Monday, April 26, 2010

A Home Away From Home

This post could of also been titled: 'Reasons why Petite Paris Bed & Breakfast kicks Hotel derriere'. But I couldn't decide which one to use so I tossed a coin.

The difference between a bed and breakfast and a hotel is huge. But you wouldn't know it if you've never heard of a B&B or if you don't understand the nature of a B&B. The biggest difference is cultural exchange. (and personal exchange). Far greater and more authentic in a B&B. There is a great divide between the richness, level of cultural exchange and overall travel experience in a B&B than that of a hotel. And isn't that the whole point of travelling? Meeting and interacting with the natives in a real way and not just the concierge, tour guide, bus, train or information guide? (or other tourists).
It should be I think, but I believe we also live in a shut-down society where people fear people and we all, to a degree, still travel in our own bubbles (double locked fortresses), unintentionally (or maybe intentionally for some, in which case: proceed to hotel) shutting ourselves off from any real form of interaction resulting in no personal growth. And I think we are getting worse. But I stop myself as I realise I have just gone off on a tangent with an argument based on my biased opinion which is best saved for another post elsewhere. The purpose of this post was to create a little friendly 'competition' between our B&B and les hotels, not a bitter battle. The purpose of educating (scratch that) ...teaching (still too biased) ...describing (better) the B&B environment as opposed to Hotels in an informative and objective manner. So lets get on with it shall we.

Below I have jot down the fundamental points of our B&B service, accompanied by some elaborate descriptions (my favourite kind) and examples that will hopefully lead you to a clear B&B portrayal. And I promise, with only brief cynical references to les hotels. For differentiation purposes of course.

(any hotel lovers please understand my words are not intended to offend or dis-credit hotels, they certainly serve their purpose: a room to sleep in, a few convenient services for far too much money. Oops I've done it already. Forgive me it's just my strong belief in the B&B service and experience.)

Other peoples homes: Whenever I walk past a beautiful or interesting home I wonder who lives inside and what the decor is like (and maybe fantasise about what it's feel like to live there). And it's more than just that common curious urge to go through other peoples bathroom cabinets or peeking into the 'off-limits' room with the door closed when no one is looking. Do you do that too? Well imagine being able to step into a typically quaint Parisian apartment, occupied by real native Parisians and living there with your host and their family (if they have one) and observing home life in another country and culture, while drinking in the atmosphere and magnificence of the typically furnished baroque, art deco, french country, modern or 18th century style french family home with generations of family photo frames on display to satisfy the fascination with 'other peoples lives'; and a host who welcomes you into their life/world to enjoy their home and give you an authentic Parisian experience. A B&B apartment is quite literally finding a Parisian home away from home. Thats why they also call it a Home Stay!

We have one gob-smacking deluxe mansion that's so exquisite it's frequently used for shooting french films and magazines and rented out to actors and celebrities.

We have another in the 16th whose interior and decor resembles that of French castles.

Discover these Parisian Haussmann buildings and apartments, rooms, nooks and crannies. But don't get me wrong these homes belong to real people not professionals with private lives and there will be certain rooms and or things that you still must respect the privacy of and cannot touch (just think of it as if you were offering your spare room and house), but you get my point.

Now unlike a hotel where you could be forgiven for forgetting which country your in until you step outside of your generic 4 walls and a bed, the B&B offers a warm intimate atmosphere. The interior life reflects the outiside world and culture and you will actually feel like you're in Paris.

Let me point out now that unless you're a millionaire and can afford one of the extravagant French hotels, then maybe superficially you might be happier in one of those. But you still don't get the complete experience and personal touch of a B&B. Keep reading.

