Searching for the right place to sleep in France

By Philip Wagenaar
This item appears on page 71 of the February 2009 issue.

by Philip Wagenaar, second of four parts

Last month I discussed how to reserve lodgings in France, how to evaluate the room you are about to inhabit and how to obtain appropriate discounts. I continue this month with listings of specific hotel groups, followed by a discussion of the Michelin guide, the Logis de France and more.


Below is a guide to accommodations, accompanied by my comments. In the listing of places to stay under headings A, B and C you pick the hotels by destination. In those within sections C through S you pick the lodging by its type.

A. Accommodation search engines

(which allow you to pick hotels by destination)

1. ( — This superb search engine facilitates easy Internet booking. Search by town for hotels, B&Bs, holiday rentals, etc.

2. ( — This great website includes reviews as well as star ratings of many hotels at your destination.

3. DriveAlive ( — This is an excellent British engine which allows you to pick accommodations along your chosen route.

4. France Hotel Guide™ ( — Here, you pick the hotel by designating the destination as well as the star rating.

B. The Michelin Red Guide

The venerable, comprehensive red guide named “Michelin France, 2008, Hotels & Restaurants, English Edition” became available in English for the first time in April 2007. It lists a number of individual hotels as well as chain hotels in many towns, cities, villages and hamlets. However, it does not list them all.

The Michelin inspectors decide which ones will be included. Note that the Michelin company does not accept payment from accommodations to ensure their inclusion in the book.

Star ratings

Before I discuss the Michelin guide in more detail, I’ll first say a few words about the government classification of French hotels.

Each hotel must have its state-imposed star rating, the ratings ranging from zero to 4-star L (luxury), posted at its entrance. These ratings are based solely on 22 criteria — such as the number of rooms, room size(s), facilities, design of bathroom facilities, phone system, electrical equipment, elevators, plumbing, dining options, renovations and more — and do not take quality, cleanliness, ambience, charm or other subjective criteria into account.

In general, you will find that a one-star property will be very basic, with not all rooms having private bathrooms. A 2-star establishment may be better, but my wife, Flory, and I usually strive for a 3-star property.

A Qualité Tourisme™ sign is awarded by the Ministry of Tourism to establishments offering high standards.

Unfortunately, the Logis de France and the Michelin guide each has its own rating system. Neither one corresponds to the number of stars assigned by the government.

Michelin classifies establishments by using one to five houses (five being the best). An additional budget category is designated for guest houses and has its own symbol.

The result is that a 2-house property may be the equivalent of a 2- or 3- star location and a one-house property actually may be one- or 2-star. Anything less than two houses usually is budget (this applies only to France) and may not have a bathroom en suite.

Over the years, we have found that a 2-house property may be comparable to a 3-diamond US hotel but not always.

To have a better idea of what to expect, look for the room amenities mentioned in the hotel’s description, such as room size, presence of AC, TV, phone, etc. Note that the word “rustic” typically denotes the absence of modern conveniences.

Although the Michelin guide characterizes each hotel, you cannot be sure of what you will get until you inspect the premises. If you like the hotel but don’t like the room, ask for a different one.

While for a few years Michelin designated modern lodgings with an “M,” it doesn’t use the “M” listing anymore.

Restaurant with rooms

The Michelin guide also points out restaurants that offer sleeping quarters as an adjunct to the restaurant. These are designated with the words “with rm” behind the name of the establishment. All the ones in which we stayed over the years were quite satisfactory for the moderate price we paid.

Since these usually are higher-quality restaurants, make sure that the dinner is not overly expensive, since you definitely are expected to dine on the premises.

A most helpful feature of the Michelin guide is that listed towns are underlined in red on the Michelin 1:200,000 detail maps (not on the large-scale overview maps). In addition, for many locations, the book furnishes a city plan that pinpoints hotels (as well as the tourist office), making it easy to reach your accommodation.

If you will be traveling a great deal through France, you may want to invest in the spiral-bound book that contains the Michelin 1:200,000 maps of all of France.

You can purchase the annually updated red Michelin directory in the US at bookstores or from Michelin Publications (Box 1900, Greenville, SC 29602-9008; phone 800/223-0987, fax 864/458-5665,

C. Logis de France hotels

Logis de France is a loosely bound group of more than 3,000 individually owned, very affordable, mostly French hotels of all different kinds, which, similar to properties in the Best Western chain, have to adhere to a set of quality standards.

They usually are located in smaller towns or in the countryside and consist of 2- or 3-star and occasionally even 4-star properties, which, while their rooms vary in comfort and size, offer meals of exceptional quality.

Besides carrying its Logis de France classification of one to three cheminées (chimneys), each property also displays the government star rating.

The booklet “Guide des hôtels-restaurants Logis de France,” which lists all its hotels, is available gratis at all participating lodgings and all French Government Tourist Offices.

In addition, the company offers several specialty booklets, one of which is the “Guide des Logis de Charme,” which features 300 so-called “Character Accommodations” (old stagecoach inns, stylish manor houses and rustic retreats) in addition to “Nature-Tranquility” lodgings (in a natural setting).

You can make a reservation for any Logis de France lodging on its Internet site You also can phone the booking hotline at 01 45 84 83 84 from within France or at +33 1 45 84 83 84 from outside France or you can contact individual properties directly.

When Flory and I travel, we choose our hotels from either the Logis de France guide or the Michelin guide.

D. Hotel books whose primary language is English

The following English-language books list accommodations in France.

1. “France, Charming Small Hotel Guides,” edited by Fiona Duncan and Leonie Glass (ISBN 1566565634).

