Archive for the ‘Paris trip planning’ Category

Springtime in Paris

April 14, 2012

Springtime in Paris - time for the ET annual pilgrimage

The Experienced Travelers are busy with spreadsheets and schedules, which means we’re preparing for our return to Paris. O joy, O delight. It’s time to gather more blog content.  We consider it our contribution to the well-being of the Dear Readership, to whom we are devoted.

The butchers of Paris prepare for the return of the ETs. A little asparagus would go nicely....

This year we’ll be traveling with our very good friends Barbara and Christine. So there will be four meals to photograph instead of just two.  Already an improvement, don’t you agree?  Dear Readership, these girls are tireless shoppers and they’ll set a new standard for ET mercantile efficiency.

We're ready for a few new accessories and Featherstone in the Marais might be just the place to find them.

Nurse and I will kick off the trip with a few days driving in Brittany.  Expect oysters and seascapes.  Then we’ll join B&C in Paris for a week of arduous shopping, dining and sightseeing.  There are new restaurants on the itinerary, and our annual visit to Le Florimond for the lobster ravioli. We are open to suggestions if you can recommend a thrifty meal.

The ETs are committed to continuous improvement so we’re going to  neighborhoods that I want to know better, like Passy and Montparnasse.

We'll kick the tires and take the bus, once I figure out how to read the schedules.

We’ll also conquer our fear of les correspondances and ride the bus instead of hauling our sorry selves through the underground maze of the Metro. Expect reports from the Orsay, Marmottan and Rodin museums, the Maison Balzac and the market in the rue Dauguerre.

We’re cashing in our “spare change” jars.  Scientifically, this counts as Found Money since no one pays attention to spare change.  How efficient it is to rid ourselves of these pesky coins by turning them into euros and leaving them behind in Paris.  À bientôt!

Paris Neighborhoods: Rive Gauche – The 7th

March 4, 2012

There's lots to see in the 7th arrondissement

The Experienced Travelers slip into comfy shoes to continue our tour of Paris neighborhoods.  All aboard the Batobus to visit the left bank’s elegant, aristocratic 7th.

The 7th arrondissement is bounded by the Eiffel Tower and the Musée d’Orsay, with the Seine along it’s curved spine.  There is real life here in the 7th, which is well-served by bus and metro. It’s an oasis of normalcy when the Euro-mall atmosphere of the Champs-Élysées makes you long for the madness to cease.

Hotels in the 7th run the gamut from budget accommodations to more luxurious digs, with many in the mid-range. We like the Hotel Muguet, where rooms range from 115 – 180 euros. (we must do a write-up on this ET favorite).  Apartment rentals are numerous and Paris Perfect has many flats in the area.

The brilliant gold dome of the Hôtel des Invalides is a hallmark of the 7th. In addition to Napoleon, it has a fine military museum. If you visit and locate Napoleon's stuffed dog, please write us immediately with details.

What’s Nearby:  Eiffel Tower, the Hôtel des Invalides, Place de la Concorde, Le Bon Marché department store and la Grande Épicerie, the Musées Rodin, d’Orsay and Louvre, UNESCO, the École Militaire,  Gare Montparnasse, the Paris Sewer Museum and shopping at Sèvres-Babylone.

Le Bon Marché, a 7eme alternative to "les grandes magasins" in the boulevard Haussmann. Photo by François Rejeté

So let’s have a look around.  Near the edge of the 6th at Place Saint-Germain is the Sèvres-Babylone shopping mecca.  This is a welcome alternative to the crazy crowds at the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.  Scores of boutiques and specialty shops hover like flying buttresses around the legendary Le Bon Marché department store and it’s enormous gourmet specialty store, la Grande Épicerie.  One-stop shopping, dear Readership!

Along the Seine, the 7th is a nerve center of French government and foreign affairs (in a manner of speaking).  Dominated by the forbidding walls of embassies and ministries, the Assemblée Nationale and the Prime Minister’s Hôtel Matignon, it’s a  sea of suits, smartphones and sunglasses.

If you want to confer with the political elite, go at noontime when they’re busy legislating the Fifth Republic over lunch.  The ETs  don’t bother them much and they reciprocate by granting us tourist visas and dispensation from the V.A.T.

Cafés, food stores and restaurants on the rue Cler. You won't leave hungry!

Come with us now to the ET Paris power base – our center of operations near the rue Cler, where we habitually stay. Within walking distance to Napoleon’s tomb (and stuffed dog) in the Hôtel des Invalides or the Eiffel Tower, this neighborhood has a comfortable pace and the convenience of food stores, groceries, local cafés, restaurants and shops on our doorstep.

The ETs profess complete loyalty to our preferred cheese and baguette ladies, Monsieur charcuterie, the mean fish man and the hearty smoking guys at the fruit-and-veg.

