This is the second in a much-delayed series covering my Labor Day (August-September 2019) trip to Paris and Luxembourg. My last post covered my flight out on Air France and my brief stay at the Ibis Paris CDG.
For my three nights in Paris, I split my time between two hotels— the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand and the Mercure Paris Bastille Marais. The Intercontinental was a redemption of my last uncapped IHG Rewards Club Mastercard free night certificate (certificates are now capped at a points value). When I first booked the trip, there was no availability actually, and I was booked in at the Hotel Indigo Paris Opera instead, which is supposed to be quite lovely. A few weeks before the trip, I noticed award availability had opened, so I made the switch. As for the remainder of the stay, I had originally planned to use points at one of the Holiday Inns in town, but then I found great rates of only $118 a night at the decently reviewed Mercure Paris Bastille Marais in one of their “privilege” rooms. I tried to get Accor to match it, as their rate was literally more than double, but their best rate guarantee team made up an excuse. So, I booked with Ebates Hotels (Now Rakuten Hotels), which was running a promo and I’d get $35 and change back on the $236 booking. And although I was an Accor silver member, my experience is that gives no benefits in practice, nor do Accor points, so I wasn’t leaving much on the table. Given how long it’s been, I’m just going to do a quick review of each property.
Intercontinental Paris Le Grand
I had stayed at the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand once before, back in 2012. I knew the property had been renovated, so was curious to see how it had changed. In the end, the hotel was perfectly fine, but there were a few disappointing things that stood out.
I arrived at the hotel at around 1:20pm. Given I had just napped and showered at the Ibis Paris CDG Airport, I would’ve been fine just dropping my stuff and exploring. But the woman at the desk told me my room was ready, and sent me to the room on the third floor. I had booked a “Classic” room, but had seen in my reservation I had been upgraded pre-arrival to an Eiffel Tower View Superior room. When I got to my room, it was definitely not an “Eiffel Tower View”—but rather of an interior courtyard. The app showed I was in a “Club Intercontinental” room, but no one had mentioned club access and I knew it was unlikely that was included given Intercontinental rules. My best guess is that it was a sans-view Superior room. It was in the hotel’s “Scribe” wing, and had been recently renovated.
Putting aside the lack of a view, the room was nice though on the small side. Upon entry, right past the door, there was a vestibule slash closet.
Then, there was a main room dominated by a king-size bed. On one side there was a desk and chair, rather than normal nightstands. There was then an armchair next to a cocktail table, and a dresser with a TV. Under the TV was a coffee/tea kettle set-up, as well as a minibar.
Awaiting on the cocktail table was my Ambassador amenity—a bottle of mineral water, a basket of apricots, and two bottles of pear nectar — with a note addressed to Mr. Lim. I am not Mr. Lim. On the desk were two small Evian bottles. Under the Intercontinental Ambassador new rules, I was supposed to be offered a food and beverage credit, but it wasn’t mentioned to me or on the welcome letter.
The adjoining bathroom was massive and felt out of scale to the rest of the room. It had a large shower/tub in the main bath, with a separate water closet. There were Anne Semonin toiletries.
In all, the hotel definitely felt a lot fresher than I recalled, with lots of fresh blue paint, high gloss mahogany and brass finishes.
I didn’t explore the common areas of the hotel much. I got a bit lost trying to find the gym, which is on the hotel’s first floor; there was no sign when you get off the elevator and I found myself going down random stairwells, finally making it to the gym which was in the spa. It was surprisingly small for such a large hotel that had been recently renovated. There was a single bench, a small rack of free weights, and a bunch of cardio machines. For a quick workout, it was fine, but it wasn’t great.
I did walk into the main lobby/salon, which was actually set up for a wedding. There was some scaffolding up at the entrance, which took away from the grandiosity. The weirdest part was when I came back to the hotel at around 4:30pm after sightseeing, a security guard stopped me before I reached the elevators and asked to see my key. She was not asking others to do the same, and it made me feel singled out and bad. I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, but plenty of tourists do, and it seemed unnecessary. Oddly, when I came back from a night of carousing at 2am, no one stopped me.
