There are several cities in the world crossed by state borders, but in the town of La Cure, split France and Switzerland, one hotel made sure to mark the frontier everywhere inside, including in the middle of the bed.
L’Arbézie Franco – Suisse, also known as Hôtel Arbez, has rooms where guests can sleep “with their head in one country and their feet in another”.
The story of the divided La Cure started at the beginning of the 19th century, when France annexed the then Swiss Vallée des Dappes. The Valley was returned to Switzerland by the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Although the region itself had little value, it provided an accessible military route to Savoy, so the French made several unsuccessful attempts at retrieving it over the years.
In 1862, Napoleon III, a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, decided to offer a trade. A nearby French territory, similar in size, in exchange of the strategically located valley. Switzerland accepted the hand off and, in December, the Treaty of Dappes was signed, to be ratified in February 1863.
The approximatively 8 square kilometres area to be exchanged included part of La Cure and it was established that any already existing buildings would not be affected by the division. A French businessman called Ponthus thought he could take advantage of this loophole and quickly built a structure over an area that was to be split between the two countries. Hoping to profit from cross border traffic, he made the one Swiss third if the house into a grocery store and the two French thirds into a pub.
By the 1920s Ponthus’s heirs sold the building to Jules-Jean Arbez, who turned it into a hotel. Since the border lies on the 7th step of the staircase leading to the first floor, even though German troops were allowed on the ground floor of the hotel during World War II, the upper floors served as a safe heaven for refugees. The owner at the time, Max Arbez, and his wife, Angèle, were posthumously honoured as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem for rescuing Jews.
2. The hotel today
After the war, the hotel reopened to the public and resumed normal operations. The authorities of the countries reached an agreement so that nowadays the hotel is considered French by the Swiss and Swiss by the French.
Ever slept with your head in one country and your feet in another?L’Arbézie Franco – Suisse
The 7th step of the staircase still marks the boundary, which also crosses through the dining room, making it possible for friends and families to have dinner at the same table and in different countries at the same time.
The hotel offers a variety of accommodation options, from single rooms to family apartments, ensuring any combination possible for members of the same group to be stay in the country they prefer. For the honeymoon suite, the owners decided newlyweds need to sleep in different countries, putting the bed in a way that it is divided right in the middle by the border. In another room, you go to the bathroom in France, but sleep in Switzerland.