Charming but inexpensive Paris hotels

Paris hotels vary within the three-star category, from exquisitely elegant to simple-but-comfortable to charming-and-quirky -- and prices vary accordingly. Last month we listed some attractive hotels that cost between 400 and 600 Francs ($55 to $82 at current exchange rates). This article looks at pleasant, well-located hotels that charge less. They are ideal for the middle-of-the-road traveler who is interested in a bargain. A three-star hotel is considered a very respectable hotel here. Nonetheless, many services that you may take for granted will not be available. For instance, some three-stars don't exchange money. They may take travelers checks in dollars for the bill, but for spending money you will have to find a bank that exchanges foreign currency (and most don't.) Many three-star hotels don't take credit cards. Travelers checks in French francs make life easier.

No three-star offers the spaciousness of a grand hotel. Rooms and elevators tend to be much smaller and halls narrower and sometimes darker than you'll see in the United States. You might find an occasional break in the paint, an odd color scheme, or the bedspread might be a strange fabric, like velveteen or chenille. But this is made up for by the beamed ceilings, little gardens, flowers in the front hall, cleanliness, friendliness, terrific location, and low prices.

A few of these hotels have some rooms without a private bath. And in many cases, the ``bath'' is a shower (douche) rather than a tub (baignoire). If you must have a tub, be sure to specify. Tubs -- and twin beds rather than a double -- usually cost a bit more.

Charming but modest hotels in Paris are not by any means an endangered species. But a surprising number of the ones I visited are doing so well that they are renovating to get that coveted additional star.

H^otel de la Bretonnerie, 22, rue Ste.-Croix-Bretonnerie, tel. 887.77.63. Three star (4th arr.), Price 280-420 F. single or double, breakfast 21 F. 31 rooms, all with private bath. Lift.

The Bretonnerie is on a narrow, quiet Marais back street, a few blocks from the Pompidou Center. This quintessential European hotel is old fashioned and simple but immaculately clean, and all the staff are pleasant and speak English. A few amusing oddities -- such as large flowered wallpaper on the ceilings as well as the walls -- let you know you aren't in Phoenix.

The croissants are exemplary, and the charge for telephone bills back home is fair. No TV anywhere, and credit cards are not accepted, though travelers checks in dollars are.

There is a nice little restaurant around the corner on the rue Blancs Manteaux called La Petite Chaumi`ere. I thought I'd found heaven until I discovered they don't serve singletons on weekends. About 100 F. for food your mother would have served if she were French.

H^otel Saint-Louis, 75, rue St. Louis en l'Ile, 634.04.80. Two star (4th arr.), 21 rooms all with private bath. For one or two persons: room with shower and toilet is 283 F., room with tub 307 F., twin beds 410 F., breakfast 22 F. No lift.

The Ile St. Louis is reachable from either side of the Seine or the Ile de la Cit'e (where Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle are) by short bridges, making it accessible to everything, but a little removed at the same time. It's my favorite part of Paris.

This pretty little hotel was renovated last winter: originally it had 25 rooms, only 17 with private bath. The one bedroom I saw had a rather lurid bedspread, but a super new bathroom.

Make reservations two months in advance, says the proprietress.

H^otel Esmeralda, 4, Rue St. Julien le Pauvre, 354.19.20. Two star (5th arr.), 19 rooms all but four with private bath. Singles 70-170 F., doubles 230-300 F. Breakfast 21 F.

If you stand in front of the Esmeralda and look to the right, you can see Notre Dame. Look behind you, and you'll see a little park. Around the corner is Shakespeare and Company.

The terrific location, the friendliness, and the price are hard to beat. This is the place I'd like to stay the next time I'm in Paris. I'd try for room number 4, which is large and has a nice view. Furnishings here are modest.

You should book 15 days to one month in advance, or even before: ``as soon as you know,'' said the concierge.

H^otel des Marronniers, 21, rue Jacob. 325.30.60. Three star (6th arr.), 37 rooms all with private bath. Prices range from 202 to 328 F. depending on single, double, or twin beds, and whether there is a shower or tub. Lift.

There are a lot of little hotels and shops on the rue Jacob, and on its continuation, rue Universit'e; it's an interesting street that runs between Boulevard St. Germain and the Seine.

The Marronniers has a breakfast room that looks out on a small garden full of trees and white metal chairs. The room I saw was tiny, particularly the bathroom, but it overlooked the garden, so it was very quiet.

One oddity: You are asked to pay in advance.

H^otel des Deux Continents, 25, rue Jacob, 326.72.46. Two star (6th arr.), 40 rooms, all have private bath. Singles have shower. One person 200-330 F. including breakfast. Double 300-350 F. all with showers and bath.

The Deux Continents, again on the charming rue Jacob, is like several hotels sandwiched into one. It is in three buildings; the main one, with the more expensive rooms, has a lift, pleasant-looking rooms, and modern tiled baths. In the older buildings there is no lift, and the rooms and baths are quite plain.

The lobby is salmon-colored and full of antiques and flowers. Very pleasant staff.

No credit cards. Make reservations two to three months in advance.

Grand H^otel Taranne, 153, Boulevard St. Germain, 222.21.65. Two star (6th arr.), 35 rooms all with tub. Small rooms with one bed 266 F. for one person, 337 F. for 2; large rooms 450 F. for one or two including breakfast. Lift.

It's hard to believe this is a two-star hotel. The energetic owner, M. Fr'ed'eric Boissier, says that ``when something is not right we change it.'' He bought the Taranne when it was a one-star hotel, added two stories, and renovated it completely. All rooms have a TV; the bathrooms are handsome and newly tiled, and all have tubs; some have a steam bath, others a whirlpool.

There is much more emphasis on service than in many three-stars. This is one of the few hotels in this list that offers any kind of room service other than breakfast: some soup or a snack of fruit and cheese to tide over a tired guest. A piece of candy is laid on your pillow.

Make reservations one month in advance. There is no need for a deposit unless you plan to check in late in the day.

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