Chintz with chutzpah
Cultured vieille ville
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Provençal rose
Rates from (ex tax)$235.26 If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days. Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (EUR245.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days.
Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (EUR245.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
Chintz with chutzpah
Cultured vieille ville
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Provençal rose
22, including five suites.
12pm, but flexible. Check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from $235.26 (€223), excluding tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €1.60 per person per night on check-out.
If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days. Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (EUR245.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
Rates exclude breakfast (€32 a person, each day).
Free WiFi throughout, outdoor heated pool, flatscreen TV, valet parking.
Superior Room 8 has a grand four-poster bed and hand-painted Chinoiserie-style wallpaper in eau-de-nil tones. Suite Room 1 has a terrace which overlooks the pool. We love the romantic bathroom with a central slipper bath and separate shower in Deluxe Room 24. Suite Room 20 is a cream-and-taupe split-level sanctuary, with the bedroom downstairs, and a flashy black and white bathroom.
Big sunglasses, an Hermès scarf and chic flats for Mrs Smith; a black poloneck for Mr Smith to wear while discussing Balzac or Zola.
Pets are welcome for €50 a day.
Cots are provided free and extra beds are €50 each. Babysitting with a local nanny is €10.
Out on the terrace for some romantic seclusion.
Don the French grandes marques (Chanel, Hermès and co), but opt for understated.
The opulent dining room is formal but cosy, with sofas and squashy chairs pulled up to linen-draped tables. The candlelit terrace has a more relaxed summer-dining look. Lunch is served between 12.30pm and 1.30pm; dinner is between 7.30pm and 9.30pm. The fine-dining menu features pan-fried foie gras with cherries, roasted John Dory and chicory-anise ice-cream.
The bar is next to the restaurant and just as lavish – trompe l'oeil effects on the walls, florals and stripes on the soft furnishings. Any cocktail you like will be whipped up as you unwind to lounge and jazz classics.
The bar is open all day, closing when the restaurant does.
The simple menu includes cheese boards, smoked salmon, soup and omelettes – available any time. The hotel will also bring you afternoon tea wherever you choose to take it – on the terrace, in your room or in the grounds.
Marseille airport is 30km from Villa Gallici. Get there with British Airways (www.ba.com) from London Gatwick; Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) also flies from London Luton, Bristol and East Midlands.
Aix TGV station is 12km away. There are SNCF (www.sncf.com) services to Marseille, Paris and Lyon.
Driving from Marseille should take around half an hour, along the L’Autoroute du Val de Durance. Villa Gallici is in the northern hills of Aix. There’s free parking.
Let the local spring waters soothe ailments and aches with a hydrotherapy treatment at the Sextius Thermal Baths (www.thermes-sextius.com). The aquatic centre, built on the site of the original Roman one, offers hydro-massage baths, jet massages and a range of cures, including thermal mud treatments. Pick up Provençal sweetmeats such as lavender-flavoured calissons, candied fruits and honey nougat from Confiserie Entrecasteaux on Rue d'Entrecasteaux (+33 (0)4 42 27 15 02). Keep an eye out for exhibitions at the Musée Granet (www.museegranet-aixenprovence.fr).
La Rotonde on Place du Général de Gaulle (+33 0)4 42 91 61 70; www.larotonde-aix.com) is flamboyantly decorated with chandeliers, velvet-covered chairs and silk lampshades, and opens from breakfast to after-dinner digestif. For a chance to spot a film or fashion mover and shaker, head to Antoine Côté Cour at 19 cours Mirabeau (+33 (0)4 42 93 12 51). Le Passage at 10 rue Villars (+33 (0)4 42 37 09 00; www.le-passage.fr) is an old sweet factory spread across three floors, with a different cuisine on each one. There’s also wine tasting, a cooking school and live music to look out for.
Try Le Grillon at 49 cours Mirabeau (+33 (0)4 42 27 58 81) for people-watching and afternoon tea. Brasserie des Deux Garçons on the same street (+33 (0)4 42 26 00 51) has a listed interior and specialises in seafood.
