What is your definition of "adventure": youth hostel or château ? No judgement here! Everyone has a different comfort zone. You decided to venture out of Paris - bravo, you are already more adventurous than most!
Now for lodging... Your Google search of "where to stay" results in château ... hôtel... chambres d'hôte ... Does every French word have this weird accent? Do I need a PhD in French to book something?? Before you cancel your rental car, let me assure you that it's easier than you think. You know what is important to you, and we will help sort out the rest. Do you like luxury, 5-star service where everything is taken care of for you, or do you prefer a private, do-it-yourself hideaway? You may want a mix of everything!
When I was in college, I wanted the cheapest place I could find, and I didn't mind schlepping my huge suitcase up 5 flights of stairs. A hostel was perfect. Now that I am "of a certain age", I prefer tipping someone instead! "Clean and comfortable" continue to top the list of priorities, but I also like a bit of character. Did you know you can stay in a CASTLE? Or in a wine barrel? Mais, oui - this is France! Ranked "the most visited country in the world", there is a wide variety, whatever your style. So let's take a closer look ...
1. Hostels - Best for singles or couples
What is it: Sometimes referred to as a "youth hostel", a hostel is simply a budget, dormitory-style accommodation where travelers rent a bed and share common areas, often including a bathroom. This is a common choice for backpackers and cyclists who are spending only a night or two in one place, and have limited luggage.
There is a large network of hostels in France. This website is a great place to begin your search: www.hostels.com/France.
- Price! Hostels average $20-$30 per night
- Social - It is easy to get to know other travelers from all over the world
- Availability - It is easier to find an open bed than an available room or house
- Lack of privacy
- Space - Often your "personal" space consists of little more than a bunk
- Security - Can be a problem
2. Chambres d'hôte - Best for couples
What is it: This is what we call a bed and breakfast or B&B. You rent a room in someone's home or "inn". It could be an apartment, house, or any number of things - the only 2 criteria required are 1 - that the room is furnished, and 2 - that breakfast is served. Some places offer an evening meal as well (une table d'hôte)
There are over 19000 chambres d'hôte in France. Explore your options here: www.chambres-hotes.fr
- Expertise - Your host is probably an expert on the area and can make all kinds of recommendations for you
- Price - Not as expensive as renting a whole house- Social - You may meet other interesting guests as well
- Authentic - You have an opportunity to stay in a home and get a glimpse of how the locals live
- Amenities - There are often laundry facilities and other perk, like bicycles to use
- Staff - There is someone at your home base if you need anything
- Privacy - Your personal space is usually limited to your room
- did I mention Privacy
- You may share a bathroom
- Language - There may be a language barrier if you don't speak the same language as your host, although hosts usually speak at least 2 languages
3. Gites de France - Best for couples or families
What is it: This is a vacation property you rent independently from the owner. The house is furnished, but the owner does not stay there. (This is like our VRBO or AirBnB). There are roughly 37,900 gites listed at www.gites-de-france.com.
- Privacy - You have the whole house or apartment to yourself.
- Authenticity - You can experience life in an authentic French home
- Space - You can choose a place that has room for your family to spread out
- Amenities - There are often laundry facilities, bikes you may use, beach equipment, etc.
- Unpack - Since you usually stay for at least a week, you can unpack instead of living out of a suitcase
- Cost - Renting a whole house can be expensive
- No Staff - there is often no one cleaning, and you are in charge of your own meals. You also have to "figure out" appliances - we once shattered a plexiglass stove top!
- Availability - You often have to rent for a week at a time, although not always. The most appealing house rentals are booked way in advance, so it may be hard to find a house in the area you want for the time period you want
4. Relais du Silence - Best for couples
What is it: This is a boutique hotel that usually has a well-being or nature component, a noteworthy restaurant, and an eco-commitment.
There are 180 "hôtels de charme" in Europe: www.relaisdusilence.com
- Romance! These are usually situated in a beautiful location and feature a wonderful restaurant.
- Unique - These are one-of-a-kind buildings featuring a lot of charm
- Staff - There is a restaurant, often room service, cleaning service, and a reception area to help with various needs. There may be a spa as well.
- Meals - Breakfast is available and often quite exceptional. There is often a restaurant, bar, and did I mention Room Service?!
- Price - Boutique hotels can be more expensive than other rentals, but not always
- Location - They can be more remote and not in the center of town
5. Relais et Châteaux - Best for Couples or Families
What is it: Luxury Hotels - often a manor house or castle Being high maintenance isn't a bad thing! Find your luxury get-away here: www.relaischateaux.com
- Luxury! Feel like a king or queen when you stay here!
- Character and charm - These are one-of-a-kind and may take you back to the era of Louis XIV!
- Staff - Just try to find a need that can't be filled by this attentive staff!
- um PRICE! This is not a month-long stay, but a splurge for a few nights, unless you have a unlimited budget!
- Is there really any other disadvantage to luxury??
6. Hôtels - Best for short stays or city stays
I often use www.booking.com to book my hotels as the search is so easy and there is often a very good cancellation policy. Advantages:
- Staff- There is usually a concierge or someone who can recommend restaurants, sites to visit, or take in your luggage if it arrives 3 days late from the airport! (yes, it happens!)
- Location - You can usually find a hotel in any area you wish to stay
- Meals - There is usually an option to have breakfast, often there is dinner and sometimes room service
- Availability - You can usually find a hotel room in any location at any time
- Rating System - You can usually gauge the type of accommodation by the star rating it receives
- Convenience - Often hotels are close to the sites you want to visit
- Privacy - There may be a lot of people
- Space - Rooms can be small and there is limited "living" space
- Noise - It can be noisy in a city or just with so many people
- Parking - There can be limited or expensive parking
- Lack of charm - Some hotels can be lacking in character, although not all of them
I simply have to recommend the Sheraton at Charles de Gaulle airport. The hotel is actually inside the airport, making it the ultimate in convenience! There is a restaurant and even a spa! I won't stay anywhere else before my flight!
I hope these tips help make beautiful memories for your trip. Of course there are many more types of accommodations, such as camping, riverboats, etc. Try some different kinds - maybe a few nights in a hotel, a B&B, a castle, and a gite for your longer stay. Bonne aventure!
Please comment on your favorite accommodations here!