Low life

Jeremy Clarke’s joy at a two-speed oscilating fan in la chaleur TGV

17 August 2013

9:00 AM

17 August 2013

9:00 AM

Hotel Trepaner, St Raphael, French Riviera: I have read all ten reviews on this site. The overall rating (given by five of the ten reviewers) is ‘terrible’. ‘Disastreux!’ says Kimi. ‘Affreux!’ moans M Lanie. ‘A frightful hotel run by a slum landlord,’ claims Juliet45. After staying at the Hotel Trepaner for a week at the beginning of August, my opinion is that the majority of these reviews are snobbish and unfair.

What, may I ask, were you people expecting for that price? A chocolate medallion on your pillow every night? It’s the cheapest hotel on the French Riviera, for goodness sake! Up the road in Nice, 60 quid a day in the first week in August wouldn’t get you a deckchair on the beach for the afternoon. And while we’re at it, let’s look for a moment at Nice’s bathing beach. Boulders. Like sunbathing in a quarry. Très chic, I’m sure. Whereas St Raphael’s beach — a mere spit from the handily placed Hotel Trepaner — is fine sand, ideal for building sandcastles. If you can find room for them, that is. At the beach at St Raphael during the first week in August, and with the tide coming in, there is, I admit, barely room enough to drop your trousers.

Seven of the ten reviews say that this hotel is sale (dirty). Curtains and towels particularly. Mine weren’t dirty. I didn’t have any. Who cares? With daily temperatures in the upper 90s, who needs the stifling encumbrance of curtains and fluffy towels? To be dripping wet after sea or shower were the most refreshing times of the day. No coathangers in the rooms is another of your fatuous complaints. Coathangers? Come on. A sliver of soap on the sink would have been a nice touch — I will admit that. But I easily purchased a bar of Marseilles soap as big as a biscuit tin from one of the many soap sellers on the promenade that will outlast the Fifth Republic and probably the fabric of the building.

By late afternoon, and in the evening, and during the night, my charming little room on the fourth floor did, I concede, get extraordinarily hot, even with the window thrown wide open. The heat brought with it the boon, however, of masking the hot flushes that have been plaguing me lately. But there was a fan — a marvellous, blessed, portable, two-speed, white plastic electric fan that was everything one could possibly look for in a fan. It kept going. It didn’t wobble violently or travel sideways along the shelf propelled by its own vibrations. The oscillating facility worked perfectly with a smooth, confident, even grandiose sweep. I spent hours on end with the oscillating function turned off and my brow resting against the metal grill. It became my counsellor and friend. The provision of this quality item, the only utility supplied apart from a double divan, I therefore interpreted as the product of an intelligent and minimalist sensibility on the part of the hotel proprietor.

Many of you have commented adversely on the character of this man. I admit that I, too, found this intensely devout, monotonously dressed gentleman dour. But never impolite or hostile, as you claim. I would characterise his attitude towards me, when we crossed on the narrow staircase, rather as one of heavily suppressed levity. We confined our exchanges to expressions of condolence at the appalling heat. ‘Mon Dieu! Quelle chaleur infernale!’, and so on. Malgré lui, he seemed to enjoy the French adjectives I came up with to describe it, so I studied to vary them. ‘Chaleur TGV’ he liked, and ‘chaleur sans-culotte’ made him anxiously stroke his beard. Or maybe it was just the Union Jack shorts and the knobbly knees.

And speaking of French express trains: ‘Difficile de dormir avec le passage des trains au petit matin,’ you say. Alright, the building almost bounced off its foundations once an hour at regular intervals. And? So what? Get a life, the lot of you! And get one, preferably, that promotes sleep!

‘Quartier assez mal,’ says Brigitte. Really? All right, three potted cannabis plants flourished on one of the balconies opposite. But if the quartier were transplanted to Britain, the fashionable left would be fighting each other tooth and nail to secure a toehold there. So Brigitte: tell me. Are you perhaps Brigitte Bardot? And as for the single comment from M.Ballon55: ‘Probleme avec le tele. Je recevais que deux chaines,’ I give up. The town is pullulating with jaw-dropping, beautifully tanned, up-front, French femmes; marching parades of them; and you are sitting in your room in the evening, fiddling with your remote control. Why?

I suggest that all of you need to get out more, idiots. My score: Hotel Trepaner: Five symbols: Excellent. My experience summed up in a word or phrase: ‘Two-speed fan. Oscillator’.

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