Largely unnoticed by U.S. visitors, two dozen low-cost but modern and amenity-packed hotels have sprouted in Paris. They're called "Ibis"
C'est possible? A crop of sleek new economy hotels in one of Europe's most notorious graveyards for vacation budgets? With good, clean rooms as cheap as $46 a night? Mais oui. Though you'll find them in almost no American guidebooks, a slew of slickly modern (for the most part) budget hotels called Ibis have stealthily emerged within the city limits of Paris, most of them near metro (subway) stops a five-minute ride from the Seine. Operated by Accor Hotels (800/221-4542), which owns Motel 6 and Red Roof Inns in the States, Ibis' Parisian branches now total several thousand rooms in 57 individual properties, of which 20 are in the central city and 37 more in the suburbs beyond the peripherique ring road. Taking a leaf from les americains, the cookie-cutter Ibises have become the McDonald's of European budget lodgings (486 such properties are scattered across the continent) by taking the guesswork out of finding reliable modern digs with certain minimum features: private bathroom, TV, phone, and room service (though not always air-conditioning).
Rates in Paris (with the exception of one property) run 330-545 francs ($46-$78) per double (singles just slightly less)--not including another $5.40 for the buffet breakfast and $10 for three-course meals. All properties have elevators, most have bars, and many have restaurants, as well as 24-hour hot snack service; locations are in good yet relatively less expensive neighborhoods.
Drawbacks? Attractive but tiny, rather clumsily designed rooms with papier-thin walls; severely limited storage space; bathrooms not easily maneuvered by the "full-figured" among us; lack of frills like shampoo and desks with actual drawers; and service sometimes closer to traditional Parisian hauteur and sullenness than to the perky "customer-is-always-right" approach of, say, America's Microtel. And if you want local color and charm, find a more traditional petit hotel down the boulevard (our recommendations for that in a soon-to-come issue).
But with that in mind, and abetted by one of the most impressive exchange rates in years (recently around 7 francs to the dollar) and info on the 20 key "inside-the-beltway" Ibises, you can have even a modest budget singin' on the Seine.
Ibis Gare de L'Est 165 rooms with air-conditioning, some for nonsmokers/disabled; bar, restaurant, on-premises parking; single $60, double $66. A couple of blocks from the grand Gare de l'Est and Gare du Nord train stations, this yellow, eight-floor updated version of classic nineteenth-century Parisian design (complete with mansard roofs) is walkable to many shops and restaurants in its workaday neighborhood. 197-199 rue La Fayette, 10th arrondissement; tel. 44-65-70-00, fax 44-65-70-07.
Ibis Gare L'Est/Boulevard de Strasbourg 68 AC rooms, nonsmoking/disabled; bar, parking; single $64, double $68. An early twentieth-century building with a relaxing lobby, it's on a quiet little lane named for the atmospheric fifteenth-century stone church around the corner. 6 rue Saint Laurent, 10th arr.; 40-38-05-05, fax 42-05-71-16.
Ibis Lafayette 70 AC rooms, nonsmoking/disabled; single $62, double $69. Intimate in a 1990s kind of way, it's got a cute little reception/bar area, a charming yard with ivy-covered walls, trees, tables, and chairs. Or hang out with Parisians of all ages across the street in the petite park adjoining the imposing, neoclassical St. Vincent de Paul. 122 rue La Fayette, 10th arr.; 45-23-27-27, fax 42-46-73-79.
Ibis Republique 67 rooms, nonsmoking; bar; single $62, double $66. Steps from the place de la Republique and an easy stroll to Chatelet-Les Halles and the Op,ra, the handsome gray town house dating from 1896 mixes six floors of standard-issue rooms with local flavor like a genteel white foyer and stone vaults in the basement breakfast room. 9 rue Leon Jouhaux, 10th arr.; 42-40-40-11-12, fax 42-40-11-12.
Ibis Jemmapes Louis Blanc 49 rooms, disabled; restaurant; single $60, double $67. Tucked onto a very quiet side street near a canal and lined with modern apartment houses, the eight-story, sand-color older building has been renovated beyond recognition. It's unexceptional but certainly pleasant, and a short hop to busy boulevard La Fayette; for peace and quiet, a great choice. 12 rue Louis Blanc, 10th arr.; 42-01-21-21, fax 42-08-21-40.
