Paris Hotels

Hotel La Serre

The first time we ever saw the Hotel la Serre several years ago, it was called the Hotel Centre, so if you have an old guide book you're using it might still be listed that way.  The La Serre is across the street from the Grand Hotel Leveque, and these hotels are the only ones that are directly on the rue Cler.  This mostly pedestrian street is often associated with Rick Steves because of the amount of space he devotes to it and the hotels in this area in his Paris guides.  During the past ten or twelve years, I've seen Rick's work both praised and villified in the Travel Forums.  I don't always agree with what he has to say, but I am really glad that I took his advice about staying on or near the rue Cler.  Now, we can't imagine taking a trip to Paris and staying anywhere else.

The Hotel La Serre is a fairly typical of the older one and two star hotels in Paris.  The carpeting is worn, some of the rooms are small, the hallways are a little dark, and the plumbing can get cranky from time to time.  But during the times that we have stayed, its been clean and comfortable enough, and the price has been right.  The last time we were there in November of 1999, they were doing renovations to the rooms on the upper floors.  I don't know how far these renovations have gotten and how this might effect the price.

The rooms facing rue Cler seem to be a little larger and a little brighter than the rooms on the back, but if you're bothered by noise, remember that the rue Cler has trucks making deliveries to the markets early every morning.  I'm an early riser so I enjoy getting up and watching the action on the street below,  but I'm sure that it could be a real bother to folks who like to lie in late.

The owners of the Hotel La Serre are Marie-Alice and Philippe Beraud.  She has been featured in one of Rick Steves' PBS travel shows about Paris, and hers is the first face you see in his Paris book.  She speaks English very well and can delight any traveler with information about the neighborhood and the city.  The two of them also own the Restaurant la Serre on rue l'Exposition, only two or three blocks away.  Even if you don't stay at the hotel, you should definitely make it a point to enjoy one of the great meals they prepare.

Contrary to the misleading information in one of Rick's guides, the Hotel la Serre does have a small elevator.  Once you enter the door, you can take the elevator up one floor to the reception desk.  The breakfast room is located on that same floor.  The price for the rooms is similar to the price of those at the Leveque.  You can get all the detalis at the website for the hotel.  The address is 24 bis, rue Cler, the phone is 33 1 47 05 52 33, and the fax is 33 1 40 62 95 66.

Hotel Palais Bourbon

In the spring of 1994, we stayed at the Hotel Palais Bourbon at 49, rue de Bourgogne, in the 7th. (Tel: 45 51 63 32) We had a double with bath (a tub) for 494 FF per night that included breakfast for two. There were many doubles at the hotel at lower prices than this, and a few with two beds that cost a little more.

The room itself was ordinary, but the bath was outstanding for a 2-star hotel in Paris. It was newly remodeled with all new shiny tile and fixtures and a large tub. There was also a built-in hair dryer. The room had cable tv with CNN for those who like to keep up with the US news while in Paris.

This particular part of the 7th is made up largely of business and government offices and apartment houses, so at night it's pretty quiet.

The location is one of the best features. The gardens at the Rodin Museum can be seen down the street from some windows. Les Invalides and the military museum are just around the block. Place de la Concorde, the Tuilleries, and Musee d'Orsay are all a very easy walk away. Right around the block is the Varenne Metro Stop. Two bus stops (one going toward the Eiffel Tower and one toward the Latin Quarter) are only two or three blocks away. The Air France terminal for the buses to Orly is only about ten minutes away.

The downside for the Palais Bourbon? It may be a little too quiet in the area for those who are looking for the convenience of the 5th or 6th at night. It's a little bit too far to comfortably walk there, so you have to take a bus or the metro. Additionally, the best inexpensive place to eat nearby is open only for lunch.

Nevertheless, the Palais Bourbon presents a pretty decent and reliable choice for the $60-$100 range for Paris.

Grand Hotel Leveque

The Grand in the Grand Hotel Leveque has little to do with its size or its elegance, but it could certainly be applied as a description of its location and its value. Located on the (mostly) pedestrian rue Cler in the heart of the Seventh, the Grand Hotel Leveque provides a clean double with toilet and bath for around 350 FF. A plain breakfast of bread and jelly plus coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or orange juice is 25 FF per person.

The Grand Hotel Leveque is one of several of Rick Steves' recommendations we have used over the years, and in many ways it is the best. We have had better rooms, better bathrooms, better breakfasts, better service at other hotels in Paris for only slightly more money, but we have never stayed anywhere in Paris with the great charm and convenience of this little neighborhood.

