Over the years I’ve grown more adventurous in places I find to stay. The internet has made it easier. When I first started traveling, I used to pore over guidebooks, trying to read between the lines of outdated reviews. Of course there were rarely pictures. Now, a huge selection of lodging is easily accessible to anyone with a computer or even a smartphone. And I haven’t yet even dipped into Airbnb.
A few years ago, I needed a place to stay in Versailles. You couldn’t drag me back to either of the two places I’d stayed before. One time, I scored a halfway-decent last-minute rate at the very grand Trianon Palace Hotel. My room, in a modern annex, was a lot like like an elevator shaft: tall and narrow, cramped, with a sliver of window looking out at the parking lot. True, there was a luxurious spa with a pool, and the breakfast buffet (included) was spectacular. But I was not sorry to leave. Another time I stayed at one of the better older hotels in town, and found it dated, cramped, noisy, and still pretty expensive. Plus the employees were surly, even for France.
Third visit was the charm: I reserved a couple of nights at a 16th-century farmhouse which had been in the same family for several generations. It was only a few minutes’ drive outside Versailles, in the little farming community of Garancieres.
I found myself in an enormous room under hand-hewn ancient beams.
There was only one other guest room. Service was personal and the room had everything I could want.
Breakfast was served in a charming farmhouse parlor. The lovely owners spoke very minimal English, but breakfast was delicious and efficiently served up.. A friendly dog and cat wandered past. Outside, the air smelled of fresh-mown hay.
I guess I could get used to 5-star hotels, as easily as the next person. But there are downsides: snooty fellow guests, snooty employees looking for tips, a lot of time spent waiting for waitstaff to get on with the business of feeding impatient tourists like me. When in Versailles, I want to beat the crowds into the palace. I guess folks willing to pay 5-star prices like to linger and enjoy the expensive ambiance.
I just looked up La Ferme du Chateau–it’s still in business, and I’d stay there again in a minute. In fact, maybe I will! Time to start dreaming of France.