Ibis Bastille 305 rooms, nonsmoking, disabled; bar, restaurant, parking; single $64, double $71. Punctuated by porthole-style bathroom windows, it's an easy walk to place de la Bastille with its mod performance hall, and to ritzy place des Vosges and the medieval Marais. Nearby is a very happening (and late) nightlife along rue de la Roquette and rue de Lappe, as well as neat street markets along boulevard Richard Lenoir. 15 rue Breguet, 11th arr.; 49-29-20-20, fax 49-29-20-30.
Ibis Menilmontant Pere-Lachaise 31 rooms, nonsmoking; bar; single $61, double $66. On a side street in a low-key working-class area-once the stomping ground of Maurice Chevalier and Edith Piaf and now enjoying a retro resurgence among cool Parisians - this yellow Ibis is small and friendly. And necrophiles will dig the nearby Pere-Lachaise cemetery, one of the world's most beautiful, where you can commune with the likes of Colette, Jim Morrison, and Oscar Wilde. Rue la Folie Regnault, 11th arr.; 53-36-82-92, fax 53-36-82-99.
Ibis Bercy Expo 195 AC rooms, nonsmoking/disabled; parking, bar, restaurant; rooms $60. Fans of modern architecture will like this sleek sandstone-faced property, next to a huge movie multiplex and a food trade-show hall (often open to the public). Even more interesting is the newly restored thirteenth-century village of Bercy, its former wine warehouses hosting shops, restaurants, and the Club Med World entertainment complex. 19 place des Vins de France, 12th arr.; 49-28-06-06, fax 49-28-06-20.
Ibis Gare de Lyon 119 AC rooms; nonsmoking; parking; single $69, double $71. Among the grand town houses along this big, bustling thoroughfare, this one's a bit plainer than most, yet still fits right in. A nice bonus: the backyard with tables/chairs and 20 rooms that look out on it. Locally, don't miss picturesque little side streets like rue Cremieux. 41-43 ave. Ledru Rollin, 12th arr.; 53-02-30-30, fax 53-02-30-31.
Ibis Porte de Clichy 700 AC rooms; bar, restaurant, parking; single $62, double $76-$90. The biggest and newest Ibis in Paris is hidden off the avenue up in the northwest corner of town, not too far from Montmartre. Big with tour groups, the 15-year-old, nine-floor behemoth taken into the fold just last year offers three-star amenities at two-star prices, including several bars and restaurants and a swimming pool and fitness center (though for the latter you pay $25-$55 extra). 163 bis, avenue de Clichy, 17th arr.; 40-25-20-20, fax 40-25-26-00.
Ibis Montmartre 326 rooms, nonsmoking/disabled; bar, restaurant; single $64, double $71. Attached to one of Accor's (more upscale) Mercure hotels and wedged between a parking garage and a shopping mall just outside romantic Montmartre, its public spaces are plastered with murals evoking "olde Paris." A good "big hotel" option for folks wanting walkability to the famous artists' quarter, Sacre Cour, the Moulin Rouge, and such. 5 rue Caulaincourt, 18th arr.; 55-30-18-00, fax 55-30-19-18.
Ibis Sacre Coeur 68 rooms, nonsmoking; bar, parking; single $55, double $60. A more intimate choice with an excellent location amid the tourist buses and tchotchke shops lining the boulevard just below Sacr, Cour and Montmartre, this nineteenth-century town house boasts nice views of the skyline from some of its ninth-floor rooms. And of course there are the Pigalle porn parlors right down the street, if that's your bag. 100 blvd. Rochechouart, 18th arr.; 46-06-99-17, fax 42-55-42-26.
Ibis La Villette 284 rooms, nonsmoking/disabled; bar, restaurant, parking; rooms $46. On a bend in the idyllic Ourq Canal in Paris's extreme northeast, it's funkier looking than most Ibises, with its blues, yellows, and vaguely Deco-looking touches. Why stay way up here? The groovy multiethnic (especially African and Sephardic Jewish) neighborhood and the futuristic Science City, with its unmissable "geode" gleaming like a giant pinball. 31-35 quai de l'Oise, 19th arr.; 40-38-58-00, fax 40-38-04-04.