Does anyone have a knife? Cheese and other goodies in the rue Cler. This is *not* the mean fish man.

We like having the post office on the corner, where we buy the “whatever fits in this box can be shipped for one price” mailers.  We’ve used them twice, and our treasures arrived the following week – in great shape.

Dinnertime shopping near the Place de l'Ecole Militaire. Grab an inexpensive alfresco meal at the numerous grocery stores or the rue Cler market.

If you want to dine out, try Christian Constant’s trio of restaurants on the rue Saint-Dominique, or our favourite Le Florimond.  For a quick lunch, there’s the Café du Marché or Café Central where we had the best burger on earth.  Enjoy an affordable full breakfast at Le Petit Cler which has the largest café au lait on the street.  This doesn’t scratch the surface of the dining possibilities in the quartier.

Rodin's The Thinker. We surmise he is pondering which 7th arrondissement restaurant to book for dinner.

Don’t overlook the exquisite Musée Rodin  located in his workshop, the Hôtel Biron (which once housed the Academy of the Sacred Heart, an ET alma mater). This compact museum features a delightful sculpture garden where you can contemplate “The Thinker” contemplating you.

We would be remiss not to mention that ET hero-author Nancy Mitford entertained DeGaulle’s Chief of Staff at her home in the rue Monsieur.  One day we’ll write up our pilgrimage to Nancy’s digs and my brush with literary greatness.

We’re ecstatic that we’ll be returning to our haunts in the 7th next month. Watch for “as-it-happens” reports from our habitual table at La Terrasse du 7eme.

The ET version of "The Thinker". Definitely pondering dinner....

Paris Neighborhoods: Rive Gauche – the 5th and 6th

January 28, 2012

Saint-Médard in the rue Mouffetard market in the 5th

The Experienced Travelers cross the Seine to the Left Bank to continue our exploration of Paris neighborhoods.  (Click to read our post about the Right bank.)

Two arrondissements stand out as Left Bank favourites.  The justly popular 5th and 6th arrondissements between Place Maubert and Place St-Germain are perfect bases for first-time visitors or returning fans.

The RER from Charles de Gaulle airport stops at the Place St-Michel, which is convenient for both the 5th and 6th.  Emerge from the RER into the Paris morning light and settle at one of the cafes along the Seine for your first café -au-lait.

Browse the bouquinistes along the quai, just like Audrey Hepburn!

Oh, dear Readership, my friend Marylynn and I took our first trip to Paris when we were impressionable girls in our 20s.  Our one unforgettable Audrey Hepburn evening unfolded in these quartiers, thanks to a charming (and well-behaved) Irish literature student.  Arms in arms, we three splashed along the foggy Boulevard Saint-Michel in teeming rain. With our spirits soaring (and coiffures stylishly soaked) we wandered into the wee hours until our Gallic poet gallantly led us to a café table across from Notre Dame, floodlit in the mist.  Ah, youth.  Let me collect myself and return to our tour.

Among it’s many delights, the 5th arrondissement has your picture-perfect view of Notre Dame, the Pantheon, the rue Mouffetard market and the Sorbonne.

Notre Dame seen from the 5th. The ETs gaze upon her over their morning coffee for spiritual renewal and to pray for found money.

The ETs like to explore streets near the river,  like the rues Galande and Maître-Albert where medieval Sorbonne students attended open-air classrooms.  Today you can shop the small boutiques and health food stores in the neighborhood and feel justified because you’re learning history.  How easy it is for the ETs to find continuous self-improvement from our mercantile inclinations.

The Pantheon crowns the hill. Contribute 7 euros to the patrimony of France and visit Hugo, Voltaire, Zola and Foucault's Pendulum.

Walk away from the busy quai and make the gentle climb up the rue Saint-Jacques hill, past the church of St-Séverin to the rue Soufflot.  Stop at the Pantheon where you can visit Foucault’s Pendulum and several French immortels including Victor Hugo.

If you stay here, there are many hotels and restaurants and you won’t be disappointed.  It gets quiet at night unless you’re near the Seine or on the Blvd.  Saint-Michel.  The 5th is centrally located with good transportation, especially along the Blvds. Saint-Germain and Saint-Michel.

  • What’s nearby: rue Mouffetard and Maubert markets, 13th century St Julien le Pauvre and it’s lovely square,  Shakespeare and Company bookstore, the Pantheon, college life at the Sorbonne, the Roman arena, Jardin des Plantes and the Paris Mosque and yummy couscous.

The 6th arrondissement - food, sights and plenty of shopping. A great location!

Just across the Blvd. Saint-Michel from the 5th,  the 6th arrondissement has the most expensive real estate in town with an average cost of €11,631 per square meter. (oodles of Found Money needed.)  It runs from the incomparable Jardin du Luxembourg to the Seine and over to Melinda’s  favourite table at the Café de Flore in the Place Saint-Germain.  After all, it’s not  just for existentialists anymore.

