PARIS — There are 75,000 hotel rooms in Paris. Finding one is not the problem. Finding one that is well located, well appointed and affordable, that's the problem.
In May I took the challenge and inspected more than 100 rooms in 30 Paris hotels. (I stayed overnight in six; only four of those made the list.) I avoided the big, impersonal business hotels and narrowed my search to small lodgings in neighborhoods that reflect Parisian life but also are convenient by foot to one or more of the major attractions. By using such a hotel as a base, you can absorb the street scene, window shop and stop for a cafe creme on your way to bigger things.
I further narrowed my search to hotels that would not simply facilitate a trip to Paris but enhance it. I required clean furnishings, private bathrooms, basic desk services and an English-speaking desk staff. I also expected a bit of charm, a little something extra in the way of service, convenience, comfort or decor that in its own right would make for a pleasant stay.
And, here's the kicker. They had to fit a moderate budget: not more than $150 a night, double occupancy, tax included, high season.
In a week's time, I certainly didn't see all of Paris' rooms. And some of the most renowned hotels--perhaps your favorites--were booked solid, leaving me no chance to take a peek. But what I did find was encouraging: cordial staff; spotless carpets; fresh-smelling bathrooms; clean linens; large windows that opened wide onto inner courtyards, street scenes or rooftop views; and decor that ranged from pleasant to highly original. With few exceptions, I was impressed with the hotels I reviewed. It was tough to narrow the list to the 15 (plus 10 alternates) detailed below.
You needn't pitch a tent in the Tuileries to be close to the Louvre. Just across the Seine lies the Left Bank neighborhood of St-Germain, which takes its name from one of Paris' oldest churches, St-Germain-des-Pres. The 11th century church holds concerts in its chapel and attracts street performers to its sidewalks. Radiating from its square are some of the best-known eateries in the city: Les Deux Magots, Cafe de Flore, Brasserie Lipp.
Stay in a hotel in St-Germain and you also are near the Musee d'Orsay, the day-and-night hot spots of the Rue de Buci, restaurant Le Procope and boutique shopping. Luxembourg Gardens also is within walking distance.
Ben Franklin didn't and Ernest Hemingway did, or so say the wags. The patriot wouldn't tread on enemy soil, seeing as how this history-laden building was the British embassy in his day. So he refused to sleep here. Hemingway, on the other hand, was just glad for a cheap stay. No. 11, up a tipsy flight of stairs, is one that could still fill that bill. This is one of the old-fashioned rooms, so there's a bidet in the dimly lighted bath. Like other rooms here, No. 11 has soaring ceilings, a large desk with two upholstered side chairs, a luggage stand, adequate closet space, soft towels and a nice basket of toiletries in the bath. It has two double beds and is small but not cramped, and it looks out over a plant-filled courtyard where breakfast is served in good weather. In unpleasant weather, guests take breakfast in a drawing room dominated by a grand piano.
Deluxe rooms, such as No. 21, are just out of price range for this story, but it would be a shame not to at least tempt you with the ones that have beamed ceilings, American-size floor space, updated marble baths and, if they face the street, double-paned windows.
D'Angleterre's perch on the Rue Jacob puts it just around the corner from St-Germain-des-Pres Church in one direction and, in the opposite direction, a block from the Seine, with the Louvre just across the river.
Hotel d'Angleterre, 44 Rue Jacob (6th arrondissement), 011-33-1-4260-3472, fax 011-33-1-4260-1693, e-mail anglotel@ wanadoo.fr. Metro: St-Germain-des-Pres.
Stars: 3. Rooms: 27. Rates: standard double $125; deluxe double $175-$210; apartments $260. Breakfast: $9.15. Room features: satellite TV, phone, modem, safe, hair dryer.
Hotel de Saint-Germain