The hotel is about ten minutes from the Eiffel Tower and about the same distance from Les Invalides. A metro stop lies just around one corner, and in the other direction is a bus stop that travels by Invalides, by Musee d'Orsay, by the Louvre, and on to the Pere Lachaise cemetery.

At one end of the street is a Post Office with an ATM machine outside and an exchange inside. (Rick points out that there is also a laundramat on the street, but we didn't use it.) Only about 100 feet from the door of the hotel is a great crepe stand. There are a couple of small places to eat, but the majority of the street is made up of the markets. There are two or three meat markets, several vegetable stands, at least one fromagerie, a couple of patisseries, a wine shop, a couple of newstands and bookstores, and a number of variety shops. The street is chock full of merchants bargaining with their customers from the apartments in the neighborhood. This street serves as the market for a fairly well-to-do clientele. One of the most interesting sites for us was the game market right across the street from our window. On our first day there, the display case was filled with freshly killed rabbits and pheasants, but on the third day two deer were hung on display. (A view from our window onto rue Cler is included in the Photo Archive).

The Grand Hotel Leveque is located at 29 rue Cler 75007 Paris. The telephone number that we have is 47 05 49 15 and the fax number is 45 50 49 36. They accept MC and Visa, and we were able to guarantee our reservation by faxing our credit card number. Since it's recommended by Rick Steves, you'd probably need to reserve well ahead in spring and summer although when we were there in November, some walk-ins managed to get a room.

Le Jardin des Plantes

In the Spring of 1994 we spent two or three nights at this hotel located at 5, rue Linne, on the eastern edge of the 5th. We had waited until the last minute to make a reservation, and we were unable to get into our first two choices. We selected this hotel based on the description in our copy of Cheap Sleeps in Paris. The authors describe it as "pretty and graceful" and "a comfotable two-star hotel with many features not found in a four-star." We found all of this to be true.

The rooms that we saw are all bright and cheery with floral themes. The bathrooms were large enough and very clean. The breakfast room is a glass enclosed area that allows plenty of light.

Unfortunately, the only rooms that were still available when we called were one the top floor. These are a little nicer than the average double; they also have direct access to the roof terrace--a feature that might have been more useful had the arctic front that visited the city waited a few days before arriving. The cost of these rooms was about 625 FF, more than we'd normally like to pay. Rooms on the lower floors were in the 400-450 FF range.

The hotel is directly across the street from the Botanical Gardens. The gardens are a nice, safe place to take an early morning jog or walk, and we probably would not have visited them had the hotel not been so near. It's also only three or four blocks up to the rue Mouffetard, one of our favorite market streets and a great place to find really cheap ethnic food. In the other direction, the walk to the Notre Dame is not too taxing. The Jussieu metro stop is only a block or so away.

One of the things we liked best about the hotel is the mini traveler's library that has grown up from the guides that have been left by past visitors to Paris. A guest at Les Jardin des Plantes need not worry about taking a bulky guide for a stay in Paris; there are plenty available in the hotel. They're yours for the taking---for the day!!!

The hotel takes all credit cards. At the time that we were there. the folks at the desk were very helpful in assisting us with arrangements we needed to make. You can telephone the hotel at 47-07-06-20.

Ibis Orly Aeroport

We list the Ibis here only because of an emergency last November. We were staying at the Grand Hotel Leveque (above) when we learned that the general transportation strike was due to begin on the Friday of our departure. We learned that taxis would be unavailable for Friday reservations, so we decided to go ahead and stay near the airport on the night before our departure.

The Office of Tourism suggested the Ibis as perhaps the lowest-priced choice for the airport. We were really pleasantly surprised at what we found. The rooms are 385 FF for two, three, or four persons in a room. Two small singles are compactly built into the wall, and the two additional beds fold down as bunks much like couchettes do on a train. (As a matter of fact, the room was not much bigger than a couchette!!) But the rooms were clean and functional with an adequate tiny bath and shower. And for this price, they were great.

A huge buffet breakfast is extra (39 FF per person). At night the restaurant offers a number of simple menu choices including an all-you-care-to-eat soup, salad, and dessert bar for 79 FF.

The airport shuttle makes a stop about 30 meters from the front door of the hotel. Phone the Ibis at 46 87 33 50 or fax to 46 87 29 92.