The Calendal, a busy, friendly spa hotel, is right next door to the great Roman arena in Arles. Our inspector's room had a little balcony looking on to it and a surprisingly large courtyard garden, a shady haven of trees (including a 400-year-old nettle tree), where on a hot day you can retreat from the dusty city. The building is 18th century, which shows through as features of the decoration, for example the rough stone walls and exposed beams downstairs. Here all the rooms have been knocked through to make one huge open-plan space, supported by pillars, with arches and steps marking the divisions between sitting and eating areas. The cosy sitting area, centred on the fireplace, is a perfect place for waiting, with armchairs and foreign-language newspapers on rods brasserie-style.
You help yourself to the buffet breakfast and enjoy light lunches and fresh regional cuisine in the hotel restaurant, Au Jardin (in the summer) or the cafe Olipan (in the winter). One can't imagine being glum for long in this hotel. The colourful decoration would lift the blackest of moods. The bedrooms are different variations on a theme: traditional Provencal decor which mixes blues and yellows, yellows and reds or reds and greens with pretty co-ordinating fabrics. Though small, they are well designed and equipped, with free Wi-Fi, TVs on high brackets or shelves and cleverly added bathrooms, full of the fluffiest, brightest yellow towels. The hotel also has a spa, located in a unique location opposite a Roman amphitheatre.
Friendly staff are available 24 hours a day. The hotel is a good base for exploring the natural beauty of the Camargue and the Alpilles.