Hotel Review – Sofitel Paris La Défense, France

Image (c) Sofitel Paris La Défense Hotel

So you need  hotel in Paris. Okay, they don’t come cheap, assuming you are after a decent standard and the closer you are to the centre the more you are going to have to pay. A good compromise is to find a place offering the service and facilities you require in one of the suburbs of the French capital, provided that there is good access to the sights. An often overlooked area is La Défense, a business district to the west of the Arc de Triomphe featuring very un-Paris modern skyscrapers and stunning architecture. The area itself boasts the amazing spectacle of La Grande Arche with excellent views across the city, and is also home to a number of large hotels. Sofitel, a brand normally out of our reach (except on expenses, perhaps…) has a superb property here with good rates when booking two weeks or more in advance through the hotel’s own website.

It looks a long way out of town though?

It does, but with a Metro stop right round the corner you can be on the Champs Elysées in ten to fifteen minutes.

Image (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide

There is also an RER stop about ten minutes walk from the hotel which can be a fast way to reach other parts of the city as it doesn’t stop so often. It’s certainly worth it if you can secure a good rate, as we did. Rather like the Kempinski in Frankfurt, this is an opportunity to experience five-star service and facilities for the cost of a lesser hotel – but unlike the Kempinski this feels like five star in every way.

Yes, I suppose you’re getting used to what to expect at this kind of establishment now?

Well, I guess it has been a while since I slept at a hotel with a concrete floor, bars on the windows and no electricity. I’m hoping that those days are long gone, too…

Sofitel Paris La Défense, 33 Voie des Sculpteurs, 92800 Puteaux +33 1 47764443

Website: http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-0912-sofitel-paris-la-defense/index.shtml

Email: H0912@sofitel.com

When?

Early May 2012.

Vital stats:

Five stars. Opened 1987, complete renovation 2006. 135 rooms and 16 suites over 8 floors.

Location, location, location?

Image (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide

You can just about make out the vertical Sofitel sign directly above the statue just right of centre in this photo. The hotel is located in the business district of La Défense, which resembles no less than a Parisian take on Manhattan. The nearest Metro station is less than five minutes from the front door at Esplanade de la Défense and the RER stop is a little further at La Défense – Grande Arche, as the name implies right next to La Grande Arche (below). It’s about 40 minutes by car/taxi from Charles de Gaulle airport, depending on the traffic – a taxi will cost you around EUR 60.

Image (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide

While some may find the location a little far out and it is certainly quiet in the evenings and at the weekends (rather like the City of London) we found it to be a good excuse to explore the surroundings which we otherwise would have missed. With the fast and frequent Metro service you really won’t notice the fact that you’re actually staying outside of Paris proper.

What about parking?

Note that it can be difficult to find the hotel; call if necessary. The website provides GPS coordinates. There is valet parking under the hotel for EUR 25 per day.

Why choose this place?

It falls into that five star property for a three to four-star price category, provided you get a good deal. It’s in an interesting and peaceful location, the service is excellent and it has most of the facilities you could need.

Room

Image (c) Sofitel Paris La Défense Hotel

There are three different types of room – Classic, Superior and Luxury, as well as two types of suite. As I have Platinum status with Accor, which is the loyalty scheme for the chain which owns Sofitel, we received a free upgrade to a luxury room. We will be covering hotel loyalty programmes in a future series – I achieved Platinum status simply by applying during a special promotion so this was a nice benefit.

The room was modern and well-equipped. It was smaller than I’d expected but still fine for a couple, and had the following features: LCD (LED?) flat-screen TV, BOSE audio system with iPod dock, Nespresso coffee machine, writing desk with chair, private safe big enough for a laptop, telephone, wired and wireless internet. The bed was big and very comfortable.

Carpets?

Yes, but immaculately clean so they get a pass there.

Bathroom

Image (c) Sofitel Paris La Défense Hotel

The bathroom was small but had both a shower and a bathtub. As you can see from the picture of the room the bathroom and bedroom were separated by a clear glass window, but this frosted at the press of a switch if you wanted some privacy – a nice touch which was missing at the Andaz Wall Street, for example. High quality Hermes-brand toiletries. Hair dryer, robes and slippers provided.

Free internet I hope?

