difficulties of free parking in Bandol, it's probably worth it.
Click here to read our full guide to the town of Bandol.
Visited April 2015
Where: Île Rousse, 25 boulevard Louis Lumière, 83150 Bandol. Tel: (33) 4 94 29 33 00. Book a room at the Île Rousse spa hotel in Bandol