Places to Stay: Paris.
Starting now, I'm creating a new category, Places to Stay, for keeping track of hotels, resorts, B&Bs, by-owner-rentals, and all. The category will be more like a list than proper reviews. The goal is simple: track places I have stayed and want to revisit, or places that someone recommended. By posting them publicly I hope to get reports from others on these places, lists of other good places, plus be able to easily share it all with friends.
What better city to begin than Paris?
First off, we booked our trip last minute. And booked our rooms even later last minute. By simply Googling for recommendations, I found reviews of 'budget' hotels that looked perfect for college kids - how about a big dull room with four beds in it and a bathroom down the hall? Or reviews for 'boutique' hotels, which were way out of my price range - 350 clams a night. Or their website was so fancy I was almost too intimidated to even ask the price of a room. My criteria was 1) good location, central for walking the city but a little south of the bulk of the tourist hotels if possible, probably the 5th arrondissment and maybe near Rue Mouffetard, 2) not break the bank, 3) have some charm and hopefully be a little independent place (rather than a big commercial hotel).
|stairway at Hotel des Nations Saint Germain|
In desperation, I went onto Twitter and did a shout out. @LightbulbDesign from London instantly saved our bacon with a great list of places to try. (She saved our crumpets in the past, too!) To my regret, I have since lost that list and cannot even find the posts on Twitter, so I only have information on one place - the hotel where we stayed. Losing her list is just more reason for me to collect such notes into a blog post!
Because it was so late in the game, we booked a hotel that had availability and would let us book online. A couple of hotels required email exchanges for a reservation and I was too freaked out that we would be sleeping in the train station to wait for replies.
|Cute Flower shop across the street from Hotel des Nations Saint Germain|
We stayed at Hotel des Nations Saint Germain and liked it, especially the location. Their website described the location well, "located on the left bank of Paris, near the Panthéon, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Luxembourg Garden. The nearest metro station Place Monge (line 7) gives easy reach to the Louvre Museum and the Opera District. Also near the station Cardinal Lemoine (line 10) and several bus lines." The room we stayed in was small and just fine by my standards, but I would warn people to not expect American scaled rooms (but I'd warn the same to people traveling anywhere outside the U.S.) and specifically, it's good to know in advance that the shower is smaller than a phone booth. Personally, I was totally fine with it.
|Phone Booth Shower|
Our friends stayed at Hotel Saint-Jaques, also in the Latin Quarter. Their location wasn't far from ours and I think they would recommend it. They had a room on an upper floor which sounded worth a little extra for its added romantic feel and of course, a tad bit more sky in their view. They also had a tub with a handheld shower feature rather than a shower, which they sounded fine (and even amused) to use.
Since returning, a friend highly recommended a place that coincidentally I had tried to email for reservations for us, before I panicked and booked the other place. Hotel Grandes Ecoles looks good for its excellent location, also in the Latin Quarter very close to where we stayed, plus a wonderful courtyard to enjoy during warmer seasons. I'd like to try them next I think.
|View from our hotel window. I can stare into details of shutters, railings and drainpipes for hours.|
I'm not sure who to credit, but I bookmarked websites for Jardin de Villiers, the colorful Le Maison Montparnasse and Port-Royal-Hotel. A friend put a further southeast place on my radar, Cardinal Rive Gauche, which led me to these related hotels that I might try one day, too. When (if) I come into a major windfall, I might try a place that has French designer flare.
Can you tell I'm preparing for a return trip?
I would also consider a flat (or apartment) rental by owner, but I understand there are some laws that restrict those in Paris, so I'll do more research before booking one. A NY Times travel review by Marc Gross mentioned Studios Paris for short-term rentals, so maybe I'll start there. (Studios Paris, 4, rue Androuet, 18th; (33-977) 219-888, paris-apartment-rent.com.)