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A Four–Star Test

photo: bedroom, suite

The bedroom part of one of the 'deluxe' rooms.

The Hôtel Chambiges Elysées

Paris:– Saturday, 14. February:– In early January I received a request for a printed copy of Metropole from a Mademoiselle Blanca, who is the front desk manager at the Hôtel Chambiges Elysées. She wanted a copy of the 'Scène' column for guests staying at the hotel.

Since online is Metropole's only version, I wrote a mini–guide for printing Metropole in four easy steps. Rather than letting a browser do it – likely to result in 30 printed pages – I suggested copying a 'Scène' page, saving it as plain text, clipping out the chaff, and just printing what was wanted.

Apparently this worked well enough. At the beginning of this month Blanca wrote back to ask if I would be interested in staying a night in the hotel, and suggested today, Valentine's Day.

I don't have a lot of experience with hotels. I have stayed in Paris hotels in the past, perhaps in three differentphoto: entry hotel ones, maybe for a total of a week. From around France, I might be able to add a half– dozen more – usually ones on the route to or from Spain.

But Blanca's offer involved something different. First, the Chambiges Elysées is a four–star hotel, and the closest I have ever been to one of these has been in a lobby or the hotel's bar. There was one in Manhattan, with a panoramic view over Times Square. One coffee, a handfull of peanuts, peep the view, and that was it.

The entry to the Hôtel Chambiges Elysées.

Another interesting aspect about the Chambiges Elysées is its location. My other few Paris hotels all were a long, long ways from the Champs–Elysées. So I accepted the offer, packed what little would be necessary for an afternoon and evening, and scooted over there.

This involves the short walk to the Métro Gaîté and the ride to Champs– Elysées–Clemenceau. Rather than switch to the Métro's line one, I take to the street. This goes past the Grand Palais, which looks like it is being rebuilt.

I should have turned right into the Rue François–1er, but kept going down Rue Jean–Goujon, almost to Alma. A sharp right turns me into the Avenue Montaigne – the home of Paris' high fashion area. Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, name any of them – they are all right here.

The single block of Rue Chambiges is not hard to find, so long as you know it is between the Rue du Boccador and the Rue Clément–Marot. The street was opened in 1883 and was named after the architect Pierre Chambiges, who left the earth for good in 1544. One of Colette's husbands, a writer named Gauthiers–Villars, but called 'Willy,' lived next door to the hotel at number six.

In the lobby I am greeted by Catherine and Alexandre, who are expecting me. Opposite the desk there is a comfortable lounge, and behind it there is a bar room, also very lounge–like, with one table in an alcove with windows facing an interior courtyard.

Everything is bright, colorful, polished, decorated, assessoried. Also opposite the desk there is a large table covered with every imaginable magazine and a selection of fresh newspapers.

Alexandre takes me up – in a brand–new elevator – to the sixth floor to show me my room. Entry is with a card in a door–slot, and the same card turns on the lights. What I see is not actually a 'room' – it a multi–room unit, large enough to sleep four in two rooms.

First there is a living room with a convertible sofa, tables, chairs, writing table, television, a hot–platephoto: sitting, deluxe for making café with everything else necessary, and a mini–bar with a digital–code safe in a cupboard above the café tools. The many framed paintings have their own lights.

The 'sitting' area in my 'room,' separate from the bedroom.

The adjoining bedroom is as large or larger, and its vaguely–oriental decor motive is repeated from the 'sitting–room.' The bed looks like the flight–deck of an aircraft carrier, but obviously softer. There is a sliding door between the two rooms and there are huge closets on either side of the entry, plus one large lower one. There is another big television set.

The bathroom is off the bedroom. It has a big bathtub and a lot of very nickeled taps and shower hoses, plus a fixed shower–head. There are so many lights and so much marble in it that you might want – or need – to wear sunglasses. There is a hairdryer and a shaving mirror, and a raft of complimentary soaps and other stuff for feeling good.

