Windbag Miles is a blog about points, miles, credit cards, travel, and general windbaggery.

Windbagging full-circle: My review of the Hyatt Regency Paris - Étoile

If you're reading this blog, there's a good chance you would never have found out about it had I not uncovered a mistake rate at the Hyatt Regency Paris - Étoile last summer. Before that, I received maybe 10 views per week (!), although given that I posted once every couple months (or not even), that's no surprise. The Hyatt thing became my claim to fame, and I didn't even realize at first that I had struck gold... A hotel on the outskirts of Paris proper wouldn't be of interest to anyone, would it? Turns out, yes it would. I'm finally staying at the hotel, nearly 10 months after I originally booked it. Back then, I was casually looking through various hotels I could book on points, since I had scheduled myself a few days in Paris in advance of a work trip in Germany, and I wanted to spend as little as possible out of pocket. There are a number of nice Holidays Inn in Paris, so I figured I'd probably book one of those using IHG points plus the annual free night from my credit card. At least, that was the plan until I looked at award availability at the Hyatt Regency. As a Category 5 hotel, it didn't seem like an amazing deal on points, even with a high per-point value due to an eye-watering $550 daily room rate. However, Hyatt's normal premium room award (daily rate plus 3000 points) was available, only the room rate was incorrectly entered as 18 euros. For 9000 points and ~$60 for a 3-night stay, this was a no-brainer.

The deal died within a few hours of going wide, which - again - seemed funny to me, since this isn't a hotel I'd ever consider staying at outside of the context of a trip where I was trying to save money. The location is just too far away from everything I like in Paris, although I suppose I should have taken into account that my preferences in Paris skew toward things that aren't part of the normal tourist circuit of the city. (Nothing against tourists, by the way. I've just spent a lot of time there, so I've already put in my time at the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc.)

Here's why the location of the Hyatt Regency is good: it's right next to both the Métro line 1 and the RER C train. The 1 is a through-line through the center of Paris, meaning you have direct access to the Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysées, Louvre, Marais, Bastille, etc. The RER C complements this by skirting the Seine on the other side, taking you to the Eiffel Tower, Invalides, Musée d'Orsay, and so on. Basically, you have a direct line to many of Paris's key attractions.

Here's why the location of the Hyatt Regency is bad: it's really far away from most of those attractions. It's nice to have direct access, but you're looking at a 20-30 minute ride each way. One of the things that makes Paris so great is the bustle of all the little neighborhoods, and it significantly adds to the experience if you're staying amidst all of that, rather than just visiting via the train. (I had the same complaint about the Park Hyatt, but that's mostly because I hate the Vendôme area, not because the hotel itself is out-of-the-way.) Most of the stuff I love in Paris is in the eastern part of the city (Rue Charonne near Bastille, the Canal St-Martin area, the Parc des Buttes Chaumont in the 19th, the hipster bookstores in the Belleville/Ménilmontant area, etc), and it's nearly an hour from here to there via public transport.

So, location is in the eye of the beholder - if you're not too particular about where in the city you stay, and you want to stay at a full-service hotel that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, then the Hyatt Regency will be fine. However, I would definitely wait until the renovations are complete before booking a paid stay here. For the purposes of this review, let me be clear that I didn't expect much from the Hyatt - I was practically getting my room for free, and what's more, I dicked the hotel over by unleashing a flood of other people who got the same deal. They barely owed me a bed to sleep on, as far as I'm concerned.

The ongoing renovations significantly affect the experience, though, starting with the temporary entrance. There's no lobby right now, so you actually enter into the mall to which the hotel is attached. From there begins your insane trek to your room - first through the mall to a set of elevators, up to the fourth floor, through one hallway, through another hallway, into a third hallways, followed by a fourth hallway that leads you to the elevators that access the guest floors. (If you're checking in, you'll take a detour in between the second and third hallways into a nondescript hotel conference room, which is where the check-in desks are located.)

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Since the common areas are all under construction, the Regency Club is also closed, although it too has been relocated to another conference room that has been converted into a dining/bar area. Instead of key-controlled access, it offers breakfast in the morning and hors d'oeuvres in the evening, and you access it by giving your name and room number to the attendant at the door. If I had paid for a club room outright, I would have been severely disappointed; as it is, I'm fine with it. The breakfast spread is pretty good - not quite up to Park Hyatt standards, but not actually that far off. I didn't take a bunch of photos of it, because you can probably imagine what a big spread of pastries, bread, jam, cold cuts, sausage, waffles, cereal, fruit, eggs, juice, and coffee looks like. A special highlight was when the woman next to me accidentally knocked an open jar of mustard onto the floor, causing it to bounce off the floor and flip over in such a way that it flung a stream of mustard into the air and literally rained down upon her in big globs.

I'm staying in one of the renovated rooms, and it's decent overall. It's small, but not abnormally so for Europe. The furnishings are clean and modern, and the view (from the 22nd floor) is outstanding. Little touches that I like: the air conditioning runs continuously if you want it to, so it's possible to make the room constantly 65 degrees (a blessing when it's in the 90s outside). The bed has floor lighting that's motion-activated, so if you get up in the night, you won't trip over the crap you left all over the floor. The wifi is free and fast, and there are plenty of outlets (including USB outlets, cutting down on the need for travel adapters). There's a mini-fridge, though no minibar - nice for my wallet but annoying when I want a drink and have a 25-minute round trip down to the cafe in the mall to get one.

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Some nitpicks: the desk is really shallow, so if you're the type that does a lot of work in hotels, you might get annoyed that there isn't enough space. The king-size bed is actually two double beds pushed together - not unusual for Europe but also not something I expect at hotels that are this expensive. The bathroom is cramped, and there aren't many surfaces to lay out all your beauty accoutrements. There's a coffee machine, but it only makes powdered coffee... maybe I'm spoiled, but a Nespresso machine would really hit the spot.

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The bottom line is that the hotel itself is perfectly comfortable, the renovated rooms are modern if a little on the small side, and the service has consistently been up to Hyatt's normal standards. Once the common areas are finished, the whole thing will be pretty swanky. However, until that point, I'd recommend other accommodations, since the disjointed layout (not to mention the construction noise between 10 and 6) take away from the experience. The location is also something you'll need to consider. The actual surroundings of the hotel are fine, but some effort will be required to get around.

I know a bunch of people who read this blog also took advantage of this deal, so I'm curious what others thought of the hotel. I don't know the next time I'll be back in Paris, but after two consecutive stays in high-end hotels, I'm ready to go back to a little AirBNB apartment by the Canal St. Martin - the more I think about it, the more I feel like the fancy hotels pull you out of the milieu that makes Paris what it is.

Thoughts on United's Polaris lounge and Global First (sorry, Polaris First) class

My new favorite lounge in the world - the Thalys lounge at Brussels-Midi