Yes and no. There is free access to a wireless service with a limit on downloading speed; it was also supposed to last up to three hours after which a charge would be made. But whether I failed to reach this limit or it reset each time I logged on I was not charged. Note that this may be a feature of the luxury rooms – this would seem to be the case from the website. If you are planning to download the Lord of the Rings trilogy in HD you will have to pay or risk having to leave your laptop in Paris for a month while it finishes the process. For regular surfing and email the free service was fine. You can use the same code to surf on a mobile phone and laptop simultaneously.

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Hotel Review – Kempinski Hotel Gravenbruch, Frankfurt, Germany

Image (c) Kempinski Hotels

Right, let’s assume that you need to stay over near Frankfurt Airport but would like somewhere not directly overlooking the runway. A quick search will reveal a few choices within shuttle bus/taxi distance of the terminal and competition for your cash can often result in some good deals, particularly through third-party websites. As you’ll probably know I generally prefer to use the hotel’s own website but if (a) there are no good offers or (b) I’m not worried about not earning points then Booking.com, Hotels.com and their ilk are worth checking.

So what did you come up with here?

The Kempinski brand is one I most associate with their immaculate Adlon hotel in Berlin, although I have only ever had a drink at the bar and a snoop around the lobby. So when I saw this place near the airport which boasted of its five stars and was available for a reasonable EUR 160, I decided to go for it. The website listed both an indoor and an outdoor pool and the free shuttle bus was the clincher. A little luxury before my trip to Chicago the next day seemed to be just the ticket.

Yes, especially considering you would be flying first class…

Well, may as well keep up the pretence, right? The reviews were a little mixed but mostly positive, and it did seem that experiences were a little coloured by the room which was allocated – clearly there was a section of the hotel that had recently been renovated and that was the better place to be. Despite the fact that there are many claims to the contrary, I am convinced that the rooms offered cheaply by third-party vendors are worse than those assigned by the hotels if you book directly. I’ve been through this several times myself and I think I was subject to the same treatment here, but I digress…

 

Kempinski Hotel Gravenbruch, Graf zu Ysenburg und Buedingen Platz 1, 63263 Frankfurt +49 69 389 88 0

Website: http://www.kempinski.com/en/frankfurt/hotel-gravenbruch/welcome/

Email: reservations.gravenbruch@kempinski.com

 

When?

Mid-April 2012.

Vital stats:

Five stars. Opened November 2011. 284 rooms over 3 floors.

Location, location, location?

The hotel is located 10km from Frankfurt Airport in a quiet location on a lake. It takes about 20 minutes in a taxi or driving your own car. Big minus here is that despite what it said on the website at the time of booking (now changed) there was no shuttle bus. I looked in van for the right bus stop only to find that a sticker had been placed over ‘Hotel Kempinski’ in the list of destinations. I called the hotel and was told that the service had been withdrawn and had to get a taxi. Not a big deal and not very expensive either, but nobody likes misinformation.

What about parking?

If driving yourself there are 350 parking spaces available for a charge of EUR 15 per day.

Why choose this place?

Well it’s a five star property that can be had for a three to four-star price if you time it right. Throw in the two pools, an acclaimed restaurant and its peaceful location and that’s an appealing package.

Room

There are two different types of room – Classic and Comfort. Go for the latter if you can choose. There are a range of four different suites starting with the Comfort suite aimed at families up to the Presidential aimed at, well, presidents.

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Image (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide

The room I was appointed was a major let-down, to be honest. After the entrance and the lobby, the service at reception and the bar (all of which I made use of before getting to my place for the night) I was expecting something a little better. Musty and dull, it had seen better days. I’ve had a similar experience in other German hotels with a vast disparity between the public areas of a hotel and the actual rooms and I believe it’s to do with the fact that they are slow to renovate.

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Image (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide

Presumably they’ll replace the CRT television (I know) when they do.  The room had the following features: Big old jurassic television, writing desk with chair, private safe big enough for a laptop, telephone, opening windows, radio. The bed was comfortable.

Carpets?

Yes, the Classic rooms have them and mine was not nice. If you go for a Comfort room you get a hardwood floor but hopefully they’ll strip all the carpets out or at least upgrade them when they get round to renovating the section of the hotel I stayed in.

Bathroom

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Image (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide

The bathroom was small but had space for a bathtub. Good quality Kempinski-brand toiletries. Hair dryer provided.

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Image (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide

Rather hilariously there was even an ashtray in the bathroom presumably for when you savour a cigar in a moment of quiet contemplation. This was of course a no-smoking room, although they do offer smoking rooms.

Free internet I hope?

No. The connection was fast but there’s a charge. Not unusual for Germany but not good nevertheless.

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