Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturday 3/10/12 - Hotel room and location, and calling home

Came back to the hotel (Holiday Inn Express Paris - Canal de la Villette) and checked in.  Very pleased with the room, Room 102.  The room is large (according to the web site it is 23 sq. m. (= 248 sq.ft.)) and the bed in particular is comfortable and about as big as a California king, apparently 160 centimeters wide, although they refer to it as a double.  Since my credit card gave me platinum status, they gave us a room with a nice view of the canal. 

Then we took a nap.
Later, I couldn’t figure out why the lights didn’t come on.  I called the front desk and they told me to put the room key card in a slot, which apparently is intended to reduce energy use when there is nobody in the room. Later found out this is normal in Europe, where apparently they are not blessed with the virtue of energy that is sufficiently copious to be able to take its consumption for granted.
I did have a few complaints:  I found the lighting to be inadequate, so the room was somewhat dark in the evenings.  Also, the storage was minimal, just a single shelf/hanger combo unit, so we could not really unpack our suitcases.  My biggest issue is that internet access is not free, and within the room is only available by a very short cable.  HI Expresses in the US have ubiquitous free wifi.

The neighborhood is out on the edge of town, but I really liked it.  Interesting mix of people in the area, including French, West African, Moroccan, Middle Eastern (I suspect primarily Lebanese), Orthodox Jewish, and a few Chinese.  Importantly to me, it’s well off the executive motorcoach beat and not a place where one is as likely to get tourist-trapped as in the lower 9 arrondissements.  For dinner we went to a Turkish hole in the wall kabob place, which didn’t charge extra to sit in the restaurant.  It was good, not anything better than we can get at home.  Nor was it much more expensive, about 18 euros for dinner for both of us, including a shared salad and 2 drinks.  Interestingly, the Kronenbourg beer comes in an all red can and I thought it was a coca cola before I looked at it a second time and realized it was in fact a beer.

The Finagle


I had selected this hotel because it was the only one in Paris I could get for the 5000 points + $60 points-plus-cash deal from Priority Club.  Don’t look for it, they have since raised this Holiday Inn Express to 15,000 points + $60 I believe.  (I had points from a Chase Priority Club credit card promo.  Probably would not have gotten it if the hotel was not available for 5000 points.)  However I am listing the details because the general approach might apply to other folks' places and needs.

This was one of those deals that was much better than all but one other of the 25 or so Intercontinental Hotels Group chain hotels in Paris.  This was apparent when listing all hotels within a 5-km radius of Paris on the Priority club / IHG web site and searching by rewards availability.  They have a pretty good web site with good search and filtering tools that make it straightforward to do such a comparison, although you do need to scan through each hotel to look at their points + cash availability and cost.

I suspected the 5000 points + $60 offer for a hotel within the City of Paris - let alone the one that also includes breakfast - wouldn't last or would sell out quickly, so I pounced as soon as I got my Priority Club bonus points from the credit card, knowing that the reservation would be cancelable.  Actually, our first choice was another more centrally-located hotel (Holiday Inn Opera Grands Blvds) with the same points+cash cost, but it was fully booked for our travel dates by the time I got the points from the credit card into my Priority Club account.

It took about 8 weeks between applying for the card and the 60,000 points showing up in my Priority Club account, because there is processing time, mail time, and they didn't credit me until my first bill is issued after the first complete billing cycle.

One thing Chase asks you when you first call to activate the card after you have received it is if you would like to change the due date.  In retrospect, I should have asked them to move the due date to be the first date available.  Instead I changed it to a date that worked better for my bill paying schedule, which postponed it more than necessary.

Telephone SIM Card

We also needed to get a phone sim card to put in the unlocked phone we had brought with us so we could call the kids, who were staying with my parents in California.  The phone is my old flip-phone from my office; I called customer service and since it was about 8 years old they gave me the unlock code.  I had tried to order a SIM card on line and have it sent to the hotel but that didn’t work.  After asking around at the Monoprix department/grocery store (similar to a very small Target), several people directed us to a “Taxiphone” store, which apparently is the French term for a pay-as-you-go phone, or maybe a store that sells them.  We found the store, more of a booth really, and bought a Lebara sim card which was the same brand I had ordered, for 10 euros, and was preloaded with 7.50 euros of calling credit.  Calls to the US bill at 8 cents (1/100 euro) per minute.  It took a few tries to figure out how to activate the card in our unlocked phone but they do have English-speaking customer service which was helpful.  Then we were able to call the US and enjoyed very good sound quality, without the satellite bounce delay I expected when calling overseas - although maybe this is a thing of the past now that there is a good network of submarine fiber.

To dial the U.S. we had to dial 00-1-area code - number.

1 comment:

Please post as if your mother would read it.