This trendy new Paris hotel ain’t the Ritz

Written by admin on October 8, 2008 – 1:32 pm -

For travelers who would stay at nothing less than the Ritz while they’re in Paris, the 172-room Mama Shelter isn’t for you. It was formerly a multi-story garage located next to abandoned railroad tracks. But it’s one of the most talked-about trendy hotels in the French capital since its recent opening.

Its location is in one of Paris’s most multi-ethnic neighborhoods. Most tourists avoid the quartier unless they’re paying homage to luminaries at Pere Lechaise. Jim Morrison was buried here and although there’s been talk that he’s overstayed his lease, so many people visit his grave, there would undoubtedly be a riot if his remains were moved. A few other stars who’ve made the cemetery their final resting places include Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Bizet and Chopin.

Still, it’s nearly impossible to score a room even though the hotel has received relatively little publicity.

Its owner, 61-year-old Serge Trigano, the son of Club Med’s founder, believes his architectural, design and management team (which includes his two sons) has developed a new type of hotel for the 21st century. His rationale is that “people no longer want to wait for hours in airports in order to fly to exotic locations which are no longer especially exotic. The new tourism will be urban tourism, the discovery, or the re-discovery of great cities such as Paris or Amsterdam or London.”

Based on the hotel’s prices, Trigano is counting on the premise that people won’t have or won’t want to fork over mega-Euros to stay in central Paris. One of the great things about the City of Light is its metro system that goes all over the city.

But the hoopla this hotel is receiving is also because of its design plus its amenities. Internationally acclaimed French designer Philippe Starck has made more than his design mark. There’s graffiti scribbled permanently on the ceilings, floors and even inside the elevators. They’re part of the decor – bizarre but welcoming, funky and functional.

Mama Shelter combines the informality with luxury. It’s part youth hostel, where people eat breakfast and are served drinks from the bar at a communal wood table. If you were strangers before arriving at the hotel, bets are on that you won’t be when you leave.

Even though the 19th and 20th arrondissments are in the process of being gentrified, there are more than a few remnants of nitty-gritty pre-war Paris. Because Paris can’t expand its boundaries and there are definite height limitations, if you’re a pioneer, these neighborhoods are the places to buy.

“My hope is that we will eventually attract visitors from the 16th arrondissement (the most conservative of all Paris districts),” says Serge Trigano. After all, if they go to Marrakech, they will merely see other people from the 16th arrondissement. If they come here, they will see people and things they have never seen before.”

If you were visiting Paris, would you be game to stay at this hip hotel even though it location is a wee bit dodgy? Do you see these types of hotels becoming a new trend in the hotel industry?

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris.

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