One of the best things about Hotel Les Mouettes (The Seagulls) on Corsica’s jagged western coast near Ajaccio is its wonderful outdoor terrace overlooking the glistening clear waters of the bay and across to the maquis-draped mountains and the picturesque town of Porticcio.
A close second is the four-star hotel’s gay, uplifting color-scheme and design of its spacious lobby area, with delightfully contrasting crimson and white furnishings. A distinct coral theme permeates the whole, embroidered on cushions, framed in drawings on the walls, designed on standing table decorations and creatively implicated in the shape of lampstands.
Here one is beguiled by a bright, mixed décor – gold leaf mirrors, art nouveau wall lamps with pretty, filigree designs, colorful ceramic vases, Queen Anne chairs. Even the paintings are diverse, ranging from a classic portrait of a medieval Florentine prefect to a print by Colombia figurative artist Fernando Botero, and including a framed historic world map. One sidewall is almost entirely papered in a blue-green-pink-red tropical vegetation theme. A large open fireplace beckons one to sit down and bathe in the ambiance.
Originally the summer residence of a local wealthy family, Les Mouettes was a villa built in 1880 and named after the birds that perched on the rocks in front of it. It then enjoyed stints as a seaside establishment (Hostellerie de la Grande Bleue – the Big Blue Inn), a nursery and then a film studio before, in 1954, becoming a hotel again. In 2006, the Pieri family – who also own one of Corsica’s oldest boutique hotels, Castel Brando in Erbalunga – took it over.
The hotel is reached off the main coast road two kilometers outside Ajaccio through a large white metal gate (‘pedestrian only’ as parking is at the side of the building in a quite tight space). The outside patio immediately in front resembles a Spanish courtyard with terracotta tiles, two huge eucalyptus trees, banana trees and a large overarching oak.
Due to its location, Les Mouettes offers calm and convenience without the stress of traffic snarls and with the added advantage of being close to a long seaside promenade leading directly to the center of Ajaccio.
Bedrooms are neither luxurious nor basic, providing a separate bathroom and toilet, ample floor to ceiling wardrobe space and a very comfortable, firm double bed. A sense of airiness is created by both the color scheme – predominantly white, including all furniture, and the double sliding doors that look out on to a swimming pool below, a sea scattered with boats and sailing yachts and the green-clothed mountains beyond.
Aside from leisurely walks through Ajaccio, one can spent a considerable amount of time relaxing on chaise longues in the stone-tiled, sunbathing area around the heated, saltwater pool, partially shaded by palm and pine trees. For added pleasure, a small Jacuzzi is located discreetly in a corner behind some hedges. A few steps further take the more adventurous to the hotel’s thin strip of private beach and a series of flat, smooth rocks in the sea that make for fun snorkeling escapades. Goggles, flippers and other necessary accessories stand nearby for complimentary guest use.
Hotel Les Mouettes serves a buffet breakfast and sandwiches but has no full service restaurant of its own. However, a convenient substitute right next door is ‘Le Cabanon Bleu.’ With a wonderfully romantic terrace location right at the edge of the sea, this restaurant serves mainly seafood and fresh fish, but also some meat dishes.