Entrance, Bastide du Cours, Aix en ProvenceThe Bastide du Cours sits mid-way up the Cours Mirabeau in an historic building that was once a convent-orphanage, then a celebrated café.

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Renoir, Zola and Cézanne all drank here (when they weren't hanging out at the iconic Les Deux Garçons brasserie, just up the road).

The Bastide café-restaurant remains, while on the upper floors there are now 11 rooms as well. Decently sized and elegantly decorated, if only just this side of kitsch, each one is different.

The Scotto (named after the owner, Michel Scotto) has a musical theme and the inevitably named Paul Cézanne suite is, for some reason, decorated with bluebirds.

One of the better value rooms, pictured, is no. 4 (named after Joseph Ravaisou, an obscure local landscape painter who was a contemporary of Cézanne). It's on the top floor with great views overlooking the Cours Mirabeau, a gabled roof and a leafy plant motif.

Room in the Bastide du Cours, Aix en ProvenceSome rooms include jacuzzis, retro bathrooms and/or four poster beds; three even have hammams. Some have views of the Cours; others have separate access through the courtyard at the back of the hotel.

The building overall is well sound-proofed, though the interior doors can slam loudly and some of the noise from what is, after all, Aix's main boulevard might be disturbing.

Continental breakfast is modestly priced and served in the public terrace café on the ground floor where you can keep tabs on the Cours and its passing parade.

Pictured below, the first floor bar/lounge area (also open to the public) is a lovely cosy spot to warm up in on a winter's afternoon, with its red plush upholstery and walls lined with trompe l'oeil books.

The hotel has patchy free wi-fi and its own private car park with valet parking, for which there is an extra daily charge.

The downside: despite its very long pedigree as a modish brasserie, the Bastide has only offered accommodation since 2007.

Overall it still comes across as a restaurant with rooms above, rather than an ad hoc hotel with all the trimmings and level of service you'd expect.

The salon of the Bastide du Cours, Aix en ProvenceThere's no reception area: you walk through the terrace (pictured top) to check in at a small desk in a cluttered corner of the café.

There is also no lift / elevator and access to the rooms is up a steep, narrow staircase. The Bastide boasts a wheelchair symbol on the hotel brochure but only one of the more expensive rooms, no. 6, a suite on the ground floor, is suitable for people with limited mobility.

Visited January 2011

Where: 43-47 Cours Mirabeau, 13100 Aix en Provence. Tel: (+33) 4 42 26 10 06. Fax: (+33) 4 42 93 07 65. Book a room at Bastide du Cours




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