“ Address: 237, rue de la Convention / 75015 Paris / France „
It's a hike from the bustling Rue De La Convention metro station, past pavement cafés and small boulangeries with a whiff of fresh bread, to the Hotel Ajiel. Add in heavy luggage and a heatwave and you have The Boyfriend and I sat on a bench midway up the street, fanning ourselves with a map.
Another Friday night in Paris straight off the Eurostar, another round of hunting in a strange suburb for chocolate for me and a Tabac for him. Only this time our hotel was in a much better class of suburb, where people didn't pester us for money or attack each other. Two incidents happened here, which lead me to believe that this is a genuinely nice area.
The first was when we asked for directions to the hotel; the lady we stopped not only pointed it out but halted her pushchair and entered into conversation about how long we were staying. She wasn't crazy, or trying to sell anything. She didn't even want us to come back to her gingerbread house instead. She was just friendly.
The second was bizarre - walking down the street to pick up fruit and fresh bread during a rainstorm, we passed an incredibly hip couple. The girl had a neat wavy bob and one of those long scarves which she flicked over her shoulder. The action of flicking the scarf somehow caused the tassles to become entangled in the zip tag of my tight cropped jacket. It was as though neither item touched, but somehow we were yanked backwards into a dance, trying to stay upright. Both boyfriends carried on walking and left us bemused and trapped. After much French chatter and politely taking it in turns to try and free each other, she gave up and we yanked the tassels out with a smile and an exclamation.
It should also be noted that (unusually for Paris) the shopkeepers, market stallholders, café owners and waitresses were all friendly too. We've stayed in the Montparnasse area a few times and I always felt that the intimidating locals were the trade off for cheap central hotels.
A grey modern building, the Ajiel is nothing special from the outside, but a bright modern reception lifts it. Although not overwhelmingly large, the curved desk and shiny floors are a cut above and the receptionist seemed delighted to greet us. We were given a room on the 6th floor with reassurance that there was a lift and that if we didn't like it we only had to say. My expectations were low, given that the £60 I'd forked out online was the same price I'd paid for the flea pit in Kings Cross the night before. Getting into the poky lift and out in a corridor with youth hostel style wipe-clean lino floors and magnolia paint in no way dented them.
Grinding the clunky key in the lock, we were overwhelmed by the size of our room. Made up with three single beds, it was the architect's mantra of space and light. The main door led into a small corridor with a bright bathroom containing sink and shower at the end. The toilet was on the right in a separate room and both of these had windows looking out over a small courtyard. On the left, our room stretched out with a large window, a high ceiling and one of those cute Parisian wrought iron window guards, which makes you feel like you have a balcony. For a British hotel room this would be considered large - for a French one, vast is the only word.
The beds were comfy, the TV adequate and the cornershop close enough to the hotel to grab cold cans of coke and sweeties. We wandered down past the two traditional Cafés and found an Italian restaurant on the right hand side of the road. Stuffed with large cheap portions of pasta, we slept well and weren't in the least bothered by the lack of air conditioning. There was no noise to disturb us other than The Boyfriend's snoring and waking up to sunshine, we opened the window right out into the room.
The shower was excellent, powerful and hot, the extra (third) towel coming in handy for my hair. The free mini soaps and shower gel saved me unpacking the case to find ours and we headed on down for breakfast. After the previous day's travelling, The Boyfriend couldn't get his trainers on quickly enough.
The breakfast room looks onto the street and is a bit cramped, with people sitting at the tables you struggle to get to the cornflakes. Had it not been included in our (increasingly good) deal, we would have paid the 8 Euros to eat it - as The Boyfriend pointed out, that would barely buy a cup of tea and a coffee elsewhere. The choice wasn't amazing; you get one croissant and one bread roll each bought to the table and help yourself to cereal, plain yoghurts, fruit compote, tea, coffee and jam, honey or packets of cheese. French families with laptops and naughty children sat side by side with American tourists in matching t-shirts, everybody contentedly eating and chatting about their plans for the day.
Checkout was friendly and swift, with no disputed charges or waiting around. When we returned for a second stay, a week later, late at night, the staff were every bit as friendly and efficient. This time we had a double room on the 7th floor.
On our first visit, renovation work had been in progress on the 7th floor, stepladders, tape and black plastic in full swing. Opening the door, I saw there was nothing to worry about. Another huge room, just as big as the last, smelling of fresh paint with a welcomingly large double bed. The layout was identical (I think we were directly above our last room) but if we hadn't liked it, reception had already said they would be happy to switch it.
Granted, there are a lot of stairs in this hotel if you don't like those jerky little lifts (but you can always pop your bags in the lift and run down the spiral staircase to catch up), there are no hairdryers or mini-bars in the rooms and you won't find a sauna or a gym. But if you want five star service, huge rooms and good value, you can't go wrong.
I'd recommend this hotel for families and couples who want to be in a lively, friendly part of town and anyone who'd like to experience genuine Parisian street markets away from the tourist hotspots. The metro line is number 12 in the direction of Maire D'Issy, the hotel website is http://www.ajiel-hotel-paris.com/. Your nearest overground station is the incredibly busy Gare Montparnasse, just a few stops along the line. Online deals can be found on several websites, but if you end up paying the full price, this is worth it.