In France, hotels are rated by a star system that has no relationship to quality, but rather offers an indication of the amenities offered, such as room size, soundproofing, heating and air-conditioning, bathrooms, phones and elevators. For this reason, many travelers look to hotel chains, relying on the perception that most chains have standards individual hotels must meet in order to be part of the group. Types of chains include standard hotels, as well as budget, hostel, apartment and even barge accommodations.
The Mercure Chain
For hotel rooms in Paris and throughout France, you should be able to count on any one of the hotels in the Mercure chain. The rooms in these hotels are generally in the medium price range; many do not offer much in the way of amenities.
(800) 221-4542 in the U.S.; www.mercure.com
Formule 1 Hotels
Think of a series of prefab rooms put together to form a hotel, and you'll have somewhat of an idea of what the hotels in this chain are like. For the budget-minded traveler, one of these 150 hotels just might be the answer. You can make reservations through their website: www.hotelformule1.com/formule1/index.html
Many of the hotel rooms in the French-owned Louvre Chain are 100 square feet or less in size and come with shared bath and shower facilities; however, the prices are right for the budget traveler. The Louvre Hotel group includes more than 800 hotels: Kyriad Prestige, Kyriad, Campanile and Premiere Classe are all hotels belonging to the Louvre group (www.louvrehotels.com).
The worldwide Hostelling International Chain operates many hostels throughout France (www.hihostels.com). Hostels are a convenient and economical choice usually preferred by the younger set; however, most are open to travelers of all ages. Hostels usually offer dorm-type sleeping facilities with shared shower and toilets. Some hostels will rent bedding and towels.
Apartment Hotel Chains
Apartments offer the traveler who is planning an extended stay an economical alternative to hotels. Particularly attractive to families, apartment hotels generally have kitchen and laundry facilities; some include parking as well. Cites Apparthotels et Villas en France (www.citadines.com) has sites in 24 cities throughout France.
Hotels on Water
For a unique lodging experience, you might want to consider a floating hotel that can transport you through France on a barge. GoBarging operates hotel barges in the Loire Valley. French Hotel Barge operates barge hotels through Burgundy, from the Rhine to Alsace, from Dijon north to Comte, and a cruise along the Seine that shows the area made famous by the Impressionist painters. See www.frenchhotelbarge.com for French Barge information.
Peggy Epstein is a freelance writer specializing in education and parenting. She has authored two books, "Great Ideas for Grandkids" and "Family Writes," and published more than 100 articles for various print and online publications. Epstein is also a former public school teacher with 25 years' experience. She received a Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri.