Sunday 24 September 2017

Weekend away: Sofitel Marseille Vieux Port, France

Panoramic
views from
the restaurant.
Panoramic views from the restaurant.
The efficient reception.
One of the hotel’s suites.

Eva Dyer

First impressions

A uniformed valet (voiturier) relieves you of the burden of your car as a smiling clerk takes your bag and accompanies you to your room. Check in is quick, efficient and painless.

Room to book

I stayed in a superior double with pleasing panoramic views over the old port. The room was big without being vast and had the obligatory flatscreen TV, a comfy chaise longue, desk, Wi-Fi access and plenty of storage.

The well-laid out bathroom had a Jacuzzi-style bath, hydro massage drop-head shower, Hermès toiletries and comfy bathrobes and slippers.

The food

Marseille has a smorgasbord of local dishes. Okay, I exaggerate. But there are the local biscuits (navettes), so called because they resemble a small fishing vessel of the same name.

The navette has evolved from its humble beginnings to now include coconut, aniseed and other varieties.

Being a coastal city, seafood features large on menus at most venues.

Breakfast at the hotel was unexceptional but copious. Fresh fruit, bread, cheese, meats and yoghurt made the buffet a popular and hunger-quenching choice.

Also on offer were hot options including eggs and charcuterie. The staff were discreet and professional.

For dinner try the in-house Les Trois Forts restaurant. It's on the top floor of the restaurant so you'll be able to enjoy great food with impressive views.

Pamper factor

The So SPA is a huge space devoted to utter relaxation. The facility is spread over 6,458sq ft (600m2) and includes a hammam, relaxation pool, dry and wet sauna, fitness suite and rooms for treatments and massages.

There is also an outdoor heated pool.

What to do

Start with a walking tour of the nearby (old town) panier district, through which the city's tourist board have helpfully painted a red line to guide you around this interesting bohemian quarter. It's full of artisan workshops, bakeries, chocolatiers, street-side cafes and quaint beautiful architecture.

Visit Notre Dame de la Garde, a neo-Byzantine church located at the highest spot in the city. Inside you'll find inlaid marble and impeccable murals; outside, miles of city and gorgeous sea.

Another interesting option is to take a short boat trip to Château d'If, famed for being one of the settings of Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo. Football fans may also try to catch a game at the Olympique Marseille football club.

Once you've gorged yourself on the local culture there are plenty of high-street shops and high-end boutiques to feast on anew.

The downside

If I were being picky I would say that the hotel is located in a rather nondescript part of town. Thankfully, though, the old port, city centre and restaurants are only a short walk away.

The damage

Prices start from €195pn and rise to €619pn for suites. Special offers are available online throughout the year.

The details

36, Boulevard Charles Livon, Marseille, France. Tel: 0033 491 155 900; www.sofitel.com.

Irish Independent

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