From a haunted Indre château to the peaceful garden setting in Languedoc-Roussillon, Anthony Tan discovers another extreme of the hotel system in France, where first in class means last in class.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

I can't help but find the branding of hotels in France a touch duplicitous.

Particularly
when it comes to those named 'Premi̬re Classe' or 'Formule 1' Рowned
by the Louvre Hôtels and Accor hotel groups, respectively, and with
regards to the former, I had the displeasure of sleeping at Tuesday
night in Albi, before the start of the eleventh stage to Lavaur.

You
see, both the Première Classe and Formule 1 hotels, despite their names
that imply something superb, something without peer, something at the
top of its class Рas opposed to "derni̬re classe", or last in class, something the French refer to as "merde" (shit) Рthey happen to sit at the bottom of both the Louvre H̫tels and Accor chains.

The
Wikipedia entry for "Hôtel Première Classe" describe them as "an
international chain of 'super low budget' or 'no frills' hotels. At
Premiere Classe, the price may change according to the hotel and the
period (usually around €35), but remains the same whether there are 1, 2
or 3 people in the same room."

And the Wiki entry for Hotel
Formule 1 says pretty much the same thing – "super low budget" and "no
frills" form part of the vernacular.

Only rooms can be even
cheaper at a Formule 1 hotel, if you believe Wiki and are unlucky (or
poor, or desperate) enough to stay there, because according to them,
rooms can be rented for a smashingly low 29 Euros per night.

Then
again, if you sardine three people into their scungiest
35-Euro-a-night-triple-bunk room, and don't asphyxiate you and your
roomies before day breaks, it undercuts the cheapest Formule 1 by a
gobsmacking 23.33 Euros!

Now that's what I call Première Classe Value!

I
can just imagine the tagline by its advertising agency buffoons: "We
cut all sorts of corners in order to cut our already low prices!" Or,
"We will be beaten on everything else except price! Guaranteed – or your
23.33 Euros back!"

But as my travelling colleague and I
discovered Tuesday evening in Albi, not all Première Classe hotels are
cheap, even if they do resemble something between Alcatraz and the
Bangkok Hilton.

Because upon check-in – if you can call it that,
since by the time we arrived, reception wasn't open; just a touch screen
where you entered your surname or a booking reference number – I was
asked (forced?) to pay 69 Euros for my eight-foot-by-eight-foot abode
that romantically overlooked the floodlit car-park out back and once
inside, exuded the charm and tranquillity of a Chinese sweatshop.

The
aura of serenity was augmented by way of an extremely considerate guest
next door, who had his TV blaring full-bore till 2 a.m. So much so,
that I could hear what program he was watching.

Do I have anything positive to say?

Well,
the vending machines provided me with a three-course dinner – one can
of apple juice, a packet of crisps, then one can of orange juice, in
that order – only because the hotel restaurant that was advertised on
its website wasn't yet operational (even though they had a menu card in
my room).

Plus there's free hair on the floor, in the bathroom
and in the bed; handy if you are going bald, which thankfully I'm not.
And breakfast is only 4.80 Euros extra, although I didn't bother trying
it out.

Encouragingly, on the homepage of its website, it states in capitals: "PREMIERE CLASSE IS RENOVATING ITS HOTELS IN FRANCE."

And not a moment too soon.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_tan