France Lodging Primer
If your France fantasy involves staying in a historic hotel with the smell of fresh-baked croissants gently rousing you in the morning, here's some good news: you need not be Ritz-rich to realize it. Throughout the country, you'll find stylish lodging options—from charming hotels and intimate B&Bs to regal apartments and grand country houses—in all price ranges.
Rates are always by room, not per person. Sometimes a hotel in a certain price category will have a few less-expensive rooms; it's worth asking about. In the off-season—usually November to Easter (except for southern France)—tariffs may be lower. Always inquire about promotional specials and weekend deals. Rates must be posted in all rooms, with extra charges clearly indicated.
Hotel rooms have telephones, television, and private bath unless otherwise noted. When making your reservation, state your preference for shower (douche) or tub (baignoire)—the latter always costs more. Also when booking, ask for a grand lit if you want a double bed.
Apartment and House Rentals
If you want more spacious accommodations with cooking facilities, consider a furnished rental. These can save you money, especially if you're traveling with a group.
Renting a gîte rural—furnished house in the country—for a week or month can also save you money. Gîtes are nearly always maintained by on-site owners, who greet you on your arrival and provide information on groceries, doctors, and nearby attractions.
The national rental network, the Fédération Nationale des Gîtes de France, rents all types of accommodations rated by ears of corn (from one to four) based on comfort and quality criteria.
You can find listings for fabulous renovated farmhouses with swimming pools or simple cottages in the heart of wine country. Besides country houses, Gîtes de France has listings for B&Bs, lodges, hostels, and campsites.
Chambres d'hôtes (bed-and-breakfasts) range from simple lodgings with breakfast in a humble home to beautiful rooms in a château with gourmet food. Chambres d'hôtes are most common in rural France, though they are becoming more popular in Paris and other major cities.
Check with local tourist offices or private reservation agencies like Hôtes Qualité Paris. Often table d'hôte dinners (meals cooked by and eaten with the owners) can be arranged for a nominal fee.
Note that your hosts at B&Bs, unlike those at hotels, are more likely to speak only French.
Hostels offer bare-bones lodging at low, low prices—often in shared dorm rooms with shared baths—to people of all ages, though the primary market is students. Most hostels serve breakfast; dinner and/or shared cooking facilities may also be available.
In some hostels you aren't allowed to be in your room during the day, and there may be a curfew at night. Nevertheless, hostels provide a sense of community, with public rooms where travelers often gather to share stories.
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