In all, it was a fine stay, but I don’t think its some ultra-aspirational luxury property worth the price.
Mercure Paris Bastille Marais
Accor is one of the world’s largest hotel mega-chains, though given its small U.S. footprint and weak loyalty program, it doesn’t get a lot of discussion on your major credit-card marketing blogs. My stays at Accor properties over the years have been sporadic: Sofitels in Lisbon and Rio, MGallerys in Melbourne and Amsterdam, and an Ibis in Medellin (plus Fairmonts in Hamburg and Playa del Carmen). So, the fact that I was staying in two in one trip stood out- though made sense given that Accor is a French company and I was in France. It’s hard to count, but I think Accor has over 100 properties in Paris alone.
Accor has something like twenty brands, which is very confusing. Mercure is one of Accor’s mid-market brands, with several locations in Paris. Although this location is called the Mercure Paris Bastille Marais, it is most definitely not in the Marais—about a 25-minute walk or 20 minutes by bus or metro, in the 11th Arrondissement next to the Voltaire metro station. The neighborhood is fine, though, with a huge supermarket across the street, a McDo next door, and lots of small restaurants and bakeries around.
When I arrived, it definitely felt more like a boutique hotel than a large chain property, as there was a very small little lobby with a single desk on one side and a bar at the other. There’s a breakfast room in the back, and the bar had a big metal bowl of welcome self-serve sangria that seemed to sit out all day.
It was 2pm when I arrived, and my room was not ready yet, even though the website said check-in was at noon. So, I left my stuff and came back around 5pm. Remarkably, though it was a small hotel and the exact same agent, it was if she had never seen me before in my life. Anyway, she checked me in, and directed me to my room on the eighth floor—the top floor of the hotel.
As noted above, I booked a “Privilege” room, which had been going on various websites for ½ of the price of a regular room on Accor’s website. The benefits of a Privilege room include a higher floor, a bigger room, supposedly better bedding, a Nespresso machine and a free minibar. There are only four rooms on the “Privilege” floors, as opposed to seven on the others. Given the building’s age, it is not surprising that the rooms were incredibly odd shaped. In my room, you walked in, and there was a little vestibule with a counter with the Nespresso machine and a tea kettle. It seemed like there would have been a minibar under it, but there wasn’t, just an empty cupboard.
The main room had a quasi-gabled ceiling. There was a king-sized bed with some tacky-art on the headboard, facing what I would describe as a half-desk—barely big enough for a laptop— built into the wall, with a wall-mounted TV above it, next to a free-standing armoire. There was both a desk chair and a small armchair.
I couldn’t find the minibar anywhere, but then saw there was a “closet” behind a curtain next to the bed, with a tiny refrigerator with one Coke, one Coke Zero, two bottles of water, and an orange juice. *Everything I used on day 1 was restocked for day 2.) There was a Juliet balcony in the room, which had a view of the street in front, nothing special.
What was odd, though, was that the bathroom also had a Juliet balcony, and indeed had an amazing view, of both the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur. It was a fairly large bathroom, with a stall shower and a lot of empty space, but new and clean. There were both minis of toiletries, and large pumps in the shower.
For the price I paid (net $100 a night) the room was definitely fine- particularly given how small and expensive Paris hotel rooms can be. That said, I did miss out on the lack of amenities like a gym. The room also had a bit of a smell, and despite the supposedly higher-end bedding, I found the sheets pretty rough. One of the towels in the bathroom had a gross stain on it. And the room stayed very warm even with air conditioning on max. So, not the Intercontinental, but not a fleabag motel.
When I got my invoice, it showed a charge for breakfast for one day, which I didn’t have. I didn’t even have to ask, and the front desk took it off. I just had to pay the 5,76 EUR city tax and I was on my way to Gare D’Est for the train to Luxembourg, which I’ll cover in my next installment.