Archive for the ‘Paris Hotels’ Category

ET Tips: Paris hotels won’t break the budget

September 27, 2011

Don't try to book the Hotel de Ville. It's the administrative offices of the City of Paris.

The Experienced Travelers are often asked how to find an affordable hotel in Paris.  In fact, we revel in research, and document our options.  Ironically, we’ve only stayed in a few Paris hotels, but that doesn’t prevent us from having a process that we follow with rigor.

Dear Readership, there are zillions of hotel strategies out there.  Browsing a travel newsgroup like the excellent Fodors travel forums  presents a startling variety of approaches – most of them with merit.

Over the years, we’ve settled on ours, and we’re delighted to share it with you.  In this post, we’ll cover considerations, budget and our must-have list of amenities.

A five-star bathroom in Versailles. Truly an anomaly for the ETs

Degrees of comfort

Paris properties run the gamut from the resplendent to the ridiculous.  If your dream trip includes 5-star luxury and handsome uniformed Frenchmen holding the door, then our strategy isn’t for you.  Go directly to the Plaza Athénée, de Crillon or Le Meurice and do please tell us all about it because we’re dying to know. The ETs are counting on you!

In terms of the ridiculous, I’ve seen it, and recognized that I was too attached to firm beds and real towels to try it.  These properties are most suitable for cash-strapped young lovers, for whom a basic closet-sized room overlooking the dustbins takes on a special ambiance under the glow of Paris romance.

On a busy street, opt for a room overlooking an interior courtyard that's as lovely as this one.

Somewhere in between is a wide range of options that include small family-run properties, trendy boutique hotels and large chains that offer comfortable, if homogeneous accommodation.

Keep in mind…

We remind US travelers in particular, that Paris hotel rooms are often smaller than standard room in the States.   And the French ground floor is the rez-de-chaussée , so the first floor French is equivalent to the second floor US, and it goes up from there.

This evocative view is 6 floors up

Elevators in hotels are not a given.  If you harbor a fantasy of watching the sun set over the Paris skyline from your hotel room window, remember that you may have to schlep up six flights of winding stairs to make it come true.  I still have ridges in my palms from hauling luggage to a fifth floor B&B in Avignon.  The ETs are proud proponents of cardiovascular health, but we draw the line at heavy transport unless it’s a laminated shopping bag with a store name on it.

A sloping ceiling didn't impede a curly-haired Nurse from her late-night Eiffel Tower watch (Hotel Muguet)

And a room on the top floor of a Haussmann-era building may have a sloping ceiling, leaving tall members of the Readership navigating a narrow pathway along one wall – and watching the sunset all alone from the far side of the room.

The ETs are ferocious internet users for research and booking.  But it’s worthwhile to wake early one morning a few weeks before departure and call the hotel to re-confirm.  At the very least, re-confirm by e-mail.  We don’t want to arrive and hear “mais non, madame”  from the hotel staff at check-in.  (particularly if you’re a monsieur)

Speaking of check-in;  if you arrive in the morning after an overnight flight, it’s likely that your room won’t be available until early afternoon.  Don’t arrive with dreams of a hot shower.  Leave your luggage, get a late breakfast and go for a walk. And stay awake till at least 10pm. The timetable for the rest of your trip depends on this.  Use whatever means you have at your disposal to stay upright and alert.  Sightseeing, food, wine, walks – don’t take a nap, dear Readership.

Budget

If you’re traveling on a reasonable budget, you’ll have no difficulty finding a reliable room in a good location.  We like to pay between 120-150 euros per night for a double.  There are acceptable rooms in Paris for less, but you’ll be well advised to book months in advance to get the best ones.  And the others?  Well, we’re leaving those to the young romantics who overlook the dustbins.

The ETs think our hard-earned funds are best spent at a hotel where our budget buys the “better” to “best” room.  Although we could spend the same amount for a less exalted room at a swankier address, we’ll sacrifice status for space and a higher position in the hotel pecking order.

The ETs like having breakfast at the ready in the hotel. It's a hotly debated topic on the Fodors travel forum.

We may be in the minority on this, but if the hotel offers breakfast, we generally take it.  In a small hotel, “eating in” will endear you to the manager, whose good graces are useful to have in times of crisis.  It’s  less expensive to eat standing at a cafe bar, but we sleep more soundly knowing our morning coffee and croissant are near at hand.  Any breakfast over 8 euros should include a reasonable buffet with yogurt, eggs and meat. Pile your plate so you have plenty of energy till lunch.  We won’t tell if you pocket a demi-baguette to enjoy later in the day.

Amenities.
The ETs are ladies of a certain age, so we have firm requirements of hotels that will make our shortlist.  Cleanliness, firm beds, safe location, ample light and polite staff are high on the list. We also consider an elevator an important amenity, but that’s because of those shopping bags.

We find all these things and more without breaking our budget, leaving us with Found Money to spend on more meaningful things like bath towels, pink Chanel eyeglasses and jars of black olive tapenade.