This convenient quartier has it all, and it’s busy from morning till night.  Ambiance, gastronomy, antiques and antiquarian books, Sorbonne student hangouts, upscale boutiques and excellent transportation by bus, metro or RER.  It’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular areas for visitors.

You can stay in the 6th and eat all day without leaving the quartier

You’ll find loads of hotels between the Place Saint-Michel and the rue de Bucci market.  No matter where you stay, it’s easy to get a languorous glass of wine on a made-for-watching café terrace, or a quick picnic lunch.  If you have just one trip to Paris in you, stay in the 6th and we can recommend the Hotel du Lys.

Jardin du Luxembourg - Marie de Medici's backyard can be yours too.

What’s nearby: Left-bank quais on the Seine, Luxembourg gardens, Louvre, Orsay and Cluny museums, Sorbonne, Place St-Germain, rue de Bucci market, rue de Seine antiques, many, many restaurants and cafes that teem with busy cutlery, and much more.

Nurse, in dashing earrings, eyes the Velibes bicycles - what *can* she be thinking..

And so, dear Readership, your choices for a Paris base continue to expand. But there’s more – watch for our overview of the 7th and 15th arrondissements in a later post.  Happy travels!


Paris Neighborhoods: Rive Droite

November 7, 2011

The Musee d'Orsay and the Louvre are across the river from one another. Art lovers take note! Photo by Associate ET Felzer

An previous post regaled you with the Experienced Travelers Paris Hotel Tips. (Read it here)  Now we’ll take a whirlwind tour of a few Paris neighborhoods so you can settle on a handy address for your sojurn.

Left bank?  Right bank?  Montparnasse? Montmartre?   It sounds like a Piaf ballad, n’est pas? The choices are bountiful dear Readership, and we assure you that you’ll find just the right spot to suit your mood and itinerary.  (tell us you do have an itinerary… oh dear me,  that’s another post.)

The ETs recommend staying in a central location that's nearby major sights.

Some travelers will trade a central location for cheaper digs on the outskirts.  The ETs believe that there’s something to be said for proximity when you get the yen to walk along the Seine in the moonlight. So we recommend the city center, and there are perfect neighborhoods on both banks of the Seine with hotels in virtually all price ranges. Each area has it’s fans, and aspects that make it unique.  Go get your map and a glass of wine and lets start with a few arrondissements on the rive droite, or right bank.

Staying near the Louvre is central and convenient if you have just a few days in Paris. Photo by Associate ET Felzer.

The Louvre-Palais Royale area (1st arrondissement) is smack in the center of Paris, between the Place de la Concorde and Châtelet -Les Halles.  If your inner Rembrandt yearns for the major museums, this could be the spot.  The Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay are across the Seine from each other.  The Jeu de Paume and the Orangerie are at the edge of the Tuilleries.  You’ll find busy restaurants – including the legendary Angelina’s –  and tourist shops selling sno-globe Eiffel Towers under the arcades on the rue de Rivoli.  Nearby restaurants tend to be more expensive because of the proximity to the museums.  If you’re hungry venture north to the trendy rue Montorgueil street market where you can get a cheaper meal, and browse delicious kitchen stores like E. Dehillerin on the edge of Les Halles.

It’s worth noting that the Louvre-Palais Royale area lacks the “lived-in” feeling of other quartiers, if that’s important to you.  You’re also dependent on Metro line 1, which serves many major sights, but as a result it’s jam-packed most of the day.   And avoid the Châtelet metro correspondence – it’s enormous and confusing.  Consider staying in this area if you have a limited time in Paris and you want to be central to most major sights.

  • What’s nearby:  Place de la Concorde, Madeleine, Tuilleries Gardens, Musée d’Orsay, l’Opera, grandes magasins (Printemps and Galeries Lafayette), Place Vendome, Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame, Les Halles, Châtelet.

Ile St-Louis. If you stay here, don't worry. They all go home at night and leave you alone with beautiful 17th century buildings.

The upscale Ile St.-Louis is a coveted address for visitor and resident alike.  This lovely island in the Seine is awash with tourists during the day, but quiet and village-like at night.  Alongside the aristocratic townhouses, there are a few hotels and some excellent restaurants.  The lower Marais, the edge of the Latin Quarter and it’s sister island, the Ile de la Cité are within easy reach.  It is necessary to cross a bridge to reach a metro stop, but there are several in the area. This is a good choice if you want to be centrally located in an area that’s pleasant and peaceful in the evening.  We don’t recommend the Ile de la Cité next door. It’s not convenient as a base.

  • What’s nearby:  Villages St.-Paul, the lower Marais, Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, the Latin Quarter, Berthillion ice cream.

