Hotel Princesse d’Azur is a very hospitable budget hotel a bit away from the town center. It has above-average rooms given its competitive price, and is run by a highly attentive and helpful family.
Princesse d’Azur sits on Route du Plan de la Tour, a north-south traffic artery of St-Maxime. It is a 10-minute stroll (500-600 meters) through unremarkable streets to reach the port, the center of activity in this small city as well as the departure point of the ferries to St-Tropez. While there are many other lodgings more central, the path to the port is flat and such a distance in larger cities would be considered short.
The hotel is a two-storey house with a dozen rooms, with a terrace for breakfast. There is (of course) no elevator. Like many small independent European hotels, it has limited reception hours, with a mid-day break until 3pm. The entrance is normally closed and locked, and the guests are given an access code. This means that new arrivals outside the operating hours should inform the owners in advance, lest they cannot check in. This can be annoying but is an accepted norm in family-run European hotels in smaller towns. The hosts of this hotel, however, will run out to open the entrance outside the hours, if they are present in the property. There is a secured private parking lot behind the hotel, accessed via a small alleyway that branches from the Route du Plan de la Tour. Guest parking is free, and the owners are often monitoring the parking lot.
The rooms seem to have a color theme (green, red, orange, purple), such that the walls, furniture, bed linen, and decorations are of matching color. While the owners are no interior designers, the theme is done in a subtle way and looks pleasant. Our room had a bed of average comfort, two small side-tables, a closet, a table and a couple of chairs. The bathroom was fairly spacious, with plenty of place to put stuff on. It was stocked with standard, inexpensive amenities but did not have a hairdryer. One interesting feature was that hot water at the shower seemed to have a capacity limit, such that the water temperature would drop after the water pressure reaches certain threshold. When the pressure was decreased, the temperature would go up again. We had to content ourselves with weak water pressure for the sake of warm shower. Other than that, both the room and the bathroom were clean, and we had a mostly comfortable stay. Our room faced the street, but was surprisingly quiet with the window closed. There are only trees and no houses on the opposite side of the street, so we had good privacy.
We think the hotel by itself and its location would merit an average overall rating, but the host family changes the equation. A husband-wife pair, past their middle-age, runs the place, with a large dog in tow. They do NOT speak English; their English vocabulary likely comprises a few dozen words. Yet the gentleman is a true master of body language and managed to superbly communicate with us; he smoothly checked us in and explained how the entrance access system works, proactively gave us directions and restaurant recommendations as well as discount coupons for the ferries to St-Tropez among other things, and showed us around the room. He is an enthusiastic, bright personality, and so are his wife and the dog. On our first day, we arrived a bit early at 1pm (the reception opens at 3pm) and were wondering what to do in front of the locked entrance when he suddenly ran out to usher us in. In one morning, we were about to drive out for a day trip but was a bit concerned with a car slightly blocking the parking lot exit, when he suddenly popped out and moved the car for us. Apparently he installed surveillance cameras everywhere and is monitoring them all the time. He is observant and highly responsive to subtle, unsaid gestures and expressions of guests, and is a good role model for the vast army of mediocre hoteliers who think wearing a trained smile and passively answering questions are all that constitute a friendly service. During our check-out he did make a mistake by forgetting that we had already paid during the check-in, but when we pointed that out he was quick to correct the mistake and profusely apologized. It was understandable, as he was busy serving breakfast to other guests at that time. The dog, by the way, is also amazingly friendly, running out to greet every single new guest passing through the lobby.
In summary, Hotel Princesse d’Azur is a charming small hotel of above-average rooms in a so-so location, run by a proactively helpful couple. It offers fair sleep quality at a competitive rate, and considering the excellent hospitality, we recommend this hotel as a budget-friendly base camp suitable for exploring St-Maxime and eastern Var department of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region.
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