2. “Karen Brown’s France B&B 2008” — (bed-and-breakfasts) and “Karen Brown’s France Hotels 2008” — available at bookstores or by calling 866/620-0673 or at

3. “French Bed & Breakfast,” “French Hotels & Châteaux,” “French Holiday Homes” and “Paris Hotels” — all published in the UK by the firm Alastair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay. Visit for more information.

E. Hotel chains and associations

If you want to pick your accommodation by brand or type rather than destination, peruse the following lists of chains and associations, which offer both budget and luxury options. (This directory is not all-inclusive; I only include business organizations with a reasonable representation. Note: some hotels with the same brand name may have different star ratings.)

1. ACCOR, which owns the following chains.

• luxury — Sofitel (

• upscale — Pullman (

• mid-scale — a] Suitehotel (; b] Mercure (; c] Novotel (, and d] Adagio, (, which deals in aparthotels, or apartment hotels‚ in various cities.

• economy — Ibis (

• budget — a] All Seasons ( and b] Etap (

• spartan — Hotel F1, previously known as Formule1 (

For reservations of all ACCOR hotels, except Etap and Hotel F1, call 800/515-5679 in the US/Canada or visit, which lists all properties.

2. Louvre Hotels, which owns the following chains.

Kyriad Prestige (www.kyriad — usually 3-star.

Kyriad Hotels ( — 2- or 3-star.

Campanile ( — 2-star, and frequently on the outskirts of towns.

Première Classe (www.premiere — budget.

To reserve any of the above hotels from abroad, call Louvre Hotels’ central reservation number, +33 1 64 62 59 70, or fax +33 1 42 91 46 01. From inside France, call 01 64 62 59 70 or fax 01 42 91 46 01 or phone individual hotels or visit

3. The following chains have economical/budget hotels usually in or near major cities.

Balladins (phone +33 160 381 184, fax +33 160 09 11 83 78,

Bonsaï (phone +33 5 57 25 59 00, — This chain provides, besides the usual rooms, economical family suites for five to six people.

4. Citadines Apart’Hotel (phone +33 1 41 05 79 05, e-mail or visit — offers apartment hotels inside cities.

F. International hotel chains with toll-free US reservation numbers

Many international chains, such as Best Western International, Choice Hotels International (Quality and Comfort properties), InterContinental Hotels (Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Candlewood Suites, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, InterContinental and Staybridge Suites), Hilton Hotels and many others operate their brand-name hotels in France. It is outside the scope of this essay to discuss them.

G. Luxury hotels

Exclusive and luxury hotels include the following.

1. Concorde Hotels (800/888-4747,, which has over 30 first-class and deluxe hotels.

2. Exclusive Hotels (29, rue d’Astorg, 75008 Paris, France; phone +33 825 13 10 20,, which offers over 200 boutique hotels in Europe.

3. Lucien Barriere group (35, blvd des Capucines, 75002, Paris, France; phone +33 1 42 86 54 00, fax 42 86 12 13,

4. Luxury hotel groups with toll-free US telephone numbers include the following:

Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts, part of the Starwood Hotels Group (phone 800/543-4300, fax 212/697-1445,

Small Luxury Hotels of the World 370™ (Lexington Ave., Ste. 1506, New York, NY 10017; phone 212/953-2064, fax 212/953-0576,

The Crown Collection (800/628-8929,, which has thirty-two 4- and 5-star hotels.

The Leading hotels of the World® (800/745-8883 or 800/223-6800, e-mail or visit, which represents more than 400 luxury properties. To obtain the 2008 directory, you have to download a request on the Internet, pay five British pounds by credit card for postage and handling and fax it to (011) 44 1372 361874. Phew!

H. Relais du Silence

The group Relais du Silence (rue d’Ouessant - F 75015, Paris, France; phone +33 1 44 49 90 00, fax+ 33 1 44 49 79 01, offers 2- to 4-star mid-priced country inns and manors, which are listed in its directory, available for €10 (near $14). The booklet has to be ordered on the website but can be obtained gratis from the French Government Tourist Office.

I. Châteaux (castles) accommodations

1. The Relais & Châteaux chain has 142 privately owned, 3-star to 4-L hotels and restaurants in France. Former castles, abbeys, manor houses, mills, estates, private residences and country houses have been converted into comfortable hotels and elegant gourmet restaurants. Individual rooms vary from majestic to small and are generally high-priced.

The word relais in the chain’s title refers to inns, which are less grandiose than the châteaux. (Relais as well as auberges are rural inns but may include more expensive lodging.) Watch the lodgings unfold on the beautiful website

To order its 2008 guide in English or to make a reservation, call 800/735-2478, fax 212/319-4666, e-mail or visit Shipping charges are €9!

2. Châteaux & Hôtels de France® (phone +33 1 72 72 92 02, has over 500 3-star to 4-L properties all over France. The English version of their directory costs €15, with free shipping.

3. (49 avenue d’Iéna, 75116 Paris, France; phone +33 1 47 20 18 27, fax +33 1 47 23 37 56, offers castle hotels, manors, rural homes and bed-and-breakfasts.

4. Château & Hôtels Collection (Rua Ricardo Marques, 41, 4900-008 Viana do Castelo, Portugal; recommends 538 accommodations in castles, manor houses and hotels. The website is put up by an English-owned Portuguese travel agency.

5. Bienvenue au Château (Bienvenue au Château, 1, place de la Galarne, BP 80221, 44202 Nantes Cedex 2, France; — This group has 134 B&Bs in private castles and mansions in western France. The guidebook can be obtained free by contacting the association.

The guides mentioned under numbers 1, 2 and 5 are available free from the French National Tourist Office, but it will send only one book per person.

Next month I will give an overview of homestays, home exchanges and more.