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The world’s largest hotel group provides boutique accommodation with a unique property in the South of France. Pros: Chic, unique design, friendly staff and an outstanding breakfast experience. Cons: The overwhelmingly white design takes some getting used to, and the open bathrooms are awkward.
The Côte d’Azur is famous for both its brilliant blue ocean and for attracting the well-heeled who enjoy the finer things in life, especially during the European summer. During a recent weekend visit to see friends and their new twins, I was hunting for suitable accommodation. Among Marriott’s dozen of different brands, the Autograph Collection is described as “boutique hotels that are unique in design and thoughtful in spirit.”
Having stayed at many cookie-cutter chain hotels with forgettable rooms in the past, I wanted to see how a boutique property, in this case the Autograph Collection’s Boscolo Exedra Nice, would compare while still being part of the largest hotel chain and its Bonvoy loyalty program.
Nice is not a cheap destination, especially in summer. While I was staying during the May shoulder season, the weekend was also during the nearby Cannes Film Festival, which meant accommodation was at a premium. The Boscolo Exedra had base rooms available for $280 per night, or 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
TPG values Bonvoy points at 0.8 cents each, so the value of redeeming points was comparable to the cash price. As I have complimentary Marriott Gold elite status as part of my Platinum Card from American Express, I booked a cash rate on the hotel’s own website to both collect additional Bonvoy points for my stay and enjoy status benefits.
The Boscolo Exedra Nice is on Boulevard Victor Hugo in the heart of downtown Nice, though several blocks back from the famous oceanfront boulevard. The location is great in that it’s relatively quiet, though I would ideally prefer to be on the water with a view of that amazing shade of water. Hotels right on the waterfront in Nice command a significant price premium for this benefit.
The hotel is an easy Uber ride of around 15 minutes from the airport. Regular taxis have fixed prices from the airport that are significantly more expensive than Uber, so I would recommend using Uber instead where possible.
There was significant construction of a new light rail outside the hotel (and in much of downtown) during my stay. This was communicated to me by the hotel in advance of my arrival. so was not a surprise, though it did make the exterior and view from the room unattractive.
This is a shame because the building itself is spectacular – a real landmark on this street.
The light rail, once finished, will provide fantastic connections from the airport right to the front door of the hotel and will restore the spectacular first impression of the exterior.
My first impression of the lobby when I walked through the doors was how overwhelmingly white the design was: white floors, white walls, white ceiling, white chairs, white piano, white vases, white lighting, white furniture.
There was a certain chicness to the design, which I initially didn’t appreciate, but the simplicity and the fact that we were in a very stylish area of France did grow on me my during my stay.
The lobby was quiet when I arrived, and the friendly check-in agent to the left of the main entrance helped me immediately. My Bonvoy Gold elite status was listed on my reservation (I received several emails from Bonvoy regarding the booking and offering paid upgrades), but there was no reference to my membership, status or any benefits I was entitled to during the physical check-in process
Water, juice and sparkling wine were complimentary for guests in the lobby, although once the single bottle of wine ran out, it was rarely replaced.
I knew that my Gold elite status would provide me with a 2pm checkout, subject to availability. This was not offered at any stage during check-in, so on the following day I went to reception to ask, as my flight was not until that evening. I mentioning my Bonvoy status, as the hotel clearly participated in the program (there were Bonvoy signs around the reception area).
The reception agent checked and said they were completely full the night I checked out and she could only grant me a 2pm checkout. It would have been nicer if she had phrased this as a written benefit of Bonvoy Gold status rather than making it sound more like a one-off favor.
I appreciated that the check-in agent walked me from check-in through the dark corridors all the way to my room. The elevators continued the all-white, boutique design.
I was assigned Room 210, a Classic King Room, which was the same as what was booked.
First impressions of the room weren’t great. It was definitely on the small side at 237 square feet and the overwhelmingly white design of the hotel’s common areas carried through to the bedroom.
White bed, white bedding, white furniture, white lighting, white desk, white fridge, white television.
The bathroom was an unusual design and with the exception of the toilet was completely exposed to the (already small) room. I would have liked a little more privacy. This design would not be practical for two people traveling together unless they were very comfortable with each other.
The open design of the sink, with its separate elements, was neither practical nor appealing — there was hardly any space for personal toiletries next to the sink, where wash towels and cups were already balanced rather precariously and the wooden structure they were sitting on looked like something you would buy at IKEA.