Meeting Parisian people other than the concierge, bus, train or info guide: Our hosts are all well educated fascinating people with fascinating lives, careers and backgrounds. Here is the list I love to boast: We have numerous artists (some are current exhibitors in museums in Paris, they offer to show you their workshops, talk to you about their work and even give you drawing or art lessons, one of our B&B apartments is quite literally the apartment that belonged to French Impressionist Pissaro, and some artists have turned their art studio into your private B&B suite). We have actors, a well renown french actress who loves to meet travellers in her home, a theatre director who offers you theatre lessons and home cooked meals, interior designers, a radio personality with a home within arms reach of the Eiffel tower, an antique art dealer who offers to take you along to some popular markets, photographers, journalists, an advertising rep, a clown - yes a clown, a chef who worked in some of the most luxurious hotels and restaurants in Paris and offers to give you French cooking lessons, singers, several writers with published cook books, children's books and Parisian architectural books, we have a host who is an art teacher at the famous Louvre Museum, a children's book publisher, a cinema critic and so many more. Ok ok we also have the less exciting, less boastful: insurance brokers, lawyers and salespeople. But you get that.

Personal and cultural exchanges: Viewed as special friends rather than paying customers your arrival is anticipated not simply expected (like a you-know-what). Our hosts are all lovers of travel and all view their service as a window into the world, to meet people of different cultures, exchange life experiences, share passions, share their knowledge of the city and advise you on the must do's. But ultimately our hosts love to share their love of their city with foreigners. Our hosts will spend time with you if you want it, offering to chat with you over a drink to discuss Paris and your adventures. Ha, I'd like to see a concierge do that.

A real value is learning about the 'real' Paris through the eyes of real Parisians. Our hosts offer: Personal guided tours of the 'real' Paris not the one in your guidebook - day tours, night tours of the city of lights, local market tours too, they will advise you on the best shows, exhibitions and restaurants to go to and generally provide the best advice. To heighten your cultural experience some hosts offer: French cooking lessons with or without a sit down meal with your hosts, French language lessons with your host, sharing stories of their family and life in Paris during their childhood - what richer experience could you find?!

If you select an unhosted apartment of course you wont experience the full connection but if that's your choice then at least you get your own Parisian apartment and feel just like a local.

Please note: hosts can be very discreet and will always offer not impose their company, presence, knowledge and assistance. They all understand the importance that you also need privacy and a sense of independence even within their homes. Do not feel as though you must spend every waking moment with the hosts - they have work and their lives too.

Still there? Ok Ill keep going.

Value for money: Ok so I'm not going to lie. Although the prices can be somewhat cheaper than a hotel (its no secret hotels are hugely expensive in Paris), many are just as expensive and a few are more expensive. But if you consider what you're getting it is truly 'value for money'. Imagine your own apartment, or if shared an apartment with a Parisian host where you still have your own private 'area' not just bedroom, often with your own private entry, terrace or tranquil garden, with all of the above mentioned experience opportunities. What do you overpay for in a hotel? - A bed, in a room, perhaps breakfast is included - and, that, is, it.

Petite Paris - As the happy medium between you and our Parisian host and home; the tailored service, communication and interaction starts with us. Or more accurately, moi. There is no automated on-line booking system where you can pick your dates, apartment and confirm. To book a Parisian home away from home you must have direct contact with me. I communicate with you to help find and agree on an apartment that best suits your needs. Our hosts are not professionals, they are normal people with their individual homes and thus another reason for no online booking. The homes are obviously not like generic hotels room where the same standard room features apply to each one. Our apartments have features and elements different from each other and these need to be considered. For example some buildings do not offer lifts or have narrow staircase access therefore unsuitable for people with physical difficulties, some hosts accept families and babies, some B&B are not allergy free etc. The process of finding a suitable B&B starts with our lovingly lengthy descriptions on our web page (coming).

Ok so thats the basic soul and essence of Petite Paris Bed and Breakfast; in as much a summary as I can manage. Can you see the difference now? When I first discovered B&B accommodation I wondered, how or why would I ever go back to a hotel stay. It was my first trip to Paris and I stayed in B&B number 84 on our Petite Paris roster. My experience there was unforgettable. That's another story I'm saving for another day.

Bonne nuit, reves doux. PPxx

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