Just north of Geneva sits a small border village called La Cure. The town was bisected after a series of 19th century land turnovers, which means that now, some of La Cure sits in France and some in Switzerland. For one hotel, the location makes for a house divided—literally.
As mental_floss favorite Ken Jennings writes in Condé Nast Traveler, the Hotel Arbez is in its one-of-a-kind position because of international conflict, an enterprising individual, and Napoleon (OK, so two enterprising individuals). It all started in 1802 when the French, not-actually-diminutive military leader annexed the Dappes Valley region. The area was then returned to Switzerland in 1815 following Waterloo, though France never really got over the loss. Eventually in 1862, the Swiss agreed to hand the land back over, but got something else in return: a comparably sized piece of France (about three square miles), that would move the border and cut the town of La Cure down the middle. The treaty decreed that any pre-existing building divided by the new frontier was to be left alone.
Enter Monsieur Ponthus, who owned the land where the Hotel Arbez now stands. When news of the agreement broke, Ponthus quickly built a three-story grocery store and pub on the soon-to-be Franco-Suisse border. The savvy landowner was reportedly angling to capitalize on the prime position for dubious alcohol, tobacco, and chocolate trades. Jules-Jean Arbeze later bought the building in the early 1920s, and turned it into the Hotel Arbez.
The Arbez later played a role in World War II during the German occupation of France. The hotel’s only staircase crossed into Switzerland halfway up, which meant that German soldiers couldn’t reach the top floors, as it would mean crossing into neutral territory. The upper rooms became a place for refugees, fugitives, and members of the French Resistance to stay safe. For similar reasons, the site became the location for France and Algeria to negotiate the Evian Accords in 1962.
Today, the hotel is four generations deep in Arbeze family ownership and often plays host to skiers and other tourists. The dining room, as well as a few individual guest rooms, are divided by the border. As the website proclaims: “You can sleep in France and eat in Switzerland!”
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