The shower and toilet were both modern, clean and worked well (other than their exposed design).
The bathroom was stocked with Etro Milano products,
And there were soft and cuddly robes provided, embossed with the hotel’s logo.
There was a small balcony that looked out over the street and construction below.
A small minibar was under the television, and there were also basic accessories for making tea and coffee. In a five-star hotel in such a culinary country, I expected to at least have a pod machine rather than instant coffee and a cheap kettle.
The king bed was very comfortable, and I slept really well.
I also appreciated the chocolates that were provided free of charge as part of the turndown service.
Food and Beverage
Breakfast was served each morning in a dedicated space on the ground floor. This was usually charged at 35 euros ($40) per person, but a discount price of 28 euros (a little over $30) was offered at check-in.
The breakfast space provided a break from the white design and was a pleasant space with several tables and a small but interesting-looking buffet.
The buffet food was of high quality and well-presented with all sorts of cute little jars and ramekins. This being France, there was several types of delicious cheeses.
I don’t normally eat cake for breakfast, but there was plenty on offer.
Once I was seated for breakfast, there was a complex service procession where different people would provide fresh juice from a cart wheeled around the room, then the next person would take coffee orders, the next provide a bread basket, another would provide fresh fruit, and another would take orders from the al a carte menu, from which I could choose one item as part of the price of breakfast.
While this many different staff doing this many different tasks in a busy space could easily be a recipe for disaster, this was one of the most well-executed hotel breakfasts I had ever experienced. Each step of the process was flawless, with staff members cheerfully and smoothly working in tandem, serving customers and offering refills.
The barista coffee was excellent, and a server brought a fresh cup once I had finished the first.
The menu contained photos of the items available, and I eagerly ordered poached eggs with vegetables, which looked like a light but tasty option.
But what was delivered looked nothing like the picture and was not very appetizing.
The flavor was actually great, though, and it was a nice, light option to balance out the indulgent buffet food. I just wished the chefs could improve the presentation.
The hotel offered the same breakfast as a room-service option, but given how much I enjoyed the restaurant experience the first morning and the fact there was hardly anywhere to eat in the small room, I returned to the restaurant the next morning. I am happy to report the service was just as flawless on the second sitting. This time, I ordered the omelet from the menu, which was presented better than the poached eggs and also tasted great.
The hotel had a Mediterranean restaurant, La Pescheria, which frustratingly was not open on Sundays at all. I looked at the menu online and found it to be small with rather uninspiring Italian dishes (Nice is close to the Italian border).
There was a bar that had a snack menu, so on the last day, I tried out their club sandwich, which is always an easy way to benchmark the standard of any international hotel. The presentation and taste were excellent, and for 18 euros ($20) at a luxury property in a premium destination, was quite well-priced.
I appreciated being given a range of condiments, too.
The bar also served cocktails. These were by no means cheap at 20 euros or more each ($22.50), but they tasted great and were served with snack-sized, filled croissants. The bar was a nice mix of both the white theme from the rest of the hotel and more natural tones.
There was also an outdoor area for the ground-floor bar, though bad weather for almost the entire weekend kept this area empty.
The poor weather meant that perhaps the crowning jewel of the hotel, its rooftop pool and bar, remained firmly closed for the duration of my stay.
I was not even able to access the area on the top floor to take photos, so have to make do with an official image from the hotel’s website.
My photos make it look small and a little cramped for what was a pretty large hotel, but I wished the weather had been warm enough for me to at least try it out.
There was a spa that also had an indoor pool.
While an indoor pool in theory solves the problem of the rooftop pool being out of action because of the weather, the basement pool was dark and not very inviting.
I was disappointed by this hotel when I first arrived because I was so overwhelmed by the amount of white everywhere and the strange bathroom layout. But the property really grew on me during my two-night stay — I will stay in dozens more boring, uniform and totally forgettable hotel rooms in my life, so by the end of my stay, I actually really liked the chic design. It was the South of France, after all!
The room was nothing special, as it was small and the furniture felt cheap. The breakfasts were absolutely superb — if I were staying at a different hotel in the area I would return to this property just for its breakfast, especially in summer to enjoy the rooftop pool in all its glory.
All photos, unless otherwise noted, by the author.
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