Talk about a dilemma. Following a three-day stopover in Paris after attending the 70th anniversary ceremonies commemorating the Allied landings in Normandy during the Second World War, I had to catch an early-morning flight to Amsterdam to board a riverboat for a Rhine River cruise. I know; it sounds like a "problem" almost anyone would like to have, but let me explain.
The flight was scheduled for take-off a few groan-inducing minutes after the crack of dawn. Which meant that with the terrorists having won their psychological war by forcing airlines to treat passengers like common criminals, I faced a daunting regimen.
If I stayed the final night on French soil in a relatively inexpensive downtown Paris hotel, I would have to get up at an ungodly hour when the Metro subway line and suburban commuter trains aren't running, stumble into a taxi and pay 50 euros or more (plus tip) to get to
Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport in time to participate in that delightful exercise of taking off my belt and shoes in preparation for a demeaning security once-over.
If, like London, Amsterdam and New York, the Paris airport offered the pay-by-the-hour convenience of a no-frills Yotel ( http://www.yotel.com/) I would have had the option of taking the bargain-price rail service from the Gard du Nord train station early in the evening to the airport where I could have bedded down right in the terminal.
But for some reason, the Yotel experience isn't available at CDG. And since I had bought into the myth that a stay at a hotel at the Paris airport would probably set me back as much cash as a visit to the Moulin Rouge, Lido and Crazy Horse cabarets combined, I figured I had only one choice. I would have to spend the night dozing fitfully on a hard bench in the departure lounge - if airport security didn't roust me as a mad bomber in waiting.
Fortunately, the electronic miracles of the modern age offer a far more pleasant alternative. If faced with a similar situation, fire up your trusty laptop and search the ubiquitous hotel booking websites where their group-buying clout allows them to come up with pricing that an individual traveller can only dream about.
When you factor in the price of a downtown Paris hotel and the cost of a taxi to CDG, you find that you can stay at an airport establishment like the
Mercure Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (until recently called the Pullman) without throwing your travel budget completely out of whack.
And the added comfort the four-star Mercure provides will make you glad you opted to stay close to the departure gates. Wait a minute, I hear you say. Close to the departure gates? How can you get a decent night's sleep with all those airplanes taking off and landing next door?
Well, I slept like the proverbial enfant the night I stayed there. The arriving and departing aircraft that flew over the Mercure made no more intrusion on my dreams than would a car passing a downtown hotel in any North American city. Architects designing deluxe airport hotels have mastered the art of soundproofing.
And there were several perks to go along with my airport hotel stay. For instance, the Mercure offers an indoor pool - something you rarely, if ever, see in a bargain hotel in downtown Paris. The rooms are state-of-the-art with tastefully-modern décor, a superbly comfortable queen-size bed, writing desk, free Wifi with Internet access and a complimentary bottle of water. This latter amenity shows a bit of class. Many hotels around the world charge you for the "privilege" of not having to drink their tap water.
The best part of the stay was the free 24-hour shuttle service to the airport. After a restful night, I got a pre-arranged wake-up call, took a leisurely shower and then made my way to where the hotel van was waiting to take me to CDG. As the vehicle wove through early-morning traffic I couldn't help smiling as I thought about all the hassles I would have faced if I had opted to stay in downtown Paris.
Like everything in life, there are a few drawbacks about the hotel but these can be avoided with a bit of forward planning. For instance, if you still have a pile of spare euros in your travel budget you might consider having dinner or breakfast in the on-site restaurant, L'Escale. But be prepared for sticker shock. The tariff could end up reading like the entire food budget for Napoleon's Egyptian campaign.
To avoid cardiac arrest at the presentation of "l'addition" (the bill), you might want to give the hotel eatery a wide berth and buy a couple of take-out sandwiches, a bottle of vin ordinaire and some pastries at one of the inexpensive shops at the Paris Gare du Nord train station where your journey to the hotel begins. If you fancy a couple of in-room drinks before turning in for the night, purchase a couple of cans of Kronenbourg (the only palatable French beer I've ever run across) or a blister pack containing a small bottle of Cognac at the same kiosk where you buy the sandwiches. The mini-bar in any European hotel room is only for the very rich or the desperate.
Another drawback is that if you want to take a stroll around the hotel in the evening, there is no "there" there - to quote Gertrude Stein. A brief walk around the floodlit grounds failed to turn up any evidence of nearby cinemas, shopping malls or amusement parks.
But if all you're looking for is a comfortable overnight stay before catching an early morning flight, the Mercure Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport fits the bill nicely.
Tom Douglas is an Oakville-based travel writer with many travel articles published on this website (see: Our Writers) and author of a number of books on Canada's military heritage. Read Tom's bio at:
Hundreds of veterans have gathered in Normandy to commemorate the D-day landings of 6 June 1944. Denis Dayman, 89, who was a private in the Shropshire Light Infantry on D-day said: "It's wonderful to be here. Everyone is so proud of us, they treat us like gods. And after all, it's important to remember." -
In a statement from Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called on Canadians to pause to recall and honour the noble sacrifices of the heroes who turned the tide of the war on June 6, 1944.
"By the evening of June 6, 1944, Canadian troops had progressed further inland than any of their Allies - a proud and remarkable accomplishment," Harper said.
"The day took a heavy toll. To secure victory on D-Day, 340 Canadians gave their lives, 574 were wounded and 47 taken prisoner," he said.