Ode to french hotels

I love French hotels.

More specifically, I love old, slightly (OK, sometimes very) shabby French hotels that still have a hint of “hotel-life” about them. What you might lose in facilities, and usually in the bathroom, you will more than gain in character (and often that will be in the bathrom too!).

French hotels we’ve loved are;

No.1 The Rhone Hotel, Sechelles.
The place reeked of a 70’s renovation, but even then, one that paid more attention to the 1870’s than the 1970’s. The cistern in the toliet was a gleaming work of art from the 1920’s, the bath was an enormous and fantastic celebration of early twentieth century engineering, the bedrooom a celebration of flock and french decoration, the loungeroom a brown horror and the terrace overlooking the Rhine the perfect spot to spend hours killing a few glasses of the local wine and filling in one postcard. The owner was French, cynical and married to an Australian, (well there you go), his staff French and surly except for the woman who did breakfast who was unremittingly talkative……in French, and one lost boy from the American mid-west doing his obligatory year-in-Europe. As a joke they let him cook for the tourists and this was the only French hotel I’ve ever stayed in where the food was average. The key to our room had a kangaroo keychain, the bed was propped up by a pile of paperbacks and the window sill was the perfect place to keep our very smelly Haute Savoie cheese that sustained us on our walks each day. That is until it packed its own bags and left.

No.2 Hotel Lion D’Or, Langres
This hotel was not quite so fascinating and our room had one of those horrible cabin-showers. But it was situated very pcturesquely by the River D’Or with charming (if they’re in France and full of geraniums they’re always charming, non?) window boxes and little fluttering flags. Further the breakfast room was the perfect example of a musty damp overheated glassed in terrace complete with slightly green light from the algae growing on the terrass glass. This led one to suspect that the trout swimming in the enormous aquarium had it slightly better than the guests. Until dinner time that is. Which as it turned out was what it was all about. Many of the guests were there for the trout fishing and the owner had bought the hotel specifically so he could cook trout for people. Which brings me to what was so good about the place. The most drop-dead gorgeous melt-in-your-mouth trout I’ve ever tasted in my life! I still can’t drive past Dijon without a longing glance to the east, only a few kms in that direction……. And they might even have better rooms, ours was the last available so it was a case of beggars-can’t-be-choosers.

No.3 Hotel Doree, Paris
The Hotel Doree on the Rues Barbes in Montmartre will go down in history with us as having the most comfortable beds in the universe. This was lucky as the bath was tiny, the walls cardboard thin and the rooms tiny, stuffy crimson-flock nightmares but we loved it. Even living with the owners art-work which is its raison d’etre (doubling as a gallery for the husband’s paintings). They also had sensational croissants, fabulous staff and that gorgeous French butter. And they’re in Montmartre, always a winner!

No.4 Hotel St Christophe, Neufchateu
We stopped here on the way back from Les Arcs. We were the only guests in the entire hotel where the heating was cranked up to a tropical 120F for our benefit. The food was microwaved, the shower not quite as clean as you’d like and we were promised that they would “worm” our baby bottles. It was fabulous………… Just the anti-dote to a week in Les Arcs!

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