The Marais is a popular location that's convenient and shop-worthy

The Marais (3-4th arrondissements) runs from the Seine to Temple, and Beaubourg to Bastille.  This quartier is fresh from a gentrification which started in the 1980s, and attracted small hotels, chi-chi boutiques, artisan studios and Gay residents (suffice it to say “le clubbing” must be good!)  The centuries-old streets off the rue des Archives aren’t dormant anymore, with lots of walking-shopping on the narrow sidewalks. But you quickly get a sense of old Paris in the side streets and courtyards.  The jewel in the Marais crown is the exquisite Place des Vosges featuring Henry IVs arcades.  Stay in the Marais and it could be your neighborhood garden.

  • What’s nearby:  boutique shopping, the Musees Carnavalet, Picasso and Pompidou, the St-Paul quartier with antiques and very old architecture, the Ile-St.-Louis and Ile de la Cite, Place de la Bastille, Hotel de Ville (and the fabulous BHV department store)

The legendary Avenue des Champs-Elysees has plenty of places to spend your Found Money

The vast, chaotic Champs-Elysees (8th arrondissement) is riddled with hotels in all price ranges, but the noise and traffic make the ETs grateful to hurry back to the residential 7th.  Perhaps you’re made of stronger stuff and will thrive on the energy.

Many people choose the Champs-Elysees as a home base and the quantity of major hotels attests to that. It’s a shopping haven.  Global brand names line the wide avenue.  The grands magasins are nearby.  High-end retailers fill the Golden Triangle, and the elegant stores of the Place de la Madeleine and the rue Royale are just off the Place de la Concorde.

Associate ETs Joanne and Clare strike a pose before the monumental Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees

If you are superhuman and have a shred of energy left after shopping, nightclubs like the Lido abound. There are five metro stops on the Champs-Elysees (Line 1)with convenient correspondances to other lines.  Be warned that a glass of wine or a meal will cost much more here.   We think the visitors who stay here do so for access to shopping or major hotel brands.

  • What’s nearby: High-end shopping; The Arc de Triomphe, Grande and Petit Palais, stores in the rue Faubourg St.-Honoré, Golden Triangle and Place de la Madeleine.

We need another Paris trip to explore the 9th, 10th and 11th arrondissements. These neighborhoods are gaining in popularity with young singles, particularly the 10th along the Canal St-Martin.  I spent an afternoon in the 9th wandering from the Place St-Georges to Place Pigalle (in search of Simenon’s Maigret, of course).  I thought it was an unremarkable area and feel that I must have missed something.  Do please tell me what it was.

I haven’t visited the 10th or 11th, so I don’t  recommend for or against them as a base for visitors.  But I have read that new up-and-coming super-chef restaurants are opening there.  I hope we’ll get informative comments from fans of these areas who will enlighten us.

  • What’s nearby: 9th – Opera Garnier, grandes magasins, Gare St-Lazare. 10th – Place de la République , Gares du Nord and L’Est. 11th – Place de la Bastille, eastern edge of the Marais, Père Lachaise cemetery.

Marketing in the rue de Levis near the Parc Monceau.

May we make a plug for a residential area on the south-eastern edge of the 17th arrondissement near the beautiful Parc Monceau?  In the bloom of my youth, I rented a room overlooking the market in the rue de Lévis.   I often return for a sentimental visit, hoping to catch a glimpse of my eccentric Algerian landlady.  The market here is authentic, with fewer fashion boutiques and more food and services stores.  If you want a true residential experience in Paris, I can recommend this neighborhood.  Do not stay further north or east than Ave. Villiers and Ave. Wagram.  Stick close by the Parc Monceau. Convenient metro stops are found along the Ave. de Villiers.

  • What’s nearby: Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysees, Parc Monceau, Proust’s rooms in the Blvd. Haussmann.

Picasso, Utrillo, Modigliani - you! This alluring view of the Place du Tertre might tempt you to book a room here.

And finally on our right bank tour, we come to that  storied butte in the 18th arrondissement.  Lovers of Montmartre are a feisty bunch, and claim that the charm of the place outweighs the long breathless ascent.  The ETs can’t imagine  schlepping back and forth by bus or metro to get to major sights.  And there’s that hill to climb at the end of the day. Again.   But if you have a 19th century, absinthe-ridden artistic-genius fantasy, you’ll find very affordable hotels and restaurants in Montmartre.  Be warned that the area between Sacré-Cœur and the Place du Tertre is sheer tourist madness during the day, especially on sunny weekends.  It gets better at night.

Dear Readership, this is only the right bank!  Imagine what we’ll find when we explore the 5th and 6th arrondissements on the left bank in a future post!

Paris experts – use the comment link below and enlighten us about your favourite right bank haunt!

Enjoying the sun on the Ile St.-Louis, and pondering our exploration of the Left Bank in the next post! Someone needs a haircut....

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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