The City of Light still has plenty of dream hotels



Quintessentially lovely, Paris is the city of dreams. Take, for instance, 72 hours in a suite at the Hotel de Crillon on the Place de la Concorde. That legendary hotel recently offered a three-night package, including airport transfers, breakfast, a tour of the premises and lunch at its vaunted Les Ambassadeurs restaurant. The price: $30,000. At about the same time, six of the city's top hotels, including the Crillon, were fined for price-fixing.

If that doesn't take the stars out of your eyes about Paris, nothing will.

Far better, I think, is to pursue a different, but wholly achievable dream, set in a small, sweet, ivy-covered Paris budget hotel, from which you may see Notre Dame Cathedral or the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower if you stand, craning your neck, at the window.

Les Degres de Notre Dame

I feel like a rat, outing Les Degres de Notre Dame, one of the most appealing budget hotels I have ever seen in the City of Light. It's in the Latin Quarter just across the Seine River from the great medieval cathedral where Victor Hugo's hunchback rang the bells.

The hotel is on the quiet east side of touristy St.-Michel, above a restaurant that features French and Moroccan cuisine, where the tables spread to the sidewalk in warm weather. It has 10 doubles on five floors starting at $132, all walk-ups with attached baths. The big room on the top floor, priced at $192, has a kitchenette and a view of the cathedral.

Breakfast is served in the cafe-bar downstairs, where guests check in and out because there's no lobby. Across the square is the perfect Latin Quarter restaurant, La Maison, with a beloved brindled mastiff as the mascot.

Les Degres de Notre Dame, 10 Rue des Grands Degris, 011-33-1-55-42-88-88; doubles from $132, including breakfast.

Hotel de la Bretonnerie

One of the things I like most about the Hotel de la Bretonnerie, in the delightful Marais, is its versatility. It has 29 rooms on five floors, but because of the 17th-century building's state-protected antiquity, they were never renovated cookie-cutter style, so they retain their old, singular configurations. If you call and say you are a honeymooning couple, a single or a family of four, the management will give you accommodations suited to your needs.

A solo traveler or romantic couple would be well-pleased by one of the Bretonnerie's small but handsome canopy-bed doubles, at $138. A family would thrive in a junior suite, with two rooms separated by a bath, for $216.

Hotel de la Bretonnerie, 22 Rue St.-Croix de la Bretonnerie, 011-33-1-48-87- 77-63,; doubles from $138.

Hotel du Dragon

I cut my frugal-travel teeth at the Hotel du Dragon, on the Left Bank near St.-Germain-des-Pres, with its 11th-century church, chic shops and landmark cafes, including Les Deux Magots and Cafi de Flore. A decade ago, I stayed in a small double, at the end of a dark, winding corridor with timer-controlled lights and shared toilets.

When I recently returned to the Dragon, I found that the rooms had been redecorated and upgraded, though they are still affordably priced at $130, double occupancy. The style is traditional, almost countrified, with wood beams and old armoires. Now, all 29 chambers have private baths, telephones, TVs and hair dryers, though there is still no elevator.

Hotel du Dragon, 36 Rue du Dragon, 011-33-1-45-48-51-05,; doubles $130.

Hotel du Palais Bourbon

There are three hotels on the Rue de Bourgogne in the Left Bank's 7th arrondissement, which runs between the Rodin Museum and Palais Bourbon, home of the French National Assembly. My favorite is the well-kept, professionally managed, 30-room Hotel du Palais Bourbon, a two-star hotel with the polish, decor and amenities of a three-star.

There's a demure little lobby downstairs and an elevator. Upstairs, the rooms are unusually large, with burnished wood floors, Oriental rugs, big windows, high ceilings, flat-screen TVs and large private baths.

The neighborhood is one of the safest in Paris, thanks to gendarmes on almost every corner protecting the seat of the French government.

Hotel du Palais Bourbon, 49 Rue de Bourgogne; 011-33-1-44-11-30-70,; doubles from $150, including breakfast.

Hotel Mansart

The Hotel Mansart is part of Esprit de France, a small, home-grown chain with seven moderately priced hotels in Paris. From the Hotel Aiglon near Montparnasse to the Hotel D'Orsay and Place du Louvre, all are exceptionally well-maintained and run. But I single out the Mansart because its rates, from $197 for doubles, are surprisingly reasonable given its style and location near the Place Vendome.

The Mansart, next to Bulgari and around the corner from the Ritz, has 57 rooms on seven floors.

Fashion industry people have cottoned to this place, thanks to its reasonable rates and proximity to Rue St. Honore. It's airy and cheerful, and its rooms are decorated in a cool classical and contemporary mix.

Hotel Mansart, 5 Rue des Capucines; 011-33-1-42-61-50-28,; doubles from $197.

Susan Spano writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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