B&B goes urban

March 19, 2010

Finding a B&B in Britain and Ireland has always been a fairly easy business: not just in tourist areas but in the main cities too. Whole streets used to be lined with them and their ubiquitous “B&B” signs were universally recognized and recognizable.

Not so in France. The ‘chambre d’hôte‘ is a fairly recent phenomenon, emerging from discreet obscurity only fifteen or so years ago. And even then, it was exclusively rural in conception, filling a niche for upmarket, comfortable accommodation in country regions where the hotels were shabby and ill-equipped. As the French country hotel has declined (over-zealous Health & Safety regs) so the chambre d’hôte has seen its star rise. An ill-defined legal status has meant that folk in the country have preferred to let out a couple of rooms to make a few extra bob rather than leasing long-term with the – very real – possibility of getting stuck with insolvent lodgers.

Now the rural chambre d’hôte has come to town. Hotels are restructuring, upgrading and becoming relatively expensive, despite their VAT advantage (0-3 star hotels pay just 5.5%). Bed and Breakfast establishments are beginning to appear in city centres and suburbs, timidly, without the brash signs of the Edgeware Road. For the moment the only legal requirement is a declaration to the tax people.

The advantages for tourists and travellers are clear: they are cheaper, more spacious and a lot quieter than two or three star hotels clustered around the station. Breakfast is always included in the price and tends to be more copious and of better quality than hotel fare. Your host is also likely to have much more time to explain how to get to the Airbus plant or give advice on restaurants or bars.

I’ve just finished a website for Toulouse’s newest B&B: check it out!
Toulouse Bed and Breakfast

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