A fine two-star bathroom just perfect for the ETs (Hotel du Lys)

  • First and foremost is the ensuite bathroom. Experience taught us that it’s undignified to wander a dark hallway at 3am wearing walking shoes and a cheap travel bathrobe.  It just won’t do.  And we must be able to reach the bathroom without vaulting over a bed and an unsuspecting ET deep in sleep. Besides, we haven’t vaulted over anything since 1995.
  • As inveterate readers, bedside lamps are a major need for us.  Nurse is gifted at late-night subterfuge and will successfully commandeer the single reading light, so I include this requirement in self-defense.
  • We’ve added WiFi access to the list so we can stay in touch.  It also makes calling home much cheaper if you use a service like Skype.
  • If we’re visiting in late spring or summer, air conditioning is necessary to keep us cool and elegant.  Paris can feel stifling at a mere 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • We just say “no” to using suitcases as bedside tables because there’s no place else to put them.  That said, we strive to limit what we bring.  (naturally, there’s an ET packing strategy too.)
  • And it’s no good to lay awake finding animal patterns in the wallpaper while inebriated Frenchmen argue the merits of 18th century philosophers. Unless the room is on a quiet street, we opt to sleep higher up, or overlooking a pleasant courtyard.

Our needs are simple, dear Readership, and we stand by them.  With a little advance research, the Paris roof over your head can be both comfortable and affordable.

We just know that you have Paris hotel tips to share with the Readership.  Leave a comment and educate us!

Maybe you'll choose the Place Vendome and stay here at the Ritz!

And speaking of hotels, read our review of the Hotel du Lys

The Hotel du Lys

August 28, 2011

Sleep under the emblem of the crown of France at the Hotel du Lys.

The Experienced Travelers appreciate a good deal.  Our cutting-edge “Found Money” economic strategy operates on actual cash savings, so we’re always on the lookout for a bargain to share with the Readership.

For the last Paris visit I wanted to change things up a bit and stay in the 6th instead of the usual ET haunt in the 7th near the rue Cler.   Melinda left the hotel search to me, so the pressure was on;  if it’s a dud, I’ll  suffer pointed stares while quickly formulating plan B.

My “Found Money” goal was to pay under 140€ per room for a two-or three-star hotel in a central location.   With my trusty Hotel spreadsheet at the ready, I  consulted reliable sources – the Fodors travel forum, TripAdvisor, Slow Travel France and Sandra Gustafson’s Great Sleeps series.   One recommendation came up over and over, and it was in the neighborhood where I wanted to stay!

The welcoming lobby at the Hotel du Lys

The Hotel du Lys in the rue Serpente, between the St.-Michel and Odeon metro stops fit the bill, at 110€ or 125€  including breakfast.  So I booked online and hoped for the best.

We arrived after our overnight flight and found the Hotel du Lys exactly as promised.  Melinda opted for the cozy single.  I took the comfortable double room with exposed stone walls and two large windows overlooking the rue Serpente.

My double room was airy and comfortable - just right for one or two ETs!

The beds and linens were excellent, the bathrooms were compact but well-appointed, and there were small writing tables and room to store suitcases and hang clothes.  ETs insist on cleanliness and we were not disappointed.  There’s wireless internet throughout the hotel that actually only worked in the lobby, but the ETs are flexible.

We're up to it - 17th century aristocrats climbed these stairs all the time!

It’s worth noting that there’s no elevator or air conditioning.  Brave Melinda faced five flights of worn spiral stairs to her rooftop aerie, which got a little warm during the day.

After a day of walking, Melinda prepares for the climb. Note the chic wedgie shoes come off first.

But the climb was worth the price of 110€ and her quiet room looked out over the rooftops.  If stairs are an issue, there are two rooms directly off the lobby,  so you can go from bed to bistrot in a matter of moments.

The Hotel du Lys is bastion of tradition in a sea of nouveau-chic hostelries.  If your taste runs to Philippe Starcke décor, you may want to look elsewhere (and pay more).  This is a family-owned enterprise where the owner works the front desk, room keys hang on a pegboard in the lobby and well-behaved dogs are welcome.

A snug but handy ground-floor bedroom

Like the ETs, the Hotel du Lys has its idiosyncrasies.  The website declares “We have tried to make this old house as attractive and comfortable as possible in spite of the little inconveniences which we must accept as a tribute to the past”.  Often, “little inconveniences” is code for “dreadfully uncomfortable”, but not at the Hotel du Lys.  It means they won’t demolish 17th century stone and beams to install an elevator or straighten a hallway. The ETs gladly sacrifice convenience for authenticity and affordability.

The nearby rue de Bucci is made for people-watching

The Hotel du Lys makes a perfect ET epicenter. The rue de Bucci market is a five minute walk, Melinda’s favourite Café de Flore is close by, Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Orsay are a stone’s throw away and the boulevards St.-Michel and St.-Germain are at the end of the road.   Everything else is accessible from two nearby metro stops. A fine quartier indeed!

The happy outcome was that we netted about 90€ per day in Found Money to finance wine breaks and gateaux chocolat.  We spent most of that in the nearby Place St.-Andre des Arts, which makes an excellent base for evening drinks and gathering meaningful content for JuliesParis!

Melinda and Julie delight in leaving their Found Money behind at the Fontaine St-Michel

As we readied to leave for the airport, the owner shook my hand, looked intently at me and whispered “You love Paris. I think we’ll be seeing you again soon.”.  I do, and she shall!

My personal, private window in the Hotel du Lys, overlooking rue Serpente. Yes, I will be back.


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