Monday, December 29, 2008

Where I stayed in Paris

After reading different websites,reviews and books I decided to base my late November to December vacation in the Montmartre quarter.I split my two weeks staying at two backpacker/hostel establishments near Sacre Coeur.
Given my limited budget and the fact I only required a bed and shower without the mod cons
I reasoned I'd be out most of the day sightseeing.I only required a bed and a shower.I could endure the lack of privacy and mod cons a dorm room lacks.The money saved Id spend instead on one decent meal a day.

The Caulaincourt Square Hostel
The first week I stayed at was the Caulaincourt Square Hostel.A bed in the six room dorm cost 25 euros a night with breakfast included in the price.
As it was late November I was lucky to have the fourth floor room I was given to myself on two nights.The only night all six places were filled it was quite a jam and space for bags etc was at a premium.
There was no lift,so you had to carry your luggage up the steep narrow staircase.The bed linen appeared to have been washed but its colour didnt inspire me with confidence so I used a sheet Id bought along just in case.The bed was the old metal bunk variety.It tended to creak disconcertingly whenever you turned though the mattress itself was comfortable enough.
There was hot water for the shower though the pressure was variable.As was the apparent cleaning schedule.There were two week old newspapers in the rubbish bin along with creeping,rolling dust bunnies festering in the corners.

The bathroom too had seen better days and appeared to only receive a cursory cleaning if the dirt in the grouting and matted hair and soap in the shower were any indication.The hand basin lacked a plug and there was no hook or place to hang your towel when you took a shower.
There was no place to store your luggage if you arrived before check in except by the front desk and my room security card seemed to need replacing every second day as it wouldnt open my room door.
On the plus side the room was warm enough.The free breakfast consisted of coffee,tea and orange juice with a selection of cereals,rolls and jams.
There were three internet computers available for free use and a small cramped kitchen if you wanted to prepare your own food(though there seemed a lack of utensils and basic equipment).
The Caulaincourt was well located not too far from Lamarck Station.It is also within walking distance of a number of restaurants,bars,shops and obviously Sacre Coeur.
In terms of location I preferred it to the other place I stayed at, the Montclair Hostel,one station down at Jules Joffrin on the Porte de la Chapelle line.

Montclair Hostel
As with the first hostel the Montclair also has six bed dormitory rooms available.I choose to stay in one of these rooms at 28 euros a night with breakfast included.The breakfast provided here had less variety and selection of bread and cereals but was satisfactory enough given the price.
Im glad I was given a lower bunk bed.These creaked like the other establishments but these ones seemed closer to imminent collapse than the previous ones which were of sturdier construction.The arthritic frames creaked and protested at the slightest movement.
That said,at least the linen appeared and smelled clean compared to the earlier sheets.
On the negative side there was again no elevator but thankfully I only had to go up one flight of stairs.
While internet was free at the other hostel here one had to pay 2 euros for thirty minutes.Basically both hostels used the same system only here you had to pay for the temporary login code to get access.
As for the shower unfortunately it was very small and very cold.There was no hot water on any of the three attempts I tried to shower.In vain I went downstairs to the ground floor where there was sufficent pressure and heat to scrub away a days sightseeing grime.
While the kitchen space available for people was larger than the last place again it lacked utensils and appeared besieged by small black flies.

The photo above shows the freezing cold shower unit.The other curious feature was that you had to keep pressing the button to ensure the water kept flowing.While it may be a water saving feature it meant a stop start showering process unless you continuously lent on it.
Again the room was adequately warm with heaters and extra linen was available if you felt cold.The cleanliness was of a higher standard than previously though the room size was probably about the same.Again,being near winter there were only two or three nights when all beds were occupied.
The staff were friendly and helpful.There was a lockable room for luggage available and an area to chill out and meet others.
I didnt find as many restaurants and shops in this area but Sacre Coeur was again only five minutes away on foot and the hostel was literally around the corner from the subway station.
Id recommend the Montclair ahead of the Caulaincourt on the basis of its cleanliness and staff while Caulaincourt certainly was ahead in terms of its setting and location to bars and restaurants.

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