Lights

Comments

What I expect from our Tour de France hotels

Show us what you've got, small town France.

Another day in paradise.

Iain Treloar
by Iain Treloar 19.06.2024 Photography by
Gruber Images, Jonny Long, and a bunch of hoteliers
More from Iain +

Confession time: prior to immersing myself in a year of Tour de France coverage, I like to be a bit of an empty slate. There will be time to hone in on the details of each stage, the specifics of the startlist, and the eccentricities of each town we pass through. That is what July is for. But for now, covering it is an adventure to look forward to – the good bits, yes, but also the sad service station sandwiches, the stifling basketball halls that will house the press centres, the diabolical coffee. How rare is it in this age of overexposure to everything that you can have the luxury of a day of surprises unfolding, for weeks on end? Bliss. 

Caley and Iain sit on single beds, working in a cramped hotel. Mikey lies on the floor, passed out.

As a Tour de France journalist, however, there is one particular aspect of the day that is particularly adventurous: the accommodation. The logistics of where we’ll rest our weary heads are handled by our fearless leader Caley, and in the frenzy of making sure that we are not on the streets as we trek across France, I think it’s fair to say that we often end up staying in surprising (read: shit) places. Caley seems to recognise the inherent humour in this, or at least the #content possibilities it can present. As such, before I’d even finished organising my logistics of getting to France, he’d put together a Google doc for me entitled “TDF Hotel Photos”: one photo per hotel, a kind of amuse bouche of what we’re in for. 

With no further context clues, this is what I make of it all. 

Florence

This has all the trappings of an AirBNB put together with an eye on aesthetics rather than comfort: the hard metal stools at the breakfast bench, the mysterious threaded rod penetrating the counter (?), the metal-lidded bin in the corner. Most of note are the vinyl cut-outs of trite motivational sayings. The one above the TV is peeling at the edges, and if I was to guess, it says the word ‘madness’ in the out-of-frame U and S. 

Going by the enormous radiators in front of all visible windows, this place is poorly insulated and as such will be stiflingly hot in July. We are in deep Tour de France mode and we’re not even in the country yet.

Rimini

The accommodation in Rimini, on the Adriatic Coast of Italy, bodes a little better. Rimini is Marco Pantani’s place of death, not far from his hometown of Cesenatico, and as such, the region is a bit of a pilgrimage site for the balder, more bandanna-clad segments of cycling’s fanbase. Judging by the various framed Booking.com certificates and the flashy Apple desktop computer, it will be perfectly functional, if a little soulless.

Just don’t trip on the rug in the foyer. 

Bologna

The first (but not the last) picture in this set to induce a migraine. With the evidence before us, there are many choices that have been made by this accommodation provider, none of them good. Some of the questions I have: 

I’ll be missing the first few days, and am simultaneously sad and glad that I don’t get to see Jonny and Caley dismantling the bed to access a powerpoint to plug their computers in. 

Turin

At first glance you might look at this and go, “Ah yes, a tennis court, very fancy.” Look again. Where are all the other lines? How do you not slam into the wire on the side when sliding for a shot down the flank? In fact, what sport is this even for? It’s not royal tennis. It’s not even the dreaded pickleball. It is a mystery ball sport with a net that you can play in a humid marquee, picking up friction burns with each stumble, of which there will be many. If this is typical of Turin, I am Turout.

Valloire

Bonjour! C’est moi, Colette, the proprietor of this recently remodelled hotel in Valloire. Please, make yourself comfortable in our Alpine-Lodge-Chic bar in the basement.

What’s that? Une boisson? Oui, but of course we have drinks! What would you like? Beer? Non, pardon. All out of beer. Wine? [apologetic grimace] Fucked up fluorescent regional aperitifs? Now we’re talking! There’s the green one – it probably tastes of mint or ivy or something. And there’s the red one. It’s probably flavoured with beetles or something, but if your mouth is expecting the bitter citrus of Aperol you’ll be sorely disappointed because this is basically cough syrup.

One of each? Sure! I’ll throw in a bonus straw in each, just in case you make a friend [rogueish wink]. Soy twizzlers are on the house! Salut!

Chateau Gaillard

We are in less exciting terrain by this point: the jaunty lime green tray betrays either a Campanile or Holiday Inn Express or Ibis Budget. This is the breakfast buffet. The coffee comes out of a machine where you press a button and hope. The juice cups will kill turtles for decades into the future. You will have two (2) spoonfuls of yoghurt before deciding that you actually don’t feel like it. Our protagonist in this picture is either extremely long-sighted or not actually reading this magazine, but that’s OK, because it is mere window dressing for the possibilities inherent in this soulless petit-déjeuner

Dijon

Yes, Dijon. Yes, like the mustard. This particular three-bedded hellhole is where Jonny and Caley will welcome me to the Tour, where all of us will get stuck straight into a cosy night’s sleep in touching distance of one another. I suppose in an ordinary line of work this is something that HR would nip in the bud, but at the Tour de France it is very much par for the course. Bags the bed in the corner. 

