In the planning stages of our maiden voyage to Paris, my wife and I tossed back and forth whether to make a hotel or an apartment our temporary Paris home. We measured both options thoroughly and circumspectly almost as if it were a life-threatening surgery with a 50/50 chance of survival. We looked at prices. We looked at locations. We read travel guides and frequented travel forums where often times the most heated arguments you will find center around the “apartment or hotel” debate. We made one of those pros and cons lists that people make when contemplating changing jobs or moving into a new neighborhood. We considered the clear advantages of an apartment most notably the more space they provide and the addition of a kitchen which allows you more options in terms of meals. We also considered the advantages of a hotel including the convenience of having a staff at your disposal for cleaning, making reservations, and answering questions. We also considered which was more efficient considering the itinerary we had in mind.
In the end we went against the advise of many much wiser and more seasoned travelers and chose a hotel. For us the reasons became obvious. It was a one week trip and our plans were to be out in the city from the time we woke up until time for bed. That being considered, the last thing we planned on doing was cooking and washing dishes – maybe for another trip but not for our first time in Paris. We decided on Grand Hotel Leveque, a humble and economical hotel known more for its grand location than its grand amenities. It humbly identifies itself with a small but stylish gold and blue awning and a vertical yellow “HOTEL” sign about halfway up the face of the building. Each window is adorned with a black iron railing and a flower box filled with fire-red blooms. This was what greeted us after our long flight from the states.
There’s no glitzy lobby as you walk in and no bellhop to take your bags. Two glass doors under the awning open up to a hallway leading to the front desk. A mirror is strategically placed on the hallway wall allowing the receptionist to see who’s coming so they can have a hearty “Bonjour” armed and ready. I vividly remember first arriving at Hotel Leveque and heading to the front desk for what was going to be my first real conversation with a Parisian. A young woman in her early 30’s sat working on her computer.
“Bonjour Madame,” I said nervously.
Everything was going exactly how I had rehearsed. Now was my chance to flex my limited and fractured French-speaking muscle.
“Pardon madame. Je ne parle pas francais.”
“I speak English”, she said with a small grin which let me know she found my well intended attempt at using the local language amusing. All of the staff we encountered spoke good English and they were quite friendly. They helped many of their people by making reservations, giving directions, and even retrieving room keys that scatter-brained occupants like me locked in their room….repeatedly.
A small glass elevator just big enough for one person and a piece of luggage runs up the middle of the hotel with a spiral staircase wrapped around it. Snug hallways lead to an assortment of rooms, each small and basic but cozy. There was a time when the Grand Hotel Leveque had a shared bath on each floor but now each room has a bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower with hot streaming water. Our street side room had lovely french windows which opened up to the infectious energies of the market street Rue Cler below. It was perfect for us. I know some have spoken poorly of Hotel Leveque mainly due to the meager accommodations provided. But we knew what to expect and it satisfied our two most important requirements – cleanliness and a comfortable bed. Toss in the opportunity to wake up to the glorious sounds of Rue Cler each morning, and we couldn’t have asked for a better experience.