In 1929, the American millionaire Frank Jay Gould created the Palais de la Méditerranée, a casino along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. The architects behind the Hotel Carlton in Cannes came up with an extravagant art deco-Grecian design that was meant to resemble an ocean liner; hence its nickname le paquebot. The beau monde haunted the casino - Josephine Baker, Maurice Chevalier, Edith Piaf - until things started to fall apart in the 1970s. Derelict and unloved, it was eventually bought by the Taittinger champagne company, which spent a fortune turning it into a luxury hotel with neighbouring casino.
The only thing that remains of the original structure is the imposing art deco façade, although many of that period's architectural touches and sense of elegance are found throughout the building. The hotel is a three-sided structure that sits behind the façade, with a large terrace containing the pool and outdoor dining area forming the centrepiece. The Mediterranean provides an impressive backdrop through the large neoclassical columns. Most of the 188 rooms (including 12 suites) face this large courtyard; the ones round the back have the rooftops of Nice to admire.
Le Palais de la Méditerranée, 13-15 Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France (00 33 4 92 14 77 00; www.lepalaisdelamediterranee.com; or Leading Hotels of the World, 00800 2888 8882; www.lhw.com/palmediteran) sits on the wide seafront promenade built in the 19th century. Although the hotel doesn't have its own beach yet, it has arrangements for guests to enjoy VIP access to a private beach. The outdoor pool is connected to its indoor counterpart, allowing it to be used all year round. There's a gym, sauna and steam room.
Art deco principles are maintained throughout: lines are clean and uncluttered without diving into cold minimalism. Each floor has a colour theme - blue, red or brown - with textiles and furniture in complementing shades. Brown rooms come with warm golden tones and dark chocolate modern furniture, while their blue counterparts are offset by cream and blond wood. The effect is calm and soothing. Extra touches include an espresso maker and CD player. Bathrooms are huge, with a separate walk-in shower and bath.
Freebies: the toiletries, by Annick Goutal, include a rich body-lotion; other things worth stashing away in your washbag include the eternally useful nail-file.
Keeping in touch: LCD TV, high-speed modem connection in rooms, and internet and Wi-Fi in the lobby.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Doubles start at €220 (£157) in low season, and suites from €1,100 (£786) excluding breakfast, €25-30 (£18-21).
I'm not paying that: Try the delightful Hotel Le Grimaldi (00 33 4 93 16 00 24; www.le-grimaldi.com) in the centre of town, which has doubles from €95 (£68).