I have stayed in a lot of hotels in my time. I was actually thinking about the times I’ve stayed in terrible hotels and I couldn’t really come up with many. When I stayed in Paris as a teenager with my school trip the hotel was kind of crap. I remember staying in a hotel in Fort William with Steve that had their hot water run out at 8am in the morning. There was the kinda crap hotel we stayed in in Amsterdam that had four beds in a single room, but that was actually quite amusing. And I’ve stayed in some real dumps in the US – the hotel in San Francisco was pretty weak, and the one in Austin was the smelliest hotel I’ve ever been in. The worst of all though was without a doubt Oklahoma City’s attempt at a Travelodge, hidden on the freeway in the wrong direction from town.
But the experiences all matched the costs, essentially. Except for this time.
Before I got any further it’s worth pointing out that after the event when describing this to family or friends it really doesn’t sound bad. It really doesn’t. But at the time it was just fcking awful. This is going to take the form of a full hotel review, instead of a blog post from here on in. I’m going to email this to the hotel and (maybe) post it to Trip Advisor. Who knows.
Hotel – Mercure Paris Sacre Cour Montmatre
Stay – three nights, November 2015
The room was on the face of it, great. It was spacious, giving my daughter a lot of space to run around, and despite having a travel cot and a sofa bed set up, there was still loads of room. The bed was huge too, but we will get back to that. The bathroom was split into two rooms – a bath tub and shower with sink and a separate toilet in a cupboard. I’ve seen other reviews stating that this is bad, but for us it gave us a lease of flexibility with essentially a second room for putting stuff into.
There was also a fridge and a few good storage spaces, and the TV was massive. Only one English channel was a bit disappointing, but we didn’t go there to watch TV. And the blackout curtains were pretty smart.
And that is the end of the good things about the room.
Jesus the bed was massive. Super King probably. And it was utterly terrible. Firmer than a pile of newspapers with zero give and a big dip in the middle as it’s actually one of those beds with a single mattress spread over two single beds. The pillows too were shocking, coming in either useless rectangle shapes or incredible square shapes that were just insane. No combination of the bed and pillow could be found for Connie, so she ditched the massive bed to sleep in the single sized sofa-bed for two of the three nights, bodging together a setup to give her some sleep. The bed was just the start.
The Air Conditioning
Yeah, AC in November seems like a strange thing to ask, but Paris was 22°C over the weekend, and Joni has severe excema, and as such needs to be cool and comfortable. Neither was possible on the sixth floor in a seal box with two adults with the heat as it was, so I assumed we had AC. We didn’t. Turns out that despite saying we had AC in the room, we didn’t. Instead, we had a useless fan and heating, so I complained. It turned out they’d switched to heating a few weeks earlier and had no way of going back, and they gave us a fan. A single fan. This was dreadful for everyone – two showers and a bath later and the room was a steam room.
We could open the windows (slightly, what with those swing limiters to stop folk killing themselves or smoking out of them) but that just negated the actually impressive sound proofing from Place de Clichy outside.
This is where the hotel could have saved everything. A good breakfast sets the day up well, and puts everyone in a good mood. It can wipe the frown off even the most un-rested face. Unfortunately the breakfast was the exact opposite of what the hotel should have done. If they had attempted to make our breakfast terrible they succeeded in every single way.
We came down at around 9am. Breakfast ends at 10am, so a full hour away. This means that 72% of the breakfast had happened, and 29% still had to happen. When we came down the first day we were greeted with a small queue that moved quickly. When it came to our turn, we were told that the “main” area was full and we were directed to a off to the side secondary seating area. This area had it’s own coffee machines, it’s own hot food and some pastries. I was fairly okay with the selection to start with, but nothing leap out at me being great. It was passable. Then they gave us the high chair.
No one on the staff knew how to use it. It was a needlessly complicated Chico model (the Pocket Lunch model for those who want to know) which was incredibly shonky. It had a reclining feature, for some reason, and loose straps, and was really quite too big for my daughter. Interestingly, almost everywhere we have been with her has either had a generic wooden model or the Ikea model we have at home which is cheap and safe and solid. We’d actually came across this high chair in Canada a few months earlier and it was just as bad then as it was in Paris. We got no support on how to use it, set it up, and it was’t even cleaned after we’d used it. How do we know that? Well, it turned up the next morning with the same level of dirt and breakfast that my daughter had left on it the previous morning.
The key part of why the breakfast really annoyed me became clear shortly after we started eating – I took a stroll into the other area. The reason for this was that the staff were taking an absolute age to replace the cutlery on the tables and clear them up. I stole some from a table the first morning just to start eating our food. In the other area (the area we had been told was full) had a vastly greatly selection of food. Like, we’re talking more juices, more pastries, more cereals, more cheeses, more ham, fresher eggs… everything more. And we had no idea because no one had actually told us what the set up was. When going over the otherside I was bemused and confused – was this a better breakfast? Were we getting a weaker one because it was cheaper? Or was it just terrible planning?
The answer wasn’t obvious until the second morning, where we were ushered into the secondary area again to find there was zero food out. None. And on the otherside there wasn’t enough for everyone. It was a disaster. I complained that morning after saying we weren’t happy, so to make up for it they invited us to have breakfast for free the next morning to show us what it was really like – on a Monday morning. And yes, it was better, but not by much. We refused to pay for breakfast, and they gave it to us for free.
After ruining our night’s sleep with a room that was too warm and a bed that was too uncomfortable, the breakfast was the last thing they needed to get right, and they didn’t.
An interesting thing is that in the secondary area you can see through a window into a third breakfast area. I tried to find it. It isactually the connected Ibis Hotel that is part of the Mercure Group that is in the same building. It looked like a better breakfast (there was more cereal options).
One really odd decision made by the reception desk is to not have a desk or a receptionist. Yeah, instead it is those standing bar type things you get in phone shops, and there are just customer service folk milling about. This means that there is no concierge for putting your bags into storage or to be taken to your room, and anytime anyone had a request like that the reception lost a member. It was not a very good experience, seeing folk clamouring for one staff member as the other milled about rushing around after various tasks.
Don’t stay in this hotel. I wasn’t expecting the best hotel ever, but we did pay a pretty penny for it, it being Paris. But the experience was sub-par even for a cheap hotel. I’ve paid less for four nights than we paid for one night here and the service in those other hotels were much better. Once again; don’t stay at this hotel. Ever.
Next time on Holiday 2015 – Walking Everywhere.