In Paris Wednesday night I stayed at the Hôtel du Collège de France in the Latin Quarter. It's a small hotel I had heard about a while back. A couple of years ago, a good friend stayed there for a night or two and said it was convenient, clean, and comfortable. So I decided to try it.
It's located on the Rue Thénard, which is parallel to the Rue Saint-Jacques, just to the east. It runs from the Rue des Ecoles, right in front of the Collège de France, down to the Boulevard Saint-Germain, near the Place Maubert. The hotel is less than five minutes on foot from the main entrance of the Sorbonne on Rue des Ecoles, and very close the the Cluny Museum.
It's a neighborhood that's full of memories for me. The first time I went to France I stayed three different times, once for two weeks, in a little hotel just off Place Maubert. That hotel doesn't exist any more. For years in the 1970s, I took classes at the Sorbonne and worked there and in other Latin Quarter neighborhoods as a teacher.
The room at the Hôtel du Collège de France was typically small (it's Paris, after all) but very functional. As you can see from the pictures, it had a little corner balcony with a table and two chairs, where it would be nice to have breakfast or a picnic dinner on warm days. There's a view of the Collège de France. Rue Thénard is not a major thoroughfare and is quiet. There are hundreds of cafés and restaurants in the area.
The price was 90 euros for the night, plus 10 euros for the breakfast buffet (which is a little expensive) the next morning. I had breakfast before taking the RER train out to CDG airport, and the buffet included ham, cheeses, a fruit salad, and a selection of yogurts, in addition to slices of crispy baguettes and nice croissants, with butter and jam. No complaints. The hotel gets a selection of morning newspapers in both French and English, and they are out on a coffee table in the lobby, next to the breakfast room, for the taking.
For me, one of the advantages of staying in a hotel in that neighborhood is that it's only a short walk down to the Saint-Michel RER station, where you can get express trains out to the airport. My flight was at 11:20, so I needed to be at the airport by about 9:00 a.m. A ticket to Charles de Gaulle airport costs about 9 euros (as opposed to 40 or 50 euros for a cab).
When I went down to the platform in the RER station, I let the first airport train pass on by, because I wasn't sure it was an express train. The trip on a train that stops in a lot of stations along the way to CDG takes a lot longer. Then I waited nearly 10 minutes for the next train, which was an express, and I couldn't get on! It was too packed with commuters.
I stepped up onto the train and did the Parisian thing of facing toward the door and trying to push my way backwards, forcing people to make some room for me. Push as I might, I couldn't get my suitcase into the car, so I had to give up and step back down onto the platform. Paris rush hour, eh? A mob scene.
Then I wondered what I was going to do if I couldn't get on the next train. It was getting to be about 8:15, and I needed to get to the airport. Luckily, the next express train, which pulled in only three or four minutes later, wasn't nearly as crowded. I got on, and then most people got off at the next station, Châtelet-Les Halles, and most of the rest of them got off at Gare du Nord. From there, I had a place assise (a seat) for the 30-minute ride out to CDG, and I arrived with time to spare.