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Mary | 08 Apr 24

Enness Lifestyle FirstEdition Fifty Eight

Enness Lifestyle First


It’s not so much a lodging place as an essential part of the community. Hotel Dieu, sitting proudly overlooking Marseille harbour, was tending to the sick and poor from the 12th century. As time passed it became a hospital, and then a medical school. In 1747 Jacques Daviel performed the first cataract operation here.


But the building fell into decay and took the immediate neighbourhood down with it. When insurance giant AXA bought the lease in 2007 city burghers thought it was past redemption.


‘It’s been brought back to life, gloriously’, says Leslie Cherfils, General Manager of what is now the ten-year old 194-room Inter Continental Marseille – Hotel Dieu. And gentrification is the buzzword of its environs. Designer Jean-Philippe Nuel, whose portfolio includes Ponant, the luxury French cruise line personally owned by the Pinault family of Kering fame, has done his trademark tricks. A low lobby with massive skylights above six-foot slate urns. A monumental presidential suite wowed for dayglo purple fluffy sofas for at least three at once.

Eric Cuvillier -min.jpg


It's now once again part of the community – the 2013 City of Culture status raised the entire standing of Marseille. The entertainment world, often filming at Provence Studios and in the city itself, at Le Vieux-Port or the arty Le Panier district. are regulars (Matt Dimon loves the city because it’s not what you expect).


And this is sports heaven, from chess, to tearing along separate running and slow-pace lanes - six miles of ocean-skirting corniche. Come the Olympics, Marseille Marina has bagged sailing, and some soccer.


Who cares that Olympics swimming is scheduled elsewhere? Marseille might be the third French city but it considers its 1921-vintage Le Cercle des Nageurs Marseille incomparable. It’s a private club for 3,500 swimming enthusiasts, plus hotel guests. Leslie Cherfils, indeed, often holds court here, even in winter. As a local girl, and wife and mother of hoteliers, the General Manager of InterContinental Marseille – Hotel Dieu knows the value of networking.

Written by Mary Gostelow

Mary Gostelow