The Meurice: 50’s styling ‘out boutiques’ many boutiques in this Miniview

    150 150 Daniel Fountain
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    I like to drive everywhere on the Continent. This time I’d been to Dusseldorf, and whilst it is possible to get there in one go, I always try to take it in a relaxed way and find places to stay along the road. It is possible to drive to, for example, Brussels, including the Channel crossing, from the south of England faster than getting to Manchester, and with considerably more pleasure in the driving experience. The travel time too is less than the time to fly, as there is no hanging around for hours in a shopping centre – err airport terminal, nor is there any need to strip to your knickers to get through security.Coming back to catch a ferry we decided to stay in the Hotel Meurice in Calais. Picked with a pin – and assistance from TripAdvisor – it was going to be a simple French hotel after two nights in the gorgeous luxury of the Steinberger Park in Dusseldorf, which will be a Review soon. So we drew up outside this unremarkable, typically French post war building. The hotel has an underground garage but there was plenty of parking in the very quiet rue, so we left the car on the road. The front door was unpromising with a cracked pane of glass, but the interior – well the interior was straight out of a Maigret story from the 1950’s, probably 1953 I think.

    There is a great deal of rubbish talked about the origins of ‘boutique’ hotels, especially from uninformed industry commentators who follow the self publicising hype of some designers, but much of the origins of ‘boutique’ can be traced back to the pre-chain post war years when many hotels in Europe were being redeveloped after WW2. In the States bland ruled as the chains dominated the market but in Europe small owners recovering from the total destruction of their properties and rebuilt. Using supply chains only slowly recovering from wartime manufacturing programmes where furniture manufacturers for example switch to producing plywood aeroplanes like the Mosquito or the Hamilcar creativity and invention drove the creation of often very individual properties.

    Meurice was rebuilt in a Calais where British and French troops fought the invaders to a standstill until they ran out ammunition and were evacuated or captured. In the process much of the town was damaged. Meurice was no exception. As a major entry point for British tourists to the continent by car, coach and in the 1950’s by rail, Calais is still a stopping off point for Brits. No longer the destination for masses of ‘booze cruisers’ since the European Union has removed the differences in prices on most wines it is still a good place to overnight before onward journey especially if combating the awful overcrowded and poorly planned British road system. Meurice is a popular small hotel, and retains an idiosyncratic sense of style.

    Daniel Fountain / 12.12.2013

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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