Saturday, September 1, 2012

The 30Eu/Night Difference

Never having stayed in a Marseilles hotel prior to this visit, I had to rely on guidebooks and to "see" the various hotels (and their prices.)  Travel expert Rick Steves praised one as being relatively cheap, clean, great location and so on.  He mentioned in passing that the hotel layout was a bit different.

Indeed it is.  After entering the street door, you climb up two flights of steep stairs.  You will arrive at the reception desk.  After signing in, you will take your bags up another flight of stairs where you will find the elevator.  It took us up one flight to our floor.  Why it's all the way up there and not down where an elevator would be useful, I will never know.

In truth, this building dates back to the 1800s and has been re-configured several times in its long history.  The floors tend to slope and gave me the feeling of a sailor on shore leave.

The room itself was small (I would later joke that I'
ve been in bigger bathrooms - on a plane!) and sparsely furnished -- one battered wooden kitchen chair or the bed were the sit-down choices.  The selling point was the view from The Window (one.)  The old port is U-shaped and the hotel was located in the bottom of the U.

It was very hot the night we arrived and since the a/c seemed not to be working, I left said window open -- and we listened to traffic, sirens, car radios and drunks yelling until I finally got up and closed it. 

Next morning, we went down for breakfast in the lounge area.  It was 7.9 Euros for both of us.  A nice spread - slices of deli ham, an egg cooker, croissants, butter, yogurt, dry cereals and apricot or orange juice.

The egg cooker, rarely, if ever, seen in the US.

That morning, my goal was to find another hotel and since the Old Port sides are dotted with them, we could just pop in and inquire.  The Alize is a very good hotel for youthful people - backpackers maybe who are used to hurtling themselves up mountains and down roads.  It's not for rapidly-aging Americans.

Hotel Alize, 35 Quai des Belges,k 13001 Marseilles

On our stroll around the port, we popped into the first hotel we came to -- Hotel La Residence, 18 quai du Port ( and they had me at the first "Bonjour!"

Look!  an elevator on the first floor!  A computer for guest's usage!  Wonderfully chill a/c.  A chic restaurant (theirs) just outside the front door!  The clerk gave me the rate -- 130 Euros/night and I asked to see a room.  She handed me the key to 403; we promised not to touch anything and bounded onto the elevator.  The room faced the right of the U with a splendid view from the solid balcony (not like New Orleans where balconies seem to be made of black iron lace) with a small table and two chairs.

We went back down, I handed her the key and said, "We'll take it!"  Richie made me stay at the Alize that night because I'd told that desk clerk that we would.  With a sigh that would have broken a less steely heart, I meekly acquiesced. 

View from our balcony
View from our balcony
Sorry - turn your head; this is the bed

Next day we moved into heaven.  In fact, we got room 403.  Some of the amenities:  A bathroom bigger (nearly) than our room at the Alize; coffee/tea maker with mugs, ice bucket, honor bar and two wine glasses; a much bigger bed with four pillows;  The balcony and chairs where I smoked contentedly - smoking is forbidden in the room, but an ashtray was provided along with a book of matches and the earnest written plea that we not smoke in the room. Happy to comply!

Best of all were the four desk clerks we encountered during our stay.  They of them were very professionally-dressed women; the fourth was the night guy who was very friedly and funny.  The ladies were long-legged (a trend now in France) and thin.  They reminded me of sleek greyhounds.

The ladies were of immense help -- called us a cab, showed us where to park, answered questions about where things were; provided maps and logged me on to the computer every morning -- all of these things were done with maximum friendliness and a genuine desire to be useful.  They were so nice that when we visited Aix, I brought them back little boxes of Callisons as a modest "thank you.".  They were quite surprised.

The breakfast help, a waitress and a young waiter were friendly and watchful.  Our first morning, I asked for a glass of water so that we could take our pills.  The next morning, this waiter grinned and brought a pitcher of water to the table.  "For the pills," he announced.  Yes, that kind of attention to detail.

The outdoor terrace was a great place to butter a chunk of baguette, spread honey on it and eat it, gazing at the never-ending parade of people along the port.

I liked it all there so much that I was only half-joking when I said I was going to move in and the hell with going home.

No comments: