Friday, March 16, 2012

Last Tango in Paris: Hyatt Regency at CDG Airport

Last Chance for Shopping

After Versailles, we pretty much decided were were done sightseeing and if we were going to do anything today, it would be shopping.  We stopped at a nearby shopping area we had passed when we were lost 2 days before.  It is called Parly 2.  Once we got there, we realized it was a mall very similar to one you would see in the U.S., although not quite as big.  We rarely shop at malls at home, and weren't about to pay Euro premiums on top of retail, but we did stop at Toys-R-Us to pick up some gifts for the kids.  We looked for the food court.  We found a McDonalds and kept looking.  We did find an area with restaurants but they all looked pretty expensive and were actual restaurants with service, whereas we wanted something quick and informal.  So we left.

The mall also had a grocery store so we bought some things for lunch there.  We bought a lot of things that we had purchased the day before, although this time I upgraded to bona fide pate au foie gras du canard: duck liver pate, a splurge at 12 euros/kg.  I asked for 50 grams but she said she could not cut a slice that thin.  (That appeared to be what she said.) She gave me about 140 grams (about 1/3 lb.) which cost about 1.75 euros.

We also looked for some foods to bring home for Passover, which was a few weeks away, but we didn't find any.  However, I did find this in the crackers section:
What makes this interesting is that I could not find a hechsher (kosher certification symbol) anywhere on the package.  It's just matzo for the sake of eating matzo, not for any religious obligation.  If you know what matzo tastes like, you will perhaps understand my surprise that anyone would choose to eat it for a culinary reason, and no less in France where there are many more savory alternatives.  

I can understand eating a bagel or a corned beef sandwich if it is not kosher.  Those things actually taste good, and keeping kosher in a restaurant environment requires a lot of special training and specific practices.  Matzo, on the other hand, tastes literally like nothing and is made in a factory in a tightly controlled process.  It is a deliberately flavorless food made only from flour and water.  

Back out in the parking lot, we were hungry and did not know where to go to find a park, etc, so once again we ate in the car.  Deal with it, people.

Driving to CDG Airport

At that point we decided we were done sightseeing in France and were going to head toward the hotel near the airport.  I had intended to stop for gas to fill up the rental car before we got too close to the airport.  This time we took time to check the map before we left.  

About 1/4 mile outside the mall parking lot, I saw a sign for an Autoroute - actually the same toll express tunnel (A86) we had taken 2 days before which had caused us to go in a 10-mile circle.  However, this time it was going to send us in the right direction, so we took it and drove under several suburbs, and then connected to A1 towards the airport.

I had heard that one needs to be careful navigating the Paris suburbs, and there are some that are not safe at all, so I didn't really want to get off the freeway to look for gas.  Before we knew it, we were at the airport.  I didn't exactly know where our hotel was but fortunately it was visible from the freeway.

I googled the route we took after the fact and we actually improvised the right way to go.

View Larger Map

Hyatt Regency Paris CDG

For a week of traveling overseas, struggling with a foreign language, shlepping, etc.  there is something to be said for finally arriving at an American hotel, where everyone speaks English and full service is offered.  This hotel had the secondary bonus of being around the corner from an Avis in an office park where I had scheduled the car to be returned.  Everyone there was over-the-top nice and didn't expect us to speak a lick of French, which was appreciated at that moment.  We allowed "Gerard" to help us with our bags.

The hotel was lovely.  Room was considerably smaller than the one we had at the Holiday Inn Express, but it was a first-class hotel with all of the amenities you would expect:

and of course, the cherry on top:

This was a nice room, but I personally liked the Holiday Inn Express that we had stayed in a few days before better, even though its appointments weren't as fancy.  For one thing, the Hyatt's bathtub had a strange arrangement that made it very easy to spray water all over the mirror and floor when showering.  Also, the HI Express room was about 30% larger.

Also, since we claimed on our reservation that it was our honeymoon, they brought this to our room:
I had tried one of the canapes with fruit on it in the Regency Club and it actually was inedible - it tasted like fish for some reason.  So I didn't try one in our room.  I assume that isn't normal.  I suppose I could have made a stink about it, or asked Nancy to, since she does that more effectively than I do, but why bother.

One thing the Hyatt really did have going for it was the Regency club right down the hall.  They served cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.  We had thought about going out for a last good French dinner, but were kind of tired of restaurants and defaulted to the hors d'oeuvre spread, which consisted of portabello mushroom wraps, salami and cheeses, bread, olives, etc.  Not exactly healthy dining but it was right there and required zero effort and was pretty filling.   And did I mention free? to us that is.

The attendant at the Regency Club also helped me print out boarding passes.

Here are some pictures of the Regency Club before hors d'oeuvres were served.

On weekdays, the Regency Club also serves breakfast.  Since we stayed over a Friday night, they told us to eat in the main restaurant instead (for free).

Returning the Rental Car

Before our improvised dinner of Regency Club hors d'oeuvres, I had driven the car to a nearby gas station which didn't take my stripe credit card.   I was only able to fill it with the 20 euros in my pocket, which left the tank about 5/8 full.  (still pretty good, considering we had driven about 300 miles.)  I also stopped by the Avis office around the corner from the hotel, which according to my rental contract was going to be open late and the next morning.  However, they told me (in English) they were closing right then and would be closed all day Saturday.  They said I could return it to the airport and not incur additional charges.

Since we had no specific plans other than to relax, we decided that our project for the evening after dinner would be to fill the car with gas and return it to the airport, and then take the shuttle back to the hotel.  

The hotel ostensibly charges for parking after the first hour, with an overnight rate of 29 euros, but the front desk twice gave me parking passes to exit the lot for free.  I had thought about leaving the car overnight and trying to get a pass in the morning and then just driving to return the car, but I was concerned that I might not be able to get a pass in the morning, and I also didn't know how long it would take me to find a gas station that would take my credit card, which I didn't want to be doing on the way to the airport to catch our flight.

We had seen a gas station on the freeway leading to the airport and needed to get there.  Unfortunately we spent nearly an hour driving all around CDG and Roissy, including a useless 10-minute stop at an "information booth" - and we kept just missing the gas station, driving under or around it and never quite figuring out how to get to it.  Finally we gave up and returned the car partially empty.  The filling charge was 53 euros, which made me really angry at myself for not having filled back in Versailles.  However, I later realized that even if we had, it would have been about another 30 euros if we had pumped the gas ourselves, so the surcharge was really only about 20 euros which isn't so bad.  

From Terminal 2, where the car return is, we learned that we needed to take the CDG-VAR tram to terminal 3, where we waited about 20 minutes for the shuttle back to the hotel.

When we finally got to the hotel, we uncorked the champagne and fell asleep.

Saturday morning, I woke up around 6 am (again) and did a very modest workout in the gym.  It was a pretty good gym.  One thing I really like about France is the widespread availability of sparkling water, one of my favorite beverages, and the water dispenser in the gym was no exception.


We packed our bags and went down to the main restaurant for breakfast.  The buffet was huge and really good, including hot items made to order for those who wanted them.  This was one advantage over the HI Express, which itself was a good buffet, but the Hyatt was pretty dadburn fabulous for those into breakfast buffets.  It was similar to a Las Vegas breakfast buffet and this level of quality would cost at least $15 or $20 per person there.

We realized that the restaurant was full of one or more Japanese tour groups, who later got on a chartered bus, presumably to see the sights of Paris by motorcoach.

The Finagle

This was actually the very first hotel I booked, several months prior to our trip.  For this stay I used Chase Sapphire Preferred points, which gave me a 50,000 point bonus after spending $3000 on the card and the first year without a fee.  I didn't have any Hyatt Gold Passport points so the Hyatt web site would not let me determine whether there was availability for the hotel using points.  I called Hyatt and spoke to a representative, who assured me there was plenty of availability, so I transferred my Chase Sapphire Preferred points to Hyatt Gold Passport.  I then used the points to book the hotel. 

You can book the Parc Hyatt Vendome in downtown Paris for about 730 euros ($968) per night on the Hyatt web site, or 22,000 points, which by any measure is an excellent value of dollars per point, $0.04.4/point.  (most redemptions are on the order of 1 or 2 cents/point.)  Actually I view that redemption value as inflated, since you can get a 4-star room on Hotwire for about $132 all-in, or a 5-star room (possibly the Parc Hyatt) for $379.  However, we would have needed 88,000 points to stay 4 nights, which we didn't have.  In any case we like being away from tourist central, and we didn't want to switch hotels in the middle of our stay, so that didn't work for us.  Also, if we want to stay in a world-class hotel, they are pretty easy to find in Nevada for about $129 a night, so I don't feel like I am missing a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

For our travel needs, the more modestly priced Airport Hyatt was superior.  While the redemption in terms of retail dollars per point is nowhere near as strong, it fit our requirements much better.  For 15,000 points we were able to get a Regency Club King room for one night (rooms without Regency Club access are 12,000 points).  The Regency Club access came with breakfast, and, as it turned out, dinner (of hors d'oeuvres) as well.  The retail price would have been 195 euros ($259); a similar hotel without the freebies on Hotwire would have been $109.  Supposedly the Regency Club also provides free internet access, but I did see a charge to my credit card after I got home, so I will need to figure out what that is.

Also, if you ever see this option on a hotel reservation form, the correct response is to check the box:


  1. It was delicious. Anything that bad for my health has to be. Although I would say I like the pork pate at least as much as the duck. I think I'm done with liver products at least until Passover.


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