Hotel De France Montreuil

Jan Leeming

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HOTEL de FRANCE - MONTREUIL

Date: 29th April 2013

HOTEL de FRANCE – Montreuil sur Mer

Two of my Capetonian friends own an Hotel in the lovely town of Montreuil sur Mer – though the Mer retreated a very long time ago. Not only is the walled town lovely but it is full of history and the Hotel de France is no exception. It is described as the oldest Hotel in Montreuil with a history dating back to 1578. Situated on the original Paris/Calais to London coaching route the Hotel de France was frequented by the former Kings of France and England. Situated against Montreuil’s original fortified rampart walls it is a fairytale somewhat whacky, olde worlde Auberge. It is reputed to be the place where Victor Hugo got his inspiration for and wrote Les Miserables. Apparently a cart did break loose, careered down the cobbled street and into the courtyard of the Auberge. In his novel Montreuil is only identified as M __ sur ___M but it is known that Hugo spent many holidays in the town.

During the First World War, Montreuil was used as the GHQ of Field Marshal Haig and the ‘Ballroom’ of the Hotel served as his Map Room. Soldiers on a few days leave were often fed at the Hotel and after the hell of the trenches, it must have been like Paradise to be fed off china and to have linen tablecloths.

In the Courtyard there’s a huge mural of Laurence Stern. He visited the town in 1765. And recounted his visit through the eyes of the narrator of his novel A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768).

People, myself  included, often make a mad dash from Calais to Palais and onward down south but it is more than worth adding a few hours to your journey and going down the old Calais/Paris route to visit Montreuil. There’s so much to see that an overnight stay is almost a must.

Even if you are only en route, it's worth stopping for a drink at the totally individualistic bar at the Hotel.  There are photos on the wall of the many celebrities who've stayed at the Hotel over the years.

Unfortunately Patrick and Janie had only just got back from Capetown to open up the Auberge so we were unable to eat in the restaurant which looked lovely and very romantic.  So I can't comment on the food but I'm sure it would be delicious and with a slight touch of South African cuisine peut etrel All the rooms are decorated individually, the furniture is traditional French and the floors are uneven as they should be in a hostelry of this age. The building is Classé which means that the owners have to preserve the fabric of the hotel – not an inexpensive job, but, of course get no help from the State – same as here.

Lovely as is  the Hotel and Montreuil, the Harpurs want to spend more time back in Capetown and have put the place on the market.  I have to say IF I had pots of money and knew how to run an hotel, I can't think of a more charismatic place and lovely town in which to do business.

Difficult to decide which photo to post here (as you might know I can only post one photo per blog) but I’ll post more in the Gallery.

À Bientôt, Jan


 

HOTEL de FRANCE - MONTREUIL

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