French Hotel Chains: Oui or Non?

Lobby of Ibis Hotel in Senlis, France. Surprisingly cheerful for a mid-range hotel chain.

I’ll never forget the first time I ended up staying in an Ibis hotel (the budget–but not rock-bottom–tier of the Accor hotels group).

It was our last afternoon of a spring, 1997, trip. We had checked into what looked like a charming mom-and-pop inn in Senlis. We dropped off our bags and went outside for a walk. When we came back, the stench in our room was intolerable. It smelled like sewer gas, and I am not exaggerating. We inspected the bathroom, and found that basically, the toilet was some sort of indoor makeshift thing, akin to what you’d find on an airplane—and it clearly wasn’t functioning right.

When we alerted the owner,  she came into our room, sniffed around, and denied that there was anything wrong at all. When pressed, she said, “Well, it’s your clothes and your suitcases, and all your things. People bring things in here all the time that smell horribly.

(Yes, I must admit, that that was a very French response….)

Bar/café at the Hotel Ibis. Convenient when you’re shattered from a day of travel.

We beelined on out of there. Up the road there was an Ibis hotel, and we decided to stay there.

And we’ve been back to that very same Ibis numerous times.

Let me explain. Certainly, nine times out of 10, when we aren’t renting an apartment, we stay in one of the thousands of charming, one-of-a-kind small inns throughout France.

But sometimes you just need a bed, a hot shower, and a clean, modern room.  Other times,  you grow weary of crazy French hoteliers (we’ve run into quite a few in the past 20 years), and just want something you can rely on. And at times like that, I tend to trust either Ibis, Novotel, or Mercure.

None of these hotels give you bragging rights back home (as in, “Oh! We stayed in the most amazing Relais et Chateaux!), but the price is generally right….and because they’re French, they’re usually  infinitely more charming than American chain hotels in the same category.

Ibis Senlis restaurant. Charming outdoor dining terrace. The food is very ordinary–but when you’ve just flown in from the U.S.A. and want to eat something before crashing, it works.

Other reasons I occasionally stay in chains:

• Most chains will let you cancel up until 6 p.m. the night of your stay. So if you miss your flight, you’re not out that first night’s cost of lodging.

• Chains can be conveniently located; sometimes in the city center. Or, in the case of my Senlis Ibis, it’s close to the autoroute that takes us right to CDG airport. This is why I often stay at the Senlis Ibis the night of my arrival and the night of my departure, on those trips when I don’t want to go into Paris.

• Lots of chains offer little cafés, which are incredibly convenient when you arrive at odd hours and need either a caffeine fix or a small bite to eat. The food is never awesome, but it’s better than most Marriotts.

Still, I wouldn’t make a habit out of staying in any French hotel chains regularly, or you’ll miss the charm of France (crazy hoteliers and all).

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2 comments to French Hotel Chains: Oui or Non? (Or, Where to Stay Near Charles de Gaulle If You Don’t Want to Go into Paris)

  • We’ve stayed at Ibis hotel near the CDG. Great room but the beds are hard as a rock!!! I would have had a better night sleep sitting in a wooden chair. Most of the hotel chains have these horrible hard beds so if you are a person who likes a little give to your mattress be forewarned.

  • Paris ideas In Paris I would stay at the IBIS hotel with a free shuttle bus. Another option is the CDG Sheraton right at the airport. It is close to the rail station so when you come in from London or arrive in Paris you can just bed right down after or before a long flight.

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