Visit La Bastide de Cours on Cours Mirabeau (+33 (0)4 42 26 00 51) for a cocktail in one of the impeccably cool private rooms.
This review is taken from our guidebook, Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: France.
Beeswax, honey and lavender scent the air, and a haughty, dark-haired beauty watches as we take
in our surroundings. It’s one of several portraits we spy of an aristocratic lady who must be Madame Gallici, the wife of Villa Gallici’s original owner. Little is known about the wealthy bourgeois couple who built this fine-looking house in the hills above Aix-en-Provence, but they’d surely have approved of the classical opulence that greets their 21st-century guests. As a stylish bourgeois type myself, though my west London estate is a little more modest (and I haven’t yet been captured in oils), I’m qualified, hopefully, to check this place out.
We enter by way of an alleyway attended by Italianate statues and dripping with roses, glimpsing Florentine gardens and detecting the melodious sound of a fountain. It’s dark, but far from gloomy – rather, the 18th-century mansion is enveloped in velvety Mediterranean night.
The detailed elegance of Villa Gallici’s decor, combined with its mini-grand scale, make it intimate and welcoming; the hotel ‘reception’ looks nothing like one, and the restaurant is more reminiscent of an elegant period sitting room, with fireplaces, upholstered armchairs and little sofas in alcoves. We find antique furniture and perfectly polished, centuries-old wooden floors, set off by scenic toile de Jouy wallpaper in sunny yellow and pink. The salon area opens onto a terrace adorned with classical statues of goddesses, who seem to look kindly upon the villa’s guests; below, a swimming pool is surrounded by blooming pink bay trees in terracotta pots.
Details that make us smile include big jars of home-made calissons, the local sweetmeats made with almonds and fruit paste, and armfuls of roses decorating almost every surface. Only the kind and discreet staff, smartly uniformed, remind us we aren’t, in fact, in a luxurious family home, but guests at a superb small hotel.
Before we enter the bedroom, ascending an airy staircase illuminated with tea lights, Mr Smith notices that the wall above the door is painted with a rural scene, all saucy shepherdesses frolicking in haystacks. And, indeed, the villa was originally built during the century that saw the French flowering of libertine love, when spirited conversation was offered as essential foreplay to more earthy pastimes. The bedroom itself, with its creamy Louis XV furniture, sky-painted ceiling and rich fabrics, is definitely liaison-worthy, with ample charms for entertaining jaded aesthetes.
We’re enfolded in boudoir-appropriate toile de Jouy, with libidinous cherubs decorating the canopy bed, the sofa and the heavy drapes that separate the bedroom proper from the little sitting room. From here, great big windows and French doors open onto our private balcony. As I run a bath in the marble bathroom, I can easily imagine dropping my white-lace bodice on the floor, before I step into the bathtub filled with asses’ milk – a beauty ritual popular historically popular among Provenc?al belles (they copied it off the Romans), who swore by it to soften their skin. Today, you can substitute
La Villa Gallici Provence savon de Marseilles, the traditional local soap made of olive oil, almond oil and lavender essence.
After a lazy night and an ample breakfast in bed, Mr Smith and I extract ourselves from Villa Gallici in order to explore charming, prosperous Aix, cultural capital of Provence. The post-impressionist Ce?zanne and prolific 20th-century composer Milhaud were both born here, and the opera festival is up there with Glyndebourne and Bayreuth. This is also a city of churches: mediaeval, Renaissance, big ones, small ones. Food comes a close second to culture, as demonstrated on Thursdays, when the market is held on Place de Verdun. Wonderful local products include tapenade (the savoury paste made with olives), anchoi?ade (ditto, made with anchovies), speciality vinegars, flavour-packed tomatoes and super-sized ceps.
