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How I learned that no, l’Hôtel de Ville is not a hotel…

Posted by jpluimers on 2022/01/21

From a while back, in response to Brexit people wanting to have a second home in France but refusing to speak French at all, but basically demanding a second UK in France.

[Wayback] Thread by @jpluimers on Thread Reader App – Thread Reader App / [] Jeroen Pluimers on Twitter: “Note that I find French a beautiful, but tough to learn language. This has to do both with dyslexia and autism. I still try. Which leads to odd and humorous situations. 1/… “:

Note that I find French a beautiful, but tough to learn language. This has to do both with dyslexia and autism. I still try. Which leads to odd and humorous situations.

A long time ago, I traveled from the 25th W116 anniversary meeting near Frankfurt to a marchingband gig in Northern France.

(It’s 20+ years ago, so I forgot the exact city and Google is not of help, so think a city like Lille, Tourcoing, Roubaix or Valenciennes).

Back then northern France was known for it’s relatively poverty and low education after the 1980s industrial demise, so I was not really expecting people to speak English well.

So after my first question in the suburbs to some younger people “parlez vous anglais” I got glazed eyes with only one person responding “mais non”, I asked “ou est le Hotel de Ville” as that was where we should meet the rest of the marching band next morning.

The answer contained “centre ville”, which was on signs (France has far less signage than The Netherlands and Germany) so we followed them.

Near the city centre, I asked a few more people for Hotel de Ville, which eventually became signed.

(Windows decided to reboot because Windows update is scheduled 12 hours from now, and Chrome thought “lets not restore any tabs, but start fresh)

Eventually the signage for “Hotel the Ville” stopped, but there was no building marked “Hotel de Ville”

I was confused about this, so I drove around a bit until I found signs for “Hotel the Ville” again to follow. We did, and came from another direction, then the signage stopped again.

The common part was a big square with lots of partying. Think a mix of Carnival and Luna Park.

So we got out of the car, then asked around.

Most people were to busy having fun, but one nice gentle men responded to our question “ou est le Hôtel de Ville” (hey, diacricits work again!)

He pointed at a big building next to the square.

It was like 22:00, but it was open, and we entered it.

The inside did not look like a hotel at all.

So we asked “mais, c’est ne pas un hotel?”.

He paused a while for the gentleman to think about the question, but then he had a big smile indicating “oui, oui!”.

So we asked “où est un hôtel où l’on peut passer la nuit”.

He pointed at a small restaurant next to the square across the street.

We walked into it, and to our surprise the lady at the counter did understand a bit English and reserved us for the night and for dinner.

We went out to park the car (I was with my by then father in law, now my ex-father in law but still one of my best friends).

This was an era where you could just park the car in a free spot, no payment required. Yay!

Then we re-entered the hotel with our backpacks.

Upstairs we found out it was a typical 2-star hotel: bathroom on the hallway, only a small sink, small wardrobe and a 2 person bed we call “twijfelaar” (120cm wide) with bungy springs and a mattress that was convex in the middle.

Oh well, just for one night (:

We walked by the kitchen which was not clean, but very busy.

The dining people looked very happy with their food, and the plates looked nice.

Almost all guests were dressed like it was a sunday evening formal dinner.

We were highly underdressed with T-shirt and jeans.

But the waiter had a big smile on his face when he pointed us to the one 2-person table that was still free.

So we got some menus, then got us a three-course meal.

It was delicious.

So that night I learned:

– Hôtel de Ville is not a hotel, but like an office building (the next day I learned it is the Town Hall / mayors office)
– 2-star hotels are really 2 star, but their restaurant can have great food
– If you approach French people in a friendly manner, showing you that you try, they are very forgiving and of great help

The next day we had a first and second great breakfast, and then met the marching band, all of them being surprised that we found a hotel so close by.

The following parade including Gilles throwing blood oranges to the crowd and lots of confetti entering our instruments.

Being a proper marching band, the crowd was outrageous, which is always great when performing a 2 hour parade: lots of energy.

Back home we had a great story to tell (:


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