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~Same old same old~
A Novotel room is a Novotel room is a Novotel room - no kidding. Wake up in one and you'll know what it's like to wake up in every other Novotel bedroom the world over with only the tiniest differences. On one hand there's a certain comfort in knowing EXACTLY what to expect, where everything will be, precisely how many identical orange cushions there will be on the bed (three) and where the switch for the reading light is. On the other hand, it can be a bit disconcerting to wake up and think you're in Amsterdam when you're actually in Paris. This is what happened to me on my recent visit to the Novotel Paris CDG Terminal.
~First Find Your Hotel~
The absurd sense of 'dÃ©jÃ vu' was not the most bizarre thing about my visit. That award must go to the way that it took me nearly an hour and a half to get from Terminal 2E to the stupid hotel. Going from the hotel back to the terminal took less than ten minutes. The reason for this was that I took a rather complex and unpleasant detour to get there, thanks to the lady in the so-called 'Information' booth. I asked how to get there and she told me "Walk 10 minutes to CDGVAL and take the shuttle". Sounds simple, doesn't it? I walked for about 5 minutes to the CDGVAL 'place' where I should have taken a little train instead of heading to the place which was signposted 'hotel shuttles'. I wanted a hotel, I needed a shuttle. My mistake was pretty understandable. I waited more than 20 minutes for a bus for the Accor group hotels to eventually arrive, a bus so full that I and my bag had to stand on the back steps, clinging on for dear life. It was horribly uncomfortable, totally dangerous and made me feel quite sick. And then when I finally got out of the bus, I was in completely the wrong Novotel hotel. Who knew there were so many of the damned things all around the airport?
The receptionist, a lovely smiley chap, worked out that I was in the wrong place and I put him on the phone to the colleague I was supposed to meet in the bar (who clearly wasn't there) to find out where I was supposed to be. I was in totally the wrong place at the Novotel Convention and Wellness hotel. Seeing my confusion and that I was not looking forward to waiting another half hour for a bus whose level of comfort would have been rejected by most of the developing world, he called over one of his colleagues and asked him to drive me round to the right hotel. I texted my colleague "A man with a van has rescued me". Within 10 minutes I was where I was supposed to be - very close to where I had started out. Duh!
So rule number one - make absolutely 100% sure that you know which Novotel you're supposed to be staying at. Sadly just telling the receptionist that 'They're all the same' isn't going to get you a room in the wrong one. How you should get there is to follow the signs to 'CDGVAL' and take the train shuttle, not the bus, to terminal 3. It's actually dead easy once you know how.
Let's assume that you've not made the same stupid mistake as me and you've arrived in the right place. What can you expect to find when you finally get there? Reception is unimpressive but not unpleasant and the staff were very pleasant. I'd turned up with every hotel and airline loyalty card except the one I needed but the receptionist helpfully looked up my account for me. I was quickly and efficiently checked in and given my room card and I popped upstairs to leave my bag before getting on with the meeting I was far too late for.
The hotel has approximately 200 rooms and mine was on the second floor facing towards the airport. The first thing I noticed when I opened the door was that it didn't smell too fresh. There was a stale, slightly 'farty' odour about the place and I went straight to the window to see if I could open it and freshen the place up a bit. Sadly the window was a sealed unit and impossible to open although I was quite impressed by the view of Terminal Two and lots of planes. I assume this strange arrangement was to keep the noise down as the planes were very near but it also explained why the room was so musty.
Aside from the smell and the absence of the nice little tub of fruit and nuts which my gold card status gets me in the Amsterdam Novotel, the room was exactly as I'd expected it to be. There was a comfortable double bed with exactly the same slightly rough bedding you always get in Novotels and the three orange cushions. The sofa bed was the same oatmeal-coloured fold out contraption that every Novotel has. There was a desk, a bag stand, a wall mounted television (I didn't check for English language channels), a minibar and a place to hang your clothes. The standard Novotel 'hard in the middle soft at the ends' bag stand was exactly where I expected it to be. I felt almost 'at home' though thankfully my home smells better.
The one area in which my room differed from the norm was in the bathroom arrangement. I believe there are two different bathroom layouts in Novotels and experience suggests that the airport hotels get the split bathroom layout with a toilet cubicle separate from the shower and sink unit. My guess is that more people squeeze a whole family or two couples into an airport Novotel, using the pull out bed, so that the separate loo means one can pee whilst another cleans their teeth or has a shower. As I'm there on my ownsome, I'm not impressed by this layout. I have to pee then walk out of the littlest room and into the bathroom to get to the sink.
The sink is another issue which I've noticed in the two airport Novotels that I've used. It doesn't seem to drain very well and it develops 'eggy' smells. This sink is a different design from the ones in the standard all-in-one bathrooms and it's stylish but clearly not very effective. The toiletries provided are absolutely standard to all the Novotels but are quite generously sized. You get wrapped soaps and pots of shampoos, shower gel and body lotion. This room had a large shower cubicle with a powerful shower head.
~Meeting and Eating~
We ate several meals at the hotel and hired one of their large meeting rooms. The meeting room was well equipped and despite having no windows, it wasn't an unpleasant place to be. Supplies of coffee, tea and cold water were maintained well although we did run out of water towards the end of the second afternoon. The packed lunch provided was of quite astonishing quality and absolutely delicious. During both our morning and afternoon breaks we provided with tasty little snacks and excellent coffee.
On the evening I arrived we had a very acceptable dinner in a private dining room which was quite pleasant. Our starter of gratinated coquilles Saint Jacques (scallops) and prawns was extraordinary and the fish I was offered as an alternative to the standard steak was very good and generously portioned. I skipped the pudding and had to ask for white wine as only red was offered.
Breakfast was a bit of a challenge first thing in the morning. My brain takes a while to wake up in the morning and I don't particularly enjoy having to go on a scavenger hunt to find everything. In this respect every Novotel room may be almost identical but the breakfast buffets are quite individual. I have a hotel breakfast routine of fruit salad, boiled egg, small roll, maybe a bit of fish if there's something there but I had to abandon that when faced with the challenge of having to cook my own egg. OK, on the one hand you can make it as hard or soft as you like but who's going to wait 12 minutes for their egg to be ready whilst worrying some charlatan will come along and steal it? I can't even deal with those rotary toasters for fear of having my toast pinched.
The organisers of our meeting chose the Novotel CDG Terminal because it's so accessible (assuming you don't go to the wrong hotel) and because our French operation is actually based outside Strasbourg, one of the less easy places to get to in France. As we were has similar meetings in three countries, one after the other, we really had no spare time to mess about travelling further than we had to. As an airport hotel meeting venue, I was quite impressed. We were not overly ripped off (I think the room rate was around Â£120 B&B) and we were very conveniently located just a ten minute walk and shuttle train from the terminal for our next flight to Barcelona. The food was mostly very good, the meeting room was well equipped and aside from the odd smell, my bedroom was also fine. I wouldn't recommend anyone takes a holiday in such a place, but if you need a place to stay for an early morning flight from CDG, it's a pretty good choice and it's an absolute bonus to not have to wait for a horrendous and infrequent shuttle bus.
Novotel Paris CDG Terminal
Route de l Epinette
ROISSYPOLE GARE RER
Tremblay en France
95705 ROISSY CHARLES DE GAULLE