After years of searching for that perfect Paris hotel, I never thought the answer to my prayers would be found way out in the 20th arrondissement! Le quartier Saint-Blaise may not have the elegant appeal of Hausmann’s linear boulevards, but it is a charmingly untouched and arty area that is sure to be heralded as ‘the new Belleville’.
I am a huge fan of Marie-Antoinette decadence and usually seek out hotels decked out in the most elaborate toile de jouy, but the Hackney girl in me screamed out for more postmodern adventures…
A ‘luxury industrial refuge’ seems like a rather abrasive contradiction in terms that, but Mama Shelter does have a sense of humour and a surprisingly warm and vibrant atmosphere – no snooty model/receptionists peering down their noses at you.
After getting used to the exposed concrete walls and dangerous-looking giant power switch, the Phillippe Starck-designed rooms feel like a home away from home (albeit a très stylish abode). They feature a multi-purpose Apple iMac, kitchenette with a microwave, more-than-travel-sized Kiehls shower gel and shampoo and those dreamy beds that make you sleep in and miss your alarm!
Mama Shelter is all about affordable luxury and has clearly been tailor-made for design-conscious folk who don’t want the cultural experience to end when they head back to the room for the night. It’s a real labour of love created in pain-staking detail by French hotel powerhouse the TRIGANO family (co-founder of Club Med) and philosopher Cyril Aouizerate, whose intellectual presence is very much sewn into the fabric of the hotel.
But the real jewel in Mama Shelter’s crown is the buzzing but cosy restaurant and terrace. Hotel guests seem to get priority, but you still need to book ahead as it gets pretty busy. The bar staff are painfully good looking but friendly and a little bit flirty (well, why not), oh and the food is rather fantastic too, but more about that later.
There is now a guide to all the coolspots in Saint-Blaise that you can download from the Mama Shelter website and they’ve recently opened the rooftop terrace for lazy, summer BBQs – what more can you want? Well, maybe a spa, but I’m not going to push my luck!
Stroll along to:
Gambetta, Belleville, Ménilmontant, Cimetière Père Lachaise, Rue Oberkampf.
Drink in: La Fleche D’Or, Le Gambetta, La Bellevilleoise
Put on your iPod: Friendly Fires ft. Au Revoir Simone, Paris (Aeroplanes remix)