Ibis Cambronne Tour Eiffel 523 rooms, nonsmoking; bar, restaurant, parking; single $65, double $72. Just off the cobblestone place Cambronne, eight floors of modern white tile are a little jarring amid gracious nineteenth-century structures. But one of Paree's biggest Ibises is nicely situated not just for Gustave Eiffel's famous phallic symbol (with its new sparkly lights, switched on nightly for ten minutes each hour), but also the Invalides, the Musee d'Orsay, and lots more. 2 rue Cambronne, 15th arr.; 40-61-22-22, fax 40-61-21-21.
Ibis Gare Montparnasse 30 AC rooms; nonsmoking/disabled; rooms $78. At the corner of two major tree-lined thoroughfares within sight of the Montparnasse skyscraper, this facade's stripes and mirrored glass stand out among the more traditional architecture of a nabe hopping with businesspeople by day and bar/restaurantgoers by night. Oh, and if you're in the mood for a browse through French Foreign Legion memorabilia, or military doodads dating back to the Battle of the Marne, duck into the surplus store right around the corner. 71 blvd. de Vaugirard, 15th arr.; 43-20-89-12, fax 43-22-77-71.
Ibis Maine Montparnasse 102 rooms, nonsmoking/disabled; parking; single $58, double $65. On a small street in a low-key residential area sprinkled with mom-and-pop restaurants and shops, two early-twentieth-century buildings were painted red and beige and turned into one Ibis (a couple of whose top-floor rooms have terraces). The nearby arrondissement town hall is like a smaller version of the imposing Hotel de Ville; two slightly morbid but highly worthwhile sights within striking distance are the catacombs and the Montparnasse Cemetery (say hi to celebs like Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir). 160 rue du Chxteau, 14th arr.; 43-22-00-09, fax 43-20-21-78.
Ibis Albesia 264 AC rooms, disabled; bar, restaurant, parking; single $60, double $65. For les shopaholiques (apologies to the Academie Francaise), have we got an Ibis for you: it's just off Rue d'Alesia, crammed with stores both cheap and cher - and you can even snag discontinued haute couture for a fraction of the price. The hotel's big, its standard beige facade tarted up with mirrored glass rising from the flag-adorned entrance. Nearby, don't miss the 1861 St. Pierre de Montrouge church, its interior done in "primitive" Roman style. 49 rue des Plantes, 14th arr.; 40-44-50-51, fax 40-44-53-44.
Ibis Brancion "Expo" 71 rooms, some AC, nonsmoking/disabled; bar, parking; rooms $57. Blending in perfectly among the apartment blocks of an outlying neighborhood just inside the p,riph,rique, it's a great choice for joggers and others appreciating a break from the hustle and bustle of central Paris: right across the street is the lovely Parc Brassens, which contains an antique book market and the respected Sylvia Montfort Theater. 105 rue Brancion, 15th arr.; 56-56-62-30, fax 56-56-62-31.
Ibis Place d'Italie 58 rooms, nonsmoking/disabled; parking; single $62, double $66. Joining two other two-star hotels on a very peaceful residential street, this six-floor affair fronted by gray tiles, steel, and glass has a whiff of the Bauhaus. The place d'Italie area itself is tres diverse, from the stores (including a mammoth shopping mall) of avenue d'Italie to attractions like the Botanical Garden and a natural history museum. 25 ave. Stephen Pichon, 13th arr.; 44-24-94-85, fax 44-24-20-70.
Ibix Italie Tolbiac 60 rooms; nonsmoking/disabled; bar; single $60, double $62. Below place d'Italie and several blocks off bustling avenue d'Italie on a quiet leafy street next to a "Zen boutique," it's convenient to the Quartier Chinois (Chinatown), which though dinkier even than Washington, D.C.'s still has some neat restaurants, shops, and even a temple with an impressive Buddha statue. On a more Christian note, check out nearby St. Anne de la Maison Blanche, with its soaring nave, star-spangled barrel vault, and gorgeous stained glass. 177 rue de Tolbiac, 13th arr.; 45-80-16-60, fax 45-80-95-80.
Birds on the wire
Before the phone numbers in this article, dial 011-33-1. You can also book or get a directory of properties worldwide at 800/221-4542 in the U.S. or ibishotels.com.