Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Mama Knows Best
I stayed at this really cheap and chic (emphasis on the chic, not on the cheap) hotel during my recent trip to Paris called Mama Shelter.
Designed by Philippe Starck and managed by the same group that runs Club Med, I figured I was in safe hands both in terms of style and service. You could say I was close.
Located in the 20th arrondissement, which is as far as you can go before you actually get kicked out of Paris, Mama Shelter is by no means in the center of all the action. To get there you have to take the Metro all the way to the end and get off at the more laid-back and sleepier part of town, after which there is a good 8-10 minute walk before reaching the hotel. A bevy of neighborhood bars and boulangeries do exist, but pales in comparison to their counterparts in more sophisticated neighborhoods.
Once in a while more adventurous tourists do head to the area to pay their respects to Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Rene Lalique, Marcel Marceau, Jimmy Hendrix and other notable personalities in history. The Père-Lechaise cemetery, one of the most popular in the world because of its illustrious inhabitants, is located just a few blocks away.
Inside the hotel are touches of kitsch and whimsy that are so typical of Starck's design. From the mask-covered evening lights to the graffitied carpets and walls, to the carefully edited furniture scattered throughout, the property does little to hide its pedigree. At night, the pizzeria and restaurant downstairs becomes the coolest gig in town filled with young and beautiful Parisians working the scene.
A great price for a moderately-sized room. A toasty welcome each time you enter. An incredibly comfortable bed with sheets that are nothing short of lovely. In-room iMac with good entertainment options (including free porn, if you are into that). Excellent water pressure. Kiehl's bathroom amenities. Free wifi.
A budget hotel dressed in designer clothing is still a budget hotel, which means no room service, no complimentary bottled water, no mini-bar, and save for the soap and shampoo (plus towels and tissue paper) the bathrooms are sparse and rather uninspired. In keeping with the loungy vibe, lighting is kept subdued even in the guest rooms. Bringing a flashlight is recommended. Front desk tends to be busy all the time.
Hungry? Head to any of the marches in the area and stock up on microwaveable meals (there is an oven in each room) to satiate that late night growling. My favorite, MONOP, carries a variety of dining selections for any appetite. Buy a few big bottles of water while you are at it. Your tummy, and your wallet, will thank you.
109 Rue de Bagnolet
75020 Paris, France