Many delightful Parisian hotels, in the heart of the city, offer rates that would be considered unthinkably modest in other cities. If you're contemplating a stay in one of them, however, don't expect a glassed-in high-rise, with 24-hour room service and a swimming pool in the basement. These little pied a terres are all in typically Parisian five-story buildings, many of them very old. The French government's Ministry of Tourism classifies the hotels here, and the best guide you can get is the free one it puts out, the Guide des H^otels Martine Gerard. This publication lists the hotel's address and phone number, rating, number of rooms, prices for single and double rooms, and other information such as access for the handicapped, TV in the room, or what credit cards are accepted.
The ratings range from one-star at the low end of the ladder to four-star deluxe. The rating doesn't attempt to gauge the charm of the hotel but its services -- whether it has an elevator, room service,someone to carry your bags (expect this only in the grandest), several maids, and so on.
Staying in the cheapest room of a one-star hotel, for instance, might mean climbing up several flights of stars to get to your very clean but tiny chamber, which has a shower in the corner and a toilet down the hall. A four-star hotel, on the other hand, can hold its own with any deluxe hotel in the world. Most of the hotels I visited recently were rated three-stars -- ``very comfortable.''
Reservations are essential, even in off-season months like September, October, April, and May -- popular times for conventions, fashion shows, and trade fairs here. To make a reservation, call the hotel directly. Most have at least one clerk who speaks English. From the United States, dial 011-33-14 for access to Paris, then the number. After calling, send a letter of confirmation with a personal check for the first night. (For the zip code, put 750 for Paris, then the arrondissement [arr.] in two digits -- 03 for third, for instance.)
The most important thing in a hotel, to me, is location. After a hard day of touring, I like to pop ``home'' for a washup and a change of clothes before dinner. I like staying near the Seine, preferably within a short walk of Notre Dame Cathedral, so I concentrated on hotels in this area. One advantage: these districts have many restaurants -- a crucial consideration, as there are none in the hotels.
Each hotel listed below has a certain charm (ideal for the middle-of-the-road tourist who wants a bit of glamour), and prices range from a low of $35 to a high of $116, with the average around $58. Next month, I'll list some good hotels that are even more modestly priced.
Hotel Grands Hommes Pantheon, 17, place du Panth'eon. Telephone 634.19.60. Hotel du Pantheon 19, place du Panth'eon. Telephone 354.32.95. Three star (5th arr.), 30 rooms with bath. Single, 420 francs (current exchange rate is 6.85 francs to the US dollar); double, 544 francs, includes breakfast in charming basement rooms. Elevator.
These upscale twin hotels are under the same management and have recently been refurbished in the same style. All rooms have TV, hair dryer, and minibar. All are furnished in interesting rough-textured wallpaper in beiges and grayish blues. The bathrooms are really splendid. The location is a bit less central than I like.
Hotel Abbaye Saint-Germain, 10 rue Cassette. Telephone 544.38.11. Three star (6th arr.), 45 rooms with private baths. Both singles and doubles, 480-580 francs. No TV in rooms. Elevator.
The Abbaye Saint-Germain is a few blocks from the 'Eglise St. Germain-des-Pr'es. You'll see some of the same shops as on the Faubourg St. Honor'e, but this area is less intimidating. One of the prettiest hotels I saw, the Saint-Germain has a beautiful and ample lobby in shades of salmon and black and a lovely trellised courtyard entrance. The rooms are good size, with nice bathrooms. More of that rough-textured wallpaper -- it must be the latest thing here. The halls are rather dark. There is a delightful garden. Reserve two to three months before your trip .
Hotel Universit'e, 22, rue de l'Universit'e. Telephone 261.09.39. Three stars (7th arr.), 28 rooms with private bath. Single is 240-330 francs, double 470-650 francs, or for a big room with a terrace, 780 francs. Breakfast is 30 francs.
This hotel has an exceptionally nice d'ecor. Every room I saw had beamed ceilings and was brightly and tastefully furnished in pretty colors and antiques. The rooms are large and light, and many look out onto a garden. The lobby was marble and hung with tapestries. No credit cards are accepted. Reserve at least one month ahead for July and August.
Saint-Simon, 14 rue Saint-Simon. Telephone 548.35.66. Three stars (7th arr.), 34 rooms with private bath. For room with double bed for one or two persons, 500 francs; room with twin beds, 550 francs; suites 700-800 francs. Breakfast is 25 francs. Elevator.
The Saint-Simon is exquisite and elegant, the most beautiful -- also the most expensive -- of the hotels I saw. Renovated three years ago in warm greens, blues, and golds, the rooms are furnished with antiques and the walls have interesting prints. The rooms don't have TVs, but the telephone is direct line. Many ceilings have beams, and four rooms have their own terraces. One gorgeously decorated suite for 700 francs overlooks the garden. This hotel also offers very limited room service -- an egg or soup in the evening; or they will send out to one of the restaurants nearby for a meal if necessary. No credit cards accepted. Reserve two months ahead.
Hotel St. Augustine, 9, rue Roy. Telephone 293.32.17. Three star (8th arr.), 62 rooms with private bath. Single, 430 francs; double, 500 francs. Breakfast is 15 francs. Elevator.
The St. Augustin resembles a small American hotel. All rooms have color TV, bath, and radio. Rooms are small but pleasant enough. The concierge will exchange money and make reservations for shows. They take Diners Club, Carte Bleu, American Express. There is laundry service, but no room service.
Hotel des Deux ^Iles, 59, rue St. Louis en l'^ile. Telephone 326.13.35. Three stars (4th arr.), 17 rooms with private bath. Single, 385 francs; double, 485 francs. Breakfast is 28 francs. Elevator.
For a small hotel, the Deux Iles has a very large and attractive lobby, with dark yellow walls and flowered chintz chairs. The one room I saw was quite attractively furnished but tiny; a TV was perched up near the beamed ceiling. The bathroom was first rate.
Hotel Saint-Merry, 78, rue Verrerie. Telephone 278.14.15. Three stars (4th arr.), 13 rooms with private bath, one very small room (no toilet). For a small room, 300 francs; others 400 francs for one or two persons. One larger room is 500 francs. Breakfast is 25 francs. No elevator.
Lovers of the quaint and picturesque will enjoy the Saint-Merry, even with its tiny public rooms and quirky d'ecor. The 280-year-old building is the former presbytery for the church of Saint-Merry next door, and it is full of beamed ceilings and stained glass. Views are of the tree-lined place. The small streets abound in restaurants and antiques shops, and there is a caf'e (not part of the hotel) on the ground floor of the building. The Pompidou Center is directly behind. There is no TV, and no credit cards are accepted. Everyone speaks English. The kindly assistant manager, M. Roland, said that the Saint-Merry has a yearly occupancy rate of 96 percent; he recommends making reservations a month to six weeks in advance.
Hotel Le Colbert, 7, rue de l'H^otel-Colbert. Telephone 325.85.65. Three star (5th arr.), 40 rooms with private bath. Single with shower, 320 francs; Double with shower, 400 francs; with tub, 500 francs. TV in larger rooms. Elevator.
The Colbert is on a quiet, pretty street. The entrance is spacious and handsome, the people at the front desk very kind. It has not been renovated recently, but the rooms I saw were attractive enough, as were the public rooms. The upstairs hall was a low point: puce-colored with one barish spot. The location is wonderful; some rooms have views of Notre Dame. Le Colbert honors American Express cards.