Starting with the lobby downstairs, there is wood panelling everywhere. It is real wood, and it shows up everywhere I look. Everything fits – there are no installation errors, no gaps, nothing loose, nothing half–right. Some of the striped wallpaper might be a bit too bright, but there are chambers without it – or with it, but restrained.

My room, my apartment, is called a 'deluxe.' On a tour of other chambers, the 'standard' one is only slightly smaller. A 'suite' is larger. The 'appartement' unit I see has a full bath plus a separate shower. It also has a small kitchen. It's probably twice the size of my flat in the 14th. There is, I see later, a small supermarket less than two blocks away and, a shop with Spanish hams named 'Jabugo Iberico & Co' just around the corner.

Alexandre tells me the whole hotel was converted from an apartment–hotel to its present state 18 months ago. Its interior was completely rebuilt. It doesn't seem to have aged a day since then.

The breakfast room is large and has some light coming in from the small interior courtyard. The buffetphoto: lounge is well–stocked with what you need to launch in the morning, and it is available until 11:00.

There is one chamber especially suitable for clients in wheelchairs. It has wider doorways and a much bigger bathroom. This is something all new hotels are required to have.

The resident's lounge, with the hotel's bar behind.

In addition to traditional hotel services – in good hotels I mean – there is a permanent Internet post in a tiny room near the desk. Fax service is also offered for use in rooms, and there are DVD players for rent. If you have a portable computer with a built–in modem, I think it'll work from a room's telephone.

The Chambiges Elysées is in a quiet one–block street. This is a block from many high fashion showrooms in the Avenue Montaigne and a couple of blocks from the other ones in the Rue François–1er. The hotel is probably within 500 metres of all of the world's top fashion names.

This is all inside what is called the 'Triangle d'Or.' Its boundaries are the Champs–Elysées, the Avenue Montaigne and the Avenue George V. The hotel's location is in the lower, more residential part – where residents have chosen this area close to the glitter of the Champs–Elysées, rather than the sleepier quasi–suburban areas of the 16th arrondissement.

On the way to the Champs I note shops with clothing items costing more than my rent for a month, as well as probably the highest density of parked Mercedes' without model numbers on the planet. There are, I also see, not many neighborhood cafés. These are found closer to the Champs and especially on the other side of it.

Some hours later, on my way back from part of a noisy Saturday night on the Champs–Elysées, I do find an open café in the Rue du Boccador. This is pretty close to the supermarket mentioned above. The café, of all things, appears to be a scruffy refugee from 15th arrondissement.

Its café isn't as good as another customer at the bar claims. But if I hadn't just come back from the glitzer of the Champs–Elysées, if I wasn't about to return to the hotel for an evening of cable–TV, this café would have been a oasis, if strange one for the quartier.

Cable–TV turns out just about like it always does. Thirty channels of nothing much interesting, except for the documentary about a very old Spanish fashion guy on TVE–1. The Germanphoto: breakfast room channel ZDF has its news about 22:30, and the Italian RAI–Uno has about the same silliness as the French state channels have on Saturday nights, but not by much.

No 'noche de fiesta' then. Just lights out and sound sleep for eight hours.

A corner of the breakfast room has a courtyard view.

Breakfast in the hotel on Sunday tops this off handily. Out on the Sunday streets of the 'golden triangle' the light is gray and the top of the Tour Eiffel is hidden by low clouds. There are no dog–walkers, few strollers, little traffic. A corner café on the Avenue Montaigne may be open. Otherwise, the 'Triangle d'Or' seems to be sleeping until noon.

Hôtel Chambiges Elysées**** – has 34 rooms, suites and an apartment, located in the heart of Paris' 'golden triangle.' Rates are from 245 to 430€ per night, double occupancy, with breakfast included. The Chambiges Elysées, 8. Rue Chambiges, Paris 8. Métro: Alma–Marceau or Franklin D Roosevelt. InfoTel.: 01 44 31 83 83 – Fax.: 33 1 40 70 95 51.

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