You Can’t Get There From Here.
It seems to me that the French could do a bit more to accommodate tourists. I was chatting with two delightful young ladies at the front desk of my hotel yesterday morning, trying to find out how I might hook up with a tour of the area. You know, a bus or a van with a knowledgable driver stopping at the local cathedral, the art museum and perhaps one of the many local vineyards. There’s an ancient monestery here, too.
Is such a tour available? The two girls looked blank, first at me, then at each other. Then one of them brightened: “Perhaps the Office of Tourism would know of something.” (Ya think?)
“Well”, I said, “is the Tourism Office close by?”
“Oh, yes,” said the other girl, “It is at the river and only a short distance.”
Wrong once; wrong twice. In fact, I will wager that neither of those young women have ever been to the tourism office. It was a long walk. Following their directions, it took me almost 40 minutes to reach the river and there was no sign of a tourism office anyway. By that time I had had my fill of walking on a hot, muggy, overcast day, so I started back toward my hotel, stopping along the way for lunch at a local bistro.
While I was enjoying a wonderful salade paysanne, I remembered that I had had a similar experience two years ago in the Dordogne. There was a Tourism Office in the center of the little town of Domme where I had made the same inquiry and got the same result: there were no tours of the area. They would be happy to discuss the various points of interest in the surrounding area and provide me with directions on how to get there. But, no, there are no organized tours. I had to get there on my own.
Why do you suppose that is? There are a lot of tourists here in Chalon-sur-Saône–mostly Brits and Germans and French, not to mention at least one American–and I have to believe that many of us would like to have the option of a guided tour to the various points of interest in this area.
Apparently, it is not to be. The Office of Tourism is closed today (it’s Sunday) and the internet is of no help either. A Google search of “tours Chalon-sur-Saône”, produced ads for Hertz and Avis and, for some reason, a list of pharmacies.
The girls at the front desk are still pleasant and charming, but have made no effort to find out if any area tours exist since my inquiry of yesterday. There are a few brochures for cultural events in the lobby of this hotel, but they’re entirely in French and, consequently, of little use to most Americans.
So here I am, ready to spend some money on a tour of their town, but I can’t even find out if a tour is available. Shouldn’t the people at the reception desk of a 150-room hotel have that information? Shouldn’t there be brochures, printed in English as well as French, describing points of interest in this area and how to get there?
It seems like such an obvious omission in the marketing and promotion of the visitor industry in this area. What am I missing here?