The rooms are American-size and smell of roses. The furniture is new but "antique," and architectural prints adorn the walls. The baths are marble with cultured granite counters, sheet-size towels and toiletries nestled in a silver dish. The writing desk conceals a minibar.
Iron grills and geraniums in the window boxes frame views of the Sorbonne from street-side rooms, such as No. 405, or of a residential courtyard from a vast L-shaped family room, such as No. 408. Down a circular stone stairwell, an ample breakfast, including cheese and cold cuts, is served in the large barrel-vaulted breakfast cave. Coffee, tea and spirits are served at the bar in the lobby, which is dressed to the hilt in crystal chandeliers, brocade fabrics and trompe l'oeil ceilings.
Grand Hotel St-Michel--and an inviting little tearoom, I might add--stands at one corner of Rue Cujas and Rue Victor Cousin; the Sorbonne commands the opposite corner. Luxembourg Gardens and the Luxembourg RER stop are two blocks away; the Cluny Museum and the Cluny/Sorbonne Metro stop are four blocks away.
Grand Hotel Saint-Michel, 19 Rue Cujas (5th arr.), 011-33-1-4633-3302, fax 011-33-1-4046-9633, www.grand-hotel-st-michel.com. Metro: Cluny-Sorbonne.
Stars: 3. Rooms: 46. Rates: standard double $120-$160. Breakfast: $10. Room features: satellite TV, phone, minibar/fridge, safe, hair dryer, air-conditioning.
Hotel de la Sorbonne
Open the windows of roomy No. 35, and you may hear a piano practice in session across the courtyard. Open them in smaller No. 43, and you'll be facing the mansard roof of the Sorbonne. Some of the views inside this nicely done two-star aren't bad either. In the breakfast parlor, just off the lobby, there's a parquet floor and a fireplace.
Modest decor shines in certain rooms: tan and cream wallpaper, simple wainscoting, wall sconces and brown carpet in No. 35, whose all-tile bath with pedestal sink also has a courtyard window. Others may have slightly less fortunate combinations: green carpet, pink wallpaper and lavender drapes in No. 43.
Because the hotel's entrance is through a courtyard a few feet off the street, there's a sense of seclusion. But this hotel is only half a block from the aforementioned Grand Hotel St-Michel, so it enjoys proximity to the same landmarks.
Hotel de la Sorbonne, 6 Rue Victor Cousin (5th arr.), 011-33-1-43-54-58-08, fax 011-33-1-4051-0518, www.hotelsorbonne.com. Metro: Cluny-Sorbonne.
Stars: 2. Rooms: 37. Rates: double with shower $79; double with tub $89. Breakfast: $5. Room features: satellite TV, phone, hair dryer.
Another good bet:
* Hotel Saint-Paul, a Latin Quarter three-star under British management, with wood-beamed ceilings, patio and vaulted breakfast cave. 43 Rue Monsieur le Prince, 011-33-1-43-26-98-64, fax 011-33-1-4634-5860, e-mail email@example.com. Double: $128-$158.
Eiffel Tower Area
By day, major streets in this part of town are furious with traffic and clogged with tourists. But early mornings and by night, the area between Parc du Champ de Mars and the park-like swath of the Invalides complex returns to the quiet, gentrified Left Bank neighborhood that it is. Some simply refer to this as the Rue Cler area because of the two-block-long Rue Cler street market, which, besides butcher and produce stands, has a fair share of cafes and modest gift shops. Some sidewalk restaurants in the neighborhood have Eiffel Tower views.
Stay in a hotel near Rue Cler, and you also are a 20-minute amble from the base of the Eiffel Tower, less than that to Napoleon's tomb. The Rodin Museum, UNESCO world headquarters and the oddball tour of the Paris sewers, Les Egouts, are within strolling distance.
Grand Hotel Leveque
This refurbished hotel opens right onto the pedestrian-only section of Rue Cler. Its front door and, by extension, its tiny reception area seem almost a part of the street market. Moderate-size rooms offer uncomplicated decor but have built-in closets or armoires, and bathrooms with a few more inches of floor space than some other two-stars. Windows are tall. Rooms, such as No. 44, that face a quiet courtyard may allow their lodgers to be awakened by morning birdsong. Rooms facing Rue Cler from the lower floors, such as No. 41, may overlook the market and the window boxes of apartments across the street. Higher up, No. 52 gets a straight shot at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Travelers looking for a little extra space in their room might like No. 43, a street-facing double that becomes a triple when the lounge chair is unfolded to make a single bed.
Breakfast is served in a dining room off the lobby; though those who need coffee or snacks during other hours can get them from the hotel's ice and vending machines--a rare thing in Paris' small hotels and almost unheard of in a two-star. No wonder Grand Hotel Leveque has been recommended by everyone from Rick Steves to Michelin.