Rue Edmond Roche, 62100 Calais
Price Band ***
Calais may be a bit down in the dumps, but the Meurice maintains standards, offering reliable comfort and an old fashioned style of hospitality in keeping with its long history. An unlovely post-War building it may be, but this is a dignified and reassuringly traditional hotel quietly located on a central side-street, with a beautiful collection of vintage cars in the garage, and a vintage weimarana at Reception.
le style cosy ….
Meurice is a great name in the history of French hotels, more famously associated with the palace on the Rue de Rivoli, but the Calais Meurice was the prototype, founded in 1771 and predating its daughter by nearly half a century. In the post-Napoleonic era a chain of Meurices studded the road south from Calais for the accommodation of eager English gentlemen with wild oats to sow in gay Paree.
The broom of change has not swept through the Meurice since I first stayed there in the 1980s, despite a change of owner and presumably several changes of dog. ‘Le style cosy’ still prevails, the snug still has its louche Edwardian cartoons, and a framed newspaper cutting from 1909 still celebrates M Blériot’s 37 minutes of fame.
The same gracious welcome, the same comfortable bedrooms and English country colour schemes, the same sofas and armchairs on the landing – for servants and body guards, of course. The house Weimarana, Zeus, looked and smelt as though he had not moved from his throne for some years, but was also friendly in a lapidary kind of way. I like a hotel with a dog. It says: this is our home, not an outlet delivering a product in an industry. If you don’t like dogs, stay somewhere else.
Not least among the hotel’s attractions is the beautiful collection of vintage cars M Cossart keeps in the garage. We parked our bikes next to the racing green Jag. A 2 hour outing in his Rolls is one of the hotel’s many imaginative promotions, which also include a well-priced malt whisky tasting dinner every couple of months.
imaginative special offers
We were disappointed to find the dining room occupied all evening for a private party. Without wishing to deny the Rotarian golfers of Calais their right to a monthly beetle drive, we did need something to eat, so we asked the girls at reception if the town had a decent restaurant they could recommend. They booked us a table at Le Channel which has had an expensive refurb and considers itself rather smart.
After breakfast we gave Zeus a goodbye stroke and told the Meurice girls how sorry we were not to have been able to dine there. “You could have,” they said: the hotel has a separate little restaurant, La Diligence, beyond the dining room, unnoticed by us.
We blushed, I hope, to think how cheerfully they had responded, when we marched up demanding that they find us “somewhere decent.” The Meurice is accustomed to boorish Brits. It may not be a palace, but it is a better hotel than Calais deserves.
Price bands: from * (B&B for less than 50 euros per person in a shared room) to ***** (expect to pay at least 175 euros)