on May 9, 2010
Writing a review of a really good hotel is easy and writing one about an awful hotel is fun. But how about hotels that are just a bit bleurgh - not great, not awful? Is it actually possible to write an interesting review of an uninteresting hotel? I'm still not sure about that. Sitting in my room at the Holiday Inn in Paris St Germain de Pres I couldn't help but reflect that the designers drew heavily from that area of the colour palette best characterised by the term 'nicotine'. This is a Holiday Inn that's badly in need of refurbishment and I was rather relieved to only be there for the one night. ~Location~It's about 20 miles from Charles de Gaulles airport but it felt a lot longer in the taxi as well as more expensive at €45 for the ride. It's just down the road from Gare Montparnasse and it's round the corner from some very tempting shoe shops. The taxi driver knew which street it was on which was reassuring but had to leave me on the main road round the corner as the street was 'one-way-the-wrong-way'.Seeing the familiar green awnings, I couldn't have missed the hotel. The entrance led into a lobby with the desk on the right and a seating area and bar to the left. It wouldn't have been a hotel I'd have chosen but my colleague had already booked it so I had to fall in line with him. He said it's a great location - but if you are there on your own and not planning to leave the hotel, then I'd happily swap a great location for a great room. My colleague and our big boss from the USA had gone out for dinner with some customers and I couldn't help wondering what the big boss would think of this sad and tired old hotel. Good job the Americans invented Holiday Inn so he can't hold that against the French. I pre-booked online at the Holiday Inn which meant I had paid in advance so there wasn't a lot to do at the check-in. I was given my room key - a strange piece of plastic shaped like a money clip - and the check-in chappie showed me how to work the door. I thought I'd seen all the variations on electronic locks but this was new on me - "state of the art" said the receptionist and who am I to argue? Mind you, it was probably the only thing new about the entire hotel. I took a drab and dark lift to the second floor to find my room. ~The Room~The lighting in my room was so poor that it bathed the room in a depressing aura of dullness. I was struggling to type under the dim desk lamp that carried a warning sign saying 'max 60W' but I'd be surprised if it was even 40 W. There was another lamp at the bedside that was similarly dim and just the one wall light - one of those nasty plaster up-lighters so beloved by DIY enthusiasts in the 1990s. My room was admittedly the cheapest of the room types so there may have been better rooms elsewhere. This cost me €153 without breakfast which, if I had wanted it, would add another €18. So what did I get for my money? The room was a fair size but not over-generous - you couldn't do cartwheels in it or anything like that. Most of walls were decorated (I use the term loosely) with striped yellow wallpaper and in places the paper was scuffed, dirty and/or torn. The paper was in two different shades of a colour that looks like tobacco staining. But no, this is a non-smoking room - I know that by the overpowering smell of air-freshener that had me checking straight away if the windows would open. Thankfully they did and half an hour of fresh air and a scented candle either cleared the smells or I stopped noticing although my eyes were still watering hours later.I had my camera with me and normally I photograph all hotel rooms but this one had induced in me such a sense of 'couldn't care less' that I couldn't even be bothered to clear my stuff off the bed and take photos. That hasn't happened before.I had three pictures on my wall and they were all drab. There are two beige landscapes and an inspiring over-bed poster of a tea pot and a geranium. A famous courtesan once gave the advice that it was a good thing to have an interesting painting over your bed in case other bedroom 'activities' got boring. Clearly the French reputation for skill in the art of love means a tea pot and a geranium is sufficiently exciting.Everything that wasn't yellow was rusty orange. The curtains had a good black-out lining but I wouldn't have put them with the yellow. The bedspread matched the curtains and the piping around the edges is so worn that the fabric was showing through. The bed was fairly firm and the pillows were OK. There was a light wood bedside table on one side of the bed and desk on the other. The kettle and sachets of tea and coffee were perched up on a shelf which was far too far from the plug to use without moving it. There was also a basic armchair, a mini-bar with the TV (very limited channels) on top and a fold out suitcase stand. That's your lot for the room except a built in cupboard that was even older than the rest of the room but contained a clever room safe that's somehow activated by your credit card. Interesting - I'd not seen that before.How about the bathroom? Oh dear. The bathroom made the room look like the Ritz. The tiles were old and 'flesh' coloured - a sort of pinkie-beige. And lots of them were chipped and patched which can't be hygienic. The vanity unit was OK but the mirror was a long way away and the lighting so poor that any action such as shaving or putting on make up would be a struggle. There is a shaver charger and one of those scary hairdryers that you could drop into the sink and kill yourself with. How do hotels get away with that?The bath was about two-thirds the normal length and bizarrely the shower wasn't on the end wall of the bath, but was attached to the side wall with only a shower curtain. Tough choice - flood the bathroom or lie in the bath with my knees under my chin. There were two small pieces of wrapped soap but no little bottles of body lotion, shower gel or shampoo - just bulk dispensers on the wall by the bath and the sink. For €153 a night, I think they could run to some smellies, a shoe-sponge or a sewing kit. But no, there was nothing.On the plus side, the internet connection was pretty good and at €15 per 24 hours it's not outrageously expensive. The hotel website says there's WiFi but not in my room. It was hard-wired and you have to get a cable from reception that's so short that you have no option but to work at the desk.So what else is in the hotel?I'd love to tell you but I'm not sure. Normally I'd expect a folder with information about the hotel tucked in one of the drawers but there was nothing so I had to check the website. Interestingly the room photos on the website are just as dull as the real rooms. Apparently there's loads of stuff in the hotel but I expect it's all drab like the room and the reception. The website says the hotel was last renovated in 1999 but I really don't believe that. It also says there should be an iron and ironing board but there isn't.There's supposed to be a restaurant - I think that's in the basement and was closed when I arrived and it might be a breakfast room only. You couldn't blame them for not bothering as there are so many places to eat within walking distance that it would be hard to fill a restaurant in the evening. There's also a business centre - a post term for a cupboard with a computer and a printer in it, some meeting rooms and a car park. More importantly you probably want to know what it hasn't got - like a gym, a pool or a sense of style.Check-out next morning was fast and efficient, indicating that the hotel probably wasn't very full. Would I recommend the Holiday Inn St Germain des Pres? No, not really. It's not awful but it's very uninspiring. It's entirely adequate but you should be able to find something much better or with more character for the same price.
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