Arsonval

Now we’re talking! I’ve heard whispers of us staying in some kind of yurt at one point, and I can only assume these are the llamas that go along with it. And what llamas (or maybe alpacas, or guanacos, who knows) they are! Look at their stupid fluffy faces! Look at their lanky necks! Look at their stubborn mouths! I don’t know if this is the proprietor feeding them from her bucket of secrets or whether she is just a guest on her way to a local pyramid-sellers’ convention, but either way, she seems pleased.

I will be more pleased. I will take the day off to just hang out with the llamas, rubbing their stupid little chins, listening to their stupid honking sounds, dreaming of a simple life in the Andes where I protect my flock and they protect me. Sure beats interviewing Mathieu Burgaudeau about whether he ever looks at Julian Alaphilippe and forgets which one he is.

Orléans

For the rest day, we are back in the “live laugh love” school of AirBNB décor. Hate the hat stand. Hate the straw fedora draped over one of its breasts. Hate the way the lamp looks like a swan has been nailed to the ceiling. Hate the heart in the corner, and the way it has a shelf on the top despite having zero structural stability seeing as it’s balanced just on the tip. 

Intensifying my concern is the roofline, which suggests that this is the mezzanine of a small two-storey building. Jonny will hit his head on the exposed beams in the next room and be in a filthy mood for the entire day off, and there’s still two weeks to go.

Saint-Amond-Montrand

Attentive readers will note the lime green decor again, meaning we will have a Campanile to look forward to in this town that I have never heard of and will immediately forget. That’s fine: the beds are cleanish and probably don’t have bedbugs, and they usually only smell a little bit of cigarettes.

My more immediate concern is the liberties that this particular branch has taken with the coathangers. Where is the uniformity? Why are they not looped fully around the rail to prevent theft? Based on the wire one (far left), who is the clientele that is simultaneously flashy enough and stingy enough to have dry-cleaned a garment here? These are the questions that will keep me up in Saint-Amond-Montrand.

Le Lioran

Lou Bega had Mambo Number Five. Le Lioran has Migraine Number Two. 

Villeneuve-sur-Lot

🎵Campanile, my old friend/
We’ve come to stay with you again/
Plastic liner under linen, creeping/
Soulless beds in this room for sleeping/
A cheap nightstand is the only thing between/
Us and the sound of snoring
🎵

Pau

After a sleepless night in Villeneuve-sur-Lot, Pau will be a welcome reprieve. It’s a pretty little city on a plateau with a big cathedral and an Australian-themed bar that is actually, quietly, a little bit racist, and based on this picture, we’re staying somewhere of intermediate flashiness with a weird sculpture and crazy mosaic tiling and I’m not sure if it’s a swimming pool or a fountain. Anyway, here’s a travel tip for you: after enough time in the racist Australian bar, those two things are one and the same. 

Pla d’Adet

The most ski lodge a ski lodge has ever ski lodged. This staircase will be long, and some of it will be made of steel grate. I will barely be able to fit my suitcase up it. I will skin a shin, swear a lot, and at the top we will discover that we have one too few towels. Not to worry! It’s a keybox entry and there’s no way to contact the proprietor!  

Loudenvielle

Do you ever get that feeling you’re on one of those hidden camera prank shows and Ashton Kutcher is about to jump out from around a corner and tell you, at your lowest ebb, that you’ve just been Punk’d? No? Just me, and just in relation to this particular place? 

The all-pine decor, the framed satanic writings, the fact that the top bunk dismount requires you to stomp all over Jonny’s legs in the middle of the night: this is the very essence of second-week Tour de France. 

Ah well. At least it’s got a plunge pool to air your pillows next to after a big night’s crying. 

Tarascon-sur-Ariège

I don’t know if this is a trick of the light or what, but have these sickos installed speed bumps at every door up and down the hallway? I guess you do what you must to slow down the ghostly apparition. 

Narbonne

Yet another one of those places where I will curse my decision to travel with a suitcase instead of a backpack. The floorboards in the apartment will creak and maybe have holes through to downstairs. The door will have an enormously complicated method to open, where you have to twist the brass handle up and down three times (but NEVER four) before you put the key in. The ghostly apparition has a cousin here. We have a rest day, and will either sleep but not dream, or dream but not sleep. Nothing between.

Off a highway between Nîmes and Avignon 

The best hotel bars, in my experience, are entirely colour-coordinated – from Agrum to fake cacti to bartender attire to the drinks he’s making. The tall drinks at the front? Citrus-flavoured. Whatever’s in the shaker? Citrus-flavoured. The goblets on the left? Citrus-flavoured. At this point in the Tour, in this hot and landlocked part of France, sometimes you just want a pink drink served by a pink man in pink sunglasses in a pink bar in a hotel off a highway, and I’m genuinely excited to see whether this place lives up to the hype this picture has created. 

Saint-Bonnet-en-Champsaur

I would, ideally, like to sleep in a room that has seen less furtive masturbation. 

Nice

We have escaped the Alps and we are in the town so nice they named it Nice. From our perch on the balcony, we have a view of the gently lapping waters of the Mediterranean, palm trees rustling seductively out the window, soundtracked by the screaming clutches of Renault Twingos being raced up and down the promenade by vaping youths.

Vive le Tour! Vive la France! Vive l’hébergement!

What did you think of this story?