Appetites duly whetted, when evening comes we’re treated to refined Provenc?al dining in the restaurant, back at Villa Gallici, where the white linen tablecloths are decked with fresh flowers and gleaming wineglasses, topped up by the charming waiters with rose?, then red and, finally, Beaumes de Venise dessert wine. We start with pumpkin veloute? with morels and quail’s egg, then I opt for magret of duck cooked in white truffle honey, while Mr Smith goes for John Dory with ricotta ravioli. It isn’t too indulgent, provided you keep off the bread, and share one thyme cre?me bru?le?e between you. On our second night, we dine in Aix at Mitch, a stylish and extremely good restaurant off Cour Mirabeau, the city’s main drag. Even though they’re already fully booked when we ring, Mitch himself arranges us a table in the mediaeval cellar, cheered by candlelight and the piano where he sometimes plays for guests at the end of the evening.
We’re not inclined to linger long away from Madame Gallici and the shepherdesses. Aix is attractive but we’d rather make the most of our private, comfortable hotel. It’s near enough to the centre to let you walk down in 10 minutes, but its seclusion from the busy streets sustains a gentle, rustic atmosphere behind the heavy iron gates. The languid, timelessly romantic feel of the place both slows our thoughts and makes our hearts beat a little faster; the sense of privacy is incredibly restful, so whatever we do and see when we leave the hotel, we know we can relax completely when we return. We’re none the wiser about Monsieur and Madame Gallici by the time we check out, but we do believe they were a pair of generous souls, for building their sensual, classical villa and sharing it with us present-day libertines.
The friendly attentive staff. The peace and quiet. The intimate atmosphere. It's location is amazing - ten minutes easy walk to the centre of town.
Anything but sophisticated luxury
The hotel and grounds are completely enchanting. Certainly this was the most romantic hotel we have ever stayed at. The service was impeccable and extremely accommodating. We felt both swept away and completely at home. (But seriously, can we live here?) We also loved the close proximity to liveliness of Aix with a very easy walk even on a hot day. There was a music festival on Friday night with bands dotting Cours Mirabou. We also really loved the casual, yet tasty restaurant La Tradizionale in Aix.
Much from a fitness standpoint. There is a small workout room with a treadmill, bike and benchpress. Otherwise absolutely no complaints.
Villa Gallici is the perfect escape for chic but understated city dwellers who want to unwind, relax and replenish - in style. Recently engaged, Mr Smith and I chose to indulge in a night at this exquisite retreat and celebrate the occasion. Raised high above the hilltops of Aix-en-Provence, the ascent to the Villa is a pleasant short drive away from the heat and bustle of the city. Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted with a glass of refreshing homemade iced tea in a sumptuous reception furnished with deep yellow fabrics, Louis 16th style armchairs, a desk and a basket of freshly baked madeleines and Calisson. Our stunning Franco-Italian boudoir-inspired room was spacious, bright, elegant and refined, decorated with deep velvety toile de Jouy wallpaper, period furniture and dainty porcelain tea cups displayed in cabinets. The large and incredibly comfortable bed was laden with an abundance of pillows and crisp white sheets delicately perfumed with the scent of fresh rose petals and lavender. A dainty plate of miniature cakes and macarons had been left on the coffee table as a gift to awaken our taste buds and lure us to afternoon tea in the Villa's decadent drawing rooms. Outside in the courtyard we lay by the pool on cream deck chairs shaded by bright red parasols and soaked up the late afternoon sun. The hotel restaurant had yet more delights in store with a mouthwatering menu of confit duck foie gras, melon purée and port jelly; tuna tournedos; and vanilla panacotta with strawberry basil coulis. We dined on the terrace in candlelight, serenaded by the sound of the trickling fountains laden with armfuls of deep red roses. Service was excellent; the staff were discreet, efficient and extremely attentive. After a good night's sleep, we awoke early the next morning to spend an hour in the pool and detox in the spa complete with jacuzzi, sauna, ice room and treatments upon demand before a light breakfast on our terrace. It was with much regret that we had to tear ourselves away from this luscious mansion but, feeling happy and revived we continued our journey South towards the rolling hills of Provence
Good views of the city as the villa is enclosed, but The surrounding gardens are equally as beautiful and perfectly kept, full of tantalising aromas and serenity.
It was a little oasis. Nine out of 10.
We didn't get the bottle of champagne but didn't like to ask for it.