Taking 'no thrills' a little too far

by Ross Kennedy

This story is part of our 'Funniest hotel experiences' series, featuring tales from luxury hotel guests which were sent in for our recent travel writing competition. Photo by JR Guillaumin.

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We're more 4-star people these days, but 10 years ago, with much less money, I was always on the hunt for a bargain. I remember the website's proclamations of this hotel's "traditional French feel" and "Gallic charm". The pictures looked OK and the price was right.

We checked in. The reception had a certain shabbiness to it, but hey, it was cheap and money saved on accommodation was extra money for food, drinks and museum entries. This is where it started to go wrong. I asked to put our passports in the reception safe and the "charmingly Gallic" man opened a drawer with no lock and threw them in there... hmm not the level of security we were looking for. Up to our room and yes this building did have a faded grandeur to it, high ceilings, creaky old cage lift in the centre of the staircase and I'm sure in the 1940's it was one Lyon's finest places to stay. In our room it became clear that they were trying to retain this 1940s feel, by retaining the 1940s furniture. I sat down on the bed and fell through. Looking underneath I saw in one corner the slats were missing (although to be fair at least 80% of the slats were in place...just be careful which bit of the bed you choose to sit on). I looked at the balls of dust, stained carpet/walls/curtains/sheets and pondered our situation while the wife cried. She said we had to move but we'd paid up front and I reassured her it would be OK. I ran a bath. No hot water. I complained and was told it would be fixed tomorrow. That was the last straw. I walked to a budget chain hotel around the corner and it had vacancies... thank you God! I paid there and then.

I returned, walked past the reception and bar (which I now noticed had three heavily made up ladies in short dresses each sitting alone) back to the room, told the wife to pack (she hadn't unpacked) and wiped the tears from her eyes. An hour after checking in we were now checking out. After a 20 minute argument asking for written proof that we'd not stayed there (to show the website we'd booked through), the man at reception grudgingly wrote me a note in French. I had no idea what it said, but it was the best I was going to get so we left.

10 minutes later, we were in our tiny, but clean budget chain hotel room feeling relieved and happy, even the flea bites which we both started scratching at couldn't bring us down and we had a great weekend.

Strangely, this hotel no longer exists - so if you're going to Lyon and seek the "Gallic charm" of a dirty room with fleas, broken beds, cold water and ladies of the night readily available at the bar, you will now have to look elsewhere.

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